Vilnius’ Real Diamond

 

The green building is a bit hard to find because it’s not exactly on Pamenkalnio Street.  No. 12, we finally learned, is up an incline and looks like a hillside house instead of a museum.  Ruth & I are glad we persisted.   Vilnius’ Holocaust Museum was a 5-Compass find.

It was a rainy Monday afternoon and almost everything was closed.  After we checked out the Ciurlionis House, we ducked into the Visitors Center and asked about the only other opened attractions we knew about–The Diamond & Holocaust Museums.  “Which of the 2 would you choose?” I asked the man behind the desk.  “Well,” he said, “Vilnius really isn’t known as a diamond center.”

Thanks to him, I now know that Vilnius was a Jewish center of scholarship & culture second to none.  In fact, before World War II it was called Jerusalem of the North and contained 100 synagogues.

A visit to any Holocaust Museum is difficult but worthwhile, and Vilnius’ was no less so.  It’s one of those places that I thought I’ll give it an hour, and 3 hours later I left, dazed.  For such an emotionally charged subject, this Holocaust Museum unfolded with a surprising amount of calm objectivity.

Right away I read that during the initial Nazi occupation of Vilnius, 11,000 Jews were confined in a ghetto centered around Stikliu Street.  The Nazis liquidated it in 1941, killing all who resided there.  About 220,000 Jews lived in Lithuania at that time.

Ruth & I wandered through a series of small, connected rooms that began with the big picture but became more intimate and heart-rending as we proceeded.  Displays were packed with photos, information, & statistics. “Nazi Germany’s leadership was not satisfied with the results of their actions, which were 600,000 people murdered from June until December 1941.  Thus, in late 1941 and early 1942 they began creating a more “perfect” system of mass extermination–that of concentration camps with gas chambers.”

I didn’t know that the internationally famous violinist Jascha Heifetz was born and studied in Vilnius.

I had forgotten that Nazis didn’t just encamp and eliminate Jews.  Jehovah Witnesses and the chronically sick were targeted.  250,000 gypsies were murdered.

Ruth became fascinated by Chronicles from the Vilna Ghetto, read many accounts, and asked for my notebook where she wrote the entire story of an inhuman Nazi game called Catches & Snatches.

When Ruth was ready to leave, I was in the last room reading a story of hope and valor.  A woman named Sofija, pictured here, rescued Jews.  She took them into her home while documents were forged and safe houses were found.

The sculpture above, Shameful Silence, dates from 1991. It’s in the same room as the Chronicles.

Hank

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About roadsrus

Since the beginning, I've had to avoid writing about the downside of travel in order to sell more than 100 articles. Just because something negative happened doesn't mean your trip was ruined. But tell that to publishers who are into 5-star cruise and tropical beach fantasies. I want to tell what happened on my way to the beach, and it may not have been all that pleasant. My number one rule of the road is...today's disaster is tomorrow's great story. My travel experiences have appeared in about twenty magazines and newspapers. I've been in all 50 states more than once and more than 50 countries. Ruth and I love to travel internationally--Japan, Canada, China, Argentina, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, etc. Within the next 2 years we will have visited all of the European countries. But our favorite destination is Australia. Ruth and I have been there 9 times. I've written a book about Australia's Outback, ALONE NEAR ALICE, which is available through both Amazon & Barnes & Noble. My first fictional work, MOVING FORWARD, GETTING NOWHERE, has recently been posted on Amazon. It's a contemporary, hopefully funny re-telling of The Odyssey. View all posts by roadsrus

7 responses to “Vilnius’ Real Diamond

  • regranulat

    Thank you for sharing excellent informations. Your website is very cool. I am impressed by the details that you have on this website. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my pal, ROCK! I found simply the information I already searched everywhere and just could not come across. What a great web site.

  • Pratik@carpooling in pune

    Amazing story Dennis. I read many nazi horror stories, but I never came across this. Thanks for sharing.

  • roadsrus

    Thanks, Dennis. I love being called relevant. I did a follow-up today that you might find interesting.

    Hank

  • Dennis

    This website – Vilnius Real Diamond was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I have found something which helped me. Many thanks!

  • roadsrus

    Thanks for writing. I’ll tell the story tomorrow. Check the blog.

    Hank

  • Anonymous

    I am repelled and yet fascinated by the Nazi horrors. I think it is very important for all to learn as much as possible. Only then is there hope that such horrors will never be repeated. Please recount what Ruth wrote about catch and snatch. I would like to know more about Sofiya, was she ever caught by the Nazis?

  • Anonymous

    I am repelled and yet fascinated by the Nazi horrors. I think it is very important for all to learn as much as possible. Only then is there hope that such horrors will never be repeated. Please recount what Ruth wrote about catch and snatch.

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