Remembering the Righteous Gentiles of Švenčionys

Remembering the Righteous Gentiles of Švenčionys

Lithuania marked the Day of Rescuers of Lithuanian Jews on March 15, added to the list of Lithuanian commemorative dates in late 2022. The Nalšia Museum held an event to celebrate this day.

Museum director Nadežda Spiridonovienė led the event and in her opening speech spoke about the facts of the Holocaust in the Švenčionys region and the title of Righteous Gentile awarded by the Yad Vashem Institute to non-Israelis who rescued people from the Holocaust.

Lithuania’s parliament chose March 15 as the day of remembrance in honor of Ona Šimaitė, the first Lithuanian to be awarded the title of Righteous Gentile on March 15, 1966.

Stanislovas Kerulis attended the event and was presented books about local regional historyas gifts by museum director Milda Petkevičienė-Dečkuvienė. His grandparents hid several Jewish children in their home and barn. Eleventh-graders from a local high school read out the names and brief biographies of Righteous Gentiles from the Švenčionys region. There was a short concert and a video was screened detailing the rescue of a child, Romuald Jakub Veksler-Vaškinel, of Polish and Litvak ethnicity. He was raised as a Catholic and became a priest. After he learned he was Jewish, he travelled to Israel and met his ultra-Orthodox relatives there.

Švenčionys Jewish Community chairman Moshe Shapiro spoke about his family’s horrific fate in the Holocaust. He thanked the participants, presented roses to the organizers and called for continued cooperation in collecting and publishing historical material on current and past residents from the ethnic minority communities in the Švenčionys region

Photographs by Dovilė Urmonė, Nalšia Museum

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