24 February 2018
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The memory of my Kupiškes grandfather



 “This postcard was the last sign of life my father had from his father. It was sent from my grandfather’s home here in Kupiskes (North Lithuania) in March 1941 to my father’s new home in Pretoria (South Africa), but my grandfather was most probably already dead when the postcard reached Pretoria late summer 1941. He was killed by the Nazis”. Attorney Ivor Feinberg, Lithuania’s consul in Pretoria, is obviously very touched when he visits his grandfather’s house in Kupiskes, telling us about the last memory of his grandfather – a memory not unlike many other stories related to the about 70,000 Jews of Lithuanian descent living in South Africa.                                                                                                                                   

Pictures: Aage Myhre

Lithuanians dominate the Jewish community in South Africa to an extent seen in no other country, even their former home. "We have around 80,000 to 90,000 Jews in South Africa, and about 80 percent of them are of Baltic descent, most of them from Lithuania," said David Saks, an historian and researcher at the Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg. "We probably have the most 'Lithuanian' Jewish community in the world," said Saks, whose own grandparents came from Lithuania. This ratio even exceeds that of Lithuania itself as most of the Baltic state's small Jewish community, now numbering a mere 5,000, is comprised mostly of immigrants who arrived from different parts of the Soviet Union after World War Two.The war devastated Lithuanian Jewry, once a leading centre of Jewish thought and culture. Historians estimate that 94 percent of the country's pre-war Jewish population of 220,000 perished in the Holocaust. The capital Vilnius, once known as the Jerusalem of the North, was home to a thriving community of 60,000 Jews, with more than 90 synagogues and the biggest Yiddish library in the world. Aside from one functioning synagogue, few traces of its rich Jewish past remain. "South Africa is more Litvak than Lithuania itself...we see our culture and society have been preserved there," said playwright and novelist Mark Zingeris, one of the few Litvaks remaining in Lithuania.

Category : Litvak forum sidebar

  • Wham bam thank you, ma’am, my quseitons are answered!

    August 28 2011
    • Harriet Ar(e)nberg

      As an American of Lithuanian Jewry I am trying to learn as much as I can about three family names: Aronberg/Arenberg , Oppenheim and Wittenberg. They came to the USA between 1870 and 1900 approx. and they were from Vilkaviskis, Kalvarija, and possibly Mariampole. I've had no contact with any families with these names from South Africa and would like to make contact.

      And congratulations to the writers, editors, etc. of this forum. I just discovered it and found it to be most interesting.

      Harriet Arnberg Weidenbaum

      July 22 2011
      • Adrian Freedman

        As a descendant of Lithuanian Jewry I find these articles extremely interesting

        February 19 2011


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