First-Week Rescuers of Lithuania

DefendingHistory.com honors all the incredibly courageous Lithuanian Rescuers who risked their and their families’ lives to save Jewish neighbors

This journal is proud to join hands with those protesting the shameful efforts, in 2011, in Lithuania, to honor Holocaust murderers and Nazi collaborating institutions to mark the seventieth anniversary of the onset of the near-total genocide of Lithuanian Jewry (seehereherehere, and here). The murderous Lithuanian Activist Front (LAF) and similar groups, and their supporters, began the barbaric slaughter of the country’s innocent civilian Jewish population before German forces even arrived and continuing in the following days before the firm establishment of German administration (see herehere, and here; also, V. Brandišauskas’s now classic refutation of A. Liekis’s attempts to sanitize and glorify the LAF over a decade ago, on the eve of the then approaching sixtieth anniversary of the events of 1941).

Afterwards, many of the same elements provided the backbone of the massive volunteer Jew-shooting forces that carried out (under various names and in various types of units) the Nazis’ plan for the murder of every Jewish woman, child and man in the land. They performed so well for the Nazis that they were exported to carry out killings in other countries; so well that Jewish victims were shipped to Lithuania (and the other Baltic states) for maximally efficient murder.

In this historic context, the incredibly brave Lithuanian Rescuers of the period deserve immense and eternal recognition and gratitude. They were usually saving a Jewish neighbor not from German occupiers, but by their own people’s  ’partisan patriots’. While far-right, racist, ultranationalist and antisemitic politicians, academics, journalists and other elites participate in the moral orgy of celebrating the murderers, on the grounds that they were leading an ‘anti-Soviet uprising’ — every minimally competent historian knows that the Soviet army was fleeing the German Nazi invasion (Operation Barbarossa), not the LAF — there is a  danger that the genuine Lithuanian heroes of the last week of June 1941 will be forgotten on this, the seventieth anniversary year. They are the heroes whom every true friend of Lithuania will be honoring and remembering in late June of 2011.

This page is dedicated to the eternally inspirational courage and humanity of Lithuanian citizens who saved a Jewish neighbor during that week, when the Holocaust in the Baltics broke out. Readers, colleagues and historical institutions are cordially invited to submit names and data on documented rescuers of Lithuanian Jews in June 1941. The focus here is on The First Week, motivated by the current challenge of countering the attempted glorification of murderers of that week, does not in any way detract from the rescuers of the entire period of Nazi occupation that lasted until the Nazis were driven from the land by Soviet forces in July 1944.

See this journal’s page dedicated to Lithuanian rescuers.

Name Unknown

Avreml Zeleznikow (Zheléznikov), born in Vilna (Vilnius) in 1924,  in a series of interviews conducted in Melbourne, Australia in June 2011, recalls the 23rd of June 1941. Soviet rule had collapsed and Lithuanian soldiers, still wearing their Soviet army uniforms, based in the nearby army barracks, came into his yard (corner of today’s Benediktinių and Šv. Ignoto, home of Vilnius International Club and a prominent plaque on Herzl’s visit to the address). The Lithuanian soldiers went from apartment to apartment, pulling out all Jewish males aged 16 to 60 and shot them dead in the yard. Avreml Zheléznikov hid under the stairwell, with others, and heard it all. The same day, a Lithuanian acquaintance who owned a farm outside town, arranged, at considerable risk to himself, to save dozens of Jewish men from the neighborhood, and beyond, by bringing them to work at his farm for those critical first weeks of the Lithuanian Holocaust. Later, when the Nazis started to clear that region  of Jews, the project ended and many were to come to the Vilna Ghetto (established 6 September 1941) and later perish. But a number used those few weeks to comprehend what was in train, gain their bearings, and make plans for eventual resistance.

Albinas of Ugniagesių 13, Kaunas

Méyshke (Misha) Preiss of Kaunas (born 27 Feb 1930), remembers Monday morning 23 June 1941, when white-armbanded Lithuanian ‘partisan patriots’ came into his courtyard, pulled all the Jewish residents into the yard and shot them dead (several days before the arrival of any Germans). But he also remembers that he and his family were saved by an incredibly brave Lithuanian friend, Albinas, son of the caretaker, who told the ‘partisan patriots’ that there were no more Jews to be found, having set up his own mother to sit on the Jewish family’s veranda and peel potatoes as cover. Méyshke’s parents, Hirshl and Rokhl, his three sisters Ríve, Bérta and Dora (Dvéyre), and Dora’s husband Méyshe all perished later on in the Lithuanian Holocaust. Méyshke Preiss himself was deported to Shutthof, then Auschwitz, and then Dachau, where he was liberated by the Americans on 2 May 1945. He recalls GIs begging him not to return, but he was determined to find at least one living relative, and returned (and found nobody). After the war, he tried unsuccessfully to find the young man who saved him (and on the day, his entire family). Albinas was one of the two sons of the caretaker of the residences at Ugniagesių  13 in Kaunas in 1941. Méyshke asks if maybe there is a way even now to check the list of residents and the official caretaker, as of 23 June 1941. Interviewed in Svintsyán (Švenčionys), 7 July 2011.  Video clip here.


Jurgis Šniuolis of Šauliai

Shmuel Shrage of Shavl (Šauliai), now of Kaunas, recounted (in a November 18th 2010 interview recorded in Kaunas) that he was rescued during the first week (and then later on again) by farm-owner Jurgis Šniuolis.  Video here.

 

TO BE CONTINUED

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