Minister of Culture Mindaugas Kvietkauskas reviewed the cultural memory of the Holocaust in an international conference


2020 11 13


Yesterday the Minister of Culture Mindaugas Kvietkauskas attended the fourth session of the international online conference Genealogies of Memory 2020: The Holocaust between Global and Local Perspectives as its keynote speaker.

The minister held a presentation titled “Local Addresses in Holocaust Diaries: Reconstructing the Lifeworlds of Young Jewish Diarists in Vilnius”.

“The cultural memory of the Holocaust started forming in Lithuania after several long decades of silence, after the repression of the historical traumas suffered by all communities – of Jews, Lithuanians, Poles – during the Soviet occupation. This process of memory development brought to the public spotlight not just the shocking facts of World War II that had long been suppressed or distorted, and not just a multitude of tragic personal experiences and autobiographical testimonies. Many specific locations in Lithuania’s cities and regional areas that possibly had until then been totally anonymous, abandoned and lacked any special cultural semantics also acquired a new symbolic significance. These processes of the emergence of new sites of memory and development of their narratives have been particularly intensive during the last decade”, the Minister Mindaugas Kvietkauskas said at the start of his presentation.

In his presentation, the Minister of Culture discussed the formation of a site of memory which is taking place in the modern Vilnius and which is related to the diary of written in the Vilnius Ghetto by a fourteen-year-old Jewish boy, Icchokas Rudaševskis (1927–1943), and to the unique biographical narrative of its author. Rudaševskis, who is described as the chronicler of the Vilnius Ghetto, sensitively and engagingly recorded not only his own feelings but also events, thus also capturing history. Rudaševskis’ book Vilniaus geto dienoraštis (The Diary of the Vilnius Ghetto) was published in 2018.

Kvietkauskas also drew attention to another parallel process: the forming of the site of Matilda Olkinaitė (1922–1941), a young Lithuanian Jewish poet and author of a diary written on the eve of the Holocaust, in the space of Vilnius city which is topographically very close to Rudaševskis. The addresses of these authors’ places of residence that the minister has managed to identify while preparing the publications of their diaries based on the original manuscripts are almost adjacent to one another, and both of their houses have survived to this day. Olkinaitė’s manuscripts were unexpectedly discovered in 1987.

In 2017, Olkinaitė’s texts and Rudaševski’s diary were included in Lithuanian literary textbooks for school pupils, while last year a collection of the poet’s work, Atrakintas dienoraštis (An Unlocked Diary), was published.

The conference Genealogies of Memory 2020: The Holocaust between Global and Local Perspectives is organised by the European Network Remembrance and Solidarity. It is a nongovernmental organisation which seeks to foster dialogue on 20th-century European history and contribute to the development of a common European culture of remembrance based on the spirit of mutual trust by organising academic research, publications, exhibitions, study visits, and other activities.