OPINION | MUSEUMS | POLITICS OF MEMORY | SHTETL COMMEMORATIONS
by Evaldas Balčiūnas
This weekend, the new monument to 2,400 Biržai Jews, massacred on August 8, 1941, will be unveiled in Biržai, a town in northern Lithuania known in Yiddish as Birzh. On that fateful day in Pakamponys forest, German Gestapo officers and their Lithuanian accomplices murdered 900 children, because they were Jewish children, 780 women, because they were Jewish women, and 720 men, because they were Jewish, too. The locals call the site “the Biržai Jews’ grave”.
That day, more than one third of the inhabitants of that old historical city were massacred. A vibrant community was destroyed and trust in Biržai as a safe place to live was wholly undermined. This old wound had not been taken care of properly up until now. There is a memorial stone at the site of the massacre, the site itself is covered with tiles. There is a memorial inscription, too. However, all those people with their lives and their dreams remained but a number in stone. People behind the new memorial decided to fix this, and now we have more than five hundred names carved on a steel wall. This difficult task required a lot of effort. Alongside with the people, the murderers also destroyed the documents attesting to their lives.
What does the Town’s Official Museum Think?