Danuta Venclauskas – A True Heroine
Recipient of The Righteous of the Nations Award 1998 by the Israeli
Government and Yad Vashem Memorial Institution
Danuta Venclauskas at the age of 95 received the the highest award
given to an individual by the government of Israel and the Yad Vashem
Museum for her bravery and courage. It is highest award given to a
non-Jew by the state of Israel. She was responsible for saving
hundreds of Jewish people in Lithuania from the horrors of the Nazis.
She established a clothing factory which employed hundreds of Jewish
people together with her sister Grazbyle 85, and her late mother.
Without their help these Jewish people would have been sent to labor
camps and killed. They even paid the Germans money so they would look
the other way in order to save the Jews. She sold her father's gold to
pay profit to the Nazis. In addition, they smuggled in goods from the
Siauliai ghetto to feed the starving Jews.
Ceremony honoring Danute in 1998
Danuta received the award in May 1998 by the Jewish Federation of
Waterbury and Northwest Connecticut. She was praised by the Israeli
consulate Ofra Fahri, for being a ray of hope for humanity when
mankind's heart and soul seemed to be sick.
What is truly amazing is the fact that for years she hid her identity
until a Tel Aviv professor Jacob Reuveny who was one of the Jews saved
by Danuta sought to find her and thank her. As an eleven year old
child, he was hidden in the Venlauskas home for six weeks. They risked
their own lives since the Nazis would have killed any individual for
harboring Jewish people. They even moved him to another hideout after
being under suspicion by the Nazis for helping Jews. He was liberated
in October 1944 and never forgot who had saved his life. For years he
searched to find her.
More than 200 people from the community witnessed the ceremony during
the official week of Holocaust remembrance. Danute accepted this award
on behalf of her late mother and sister who had been recovering from
surgery at the time.
The RBY Recording Studio from Southbury, Connecticut made a video oral
history with Danute. She hid her identity for years and did not want
any kind of compensation for her righteous deeds. This tape has been
sent to many libraries so others may learn of her bravery and actions.
Copies were also sent to the Yad Vashem Museum in Israel and to the
Lithuanian Museum commemorating and honoring the Venclsauskas family.
The video sheds light on two shaping influences. One is a Jewish
funeral and at the time her grandfather was a member of the
underground and was fighting the Germans. He was in hiding because he
had been declared a traitor in Lithuania. At the same funeral she
found him hiding nearby in the words. He was pretending to be a Jew
and from that moment she also became a Jewish woman who would sneak
food to him.
Sidney Frenkel the speaker in honor of Danuta
Another influence on her life was her best friend Sheina who was
Jewish and these two incidents had a tremendous impact on her.
In 1950 Danuta and her mother came to Wolcott, Conn. She continued to
help and support people for the rest of her life.
Sid Frenkel, my brother and the son of Sonia Frenkel was one of the
speakers at the event. He said that her name would become legendary
with all of the great humanitarians of our time.
Danuta Venclauskas was a special friend of my family. She met my
father Aaron Frenkel in 1950 and they were life long friends. I am
honored to have known Danuta and will never forget the kind hearted
human being that she was. Her memory will live on forever in the
hearts of many. She was unique. She was worthy to have been a
recipient of the highest award given to anyone outside of Israel and I
dedicate this page to all of the people and families she saved through
her bravery, courage and kindness.
Information taken from: The Waterbury Republican American May 1998- by
The Jewish Federation Newsletter May 1998 by Lisa Hoffman