A Family Photo Album Provides a Rare Look at the Vanished World of Lithuanian Jewry

A recently opened exhibit at the Yeshiva University Museum features photographs that once belonged to Annushka Matz Warshawska and were kept safe by Lithuanian Gentiles for 70 years before they were discovered. (To read more about Warshawska’s family, which includes Annushka’s grand-nephew Jacob Wisse, the museum’s director and the exhibition’s co-curator, please see the memoirs of her niece, Ruth Wisse, now being published by Mosaic in serial form). Morton Landowne describes the exhibit:

The tale begins in the autumn of 1943 when . . . Warshawska, smuggled her family photo album out of the Kovno Ghetto and entrusted it to the safekeeping of a non-Jewish Lithuanian woman, Terese Fedaraviciene. Shortly afterward, Annushka and her two young daughters were deported to the Klooga concentration camp in Estonia where they were murdered. Also killed in the Shoah were Annushka’s husband and seven of her eleven siblings.

Fedaraviciene and her family held onto the album . . . until, in 2013, her grandson, Juozas Federavicius, showed it to a historian interested in the history of the Slobodka [neighborhood], where the Kovno Ghetto was located. The scholar, Raimundas Kaminskas, organized an exhibition of the photographs in his hometown of Kaunas, [as Kovno is now known], where it was seen by the English photographer, Richard Schofield, who runs the International Center for Litvak Photography in Kaunas.

Schofield . . . became determined to discover the identities of the large and vital family depicted in the many scenes of holiday outings, cultural events, portraits (both formal and informal), and photographs and postcards of musical and theatrical celebrities, some personally inscribed. He contacted the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and enlisted the institution’s help in digitizing the photographs from the album. Upon receiving the digital images, Schofield posted them on Facebook under the heading “A Lost and Forgotten Family.” . . .

For all the details, you’ll need to see this beautifully conceived and lavishly mounted exhibition, but suffice it to say that a historian at the Vilna State Jewish Museum, Saule Valiunaite, saw the Facebook post and responded to it with what a wall label characterizes as “serious sleuthing.”

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More about: East European Jewry, History & Ideas, Holocaust, Jewish history, Lithuania, Ruth Wisse

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey