MALÁT (MOLĖTAI)—At the initiative of Viktorija Kazlienė, founder and director of the Museum of the Molėtai Region (Molėtų krašto muziejus) in northeastern Lithuania, a series of Jewish historical signs were unveiled this week. The project came to fruition thanks to the material support of the Department of Cultural Heritage, that is under the aegis of Lithuania’s Ministry of Culture.
In the event, these signs mark the one-year anniversary of the internationally acclaimed march of memory held in August 2016 to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the massacre of the town’s Jews in 1941 by local collaborators, under the aegis of the Nazis, and during the period of rapid annihilation of Lithuania’s provincial Jewry. In addition to playing a pivotal role in enabling the 2016 march and commemorative events, Ms. Kazlienė organized an extensive exhibition on the centuries-old Jewish life in the erstwhile shtetl, known in Yiddish as Malát. With Leonas Kaplanas, she coauthored a book based on the exhibition. It was featured in this year’s Vilnius Book Fair.
Defending History this week added a new Malát (Molėtai) section to reference articles touching on the town’s recent role in growing understanding of the Holocaust in the Lithuanian provinces, as well as toward appreciation of the magnitude, in quantity and quality, of the part played and the contributions made by the prewar Jewish residents, who constituted about half the population before their massacre in 1941.
In sharp contrast to the frequent mangling of Yiddish texts in some town memorials, and painful issues arising with memorial plaques even in the heart of Vilnius on occasion, the Museum of the Molėtai Region took care to coordinate with Yiddish specialists, down to the final proofs (a detail that can be very important with “exotic” minority languages whose alphabet is completely different from the Latin and reads moreover from right to left; the propensity for gravitas-ruining errors lurks).
These are the signs added to Malát’s townscape that include Yiddish text: