THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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The U.S. author of the book "We are here" (Mes esame čia), Ellen Cassedy (right), was in Lithuania last month. Here in eager discussion about Jewish life in Lithuania before the Holocaust and now today.
Below: Ellen Cassedy’s report from her visit to Lithuania
VilNews has previously written that Hollywood largely was created by Litvaks, the Lithuanian Jews who have had so endlessly huge influence on world culture, science, business and politics.
Go to our VilNews Section 12 for case examples.
Now it turns out that the star of this year's major film, Lincoln, also has Lithuanian ancestry. And not only that; his Lithuanian grandfather, Michael Balcon, had enormous influence on the British film industry in its startup phase in the early 20th century.
His mother, Jill Balcon, was a leading English film and radio actress.
Sir Michael Balcon
(1896 – 1977)
(1925 – 2009)
About Sir Michael Balcon
Michael Balcon is considered one of the most important figures in British Cinema. It was his vision that brought international prestige to Gainsborough in the 20s and 30s. and he was a vigorous spokesman for the industry for most of his career.
Michael Balcon's career began in Birmingham in 1920, where, with Victor Saville he was a film distributor. Within two years they had begun producing feature films in London - Woman to Woman 1923 was the first. He formed Gainsborough Studios the following year. He visited the Ufa studios in Berlin in 1924 and began a co-production association with The Blackguard that was to last 10 years. German technical staff populated Gainsborough films through the 20s and early 30s giving them a slick, sophisticated veneer to match any film produced in Hollywood, Balcon was aiming for a product of international interest unlike many other British studios in the silent and early talkie era.
Read more: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Balcon
About the movie “Lincoln”
Lincoln is a 2012 American historical drama film directed and produced by Steven Spielberg, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as United States President Abraham Lincoln and Sally Field as Mary Todd Lincoln. The film is based in part on Doris Kearns Goodwin's biography of Lincoln, Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, and covers the final four months of Lincoln's life, focusing on the President's efforts in January 1865 to have the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution passed by the United States House of Representatives. Lincoln premiered on October 8, 2012, at the New York Film Festival, and has since received widespread critical acclaim, with major praise directed to Day-Lewis' performance. In December 2012, the film was nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards including Best Picture (Drama), Best Director for Spielberg and winning Best Actor (Drama) for Day-Lewis. The film has been nominated for twelve Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Spielberg and Best Actor for Day-Lewis.
Two children in the Kaunas (Kovno) Ghetto, Lithuania.
Yad Vashem Photo Archive, 4789
What happened to the Jews in Lithuania during World War II is a matter of grim record. Of the 250.000 Jews in 1939, only between 12.500 and 17.500 survived; of those, only about 200 remain today.
It has been estimated that of the 265.000 Jews living in Lithuania in June 1941, 254.000 or 95% were murdered during the German occupation. No other Jewish community in Nazi-occupied Europe was so comprehensively destroyed.
The Red Army occupied Lithuania in June 1940, and the country remained under Soviet control until June 1941, when it fell to the invading German Army (Wehrmacht). On 8 July 1941 an order was issued stating that all Jews had to wear a special patch on their back; subsequently they were ordered to wear the patch on their chest. In addition Jews were forbidden to walk along the main streets of the city, and shops were ordered to sell them food in limited amounts. Jewish people were fired from their jobs, deprived of the means of personal transportation and radios, forbidden to use public transport, and prohibited from public places. Jews were arrested on the streets, at their work places, and in their houses.
The Kaunas (Kovno) Ghetto
Between 1920 and 1940, Kaunas (Kovno) was Lithuania's capital and largest city. It had a Jewish population of 35.000-40.000, about one-fourth of the city's total population. Jews were concentrated in the city's commercial, artisan, and professional sectors.
Kaunas was also a centre of Jewish learning. The yeshiva in Slobodka, an impoverished district of the city, was one of Europe's most prestigious institutions of higher Jewish learning, with a rich and varied Jewish culture. The city had almost 100 Jewish organizations, 40 synagogues, many Yiddish schools, 4 Hebrew high schools, a Jewish hospital, and scores of Jewish-owned businesses. It was also an important Zionist center.
Kaunas‘ Jewish life was disrupted when the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania in June 1940. The occupation was accompanied by arrests, confiscations, and the elimination of all free institutions. Jewish communal organizations disappeared almost overnight. Soviet authorities confiscated the property of many Jews. Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Activist Front, founded by Lithuanian nationalist emigres in Berlin, clandestinely disseminated antisemitic literature in Lithuania. Among other themes, the literature blamed Jews for the Soviet occupation. Hundreds of Jews were exiled to Siberia.
Following Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, Soviet forces fled Kaunas. Immediately before and following the German occupation of the city on June 24, anti-Communist, pro-German Lithuanian mobs began to attack Jews (whom they unfairly blamed for Soviet repression), especially along Jurbarko and Krisciukaicio streets. These right-wing vigilantes murdered hundreds of Jews and took dozens more Jews to the Lietukis Garage, in the city center, and killed them there.
Moving into the Kovno ghetto.
George Kadish, photographer, George Kadish, Florida.
Entrance gate to the Kaunas (Kovno) Ghetto (1941-1944).
Etching dated 1943, by Esther Lurie.
Street corner in the Kaunas Ghetto.
In early July 1941, German Einsatzgruppe (mobile killing unit) detachments and their Lithuanian auxiliaries began systematic massacres of Jews in several of the forts around Kaunas. These forts had been constructed by the Russian tsars in the nineteenth century for the defense of the city. Einsatzgruppe detachments and Lithuanian auxiliaries shot thousands of Jewish men, women, and children, primarily in the Ninth Fort, but also in the Fourth and Seventh forts. Within six months of the German occupation of the city, the Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators had murdered half of all Jews in Kaunas.
Ghetto street, November 1943.
The Nazis established a civilian administration under SA Major General Hans Kramer. Between July and 15 August 1941, the Germans concentrated the remaining Jews, some 29.000 people, in a ghetto established in Slobodka. It was an area of small primitive houses and no running water. The ghetto had two parts, called the "small" and "large" ghetto, separated by Paneriu Street. In the autumn of 1943, the SS assumed control of the ghetto and converted it into the Kauen concentration camp. On 8 July 1944, the Germans evacuated the camp, deporting most of the remaining Jews to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany or to the Stutthof camp, near Danzig, on the Baltic coast. Three weeks before the Soviet army arrived in Kaunas, the German razed the ghetto to the ground with grenades and dynamite. As many as 2.000 people burned to death or were shot while trying to escape.
At its peak, the Ghetto held 40,000 people, most of whom were later sent to concentration and extermination camps, or were shot at the Ninth Fort. About 500 Jews escaped from work details and directly from the Ghetto, and joined Soviet partisan forces in the distant forests of southeast Lithuania and Belarus.
Youth in line for distribution of soup in the workers' kitchen in the Kaunas Ghetto.
The ghetto fire brigade with their chief Abramovitz (in front), August 1943.
The ghetto had two parts, called the "small" and "large" ghetto, separated by Paneriai Street and connected by a small wooden bridge over the street. Each ghetto was enclosed by barbed wire and closely guarded. Both were overcrowded, with each person allocated less than ten square feet of living space. The Germans continually reduced the ghetto's size, forcing Jews to relocate several times. The Germans and Lithuanians destroyed the small ghetto on October 4, 1941, and killed almost all of its inhabitants at the Ninth Fort. Later that same month, on 29 October 1941, the Germans staged what became known as the "Great Action." In a single day, they shot around 10,000 Jews at the Ninth Fort (see below).
The ghetto in Kovno provided forced labor for the German military. Jews were employed primarily as forced laborers at various sites outside the ghetto, especially in the construction of a military airbase in Aleksotas. The Jewish council (Aeltestenrat; Council of Elders), headed by Dr. Elkhanan Elkes, also created workshops inside the ghetto for those women, children, and elderly who could not participate in the labor brigades. Eventually, these workshops employed almost 6,500 people. The council hoped the Germans would not kill Jews who were producing for the army.
Jewish workers on their way back to the Ghetto after a day of forced labour.
The Underground School
As an act of defiance an underground school was conducted in the Kovno Ghetto when such education was banned in 1942. A remarkable photo of one of the classes of that school features in the US Holocaust publication, "The Hidden History of the Kovno Ghetto". Identification of the teacher visible in that photo is given in a website that deals with the hidden school. However almost all of the children in the Ghetto, approximately 2,500, were removed in the Kinder Aktion of 27–28 March 1944.
