Faina Kukliansky, Christian von Bechtolsheim and Aloyzas Žukauskas
Vilnius, April 6, BNS–A benefit concert by the Lithuanian Jewish Community and the Order of Malta held in Germany has raised over 123,000 euros for Righteous Gentiles living in Lithuania.
Ambassador of the Order of Malta to Lithuania baron Christian von Bechtolsheim presented the symbolic check for the full amount to go to the Righteous Gentiles at the Lithuanian Jewish Community in Vilnius Wednesday.
“Righteous Gentiles are the true heroes of that time, they risked their own lives and those of their loved ones providing haven to people who would have been murdered by the Nazis. They hid them, fed them, provided a roof, and all of this demonstrates a human face during the darkest times in Europe,” the ambassador said.
Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky said: “It was of great concern to us that our rescuers in their old age might receive a little help… There’s never too much gratitude, nor material thanks. We wanted to materialize at least some of what we feel for our rescuers. We are as concerned with our rescuers as we are with the people whom they rescued.
Order of Malta Relief Organization in Lithuania secretary general Eitvydas Bingelis said some of the money would be used for debit cards which the Righteous Gentiles can use to pay for uncompensated medicines and medical items, while some of the money remains in the fund to be used separately for the needs of each individual Righteous Gentile.
“This could range from the simple purchase of firewood during the winter to paying heating bills, to household items and so on,” Bingelis said. There is also a plan to present an exhibition of Righteous Gentiles in Lithuania. “There will be a photographic exhibit of those heroes of Lithuania, of the Righteous Gentiles who contributed to the better name of Lithuania during that difficult time, portraits of Lithuania’s Righteous Gentiles,” said the representative of the Order of Malta. He added the projects to be funded by monies generated during the benefit concert would last three years.
Righteous Gentile Aloyzas Žukauskas spoke at the press conference and recalled how his parents saved a girl during the Nazi occupation. “I was small, my parents brought a seven-year-old girl home, I was ten then… My father brought her in and said: ‘We’ve brought you a sister, honor her and love her.’ She was the daughter of the rich mill owner, father was very good friends with him, so he took her in. Her family, she also had a brother and a sister, they shot them all, she was the only one left. … In 1988 someone called. ‘Who is it?’ I asked. ‘Well, it’s your so-called Mania, from Israel.’ I was surprised, but she said she wanted to come, to meet, that there was a project and we were included to receive the name of Righteous among the Nations,” the elderly man recalled.
Currently there are 87 surviving Righteous Gentiles in Lithuania, but just three years ago there were over 100. The Lithuanian Jewish Community reports some of them are living in poverty and suffer illness. The state of Israel through the Yad Vashem Memorial Authority awards the title of Righteous among the Nations, also knows as Righteous Gentile, to people who rescued Jews from the Holocaust.