Danutė Selčinskaja

Jonas Paulavičius: Volunteered a Century Ago for Lithuania’s War of Independence, Went on to Save 16 People During the Holocaust



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by Danutė Selčinskaja

Jonas Paulavičius (1858-1952)

During the Nazi occupation years, when humanity was being trampled, and marauding and murder were rampant, when all effort was put toward turning the inhabitants of occupied lands into obedient and unfeeling creatures, meeting a dedicated person who dared to resist the spreading hatred seemed like a miracle to the unjustly persecuted. Jonas Paulavičius, indomitable enemy of the Nazi regime and veteran volunteer of the Lithuanian Wars of Independence, went on to become such a miracle to twelve Kaunas Jews, two Russian POWs, and two persecuted Lithuanians. Jonas made a decision: the only way to resist the terror of the Nazis and their helpers was to save at least several Jews who were suffering at the hands of the Nazis and whose lives were at risk.

Jonas Paulavičius was born in 1898 to a family of poor peasants. He learned the trade of the carpenter in his teenage years and could earn a living by himself, thus becoming self-sufficient and independent at a young age. After Lithuania declared independence in 1918, it soon became clear that, without a military of its own, Lithuanian statehood was doomed. During the period of its initial formation and the first stage of battles against the Bolsheviks, the Lithuanian military was comprised of 3,000 volunteers who responded to the December 27, 1918, call issued by the Government: Lithuania is in Danger. Jonas Paulavičius was among the brave men who volunteered immediately to fight for the freedom of Lithuania.

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Antanas Zubrys and his Wife Dr. Matilda Zubrienė: Defending History’s Persons of the Year (2020)



OPINIONHISTORY

by Danutė Selčinskaja

 

Who were the people who managed to disregard the ubiquitous government warnings and the abundant anti-Semitic propaganda and refused to remain passive onlookers? Those who went on to rescue their Jewish neighbors from the fate of persecution and murder during the Second World War? Jews were rescued by people of various educational background, beliefs, ages, and professions. Each of them had to make this not-at-all easy decision by themselves, led by no one but their conscience. Upon seeing such direct and overt brutality, these courageous people were simply unable to act in any other way.

Antanas Zubrys and Dr. Matilda Zubrienė

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