Around 200 people attended an annual commemoration of the Holocaust victims of Biržai, Lithuania Sunday, August 28, 2016. In prior years those travelling to the rural town near the Latvian border numbered in the dozens. Only members of four families survived the Holocaust in Biržai. Their descendants now live in other locations in Lithuania and Israel and have been making the pilgrimage back to honor their murdered relatives since the end of World War II.
A Holocaust historian who attended said larger interest this year was likely the result of publicity for the Molėtai Holocaust commemoration on August 29.
Ten speakers spoke at the commemoration, including a moving speech by Lionginas Virbalas, the Catholic archbishop of Kaunas who was born and grew up in Biržai. Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky also spoke eloquently about the past and the future. Israeli ambassador Amir Maimon spoke and a representative from the US embassy whose Jewish family roots are in Biržai also participated.
There wasn’t a formal march to the killing site. Instead there was a walking tour of Jewish sites in Biržai, including the former synagogue, Jewish houses and buildings and the old Jewish cemetery, where a portion of the Jews of Biržai were murdered. The group then moved to the killing site about 2 kilometers outside town where prayers were said by representatives of different religious communities.
More information in Lithuanian available here.
Photos courtesy Milda Jakulytė-Vasil