Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky told BNS Tobijas Jafetas was “a highly respected, active and refined person of the community” who had met her father when World War II began. “As I recall his father had a business in England and came to Kaunas just before the war started. It so happened that Jafetas and my father were at a [children’s summer] camp in Palanga when the war broke out. Neither was able to flee and they were taken to an orphanage in Kaunas,” Kukliansky said.
Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Amir Maimon expressed condolences over Jafetas’s loss on facebook.
Jafetas and his mother were imprisoned in the Slobodka ghetto in Kaunas in World War II. He told the story of how he escaped the ghetto in 1944 after hiding in an attic. The Katinskai family in Vilnius rescued him.
LJC chairwoman Kukliansky said Jafetas spoke German and English and maintained close contacts with survivors of ghettos in Europe.
“This is a great loss for us. I wrote the President’s Office two or three times for him to be awarded, but I was not able to accomplish this mission of mine. The community has lost an intellectual, enlightened man and one of the last surviving ghetto inmates in Lithuania,” chairwoman Kukliansky said.
Lithuanian president Dalia Grybauskaitė and Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis sent their condolences to the Lithuanian Jewish Community.
In a statement the president said she sent her condolences to the LJC and surviving family members, and that Jafetas helped preserve the memory of the Holocaust and of Righteous Gentiles in Lithuania. She added the country is grateful to Jafetas for providing “memory and wisdom” to so many.
“This is very sad news for the Lithuanian Jewish Community and for all who preserve and cherish basic values,” Lithuanian prime minister Saulius Skvernelis said. Jafetas, who lost his entire family to the Holocaust, “always remained full of hope for humanity and spread the light of tolerance and wisdom,” the Lithuanian PM stated.