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.”