Rafael Genys (born 1923 in Rietavas) is the head of the Telsiai (Telz) Jewish Community. We met at the building that once housed the famous Telzer Yeshiva which, in its day, drew students of traditional learning from all over the world.

Today, a yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio carries on the Telzer name and tradition. The school's original building in Telsiai is a carpenter shop. It will soon be given back to the Jewish Community. Mr. Genys would like to find a way to create a museum in the old Yeshiva but he is unsure of where the funds to restore the Yeshiva might come from.

Mr. Genys fought with the 16th Lithuanian division as a front line fighter from the first to the last day of the war. He was wounded 5 times.

He wrote in my notebook what was most difficult for him to say. He wrote that his father, his mother, and 6 brothers and sisters were shot on July 12, 1941 by the Lithuanian partisans. They were among the 14,000 Jews from the Telsiai region killed by Lithuanian partisans. Before the people were killed, he said, they were beaten, stabbed, made to dance; a father was forced to bury his son alive.

Some of the Lithuanians that took part in this massacre are still alive without any attempts being made to punish them.

Photos © 1998 Laurence Salzmann

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