Unidentified child in the Kaunas Ghetto, 1943.
Smuggling Babies out of the Ghetto
From 1942 births were not permitted in the ghetto and pregnant women faced death. However a number of babies of ages from about 9 months to 15 months were smuggled out of the Kovno Ghetto to willing Lithuanian foster mothers.
In the autumn of 1943, the SS assumed control of the ghetto and converted it into the Kovno concentration camp. The Jewish council's role was drastically curtailed. The Nazis dispersed more than 3,500 Jews to subcamps where strict discipline governed all aspects of daily life. On October 26, 1943, the SS deported more than 2,700 people from the main camp. The SS sent those deemed fit to work to Vaivara concentration camp in Estonia, and deported surviving children and the elderly to Auschwitz.
On 8 July 1944, the Germans evacuated the camp, deporting most of the remaining Jews to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany or to the Stutthof camp, near Danzig, on the Baltic coast. Three weeks before the Soviet army arrived in Kovno, the Germans razed the ghetto to the ground with grenades and dynamite. As many as 2,000 people burned to death or were shot while trying to escape the burning ghetto. The Red Army occupied Kaunas on 1 August 1944. Of Kaunas‘ few Jewish survivors, 500 had survived in forests or in a single bunker which had escaped detection during the final liquidation; the Germans evacuated an additional 2,500 to concentration camps in Germany.
Jewish women standby murdered corpses outside
the Seventh Fort in Kaunas.
Throughout the years of hardship and horror, the Jewish community in Kaunas documented its story in secret archives, diaries, drawings and photographs. Many of these artifacts lay buried in the ground when the ghetto was destroyed. Discovered after the war, these few written remnants of a once thriving community provide evidence of the Jewish community's defiance, oppression, resistance, and death. George Kadish (Hirsh Kadushin), for example, secretly photographed the trials of daily life within the ghetto with a hidden camera through the buttonhole of his overcoat.
Monument of the Kaunas Ghetto
The Kovno ghetto had several Jewish resistance groups. The resistance acquired arms, developed secret training areas in the ghetto, and established contact with Soviet partisans in the forests around Kaunas.
In 1943, the General Jewish Fighting Organization (Yidishe Algemeyne Kamfs Organizatsye) was established, uniting the major resistance groups in the ghetto. Under this organization's direction, some 300 ghetto fighters escaped from the Kovno ghetto to join Jewish partisan groups. About 70 died in action.
The Jewish council in Kaunas actively supported the ghetto underground. Moreover, a number of the ghetto's Jewish police participated in resistance activities. The Germans executed 34 members of the Jewish police for refusing to reveal specially constructed hiding places used by Jews in the ghetto.
The completely destroyed Kaunas Ghetto. In July 1944, the Germans blew up and
burned down the ghetto in search of Jews in hiding there.
Thousands of Jews were killed to fall in pits like these.
Kaunas massacre of 29 October 1941, also known as the Great Action, was the largest mass murder of Lithuanian Jews.
By the order of SS-Standartenführer Karl Jäger and SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca, the Sonderkommando under the leadership of SS-Obersturmführer Joachim Hamann, and 8 to 10 men from Einsatzkommando 3, in collaboration with Lithuanian henchmen, murdered 2,007 Jewish men, 2,920 women, and 4,273 children in a single day at the Ninth Fort, Kaunas, Lithuania.
With the arrival of the SS Einsatzgruppen, the 'Great Action' began on October 28th. The Jewish inhabitants of the Ghetto were assembled on Democrats Square and all those fit for work were allowed back into the Ghetto. The others, over 9,000 men, women and children were marched to the SS execution centre in the Ninth Fort and there, stripped of their clothes and in the freezing cold, they awaited their fate. In groups of 200, they were stood on the edge of large pits, dug previously by Russian P.O.W.s, and were systematically machine-gunned to death.
These mass graves were later re-opened and all the bodies burned in an attempt to conceal the crime. This work was done by 72 men and women from the ghetto. While working, the prisoners were chained together to prevent escapes but all were later put to death when their work was finished.
