This month marks 75 years since Nazis and their local collaborators liquidated Kaunas ghetto in July 1944. Over 30,000 thousand Jews perished here and only a handful of members of the Kaunas Jewish community survived the Holocaust.
Members of the Litvak community in Israel came to Lithuania to commemoration events on Sunday, many of them descendants of Holocaust survivors.
One of them, Rūta Glickman, herself spent the first months of her life in the ghetto and survived thanks to the efforts of her mother and a gentile family.
“I was born in Kaunas ghetto and, when I was eight months old, my mother carried me out of the ghetto in a bag and handed me over to the Babarskai family,” Glickman told LRT TV.
There were more ghetto children saved in similar ways, but even more perished.
The commemoration ceremony on Sunday was held in the Ninth Fort, a site of mass murder of Lithuania's Jewish citizens during World War Two. Faina Kukliansky, the chairwoman of the Lithuanian Jewish Community, said all in attendance had things to remember.
“My mother was in Kaunas ghetto, and later, along with all survivors, she was taken to Stutthof concentration camp,” Kukliansky recalled.
Officially, the Nazis liquidated Kaunas ghetto in July 1944, but Jews were being killed continuously since it had been set up in 1941.
“In the beginning, some 30,000 people lived in the ghetto, but by 1942 the number had halved,” according to Marius Pečiulis, the director of the Ninth Fort Museum. “There were mass killings in autumn 1941, like the big action of October 29 when 9,200 Jews from Kaunas ghetto were murdered by the Ninth Fort.”
Only several hundred people survived the liquidation of the ghetto. In all, of the 37,000-strong pre-war Kaunas Jewish community, fewer than 3,000 survived the Holocaust. Many died of malnutrition and exhaustion from hard labour.
“I remember, when I was still a child, my dad would start screaming at night, my mum would wake him up and I'd bring water,” recalls Jarit Krakinovskytė. “My mum would ask, is it the Ninth Fort again? Yes, he'd say.”
Commemoration events were also held in the ghetto territory in Vilijampolė, including the unveiling of memorial stelae, an exhibition and guided tours.