* 1875 – 1950
* Recognized in 2018
Simnas village cemetery
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Before World War II, in the town of Simnas in the Alytus district, there lived a Jewish family called the Weinstein family - Meyer Weinstein and his wife Ruhama Rubinstein, and their four sons Yehuda, Joseph, Benjamin and Abel. On 22 June 1941, the Germans invaded Simnas and the Jewish genocide began. On 22 August 1941, the Germans and their local helpers selected about 100 younger, physically strong Jewish men in Simnas and transported them to Alytus. Meyer Weinstein and his son Benjamin were among this group. They were shot in the forest near the Alytus prison. Only old Jews and women with children remained in Simnas. On 10 September, all the remaining Jews were ordered to assemble in the barracks that the Russian soldiers had built. The arrested people hoped that they would be taken from here to another town to work. However, on 12 September 1941, in the woods near the village of Kalesninkai, 414 people were shot by Hamann's rifle squad - 68 men, 197 women and 149 children. Among them were Ruhama, the mother of Abel and Joseph Weinstein, and her brother Yehuda.
Some of the Jews of Simnas managed to hide and escape death. Among them were Abel Weinstein (later Aba Gefen) and his younger brother Joseph. They were both called "Maksiukas" by the inhabitants of Simnas. The Vainšteins were helped to escape by the inhabitants of Simnas and the surrounding villages. Among those who rescued Abel and Josif were the Juknelevičius and Kazakevičius families, who repeatedly took care of them.
In 1945, Abel Vainstein (now Aba Gefen) and his brother Joseph left Lithuania with a group of Polish returnees. Aba Gefen's books Defying the Holocaust: a Diplomat Report and Israel at Crossroads (Gefen Publishing House, Jerusalem, 2001) also mention the help of the Juknelevičius and Kazakevičius families during the war. The Juknelevičius' home was repeatedly searched, and Abel and Joseph had to change their hiding places frequently. From a letter written by Aba Gefen in 2012 to Romualdas, the grandson of Adomas and Elena Juknelevičius: "The Juknelevičius and the Kazakevičius were very good people, and I visited them many times when I was hiding from the Nazis. I used to stay with them only for one or a few days, but my younger brother Joseph stayed with them for a week or two. I also remember the Kazakevičius and their daughter Jadvyga very well."
Fortunately, thanks to the kind-hearted and courageous peasants who helped them, Abel and Joseph Weinstein managed to avoid the tragic fate of their relatives and the majority of the Jews of Simnas. At the request of Aba Gefen (Abel Weinstein), the Crosses for the Rescue of the Living (posthumously) have been awarded today to the former farmers of the Simnas Colonists' Village, Adomas and Elena Juknelevičius and Vincas and Zuzana Kazakevičius, and to their daughter, Jadvyga Kazakevičiūtė (now Jadvyga Juknelevičienė).
Abel Wainstein Gefen
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