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4 Lithuanian families posthumously recognized by Yad Vashem for saving Jews during Holocaust

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan, center-right, stands with the descendants of four Lithuanian families who were recognized as being 'Righteous among the Nations' for saving Jews during the Holocaust, at a ceremony in Vilnius, Lithuania, on November 7, 2022. (Yad Vashem)
Yad Vashem chairman Dani Dayan, center-right, stands with the descendants of four Lithuanian families who were recognized as being 'Righteous among the Nations' for saving Jews during the Holocaust, at a ceremony in Vilnius, Lithuania, on November 7, 2022. (Yad Vashem)

Four Lithuanian families were posthumously awarded the title of “Righteous Among the Nations” by the Yad Vashem World Holocaust Remembrance Center yesterday for saving Jews during the Holocaust, the museum says.

The medals and certificates were presented to the descendants of Juozapas and Marijona Bagurskas; Aksentij, Martriona, and their daughter Zinaida Burlakova; Kazimieras and Marcijona Ruzgys; and Jonas and Ona Žvinklevičius, who were all determined to have risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust for altruistic reasons.

The awards were presented by Yad Vashem Chairman Dani Dayan, who was in Lithuania this week on an official visit. Israeli Ambassador to Lithuania Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein and Lithuanian Prime Minister Ingrida Šimonytė attended the event, as did Maksim Broer, who was rescued by the Bagurskas family and traveled back to Lithuania to participate in the ceremony.

Another Holocaust survivor, Chaya Landau, who was rescued by the Ruzgys, sent a video statement that was shown at the event at the Government Palace in Vilnius.

“The world has never found a vaccination against antisemitism, which once again seems to be a pandemic,” Landau said in her remarks. “However, the Ruzgys family, and few others like them, were naturally immune to this horrible disease… they had the sense of nobility and courage to confront evil and were a beacon of light in humanity’s darkest hour.”

Dayan says he was “uplifted” by his visit to Lithuania, both because of the ceremony and because of his meetings with Lithuanian officials.

“In my words at events and meetings, I emphasized the importance of historical accuracy and made reference to the part that Lithuanians themselves played in the persecution and murder of the Jews during the Holocaust,” says Dayan.

The medals awarded to the descendants of four Lithuanian families who were recognized as being ‘Righteous among the Nations’ for saving Jews during the Holocaust, at a ceremony in Vilnius, Lithuania, on November 7, 2022. (Yad Vashem)

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