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2019.08.23 17:41

Ghettoed by Nazis, deported by Soviets: Lithuanian woman recalls horrors of both totalitarian regimes

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LRT TV, LRT.lt2019.08.23 17:41

On August 23, Europeans pay tribute to victims of the Nazi and Stalinist totalitarian regimes. While the two were horrible in their own distinctive ways, millions of people in Central Europe suffered from both.

Juliana Zarchi was three when Germany occupied Lithuania in 1941.

Her Lithuanian Jewish father Mausha Zarchi and German mother Gerta Urchs had met in Düsseldorf, but a marriage between a Jew and a German was forbidden in Nazi Germany, so they moved to Lithuania.

Juliana's father worked for three Yiddish newspapers in Kaunas. When the Second World War broke out, Mausha hoped that the German occupying regime would spare his wife and daughter, but he himself ran eastward along with the newspaper staff.

His journey ended in Ukmergė, however, where he was shot by the Nazis. And Juliana was sent to a ghetto. Her mother managed to save the little girl with a help of an Austrian neighbour.

“They are pushing me through barbed wire and someone is saying to me: run,” Juliana recalls the day almost eight decades ago. “On the other side, the narrow streets of Vilijampolė, wooden houses and, in one of them, I can see my mother. [...] I ran so fast like I never have in my life.”

But that was not the end of her troubles. When the USSR recaptured Lithuania in 1944, she and her mother were accused of fascism and deported to Tajikistan for 17 years.

Juliana Zarchi is one of many people who were victims of both Nazi and Soviet totalitarian regimes.

“I'd say that we can hardly find a family in Lithuania that didn't suffer from both of these regimes, that didn't lose a family member to deportation or prison camps,” says historian Marius Pečiulis.

Stalinist and Nazi crimes tend to be analyzed separately, he says, but that is a mistake, especially in Central Europe where Soviet and Nazi regimes alternated with one another.

August 23 has been designated the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism. On this day in 1939, the foreign ministers of Germany and the USSR signed a non-aggression treaty, better known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, that included secret protocols dividing up Central Europe precipitating the onset of World War Two.

Events commemorating the victims of Nazi and Stalinist regimes are held throughout the continent. One of them is the series of video stories ‘Remember’, broadcast on several public TV channels, including LRT.