Rescuers of Jews

Jablonskienė (Žakevičiūtė) Jadvyga

By Lasar (Elly) Gotz

Shulamit Wilentschuk was born in Kaunas Lithuania on February 26, 1941.
Both parents were Jewish - David and Mary Wilentschuk. David was a well known men's tailor in Kaunas and had clients amongst the elite of Kaunas. My mother, Sonia Gotz nee Wilentschuk, was the sister of David Wilentschuk. In 1941 when my cousin Shulamit was born I was 12 years old.
In June 1941, after the German army occupied Lithuania, we were all moved into Ghetto Kaunas in Viliampolė (Slobodka), a suburb of Kaunas. The Gotz and Wilentschuk families, and other members of our wider family, lived in the same house in the Ghetto. I often looked after baby Shulamit.
It became very clear to the family during the time in the Ghetto that babies like Shulamit would have a very poor chance of surviving. Her parents began to seek a way to remove her from the Ghetto.
David Wilentschuk remembered well a client who was a Lithuanian journalist, whose name was Jonas Jablonskis. He was from a prominent family in Lithuania. David tried to contact him.
At that time David did not know that Jablonskis had been arrested and later shot by the Soviet authorities - just before Germany attacked the Soviet Union and occupied Lithuania, He had been accused of being a Lithuanian patriot and not in favour of Lithuania being a republic of the Soviet Union.
Jadvyga, his widow, however, replied to the request and offered to take the child. She had no children of her own, having been married only a short time before her husband was arrested.
In the summer of 1943, when Shulamit was about 2-1/2 years old, Sonia Gotz, my mother, who was a trained nurse, gave the child an injection that put her in a deep sleep. She was placed in a duffel bag and her father carried the bag on his shoulder and went out to his usual place of work outside the Ghetto, under guard, with his "Work Brigade".
They always used to take a rest under a certain tree on the way to work. David left the bag with his beloved daughter in it under the tree, and went away. He saw a man come to the tree and take the bag, as was arranged.
The family received word later that the child was well and that they named her Dalia, which in Lithuanian means "Fate".
I specially want to mention that David and Mary offered money and gold to Jadvyga, who resolutely refused any remuneration. David tried on numerous occasions to contact Jadvyga asking her to accept at least some funding for the child's upkeep, but she resolutely refused any support.
I was young, but I clearly remember the discussions at home about this issue.
My mother after the war confirmed this fact to me.
In the summer of 1944 the remaining Jews of Kaunas Ghetto were deported to Germany, the women to Stutthof, the men to Dachau.
My mother and Mary Wilentschuk barely survived the evacuation by barge from Stutthof concentration camp.
My father and I and David Wilentschuk survived Dachau.
By 1946 we were all living in St.Otillien, Bavaria.
Dalia grew up with Jadvyga as her mother, not recalling her earlier life. They lived together with Jadvyga's mother, who Dalia regarded as her grandmother.
In 1945 Jadvyga was arrested by the Soviets because she had printed a petition to the United Nations, asking that Lithuania again be a republic free from the Soviet occupation.
When Jadvyga was arrested, her mother Marija Žakevičienė kept Dalia. But later she had to ask the Landsbergis family (Dr. Landsbergienė) to take the child, as she was busy trying to bring food and support to Jadvyga, who was incarcerated under terrible conditions.
It is also noteworthy that Jadvyga's sister-in-law, Dr. Landsbergienė, also saved a Jewish child in her home - Bela Gurvičiūtė (Gurwitz), the daughter of a Jewish doctor in Kaunas.
My aunt Mary, after recovering from her war wounds, she lost part of her hand in a bomb attack on the camp, went on a difficult journey to Lithuania, which by that time was again occupied by the Soviet Union.
She was helped greatly by the Bricha, the Israeli activists who assisted Jews to escape Poland and other Eastern European countries. Mary came back to Kaunas, and found that Jadvyga Jablonskiene was in a Soviet prison, where she later died in 1948.
Mary recovered her child from the Landsbergis home and brought her back to Germany, again with the help of the Bricha.
Jadvyga's mother passed on a request from Jadvyga that the name they gave the child - Dalia - should remain her true name. This request was fulfilled.

Canada, 1999

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