Jakovas (Joselis) Bunka (born 1923 in Plunge) has memorialized the Jews of his town murdered by the Lithuanian partisans with a series of carved wooden totems erected at various sites in and around Plunge where the mass murders took place.

At Kaushan, the site of the murder of 1,800 Jews of Plunge and those of surrounding villages eight of Bunka's carved totems each with a specific theme stand a silent guard looking out over the pine forest which is home to the mass graves of those murdered. Bunka is probably alone among the many that have created holocaust sculptors to have been personally aquatinted with those that are memorialized by his work.

Bunka had apprenticed himself to be a carpenter but World War Two cut short his apprenticeship. In June of 1941, with his family he was evacuated to Siberia where his family found work on a collective. Bunka along with his father and brother joined the 16th Lithuanian Division of the Red Army. Forty-one Jewish men from Plunge died fighting with this unit, including Bunka's father Leibe and brother Avram. A carved totem with a likeness of each one stands at Kaushan in their memory. Bunka ended the war in a Russian Cossack unit that was part of the occupation force in Germany. That he was Jewish, did not concern his fellow Cossacks.

Photos © 1998 Laurence Salzmann

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