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Renginio iliustracija 1 September 2023

Discussion “Refuged, but Not Helpless. Polish Jewish Refugees in Vilnius, 1939–1944”

In commemoration of the 80th year of the liquidation of the Vilna Ghetto we invite you to the discussion “Refuged, but not helpless. Polish Jewish refugees in Vilnius, 1939–1944”.

The event will be held in English with simultaneous translation into Lithuanian. It will take place in the Conference Hall (5th floor) the National Library on September 19th, 6 pm.

After Hitler’s army began to occupy Poland in Autumn of 1939, more than 13000 Jewish refugees arrived in Lithuania. Around 10000 of them settled in Vilnius. The Vilnius Jewish community established the Refugee Aid Committee in order to help the adaptation of the refugees. The Lithuanian Red Cross contributed to the Committee’s activities from 1940 onwards. When the Germans started to occupy Lithuania, the refugees who remained in Lithuania were imprisoned in the Vilnius ghetto, together with other members of the Jewish community. They were active both in the cultural life of the ghetto (of particular note was the head of the ghetto library, Herman Kruk) and in the underground resistance organisation, which, by the way, was preparing for battle in the basement of the library. Former refugees such as Ruzhka Korchak, Vitka Kempner, Yechiel Sheinboim, Mordechai Tenenbaum-Tamarov and others joined the organisation. Some Jews continued the fight against the Germans in partisan units and took part in the liberation of Vilnius from the Nazis, while others died in the ghetto uprisings. The discussion will recall the journey of refugees from Poland to Vilnius and their fates.

The discussion will be held by Polish Jewish heritage historian, former director of the Emanuel Ringelblum Institute of Jewish History (Żydowski Instytut Historyczny im. Emanuela Ringelbluma) in Warsaw Dr. Eleonora Bergman, and researcher of refugee history, director of Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, Dr. Simonas Strelcovas. The discussion will be moderated by Dr. Lara Lempertienė, head of the Judaica Research Centre at the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania. The opening speech will be delivered by the Polish Ambassador to Lithuania, H.E. Konstanty Radziwiłł.

The discussion will be accompanied by an exhibition of documents from the National Library’s Judaica Collection on refugees and the Vilnius Ghetto Library.

Event partners: The Embassy of the Republic of Poland, Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History.

Briefly about the event

19 September
6 pm
Conference Hall, 5th floor
2 h
The Embassy of the Poland, Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
More information