Rescuers of Jews

Bronius PAUKŠTYS (1897–1966)

Born on 15 February 1897 in Kurynė village, present Šakiai region.
Bronius was the ninth child in the family. He spent his childhood in Kurynė, which belonged to Zapyškis parish at that time. After finishing school, Bronius Paukštys acquired the village teacher’s qualification. He began working as a teacher in his village in 1911.
Mr. Paukštys sincerely took care of the villagers’ education, and worked with pupils as well as with the young people of the village. He would prepare courses for them and would teach everyone who was willing to learn to read and write. He was also distributing Lithuanian press. Mr. Paukštys did not avoid the farmers either – he would attend their meetings, interpreted the laws – and keenly fostered the hope of independence of Lithuania.
At the age of 28, through the distribution of press Mr. Paukštys found out about the Salesians. For quite a while he considered an opportunity of travelling to them to Italy. After meeting priest A. Skeltis, he decided to become a Salesian and in the autumn of 1925 went to Italy together with his brother Juozas and eight more Lithuanians.
Two years later, Paukštys was admitted to the noviciate and became a Salesian in 1928. Then for two more years he studied philosophy in the international institute of philosophy in Turin (Valsalice) together with eight more Lithuanians.
After finishing the philosophy studies, Paukštys took up a three-year internship. He spent a year in Borgomanero, Novara, Italy, and two more years in Turin helping ordinand Pranas Petraitis in editing “Salesian News” in Lithuanian.
In 1931–1935, Paukštys studied theology in the international theology institute in Turin together with eight more Lithuanians. 7 July 1935 he was ordained a priest.
Priest Paukštys not only worked as an editor, but wrote many of his own texts too. In 1929 a Marijampolė based bookstore “Šaltinis” published his first work – a six act play “The Prodigal Son” (“Sūnus Vėjavaikis”).
In 1937 priest Bronius Paukštys returned to Lithuania and was appointed to administrate the Lithuanian Salesian Centre in Vytėnai. He taught Lithuanian language and literature in the Salesian School. Later, for a year priest Bronius Paukštys preached in Saldutiškis parish which had been assigned to the Salesians, and then was called back to Kaunas and appointed to the Holy Trinity parish.
From Kaunas, he returned to Vytėnai as a confessor. Under the necessity, he would come to Kaunas to conduct recollections in Kaunas Interdiocese theological college, preach in various parishes and to beckon everyone to God with his powerful voice. In the beginning of 1942, when priest Dr. Pranas Petraitis, the dean of Kaunas Holy Trinity parish, was appointed the rector of Kaunas Interdiocese theological college, priest Bronius Paukštys became the dean of Kaunas Holy Trinity parish.
During the years of German occupation, priest Bronius Paukštys expanded his activities beyond the pastoral field. He boldly got involved in the protection and saving of the Jews. In 1980, “The Black Book” by Grossman and Ehrenburg was published in Jerusalem including the article by poet Hirsh Osherovich about priest Bronius Paukštys.
The article reveals how priest Bronius Paukštys was saving the Jews by providing them with forged passports and birth certificates. The names of people saved by him, such as Dr. Taft, Ms. R. Rozencveig, Avraham Tory and other Jews, are mentioned in the article.
2 August 1946, in the beginning of the second Bolshevist period, priest Bronius Paukštys was arrested and had to suffer 10 years of servitude, during which his health was badly damaged despite the fact that he was a stalwart man used to hard labour from young days. Priest Bronius Paukštys returned from the forced labour camp on 30 April 1956.
17 December 1966, priest Bronius Paukštys died in Kaunas and was buried in Sutkai.
In 1977 priest Bronius Paukštys was posthumously titled the Righteous Among the Nations.

The biography of Bronius Paukštys based on “The History of Lithuanian Salesians” (“Lietuvių Saleziečių istorija”) by priest Dr. Krizantas Juknevičius. Kaunas, 2000
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