Rescuers of Jews

“Unarmed Fighters” (“Ir be ginklo kariai”)

More than 40 years ago, in 1967, a book compiled by Sofija Binkienė entitled Unarmed Fighters (Ir be ginklo kariai) was published, containing recollections of war survivors, their testimonies and documents. For the first time people who had endured so much were able to tell about the Holocaust in Lithuania, the death of their relatives, their miraculous escape and their saviours, the people who did not turn them away, and extended a helping hand when they were threatened total annihilation.
In one of the most beautiful stories, Writer’s Home, included in the book Unarmed Fighters, Gita Judelevich (Gita Judelevičiūtė), who spent almost the entire war at the Binkis family, writes about Sofija Binkienė, her husband Kazys Binkis and their humane deeds, the anti-Hitler attitude held by all the family members, their resistance towards the “new order” and the decision not to abide by the cannibalistic laws of the time.
All the members of the Binkis family became “unarmed soldiers” who risked their lives and their wellbeing and did not turn their back on those who were doomed. Those who were saved never forgot the Binkis family and at their request Sofija Binkienė, Kazys Binkis and their children Lilijana, Irena, Eleonora and Gerdas were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations.

From the 4th book Hands Bringing Life andBread.
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum

Chaya Lifshitz (Chaja Lifšicaitė), editor of the book Unarmed Fighters (Ir be ginklo kariai), remembers:

Not accidentally in 1966–1967 I edited this work for publishing together with Sofija Binkienė, the compiler and editor of a book of memoirs entitled Unarmed Fighters.
I knew the Binkis family before World War II. I studied together with Lilijana, Sofija Binkienė’s daughter, at Kaunas III gymnasium. During some period we sat together at the same desk. I used to visit the Binkis family, and Lilijana would visit us. I remember how Sofija took care of her ill husband, writer Kazys Binkis.
After the war, after having demobilised from the 16th division, I came back to Lithuania. Still wearing the military uniform, I suddenly met Lilijana on the street in Kaunas.
I did not find my parents, brothers or other relatives. The Binkis family became even closer for me.
Later when the Binkis family moved from Kaunas to Vilnius, we kept close contact.
When working as an editor at the Mintis publishing house, I used to think how important are the publications of documents like Mass Killings in Lithuania (Masinės žudynės Lietuvoje), the series The Facts Accuse (Faktai kaltina) and others. I then had the idea to pay tribute to those who were rescuing Jews while risking their own lives.
When I would meet those who survived and were hidden by Sofija Binkienė at her house during the war, I would discover more and more about the heroic deeds of this woman. She was helped by her daughters Lilijana and Irena in particular in this dangerous mission. /.../
After the war, Sofija Binkienė kept in contact not only with the rescued Jews, but also with the saviours who helped to recall the facts for the collection being prepared.
Binkienė’s home became a headquarters for gathering memoirs for the collection of the saviours and the survivors Unarmed Fighters (Ir be ginklo kariai).
In the foreword, Sofija Binkienė wrote: “In collecting the material I tried to be as comprehensive and thorough as possible in elucidating on the deeds of modest Soviet patriots during the rampage of the Fascists /.../ how many among them have remained unknown or will maybe never be known – some died (the saviours and the survivors), while others found themselves abroad. The majority have no possibility to tell anyone about themselves, while others believe that they simply were doing their human duty” /.../
/.../ When I went to Israel from Lithuania in 1970 and even before this when I started working at the Yad Vashem (Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority) I visited the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations, devoted to paying tribute to the saviours of the Jews.
I was moved and proud to have found the tree of Sofija Binkienė in the Garden of the Righteous Among the Nations which, encouraged by the survivors, she planted before I left for Israel.
When I had a permanent job at Yad Vashem, Sofija Binkienė’s daughter Lilijana came. The entire Binkis family was awarded with medals of the Righteous Among the Nations. Jews from Lithuania will always remember those who in the most difficult circumstances risked their lives, and rescued Jews.

From the 4th book Hands Bringing Life and Bread.
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum

Shlomo Kurliandchik (Šlioma Kurliandčikas), the author of many articles on the Jewish Catastrophe in Lithuania, bibliographer, and contributor of several articles for the book Unarmed Fighters (Ir be ginklo kariai), remembers:

/.../ In 1964 Sofija Binkienė called me at the Chamber of Books and asked whether I could help her with the preparation of a book about the help by Lithuanians to the Jews during Hitler’s occupation. There was little written about how Lithuanians helped the Jews at that time. I agreed to help. In the same year I started looking for articles in the press on this topic. In 1965 I managed to find Jews rescued by the Lithuanians who agreed to tell their stories. I received letters from Sroel Faktor (Sroelis Faktorius), Dr. Miriam Blatiene (Miriam Blatienė), Juozas Straupis and others. I had to go all over Lithuania and meet Lithuanians and Jews. I met Rachil Kacav (Rachilė Kacevienė), N. Miselevich (N. Miselevičienė), Bella Mirbach-Upnitcky (Bela Mirbachaitė-Upnickienė), Fruma Gurvich (Fruma Gurvičienė), S. Faktor, Alfonsas Songaila, J. Straupis, and priest Juozas Stakauskas. I still have the letters of Sroel Faktor, M. Blatiene, and J. Straupis. It was quite difficult, as the people were afraid: and what about the reaction of the authorities?! I gave to S. Binkienė the edited material. The book Unarmed Fighters was published in 1967. /.../
/.../ When this book was published, Sofija Binkienė invited the authors of the articles to her house. We all received a copy of the book. I have the book at home with the signatures of all the authors /.../

From the 4th book Hands Bringing Life and Bread
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum

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