In 2013, the photographer Richard Schofield discovered a collection of pre-World War II family photographs in a museum storage room in Kaunas, Lithuania, with no name attached to the album. Now he has uncovered the story behind his find. Uriel Heilman writes:
The photos, dating from about 1910 through 1940, were from a Lithuanian Jewish family’s album that had been smuggled out of the city’s wartime Jewish ghetto and entrusted to a non-Jewish Lithuanian family for safekeeping. But nobody knew what had happened to the people in the pictures. Presumably they had not survived the war to reclaim their photos.
Touched by the images and intrigued to learn what had happened to their subjects, Schofield set about trying to identify them. He scanned the 112 photos, set up a Facebook page to showcase them, and commissioned a piece of music to accompany an exhibition of the photographs that would mark the 75th anniversary of the ghetto in Kaunas, [also] known as Kovno. . . .
Then, . . . by a twist of serendipity, a non-Jewish archivist who worked at the Jewish museum in the Lithuanian capital city of Vilnius noticed something: after clicking through the photographs and doing a bit of sleuthing, Saule Valiunaite realized that one of the photos appeared in a Holocaust documentary film made in 1999.
It turns out the photos weren’t of some obscure Jewish family but that of two of America’s best-known Yiddish scholars: Ruth Wisse of Harvard and her brother David Roskies of the Jewish Theological Seminary. Roskies had written a memoir about his family, Yiddishlands, in 2008. A third sibling, Eva Roskies Raby, is a former director of the Montreal Jewish Public Library.