Exhibitions archive

Exhibition "The Righteous Among the Nations. Those who were not afraid to die, became immortal"

18 January – 18 February 2024

We often hear and celebrate the people from all around the world doing the good deeds – philanthropists, patrons, volunteers, stars donating large sums of money or celebrities establishing foundations. We do not have to look far to find examples of good and courageous deeds; our history is full of people who were righteous, but who were forced to act quietly because they were risking not only their own lives but those of their families. These are the Righteous Among the Nations of Lithuania. Their behaviour proved that the only important thing is morals, and that morals have to be stronger than fear. 

The Righteous Among the Nations are non-Jewish people who helped and saved Jews during the Holocaust without seeking any profit. This status is awarded by Yad Vashem – Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. The requirements that the Righteous have to meet are very strict. During the Holocaust majority of the Jews living in Lithuania were killed. It is a pity and a shame that there were people responsible for these killings. Some of them said that they had no other choice and had to obey the instructions from the authorities, others were looking for ways to seize someone else’s wealth. The Righteous people found the strength to resist pressure of the society and the authorities. They have proved that there is always a choice. No matter their gender, age, social status or profession, everyone has a choice. Helping the Jews during the German occupation was one of the most risky acts imaginable. The punishments for the help were different in every country. Lithuania had the strictest penalty: not only the rescuer, but also his family, were at risk of death. Despite the threats, the morals of the Righteous were stronger than fear. By percentage, the Righteous of Lithuania are in second place in the world in terms of number. According to the official data of Yad Vashem, there were 924 Righteous person in Lithuania. This number is growing yearly due to newly obtained testimonies.

The idea for this exhibition came from our wish to thank all the people saving the humanness in Lithuania. With this exhibition, we thank everyone who has helped others. Even those who are not on the Yad Vashem’s lists. In some cases the rescued people did not reach out to Yad Vashem, the testimonies were not sufficient for the investigation, the names were forgotten, or, unfortunately, the rescures and the rescued did not survive. From the stories of our relatives we hear about someone’s grandfather bringing goods to the ghetto with a double-bottom carriage, or a grandmother instructing her grandchild to throw a loaf of bread over the fence in an agreed upon place. Even if these people are not on any kind of list in the world, we still are grateful for them – this is how they rescued Lithuania. We thank those who were duty bound and had enough courage to help the people in need. This was a silent but very meaningful resistance to evil.

On top of every description you will find short summary about the age of the person at the time of helping Jews, their profession and the number of people saved by them. Some stories do not provide the exact year of the rescue so for the sake of consistency we have calculated the age in all top rows by subtracting the year of birth from 1941. Stories or facts between Lithuanian and Israeli sources are quite often a bit different. We used information from Yad Vashem as our primary source. The row about people rescued by the Righteous was also based on the Yad Vashem’s data, providing only the identified rescued Jews.  So even if the written story describes more rescued people, the top row indicates an official and investigated number. We should also bear in mind that the Righteous helped not only the Jews.

This exhibition present one Righteous person who was awarded unprecedentedly due to persistent request from the rescued people.  There are stories that tell of radically different attitudes even within the same family, with rescuers deliberately hiding Jews hidden in the house even from the family members. This once again proves how important the decision of one person is, and reminds us that we always have a choice. It is very unfortunate how many of the Righteous people whose bravery and good deeds are unimaginable, had very tragic fate: some died in exile, others lived without their land, on the brink of poverty. The majority of them went on assigned jobs to support their families.

In 2018, the architect Tauras Budzys initiated a project to commemorate the Righteous Among the Nations – Tauras marks graves, cenotaphs and memorials of the Righteous with the same memorial sign. Information about the project (the location of the graves, coordinates, photographs and short Righteous and their rescue stories) can be found on Starting from 2022 the project received funding from Lithuanian Government and the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania. The Righteous people featured in this exhibition are selected from the 329 whose graves Tauras has already managed to find and mark.

The Miller from Samogitia asked by an acquaintance who provided shelter to Jews to secretly grind some flour at night answered with a “Let’s all do our bit for good”. This “all” helped to rescue 24 lives. We should be proud of such people! May their behaviour inspire us to do good deeds. And hope that we will never have to make such heroic choices again, but simple and good everyday actions are important too. If we ever consider ourselves limited or having no choice, let’s think about the stories of the Righteous. They faced death for making the right choice. Let’s remember that and be brave.

The exhibition was organised in cooperation with the offspring of the Righteous Among the Nations and the Genocide and Resistance Research Centre of Lithuania.