Rescuers of Jews

Venclauskienė Stanislava


In 1998 news came from the USA about the award of the Righteous Among the Nations to the sisters Danutė (95 years old) and Gražbylė (86), and to their mother Stanislava (posthumously).
The Venclauskiai saved many Jews during the war. When a ghetto was established in Šiauliai in 1941, unemployed Jews were threatened with deportation to death camps. Confronted with this, three Jews of Šiauliai – Kartūnas, Leibavičius and Šlezingeris – appealed to Danutė Venclauskaite, asking her to head a workshop where they could make warm winter army hats. The workshop was founded, and they hired about 50 Jewish women. They were fed there, and farmers provided some additional food to take home. With a permit to enter the ghetto, Danutė went to the workshop almost every day, secretly bringing food and medicine.
When the authorities started criticizing that the workshop was not yielding any profit, Danutė covered the losses with the family gold, enabling the workshop to continue production for a while.
The house of the Venclauskiai at 89 Vytauto Street was taken over by the Germans, so Danutė and Gražbylė moved into some small rooms in the basement. “Pupa” Radzinskaitė stayed with them for a short while, but eventually her nerves gave way – she could not live in the same house with Germans, and she went to the ghetto. (The same happened to Dr. Volpertas and his wife.)
A Jewish woman named Kazlauskienė learned to rear pigs and stayed on Danutė's farm during the entire German occupation.
An unknown Jewish woman brought and left a four- or five-year-old boy who was called Jonukas. After the war his relatives took him to Russia.
Another child from the ghetto was taken to farmers.
A Jewish woman and a girl lived for a long time with Stanislava Venclauskienė in Šiauliai. The woman died, so the girl Anikė lived with Gražbylė Venclauskaitė in Žemaičių Naumiestis from autumn 1943 to the end of the war, then she returned to Kaunas. Her sister came back from the Soviet Union. Anikė-Hana Blank married Restas from Plungė and presently lives in Israel.
And there are many more saved people whose names are unknown.
The Holy Scripture says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth (it) not, to him it is sin”.
The doing of good by the family of Venclauskiai was unique.
Kazimieras Venclauskis was the first burgomaster of Siauliai, a representative of the Constitutive Seimas and the 1st Seimas, a public figure, and one of the best-known prewar solicitors. Stanislava Jakševičiūtė-Venclauskienė was among the first professional actors and creators of Lithuanian theatre; she performed in, directed, translated, and staged a number of plays.
Kazimieras and Stanislava Venclauskiai were among the founders of the Varpas Drama and Music Society in Šiauliai. With other enlightened people they developed and financed the publication of books and published the magazine “Kultūra”.
And yet it is not the intensive public activities of these people that surprise one the most. K. Venclauskis never opposed his wife's unusual idea to raise needy children. Before the war, over a hundred orphans had grown up in the house of Venclauskiai. They were brought up and educated without any additional support or assistance. The income of the famous solicitor melted in the crowd of children. Nevertheless, Stanis lava Venclauskienė remembered: “In his soul he always supported my work...”
Isn't it said: “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works...”

From Hands Bringing Life and Bread, Volume 2,
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum. Vilnius, 1999
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