Monday, June 23, 2014

KEIDAN. Museum, Jewish Cemetery, Killing Place

First things first.  $1 borscht.

The Kedainiai Regional Museum is a two building complex.
It is a block from where we think my father's house stood and likely the very spot where he went to Jewish Primary School at the Vilna Gaon's school.

Cobblestones throughout the old city.
Thankfully, these are not from ancient Jewish graves.....those can be found in many stone walls throughout Lithuania.

Director of the Museum Rimantas Zirgulis is collecting photographs of Jewish residents. I was proud to deliver a packet of pictures of my father and grandmother. These are used in the museum's educational mission which is to educate young people about the tragedy of the murder of innocents from their own community.

Rimantas stressed his goal to educate that these are members of their own community and not foreigners or outsiders. JDL report explains why he made that emphasis:

Yodel Ronder's sister.  Yodel is the last Jewish survivor of the Keidan massacre living in Lithuania and I hope to meet him on Wednesday thanks to Simon in Kaunas.

Each one of these 2076 rocks represents a Jew from the Keidan region who was shot on August 28, 1941.

my great-grandmother Beyla Shternfeld, for whom I am named, is buried in this cemetery.
Beyla Shternfeld, died 1913
Also Yusuf Shternfeld, died 1908, my great-grandfather for whom my father was named.

Simon is the Director of the Sugihara Center in Kaunas and was a great guide. He got increasingly interested in my grandmother's story as the day went on. 
Here he is determined to find a Shternfeld in the Keidan cemetary. I knew the grave numbers were O-5 and O-9 but I had neglected to print a map. 

Simon was fascinated that a Keidan woman would get herself to Paris to study design at the turn of the century, and that she would actually come back to  Keidan.
Simon was also very curious about my Austrian grandfather who was not in the picture for my father's childhood and had some ideas where I might find information.

Keidan memorial to those killed on August 28, 1941.
Almost every single Jew in Keidan including my grandmother Rosa Zilber

Zilberiene, Roza. 

I am so grateful to my sister Sharon who had the foresight to make sure our grandmother's name is on this beautiful memorial.  Also her sister Mere Finkelstein.
Rimantas explained at the museum that the iene ending signifys a married Lithuanian woman.

The memorial is surrounded by beautiful rapeseed fields. A barn used as a holding place is no longer standing. It was the stable for the Radzivil summer estate.

My travel companions Diane and Roberta kindly joined me in reading a prayer at the pit site which is beautifully designed and well tended thanks the wonderful work of Rimantas.
Simon gave me a yahrzeit candle with a very special provenance.
I placed two stones on the memorial.
I was grateful for the tears. My grandmother deserved them.

Like Panerai, the beauty of the place adds to the eerie feeling one gets at these sites of evil.

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