When Lithuania became an independent state in the wake of the First World War, over 156,000 Jews lived within its borders.
During the interwar period, Vilnius /Vilna had been given to Poland and the capital of Lithuania was Kaunas (Kovna in Yiddish). Long one of the liveliest Jewish communities in the world, more than 91% of this community was destroyed during the Shoah. The German Army and the SS were not the only perpetrators. Local thugs carried out unspeakable crimes against their Jewish neighbors.
After 1944, when Lithuania became part of the Soviet Union, the Communists ended all religious activity and tolerated only a "cultural" Jewish community.
After 1990, when Lithuania achieved its independence from the Soviet Union, Lithuania's Jews re-established their communal structures and opened a school, a kindergarten and youth clubs.
As in Estonia and Latvia, most Jews living in Lithuania today are Russian and Ukrainian Jews who settled in the country during the Soviet decades. Our interest, however, is in Lithuanian-born Jews and we secured 30 interviews with those who can recall the prewar decades in Kaunas/Kovna, Vilnius/Vilna and a dozen smaller towns.