Monday, August 11, 2014

Path to the USA

My mother found the West German passport that got my father through Ellis Island in 1951.
Six years after the end of WWII, he achieved his goal to emigrate to the US and begin a new life.

Those six years included eyewitness to the brutal Russian occupation of Berlin that ended the war. My father chose not to talk about what he saw.

This powerful 1945 diary of a 34-year old German journalist bears witness to the atrocities:

A Woman in Berlin


Saturday, June 28, 2014

P.S. If we don't visit, who will?

If we don't visit, who will?
Roots in Keidan group

In July, be part of Richard Freund's amazing excavation. In June, go with the Vilna Shul.
NOVA 54 minute film
#NOVA#VilnaShul

From the IX Fort museum, household items that could have belonged to my cousins.
 (See Sharon's comment for IX Fort).  #IX Fort#Kovno













Friday, June 27, 2014

'Achoo' ('thank you' in Lithuanian)

My visit to Lithuania happened almost by chance.
My father never wanted to return to the country where he was born, never wanted to talk about it, never wanted his children to visit.

Like any place, the history is very complicated.
Much sadness and no immediate family remain in Lithuania.
But I felt more of a connection to this place than I expected, to the land, to aspects of the culture and mostly to the wonderful people who I met.

Until next time, Lithuania.




Lithuania has great ice cream.
And the pillows match the flavors.

Lithuanian citizenship

Because my father was a Lithuanian citizen after Soviet occupation, I am eligible to apply for Lithuanian EU passports, as are my children. However, he never had a Lithuanian passport and his birth record does not suffice. I am researching options.
My father would be turning in his grave to see any dilution of his family's beloved US citizenship.  The bitter memories of Lithuania overpowered any sweet memories. My father never wanted to return to Lithuania let alone regain citizenship.
But that EU status that comes with Lithuanian citizenship is tempting.
During the tour, present day Jews in Lithuania insisted that life was good. The quality of life in Vilnius is attractive, with many wonderful restaurants and beautiful architecture and parks.
Only Lithuanian citizens can own property, so there is also a potential economic opportunity for my children. Lithuania is a shopping destination for Scandinavians because of its low prices.
 One thing is certain, life in Lithuania is often not what it seems on the surface, it is complicated. There are a multitude of attitudes toward Jews. Here are two positive and one more frightening view, from Slate.com.

Citizenship-of-lithuania

Jews are cool in lithuania

Faina

Lithuania and Nazis. The country wants to forget its collaborationist past.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ziezmarai






Only remaining wooden synagogue in Lithuania, built in 1819.

Book about WW2 resistance.

Ziezmarai  has about 4000 residents, none are Jews. Before WWII, half were Jews.
The simple  bulletin board of information shown below tells only part of the story, and even it is only recent and because of the kindness of Mr. Ludviga.





Mr. Ludviga is the nephew of the man who risked his entire family's lives by hiding three Jewish families. Mr. Ludviga was very young at the time but he remembers playing with one of those boys And he remembers people disguising themselves as beggars as a way to bring food to the families.




The remains of the women's balcony.

Mr. Ludviga does all maintenance on his own accord without government support. He lives next door 
and unlocks the door when people want to visit. Mr. Ludviga told us UNESCO looked at the site but nothing came of it which is a pity because in such a small place one can really sense the enormity of losing half of one's neighbors in one day.

Many Lithuanians have yet to be convinced that it is important to remember the crimes of the Nazis. They say "it was so long ago" or their vision of history remains clouded by anti-Soviet sentiment. 

Please read this profile by Gordon Brown of Rachel Margolis. Everything is complicated in Lithuania.

#Izzy's Fire#Rachel Margolis#Ziezmarai

Sugihara House

Simonas Dovidavicus, same Simon of the Keidan  visit and Yudel Ronder visit, is Director of the Sugihara House, a very small but full of heart museum in the former Japanese embassy to Lithuania.
More than 2000 visas were issued, saving the lives of 6000. An act which Sugihara chose to do of his own independent will and for which his career and life suffered.
The Place Called Heaven is a short film we saw.
One man can make a difference.



Simon at Sugihara's desk.
Simon also told us about the other diplomat who made the heroic choice to issue visas to Jews and paid the price in his career. He is Jens deDecker of Holland.

Simon does noble work keeping these memories alive.
I feel connected to his mission and hold the dream of getting involved with the 
Sugihara memorial at Temple Emeth in Chestnut Hill, Ma 

Sugihara children's picture on the desk.

                                                                      Chiune Sugihara

Kaunas street scenes


Statue of Jewish singer, and Bill Segal look-alike, Danielius Dolskis, on the pedestrian artery.



Market

 

Art Deco Movie theater.
in use during my father's University years in Kaunas in 1930s.

Panorama from Nerus River





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