Editor’s Note:

The post below is signed by Emmanuel Cortey, Deputy Director of Yahad- In Unum, who is accompanying the research trip to Lithuania.

Translation from French: Yelena Moskovich

Panevėžys, Lituanie

Saturday July 11th, 2015

During the last three days, the investigators worked tirelessly within the same key area. Their perseverance was rewarded. Two exceptional witnesses were identified last afternoon.

Gray hair neatly gathered into a bun, Elena welcomes us on the porch of her red brick house. She invites us to enter with a gentle authority and makes sure that everyone finds a seat. “She is a former teacher” Michal informs me.

witness_lithuania2She speaks with great precision of her life before the war and her Jewish neighbors.

– “You lived in the Ghetto?”

– “Yes. We lived there throughout its whole existence. In the same house. ”

Just then, I am beginning to realize that we are at the very heart of one of the streets of the former ghetto, in one of the last houses from that time still standing. It is difficult to express our feeling as we learn this and continue to conduct the interview behind those same walls.

Elena takes us into the neighboring streets, showing us where the Jewish school was, the synagogue… and then she stops and points to the exact place where she had seen the passing column of Jewish women, children, and elderly. Just the day before, all Jewish houses were barricaded. The men were already in the forest by then, digging the graves where this passing column of Jews would be executed with their families.

Paule, our next witness was in that same forest with her sister when one of these numerous shootings had begun. She had seen the shooting from start to finish and remembers the smallest details. We go with her to the site.

Leaning on the arm of Julyannas, our interpreter, she reconstructs the scene. She explains where the shooters stood and how the victims lined up next to the pit, and even points to the spot of earth where the case of vodka had been placed from which the gunmen drank in between shootings.

The day of departure approaches. I am full of gratitude for every member of the team whose meticulous and tireless work and deep humanity allows Yahad-In Unum to continue the struggle against the silencing of the past and the commitment to the dignity of victims.

Thank you to :

Michal Chojak

Geoffroy Lauby

Thierry Soval
Markel Redondo
Viktorija Noreikaité

Julijanas Galisanskis

Arunas Beniusis
Giedre Skruibyte

Andrej Hutsko
Andzej Zukowski
Armantas Geciauskas

These few days with you have doubled my strength and will to purse this struggle alongside you all.

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