Rescuers of Jews

“To try to increase the amount of good in this world” / Elena Kutorgienė

and her son Viktoras KUTORGA (1920–1991)

Doctor Elena Buivydaitė-Kutorgienė considered her duty to save people, saying that a doctor not only has to provide medical aid, but also love people as they are. During the Nazi occupation, this noble humanist helped all persecuted people, including Jews and prisoners of war. She became one of the most active masterminds behind the saving of the Jews in the city of Kaunas. Today, it is impossible to tell how many lives were saved by Elena Kutorgienė. Her courage and resourcefulness were something extraordinary given the circumstances of that period of history. When the Nazis were searching her summer house in Kulautuva and accusing her of compassion on the Jews, she boldly replied that they had to understand that she, as a woman and a doctor, could not accept the fact that children were being murdered (“Unarmed Fighters”. Ed. S. Binkienė. Vilnius, 1967).
Her entire life, Elena Kutorgienė remained loyal to the motto which she chose in her early years and which is carved on her tombstone in Petrašiūnai cemetery in Kaunas: Увеличить сумму добра на земле (“To increase the amount of good in this world”).

Elena Kutorgienė’s son Viktoras grew in a progressive and intelligent family, surrounded by humanist ideas and provided with opportunities of comprehensive education. Perhaps these were the main influences behind the would-be doctor’s mindset, choice of career and robust expertise. The boy had exceptional talents: he finished gymnasium at the age of 16, and graduated from the Vytautas Magnus University at the age of 21 receiving a doctor’s diploma and becoming the youngest physician in Lithuania. The career of Doctor Viktoras Kutorga began in Kaunas University Hospital and coincided with the beginning of the war and German occupation in Lithuania. Like his mother Elena Kutorgienė, who was already a prominent oculist at that time, Viktoras Kutorga got involved in the underground movement of Kaunas intellectuals and helped the people who were being persecuted. Later, Viktoras Kutorga left for Minsk to work there as a doctor in the city’s hospital and continued with the underground activities, for which he was arrested by the Gestapo. While in prison, Kutorga got typhus. Probably, this disease saved Viktoras’ life. He was released from the prison, recovered and returned to the town of Zapyškis. There, in the surroundings familiar to him from his childhood, he once again undertook a doctor’s job and continued his humanist activities despite the involved risks.
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