In July, 1944, the Ghetto was burned down, blown apart and completely destroyed. The Germans and Lithuanians destroyed the small ghetto on October 4, 1941, and killed almost all of its inhabitants at the Ninth Fort. Later that same month, on October 28, SS-Rottenführer Helmut Rauca of the Kaunas Gestapo (secret state police) conducted the selection in the Kaunas Ghetto. All ghetto inhabitants were forced to assemble in a central square of the ghetto. Rauca selected 9,200 Jewish men, women, and children, about one-third of the ghetto population. The next day, 29 October, they shot these people at the Ninth Fort in huge pits dug in advance.
Jewish women, minutes before they are murdered by the
SS and their Lithuanian henchmen, Kaunas 1941.
KAUNAS’ NINTH FORT
At the end of 19th century, the city of Kaunas was fortified, and by 1890 it was encircled by eight forts and nine gun batteries. The construction of the Ninth Fort (its numerical designation having stuck as a proper noun) began in 1902 and was completed on the eve of World War I. From 1924 on, the Ninth Fort was used as the Kaunas City prison.
During the years of Soviet occupation, 1940-1941, the Ninth Fort was used by the NKVD to house political prisoners on their way to the labour camps in Siberia.
During the years of Nazi occupation, the Ninth Fort was put to use as a place of mass murder. At least 10,000 Jews, most of Kaunas, largely taken from the Kovno Ghetto, were transported to the Ninth Fort and killed by Nazis with the collaboration of some Lithuanians in what became known as the Kaunas massacre.
Notable among the victims was Rabbi Elchonon Wasserman of Baranovitch. In addition, Jews from as far as France, Austria and Germany were brought to Kaunas during the course of Nazi occupation and executed in the Ninth Fort. On 1943 the Germans operated special Jewish squads to open the massgraves and burn the remaining corpses. Such squad of 62 people managed to escape the fortress on the eve of 1944. In 1944, as the Soviets moved in, the Germans liquidated the ghetto and what had by then come to be known as the "Fort of Death", and the prisoners were dispersed to other camps. After World War II, the Soviets again used the Ninth Fort as a prison for several years. From 1948 to 1958, farm organizations were run out of the Ninth Fort.
In 1958, a museum was established in the Ninth Fort. In 1959, a first exposition was prepared in four cells telling about Nazi war crimes carried out in Lithuania. In 1960, the discovery, cataloguing, and forensic investigation of local mass murder sites began in an effort to gain knowledge regarding the scope of these crimes.
Through this door, 64 prisoners escaped on 25 December 1943.
TODAY A MUSEUM
The Ninth Fort museum contains collections of historical artifacts related both to Soviet atrocities and the Nazi genocide, as well as materials related to the earlier history of Kaunas and Ninth Fort.
The memorial to the victims of Nazism at the Ninth Fort in Kaunas, Lithuania, was designed by sculptor A. Ambraziunas. Erected in 1984, the monument is 105 feet (32 m) high. The mass burial place of the victims of the massacres carried out in the fort is a grass field, marked by a simple yet frankly worded memorial written in several languages. It reads, "This is the place where Nazis and their assistants killed more than 30,000 Jews from Lithuania and other European countries."
On April 11, 2011, the memorial to the victims of Nazism was vandalized - The memorial tombstones were knocked down, and white swastikas were sprayed on the memorial. On the adjacent sidewalk, the words “Juden raus” (German: Jews Out) were inscribed.
Kaunas – A sign saying “Jews out” and “Hitler was right” (Juden raus“„Hitleris buvo teisus“)
were hung in front of the synagogue on April 20th 2011, Hitler's day of birth.
My coffee chat with Irena Veisaite (84) started here in the kitchen of her cosy apartment in the outskirts of
Vilnius Old Town. What a life story hasn’t this gentle lady got to tell...
Text/photos: Aage Myhre
A room full of books. A desk covered with pamphlets, documents, newspaper clippings. Walls and bookshelves overcrowded with framed photographs of friends and relatives. Her today’s home in Vilnius is filled with warmth and wisdom. Was this the way they lived? The Lithuanian Jews, often named as the Litvaks. Before the World War II horrific events so brutally took them and their culture here in Lithuania away forever? Or perhaps not forever? Because here she lives, Irena Veisaite, born in this country in 1928. She is one of the few Litvaks who survived the Holocaust in Lithuania. A living evidence of cruelty and injustice. Yet with less bitterness and anger than you might think.
"Love," she says, "love is so much more important than hatred. Hatred is the most destructive feature that humanity possesses and even in the most difficult times I experienced a lot of kindness".
Irena was born in 1928 in Kaunas, the inter-war Lithuanian capital when Vilnius and the south-western part of the country was occupied by Poland. Her parents had a liberal European education and she grew up, as she describes, surrounded by very different people. She was playing with the neighbourhood children and never thought much of what nationality the other kids were. It was only when rumours of a potential war grew in strength that she began to feel a certain degree of insecurity.
"But," she says," my biggest fear in the early 1930's was that my parents would divorce. Not the potential war."
She also remembers with great pleasure that the house her father built in Kaunas in 1936 was named as Lithuania's top residential housing. However, insecurity began to make itself increasingly evident in the late thirties. More and more often her parents whispered among themselves. About Adolph Hitler. About growing fears of war. Eight-year-old Irena began to experience painful nightmares. She would often wake up at night because of frightening dreams of a deadly despot, a man who was now leading a country that she and her family had so many good memories about, a country named Germany.
"I learned a new phrase when I was eight years old," she tells me while we sit in her book-crowded apartment in Vilnius this early February day. "The word was 'Anti Semitism'. “But what this word really meant I understood only much later.”
Irena stands in her kitchen, making coffee for me while she talks about those first, painful childhood experiences.
"Unfortunately my greatest childhood fears came true when I was 10 years old and my parents decided to divorce. The agreement was that I should stay with my mother in Kaunas during the year but spend the summer vacations with my father. In the summer of 1938 my father took me on a wonderful European trip. We travelled through Berlin to Switzerland, Belgium and France”
"It is very vivid in my memory how we walked along Berlin's famous street, Unter den Linden, and saw the yellow benches which were different from all others, meant only for the Jews. As foreigners, we could have sat down on any bench, but my father insisted that we should sit on a yellow bench out of solidarity with the German Jews and to get the feeling of what it meant to be excluded."
In German city parks by the end of the 1930s, there were yellow benches bearing the logo “for Jews only.” Jews were not permitted to sit on any other park benches nor use public transportation or drive a car. These measures made it easy to identify the stigmatized Jews so that they could then be transported to ghettos in the East and finally carted to their deaths in concentration camps such as Sobibor, Auschwitz, Neuengamme, Buchenwald etc.
In 1939, Hitler's war machinery started to roll east. The infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop pact was signed that year, and it soon became clear that little Lithuania was about to be squeezed between two superpowers that were not to show any mercy to the Lithuanian people.
The Soviet Union's first WWII occupation of Lithuania took place in 1940. One year later they were driven back by the German troops and the country was suddenly under German domination. While the Soviet occupation was infinitely tragic for the ethnic Lithuanians, due to the memory of the Tsarist Russia's occupation of the country from late 1700's until well into the First World War and especially the deportations of the 14 June 1941, the Nazi occupation may have appeared as liberation from the Soviet dictatorship.
For the Jews deportation to Siberia was still a chance to survive, while the devastating Nazi occupation meant certain death. Jews and Lithuanians, who had lived in peace and harmony side by side for hundreds of years, became involuntary victims of a war none of them wanted.
Irena recalls the outbreak of the war as a very dark time. She remembers the overpowering Nazi propaganda which identified all the Jews with Communists who betrayed their homeland - Lithuania - to the Soviet Union. The Jews were apportioned the blame for carrying out the deportations of the Lithuanians to Siberia without any mention of the fact that many Jews were also deported. The mood of hatred and retaliation escalated, there were pogroms in Kaunas. Jewish people were arrested and shot in the streets.
Just a few days after the German occupation in June of 1941, Irena's mother was arrested in hospital where she was recovering after major kidney surgery. She was taken to a prison and it is estimated that she was executed in mid-July. 13-year old Irena became motherless in an unimaginably tragic way.
Irena's voice trembles when she talks about her Mother and what happened that July day.
After the brutal murder, Irena remained alone because her father then lived in Belgium (where he survived the war). They had no contact anymore.
During the war years that followed, there was substantial cooperation and collaboration between the German forces and some Lithuanians. The Lithuanian Activist Front volunteer police force, known as Tautinio Darbo Apsaugos Batalionas (TDA), that was hoping to be transformed into a regular army of independent Lithuania, became instead employed by the Germans as auxiliary in massacres of the Jews during the Holocaust that led to the tragic destruction of around 200 000 Jews, about 90- 95% of the country’s pre-war Jewish population.
