Memory Stones Placed in Ukmergė Old Town

On September 24 two memory stones commemorating Holocaust victims were placed on the ground in Ukmergė (Vilkomir). The idea of memory stones is to remember victims of fascism where they lived and worked. One stone was set in the ground on Vasario 16 street near an athletics school where the Great Synagogue of Vilkomir once stood and is dedicated to Rabbi Josif Zusmanovitch. The second is at Kauno street no. 17, dedicated to the photographer Moshe Levi whose studio was located there.

Artūras Taicas, chairman of the Ukmergė Jewish Association, thanked the project organizers in the name of the entire Jewish community for remember the lost world of the Litvaks.

Vepriai primary school teachers Aldona Medonienė and Vitas Medonas, Lithuanian Human Rights Center reps Simona Gaidytė and Jūratė Juškaitė and Ukmergė Regional History Museum representative Jolanta Petraitytė also spoke at the ceremony to unveil the stones.

Rabbi Josif Zusmanovitch (1895-1941) was born in Minsk. His family moved to Palestine several years after his birth. Zusmanovitch came back to Lithuania and studied at the Tels (Telšiai) and Slobodka yeshivot. He was the head of the Slobodka yeshiva and a judge on the rabbinical court. He published more than 30 works on religion and law. He became the rabbi of Vilkomir in 1936. ZUsmanovitch, his wife Leia, his daughters Rokha, Hilda and Golda and his sons Moshe and Mordechai were murdered with the entire Jewish community of Vilkomir in the Pivonija forest in 1941.

The photographer Moshe Levi (1886-1941) was born in Panevėžys (Ponevezh) and the family moved to Vilkomir in the early 20th century. After high school he studied dentistry in Kazan in Russia, then studied photography in New York until 1918. Levi together Shlomo Baier opened a photography studio at Kauno street no. 32 in Vilkomir in 1919. Around 1923 they moved the business to Kauno street no. 15. Levi was one of the main photographers in Vilkomir and did portraits, family portraits, vignettes and artistic photography. His home and business were nationalized by the Soviets in 1941 and he and his wife Feiga and daughter Rivka were murdered in the Pivonija forest in August of 1941.