*Recognized in 1988
Petrašiūnų kapinės, Kaunas
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Vladas Varčikas was born in Rudnia (Smolensk region). In 1920 he came back to Lithuania with his parents. From 1928 he studied violin (with a break) at the Kaunas Music School and Conservatoire. In 1935-37 he studied at Vytautas Magnus University (Faculty of Science and Mathematics). 1940-41 violinist of the Vilnius Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, 1941-45 violinist of Kaunas Grand Theatre Orchestra. 1945-46 Inspector of the Board of Artistic Affairs of the Council of Ministers of the LSSR and head of the Department of Educational Institutions. From 1945 he taught at the Vilnius and Kaunas Music Schools, from 1946 at the Kaunas J. Naujalis Music Gymnasium, and from 1993-2000 at the Kaunas Faculty of the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theatre. 1959-71 Director of Kaunas Music Theatre. He composed methodical pieces for violin and piano.
When Vladas was working as a violinist in the Vilnius Philharmonic Orchestra, there was a threat that the Nazis might arrest him, and he quickly fled to Kaunas. There he started working at the State Theatre. In Kaunas, he met Irena Binkytė, an acquaintance from the Conservatoire, by chance, Irena was with her sister Lilijana. Vladas admired Lilijana very much and became a frequent guest at the Binkis' house. Lilijana and Vladas soon got married. They lived in the Binkis house on Vydūnas Avenue. Kazys Binkis immediately fell in love with Vladas. Vladas remembers that when the massacre of the Jews began, despite the family's efforts to hide the news from the seriously ill Kazys Binkis, he was still aware of the situation through newspapers and other sources. Kazys had told Vladas "Something must be done."
Many of Vladas's violin teachers and collaborators were of Jewish origin - Jews whose fate was immediately sealed, and Vladas, who was deeply distressed for them, took up the cause. Vladas became the right-hand man of Sofija Binkienė. A young, black-haired, black-eyed man with the characteristic eagle nose, he proved to be extremely courageous: as Vladas worked in the theatre, performances finished late, so he had permission to go out during curfew. This allowed him to move people in case of danger after dark. Taking advantage of the fact that he looked like a Jew, he would put a yellow star on his coat and mingle with people returning from work, and in this way he would enter the ghetto in order to warn of "actions" - the "cleaning" of the ghetto, to secretly bring food or to take out valuable things to hide. Once Vladas sneaked into the column, but when he saw that he was being tracked down, he quickly tore off his yellow star. He was arrested anyway, dragged to the Gestapo, Vladas was very angry, showing them his neat papers. Finally, Vladas had to take off his trousers to prove that he was not Jewish.
Vladas was able to do whatever he needed to do - for example, exchange things for food at the market. Once he was caught selling thread and taken to the police station, but Vladas managed to get away.
Sofija Ligija Makutėnienė, the daughter of Vladas and Sofija, says: "Someone asked my father if he had cried in his life. He said that the first time he cried was at the ghetto fence, when he realised that he would not be able to save a fellow violinist, Cecilija Karlinaitė, and her family. The second time was when he heard about the 'children's action', when the Nazis took all the children in the Kaunas ghetto and killed them on the spot and blew up the hiding places where the little ones were still alive."
After the war, Vladas taught violin at the Kaunas J. Naujalis Music Gymnasium. Vladas' daughter Sofija says that his pupils speak of him as a man of rare kindness and understanding.
PEOPLE AGAINST VANDALS
Before the war I worked as a violinist in the Vilnius State Philharmonic Orchestra. In the middle of June 1941, our symphony orchestra went on tour. The war caught us in Utena. Some people wanted to go back to Vilnius (their families stayed there), others were drawn to the east.[...] Most of them decided to go back to Vilnius. I was among them.
When I returned to Vilnius, I did not find my close friends, some of my acquaintances. Some of them had managed to leave for the East, others had been killed or were missing.[...]
