Catholic Priest Recognized as Righteous Gentile in Kupiškis

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman and Community member Grafman attended a ceremony at the Povilas Matulionis Pre-Gymnasium in Kupiškis, Lithuania, May 30 held by the Israeli embassy to Lithuania to award the title of Righteous among the Nations posthumously to the priest Feliksas Ereminas (1890-1962). The Catholic cleric rescued the Jewish girl Rachel Rozenberg during World War II. For rescuing and further taking care of her, ambassador Amir Maimon presented Ereminas’s relative Tauras Budzys the Righteous among the Nations medallion and certificate issued by the Yad Vashem Holocaust authority in Israel.

The ambassador said the event is a lesson for our future. Professor Aldona Vasiliauskienė told the moving story of the rescue and how she collected the material required for the award.

Ambassador Maimon said: “We are happy and proud to have the opportunity today to recognize Feliksas Ereminas. Eighty years have passed since that time. Today we can only imagine those difficult times when Jews had to seek asylum.”

The ambassador continued, saying Rachel’s mother was killed. After the war she lived in Vilnius. The priest was a frequent guest in her home. “Looking at this story, we all must learn the lesson and understand that the basic value is love,” he said.

After his speech the ambassador presented professor Aldona Vasiliauskienė a letter of thanks for her efforts with the help of Danutė Selčinskaja of the Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum to collect all the material required about the priest and the girl.

Bishop Jonas Kauneckas recalled the priest was a good friend of his grandmother’s, how they often spoke and how he officiated at her funeral. Kauneckas’s parents held Ereminas in the highest esteem. He also spoke of a relative to stole some Jewish property during the Holocaust, and was condemned for it by the family, later vanishing without a trace during the war. Kauneckas said the people of his region suffered in the extreme over the murder of the Jews and those who stole Jewish property were considered criminals.

Kupiškis regional administration head Dainius Bardauskas said that day’s lesson at the gymnasium was one of the most important of the schoolyear, a lesson aimed at commemorating nobility of action, humanity and love.

Panevėžys Jewish Community chairman Gennady Kofman then spoke, saying: “We Jews honor the Lithuanians who risked their lives to save Jews,” and presented relatives of the honored priest with small gifts, including the Lithuanian Jewish Community calendar dedicated to Righteous Gentiles, matzo and a book about Jewish life in Lithuania.

Povilas Matulionis Pre-Gymnasium principal Rimvydas Latvys thanked everyone for attending. “It is very nice to receive ambassador Amir Maimon and likewise to hold joint-events with the Panevėžys Jewish Community, who are active participants in the public life of the local community.”

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