*Recognized in 1982
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Doctor Elena Buivydaitė-Kutorgienė considered it her duty to save people, saying that a doctor must not only provide medical assistance to a person, but also love him. During the Hitler occupation, this noble humanist helped a lot to all persecuted people - Jews, prisoners of war. She became one of the most active organizers of Jewish rescue activities in the city of Kaunas. Today, it is impossible to count how many people Elena Kutorgienė saved from death. Her courage and intelligence in the conditions of that era were incredible. When the Hitlerite’s searched her summer house in Kulautuva, to the accusation that she felt sorry for the Jews, she bravely replied that they must understand that she, as a woman and as a doctor, cannot agree to the fact that children are being killed
("And soldiers without weapons", page 31) .
Throughout her life, Elena Kutorgienė remained faithful to the motto chosen in her youth, which is engraved on her tombstone in the Petrašiūnai cemetery in Kaunas: Увеличить сумму добра на земел ("To strive for more good in this world").
Testimony by Hirsh Osherovich
Elena Kutorgienė was a well-known eye doctor from Kaunas. She was a Lithuanian. She graduated from Moscow University and began to practice medicine at OZE, where mainly impoverished Jews were treated, when she came to Lithuania in 1922. Persecuted Jews began approaching Dr. Kutorgienė from the very first days of the Nazi occupation in June-July, 1941. /.../
After the systematic extermination of Jews began, seven or eight Jews could often be found spending the night in her office. Taking the greatest precautions, they arrived in the evening as patients and remained until morning. On the eve of the Great Action, on October 28, 1941, twelve people spent the night in her practice. Dr. Kutorgienė took an extreme risk because there was a German officer living in her apartment. The smallest noise or mistake could have cost this brave woman her life. Once her neighbors saw a person heavily wrapped up in clothing leaving her apartment at dawn. From then on, she began receiving anonymous letter warnings that if she didn't break off her relations with Jews she would die. The letters didn't frighten her.
After some time a search of her premises took place. Fortunately there were no people in her apartment during the search.
Dr. Kutorgienė kept a diary. The diary is a shocking history of Nazi persecution and sadism against Jews. “The situation in the ghetto is horrifying,” she wrote. “It's intolerably difficult to live, knowing that people are suffering so and experiencing such horrible degradation right next to me.” /.../
From the 4th book Hands Bringing Life and Bread
SO MANY YEARS HAVE PASSED
My Mom was a very young and pretty lady. She had blue eyes and dark hair. Her elegant hands had long fingers. She had a slim figure and nice legs. She dressed with taste and was very elegant.
When she was walking on the street with her son, my older brother Reuven, nobody believed that they were a mother and a son: they looked like brother and sister. He was eighteen and she was thirty-nine.
She will always be young and beautiful. No-one has seen my mother Leah-Liza Gordon grows old.
When she was killed she had just turned forty.
It was the summer of 1941. The war started for us on Sunday, June 22, 1941. On that very day, Sunday, the Germans were bombing Lithuania. Everything happened so suddenly, unexpectedly, and rapidly. During one night the world turned upside down.... The Red Army was running away, and the officers had no time to take their wives and children along. Let alone evacuate the residents. Very few were lucky to escape.
On Tuesday, the 24th of June, the Germans were already in Kaunas.
Back on Monday, on the 23rd of June, my parents and my brother managed to get on the overcrowded train, heading east, hoping to escape...
But I was not with them on the train: exactly four days earlier, on the 18th of June, I had been taken to Kražiai, where my aunt Etel Schmidt (Eta Šmidtienė) with her husband, a doctor, Osher Schmidt (Ošeris Šmidtas) and their four-year-old son Benia lived. There was a river and a forest there: a great place to go on holiday...
My mother was sobbing during the entire journey on the train: how could one leave a little girl alone, going who knows where or how? When the train approached Vilnius, all three of them got off and went on foot to Kaunas, our home. Hoping I would find them there...
The trip was a disaster. The roads were overcrowded with people going back who failed to reach the Belarusian border.
Yet the most important thing is that baltaraiščiai were ruling the roads. While Germans had not yet started persecuting Jews, the baltaraiščiai, from the very beginning of the war, were capturing, mocking, torturing and shooting Jews. Right near Kaunas, my mother, father and brother were captured. After a long and terrible night, they let my father and my brother go, but they kept my mother and took her to a prison in Kaunas. She never returned from Kaunas prison. People were saying that women were taken from the prison and shot in the 7th fort.
She was so young and so beautiful...
It was just the three of us now, my father, brother and me, who were taken to the Kaunas Ghetto.
My brother was killed in the summer of 1944, when the ghetto was destroyed in flames.
My father jumped out of the wagon of a slave train taking ghetto residents to Germany. Before the liberation he hid in the forests for two weeks.
I’ve escaped from the Kaunas Ghetto at early January 1944 and survived, thanks to wonderful people who saved me, risking their own and their families’ lives.
These people are Dr. Elena Kutorgienė, Dr. Viktoras Kutorga, Povilas Jakas, Ms. Elžbieta Miniotienė and Ms. Zaksaitė.
Upon my request and the material which I submitted, the names of these noble people were immortalised1. Their names are engraved on the Honor Wall in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
My grandmother Eidl and grandfather Reuven Segal, my mother’s parents, died before World War II. They lived in Dūkštai (in the Ukmergė District) and they had 8 children: 6 daughters and 2 sons. Their names were Frida, Nadia, Liza, Dvoira, Sonia, Osher, Etel and Shneyer.
Only three families – those of Frida Bloshtein, Nadia Zibuts and Sonia Ptashek managed to escape to the depths of the Soviet Union and survived the WWII.
The remaining five families did not manage to escape, found themselves in Nazi occupied Lithuania and lost twelve members.
My mother Lea-Liza Gordon was murdered in 1941 at age 40.
Reuven Gordon (my brother) was murdered in 1944 at age 21.
Dvoira Himmelfarb with her daughter Rivka (Rita) were taken from the Vilnius Ghetto to Estonia and murdered there in 1944.
Osher Segal with his wife Edzia and a twelve-year old Sarah were in the Vilnius Ghetto. Murdered in Estonia in 1944.
Etel Schmidt and husband Dr. Osher Schmidt with their four-year-old son Benia were murdered in Kražiai in August 1941 (See “The Hill” (Šuliny), by Antanas Jonynas, Affinity Billing, 2007).
Shneyer Segal was murdered in Vilnius in early July.
Aleksandr Handin, Esia Zibuts’s husband was murdered in Dachau concentration camp in 1944.
My father, Haim Gordon died in Israel in 1978 at age 84. My mother’s and my brother’s names are also engraved on his tombstone.
Esia Zibuts, Nadia's daughter, survived Stuthoff concentration camp where she was transfered from Siauliai Ghetto. She died in Israel at age 73.
Shenyer's wife Mania and their son Arie were saved by a Polish family in Vilnius and immigrated to Israel in the forties.
The Vilna Gaon State Jewish Museum
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem website):
other Kaunas Getto Jews
Information collected using:
Elena in the mountains
Elena and Viktoras 1936
Shulamit Gordon-Lirov. This picture was used for forged documents