One early sunny morning I left Panemunė for the Old Town to find some Jewish friends with whom I had studied at the Conservatoire. I found nothing. Some had been imprisoned in the Kaunas ghetto, others had been murdered in the first days of the war, simply because they were born to Jewish mothers. It was difficult to understand all this. I decided to enter the ghetto (in Vilijampole). There I found Cecilia Karlinaitė. C. Karlinaite was seventeen years old. She was a talented violinist. We were course mates. Small, with big black eyes, she knew how to enjoy life. I always liked the girl's optimism, cheerfulness, modesty. [...] Knowing the atrocities that were rampant and foreseeing the tragedy, I wanted very much to help her, to save her from death. Karlinaitė's family was large. Her parents were poor, they had educated two daughters and a son in difficult conditions, [...] When the family saw me, they were extremely surprised and overjoyed.
I visited the Karlinas several times and offered them options for escaping the ghetto. The last time I came back, I had to cross the Neris River, because at that time the ghetto had been fenced off and it was already dangerous to leave. The saddest thing was that both C. Karlinaitė, whom I wanted to help, and her family did not believe in the terrible future I had warned her about. The Karlinai family did not want to leave, and it was impossible to take everyone out together, so we had to leave the ghetto one by one. Later on, these friends of mine perished like thousands of others.
...I had to look for work. There was a shortage of violinists at the Kaunas Opera House. In September I passed the competition and started to work in the theatre orchestra. In October of the same year, I moved in with the Binkis at Vydūno Avenue. No.20.
At the beginning of 1942, the first child from the ghetto - Gita Judelevičiūtė, then, according to the documents, Valė Vilkauskaitė - found shelter in the Binkis family. Every precaution had to be taken. On the second floor lived a German man in a brown uniform.
In view of the poet Binkis's serious health condition (he suffered from heart disease), at first the family members hid their activities from him. But the writer soon found out about it. He kept stressing that the Lithuanian nation was too little prepared for such difficult trials [...] He said that something had to be done, that some way had to be found to resist Hitler's murderers. At that time, because of Binkis's illness, I was not able to tell him everything, but it seemed that he sensed much more than I told him. At the end of the conversation, he suddenly asked me about a girl who had appeared in our house (he had been told that she was my younger sister). Binkis did not believe in our kinship and said that this work of helping the persecuted had to be organised carefully, but more widely.
The next time we talked on the balcony. He looked a little better, more capable than the first time. His amazing erudition, his poetic tendencies, made me forget for a moment that I was facing a serious patient. I reported some news from the fronts, we talked about the theatre, music. I remember how Binkis was worried that he couldn't finish his work, dreaming of new plans.[...]
At that time, Binkis was often visited by the poet A. Miškinis, Prof. P. Slavėnas, the directors R. Juknevičius and J. Grybauskas, the sculptor B. Pundzus, and theatre actors. (...)
Algirdas Miniotas used to receive passports of people who died in hospitals. These passports of the dead were handed over to people who were in hiding.
In some cases, when a city district was surrounded by the Germans, the "illegal" citizens were moved to a safer place. In this way, I often transferred Sonia Ginkaite from the Panemunė district, Roza Stenderiene from Žaliakalnis, Margita Stenderytė, Guta Šmuklerytė and other people. They all found a temporary home with the fearless and generous Prana Špokaite-Juodvalkienė.
One day in November 1943, when I found out about possible searches, I approached Eduardas Satkevičius, a performer and teacher in the Kaunas Opera Theatre Orchestra, and asked him to take in Margita Stenderytė, the daughter of the fallen concertmaster of the theatre, temporarily. Since the same house was occupied by germans, the girl was taken in by the mother of Satkevičius' wife, Ieva Pocienė, who lived on Gardino Street. No. 50. Some time later, the neighbours noticed the girl and the Satkevičius had to take the child away. Some of Satkevičius's neighbours noticed the child and denounced them to the Germans. The whole family was in danger. Late one evening Satkevičius came to us and told us about the danger.
In those days, Kaunas residents could buy children from the occupied territories of the Soviet Union at the railway station. One child was worth 5 marks. Identity cards were issued for these children. Mrs Dauguvietyte obtained such a certificate for us in the name of Irena Ivanova, which was handed over to Satkevičius. Margarita stayed with Satkevičius for about half a year, and then we moved her to O. Dauguvietienė.
I received several more such certificates, and they were used for such purposes.[...]
Every summer I had to go to the countryside on holiday and take the "illegal" citizens who lived with us. Civilians could only travel by train with special permits. We obtained the permits from the occupying authorities, through the mediation of A. Lincevičius.[...]
One day, Regina Spiridavičiūtė, who had come from Vilnius to Kaunas, asked for help in organising the escape of the violinist Vulfas Rabinavičius from the Vilnius ghetto. The conditions in Vilnius were less familiar to me. Professor Slavėnas and I agreed that we would meet at his workplace in Vilnius (he was then working in a psychiatric hospital) and discuss Rabinavičius' escape. We did not have passports at that time. S. Binkienė gave us the passport of the late K. Binkis, which had been reworked in the name of K. Binkauskas. When I went to Vilnius, I met Prof. P. Slavėnas, who introduced me to Prof. J. Matulis. We discussed the escape plan. Unfortunately, V. Rabinavičius did not arrive at the agreed time and later, probably, perished in the ghetto like thousands of other innocent people.[...]
As the ghetto massacres raged, the number of refugees in the city increased. Their clothes and belongings had to be removed from the ghetto. The task was difficult. On several occasions, with the help of Chmieliauskas, the belongings of Roza Stenderienė, Dina Šalitaitė and others were removed from the ghetto. The ghetto inhabitants took some of the necessary things to the Veterinary Academy to the biologist N. Likevičienė, and I took them to the ghetto refugees. In this way, a unique violin made by the Italian master Amati was preserved of the former Kaunas concertmaster Stender.
When news of possible new actions (massacres) reached us, we had to inform the ghetto inhabitants quickly. I had a yellow star, and I would pin it to my coat or jacket, and I would enter an unguarded column and warn the unfortunate ones.[...]
I have mentioned only a few facts about the struggle of progressive Lithuanian people for the salvation of those persecuted during the occupation. In this movement of resistance against the fascist kidnappers, there were great people who took part: O. Kuzmina-Dauguvietienė, V. Kurauskas, J. Fedoravičius, A. Karpavičienė and P. Karpavičius, E. Dagienė, prof. P. Mažylis, prof. P. Slavėnas, Prof. J. Matulis, Prof. Vidmantas, Assoc. Prof. Stasys Vabalevičius, and many others, who, unafraid of the danger, were in the ranks of the resistance movement throughout the Hitler occupation.
From "And without weapons warriors". Compiled by. S. Binkienė. Vilnius, 1967
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem web page):
Gita Judelevičiūtė (Gita Judelevitch)
Raja Judelevičienė (Raja Judelevitch)
Paša (Pesia) Melamed
Fruma - Mania Ginkienė
Sofija (Sonia) Ginkaitė Šabadienė
Beba Šatenštein - Taborisky
Gutia Šmuklerytė -Fiš
Samuelis (Šmuelis) Segalis
Rivka Šmuklerytė - Ošerovičienė
Information collected using:
The story told by Sofija Ligija Makutėnienė (Iga);
Magazine "Legendos", Gerda Prancūzevičiūtė, Who set up the "Jewish Hotel" in the house of the Lithuanian poet hooligan and quadriplegic Kazis Binkis during the war (Kas per karą lietuvių poeto chuligano, keturvėjininko Kazio Binkio namuose įsteigė „Žydų viešbutį“), 2023 No. 1
From the left: Liudas Truikys, Vladas Varčikas, Marijona Rakauskaitė
Vladas varčikas with his students
Gita Judelevitch with her parients before the war