Photo courtesy Vincas Kudirka Public Library
The Lithuanian translation of Yochanan Fein’s memoirs called “Berniukas su smuiku” [Boy with a Violin] was presented at two locations in Kaunas: the Vincas Kudirka public library’s Panemunė branch and the President Valdas Adamkus Library and Museum. The author impressed audiences with his warmth, humor, humanitarianism and perfect Lithuanian and his story drew both laughter and tears.
Members of the Paulavičius family, who rescued Fein during the Holocaust, attended the book presentation at the presidential library, along with members of academia, Kaunas Jewish Community members, former ghetto prisoners and Fein’s son and daughter, who accompanied him throughout Lithuania on his book tour.
Recalling his life in the ghetto and his rescue as well as what led up to his writing the book, Fein said that although the book is written in blood, it contains no hatred, revenge or attacks. Fein even received some criticism from friends for that reason, so he explained he would never forget what happened and who did it, but he also discovered enlightened people during those dark days who preserved faith in humanity, risking their lives and those of their families. Fein said he didn’t like the word “everyone” and that there is no universal crime or guilt. He said we need to talk about the real heroes of the nation, the extraordinary people who adhered to Fein’s father’s life-long maxim “men darf zayn a mentsh,” one must remain a human being.
Arvydas Sabonis, the co-translator with Ina Preiskel (Finkelšteinaitė), is related to the Paulavičius family who saved Fein, and was moved to translate the book because of the family tie.
Birutė Garbaravičienė ended the presentation by quoting some lines from the book:
“Racism is the mother of evil. It is not inherited, it is taught. The poison of racism burned into the minds and blood of people. Add to that the seeking after wealth, status and power and you have the answer to why a group of the grandchildren of Schiller, Beethoven and Goethe became bastards and monsters.”
Fein first published his testimony in Dutch and subsequently in Hebrew under the title “Na’ar ‘im kinor” by HaKibuts HaMe’uhad [Kibbutz United] in Tel Aviv in 2008. A Russian edition is planned for publication in the near future. The Lithuanian translation was published with financial support from the Goodwill Foundation.