The Legacy of Antanas Babonas, Yad Vashem

“…the courage that would accompany them for the rest of their lives, and which continues to guide the next generations of the family.””

On the eve of the German occupation, Raseiniai had a bustling Jewish community of some 2,000 Jewish residents, representing one-third of the townlet’s population. The Community had chapters of the Bund, the orthodox Agudath Israel and the Zionist parties, as well as youth movements, various welfare institutions, and two schools. Lea Goldberg, who later immigrated to the land of Israel and became one of Israel’s best known poets and writers, taught in the Tarbut Hebrew language high school. Among her students were two cousins: Sara and Roza Furmansky.

The Germans occupied Raseiniai on June 24, 1941. Shortly thereafter, on August 29, the entire Jewish community of Raseiniai was murdered by the Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators. Sara and Roza, aged 19 and 22, survived the massacre by hiding in a haystack. When the massacre ended, they came out of their hideout and were all alone. They fled to Girkalnis and turned to a former classmate of Sara’s sister who advised them to seek out Antanas Babonas.

Upon hearing of the murder of Sara’s parents Antanas burst into tears. Never hesitating, he hid the two women in a grain silo, where they remained until the end of December 1941. When the cold became unbearable, Antanas prepared a pit under the country-style oven. However, in the end of July 1942, Antanas’ maid discovered the cousins, and they were forced to leave the shelter and their benefactor. After wandering about for several months, Sara became ill. In her despair she decided to return to Antanas’ home. Notwithstanding the danger, he received Sara with open arms, and when his neighbors became suspicious once again, brought Sara to the home of his sister Ona Korskiene and her husband Antanas Korsakas in Gailiunai, where she stayed until the end of the war.

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After liberation, knowing that her community, her family and home had been destroyed, Sara went to Kaunas, where she found her cousin Roza. The two women – the only survivors of their family – began to rebuild their lives. Sara and her family moved to Israel in 1969, and in 1972 Roza joined her with her daughters Bella and Genya. They never forgot their rescuers. When Antanas passed away in 1960, Sara went to his funeral.

On January 12, 2011, the Commission for the Designation of the Righteous at Yad Vashem decided to recognize Antanas Babonas and Antanas and Ona Korsakas as Righteous Among the Nations. A ceremony was held at Yad Vashem on Thursday, June 2, 2011, posthumously honoring Antanas Babonas and his sister and brother-in-law Ona and Antanas Korsakas as Righteous Among the Nations. Ms. Jadviga Korsakiene, daughter-in-law of the late Antanas and Ona Korsakas received the medal on their behalf. The two granddaughters – of the rescuers and of the survivors – spoke at the ceremony.

Gila Gurvich-Jaacobi, the granddaughter of Sara (Frumansky) Gurvich :

“The Babonas family set an example by instilling in Rosa and Sara the hope and the will to continue to struggle against impossible odds, as well as strengthening their resolution to survive, their courage and faith in mankind and the courage that would accompany them for the rest of their lives, and which continues to guide the next generations of the family. …It is one of the gifts of life from my grandmother that I carry with me.”