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

 

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy