Vilna Ghetto literature was introduced in Munich

On 21 February, at the Munich Documentation Center for Nazi Crimes, a lecture was held by Vilnius University Professor Mindaugas Kvietkauskas on Vilna Ghetto literature, titled “Icchokas Rudaševskis and Matilda Olkinaitė: attestations of the Holocaust in the digital age”.

Icchokas Rudaševskis (1927–1943) and Matilda Olkinaitė (1922–1941) were killed while they were still teenagers. They both left attestations that reveal to the readers what has been lost in the Holocaust.

Icchokas Rudaševskis experienced the German occupation during World War II at the Vilna Ghetto, which was founded in 1941. His diary, written in Yiddish, captures what happened in front of his eyes. The diary describes the threat caused by the Nazis, the danger to life as well as various cultural activities at the ghetto. This diary is an invaluable source and is well-known around the world today. It was published in Lithuanian in 2018 and translated into German in 2020.

Matilda Olkinaitė is a Lithuanian-Jewish poet who wrote in Lithuanian and who was killed during the Holocaust. A notebook containing Matilda’s poems was rescued by the priest Juozas Matelionis in 1941, who hid it in the Panemunėlis Church, in a hiding place under the altar. In the 1980s, it was discovered by dissident, organ player Alfredas Andrijauskas, who handed it over to Irena Veisaitė’s protection. Later, she managed to also discover a diary written by the poet in 1940–1941: a document of a tragic historical year and her internal life. In July of 2018, Veisaitė handed over these manuscripts to the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, entrusting it with preparing and publishing Matilda’s book, which came out in 2018.

Mindaugas Kvietkauskas prepared Olkinaitė’s poems for publication and translated Rudaševski’s diary into Lithuanian. In his lecture, he introduced a digital exhibition on Icchokas Rudaševskis’ life and creative work which was compiled by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research’s Online Museum. The event, which was sponsored by the Lithuanian Culture Institute, was organised in cooperation with the Munich Documentation Center for Nazi Crimes.