rescuers of jews

Speech given by Rachel Levin, member of the Board of Lithuanian Jews Association in Israel, on the memorial evening for Rev. Bronius Paukštys (Israel, April 4, 1982)

Our distinguished guest Rev. Antanas Sabaliauskas, Survivors, Ladies and Gentelmen.
We have gathered this evening to pay tribute to one of the Righteous man of the world Rev. Bronius Paukštys.
On behalf of the board of the Association of Lithuania Jews in Israel, I am welcoming all the participants and first of all the kunigas Antanas Sabaliauskas a close friend of the late Kun. Paukštys, who did not live up to take part in this event a got together of the survivors whose lives Br. Paukštys saved including myself.
It is well known, that the Lithuanian press in the free world is trying to clarify a dispute concerning the Lithuanians collaboration with the Nazis in the annihilation of the Lithuanian Jews. We the survivors of the Holocaust who went through the horror and lost our dearest together with all the Jewish community, we cannot arguing in view of the facts.
The land of Lithuania, where we and our fore fathers were born and lived for centuries turned to a grave yard, the forest of Lithuania, the beautiful lakes and rivers soaked in the blood of innocent children, man and woman and they became dumb witnesses of terrible facts.
But as the tradition of our people we always remember and honour the memory of those people who helped us like Rev. Bronius Paukštys a great man and an outstanding personality, who risked his life end the lives of his collaborators in order to save Jews.
It was my privilege to meet him when I was send by the underground movement of the Kaunas Ghetto to obtain “Arian” document for some of my friends. He advised me to arrange such documents for myself, but I told him, that my intention is to leave the Ghetto in another way (to go to the partisans in the forest). Bronius Paukštys got the point without asking more. With the liquidation of the Kaunas Ghetto when the rest of the Jews were deported to the terrible camps in Germany, I escaped from the transport and looked for shelter. I had an address in the town of a Lithuanian family advised by a common friend, but they refused, even to give me shelter for a few days. Please remember the date, it happened on the June 13, 1944. I decided to try to reach Kun. Paukštys. So I went to Rotušės aikštė. It was very dangerous to walk in the streets. I was very scared, my life was dependent now on the meeting with Bronius Paukštys. When I reached his office and saw his shape thought the glass of the door, I knew: I am save.
Kunigas Br. Paukštys welcomed me with fatherly voice. Comforted me and said: “My daughter, pry to God, that you are here”. Then we both ascended the tower of the church and we saw the Ghetto on flames. The Red Army reach Kaunas on 31 June, 1944 (18 days after the liquidation of the Ghetto). On this day in the place of my shelter, when I heard the bombing around, I knew, that the hour of my freedom is coming and then I wrote a letter to Kun. Bronius Paukštys. My thoughts in this hour I wanted to dedicate of him with great attitude. In the letter in Lithuanian language, that a part of him is quoted in the book by Elya Ehrenburg “The Black Book”, I mentioned the problem of revenge, I knew Bronius Paukštys was troubled about it and also some points between Jewry and Christians.
In the beginning of 1945 I was already active in the Zionist underground movement in Kaunas. I told Bronius Paukštys in secret that we are trying to find a way to Eretz-Israel (Palestine) and he was very glad and encouraged me, he said: “They will arrest you, because you are Zionist and of a Zionist family”. At this day he did not knew that he himself is facing such a destiny.
The Lithuanian people, where they are, can be proud of their son Bronius Paukštys that a big love to mankind and the wish to help persecuted was the motto of his life.
In my life I shall always remember him with love and admiration, also our talks on mercy, tolerance, justice and unviolence and they convinced me from those days when I was a young girl till to day, that there is hope, light even in the time of darkness.