In August 1941 all the Kaunas Jews were imprisoned in the ghetto which was located in the Kaunas suburb Vilijampole. Irena stayed in the ghetto with her grandparents and one aunt.
The 7th of November 1943 is a date Irena will never forget. Lithuanian friends of her parents, the Strimaitis family, had managed to convey a message to her in the ghetto, saying that she should follow one of the labour brigades out of the ghetto to the work place in town. They also had procured false documents for her. An agreement was reached with a Jewish policeman who was responsible for the list of workers that she should not be included on the list that day, but still follow the group out and then try to escape unnoticed into a side street as soon as they passed the ghetto gates. The moment of stepping out of the column of Jewish workers was the most horrifying and dangerous one in young Irena's life. But fortunately she made it without being detected.
Kaunas Ghetto street, November 1943.
She managed to get off the yellow stars that all Jews were obliged to bear on both the chest and back, and went unnoticed to the agreed meeting point on the Viljampole bridge across river Neris. The work brigade had been more than an hour late out of the ghetto that day, and her family friends had already gone home when Irena came to the meeting place, so she had to find her way alone, walking through the centre of town.
Irena knew the address to the Strimaitis family and managed to find their house in the centre of Kaunas. What she did not know was the number of their apartment, so she found herself ringing the caretaker's door bell. Both she and her friends knew, however, that caretakers were among the most eager informers for the Gestapo, and her contact with the caretaker made the friends so nervous that none of them could sleep that night.
Early next morning they travelled to Vilnius, hoping that the caretaker had not been able or wanted to alert the Gestapo. Irena's Lithuanian was luckily very good, so it was also possible that the caretaker had not realized that she was Jewish.
The Strimaitis family continued to take care of Irena and found a few places for her to stay in Vilnius. Finally, in March 1944, she was taken into a home of Stefanija Ladigiene who took her into her family and became her ‘second mother’. She stayed with this family also after the war had ended because she had no one else left. All her friends and family had perished in the Holocaust.
As Irena had identification papers (false, though) she was able to take a job. Marcele Kubiliute, a friend of the Strimaitis family, found her a job at an orphanage in Vilnius Old Town, where she worked in the laundry and as a cleaner until the summer of 1944.
When the Soviets re-occupied Lithuania the summer of 1944, Irena desperately wanted to rebuild her life. She entered a Lithuanian high school in Vilnius which she finished in record speed, taking only three years instead of the usual five, to get her final exam papers. She then applied to Vilnius University to study Lithuanian Language and Literature. Unfortunately at this time the KGB was after Irena and wanted to enlist her as an informant, to which she would never agree. Her ‘second mother’ was arrested in March 1946, and there was another complication: Irena's father lived abroad and was classified as a bourgeois, and for this reason she was in danger of being expelled from the University. With the help of her relatives in Moscow she left Vilnius and continued her education in Moscow, studying German language and literature.
In 1953, having graduated from the Moscow Lomonosov State University, Irena came back to Vilnius, determined to work in Lithuania. She became a lecturer at the Pedagogical University in Vilnius, where she taught the history of Western European and German literature. She later taught at other universities, and became involved in theatre and many other activities, although the pedagogical university remained her main employer, through 43 relatively good, happy years.
Soon after Lithuania's new process of liberation, in 1990, Irena, together with Professor Ceslovas Kudaba was invited by the philanthropist and billionaire George Soros to create the Open Society Fund in Lithuania.
"I was happy to accept the offer. I felt like I was getting new wings because this gave me the possibility to do on a much bigger scale what I was trying to do all my life - stimulating critical and creative thinking and bringing Lithuania back to Europe and basic European human values... To show an alternative to Soviet thinking. I accepted his invitation to lead the Fund for the years 1990-2000."
Today Irena is still working with George Soros and his Open Society Fund, and now acts as Ombudsman for his worldwide organization.
To Irena Veisaite,
In spite of her tragic past Irena leads a very active life. She is appreciated for her positive thinking and tolerance, and was in 2002 awarded the prestigious title; "Person of Tolerance in Lithuania.” Irena is not affected by hatred or revenge.
As she puts it to me; “I do not remember the faces of any evil people from my past, but I do very well remember the faces of those that expressed goodness. We have to learn to love and to understand..."
Dr. Irena Veisaite (84) at her study desk in Vilnius, Lithuania.
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