Early WWII Refugee travel certificate
Plight of war, escaping to freedom.
By early 1940 Europe was in war: Poland has been conquered, and Germany with Russia where jointly controlling the country. Anyone who did not manage to escape east, into Romania, Hungary or the Baltic states was caught. No way out was seen. Hope was gone.
By this time, there were those who were lucky enough to have done just that: thousands found refuge in neighboring Bucharest and Budapest and also far up north, in Lithuania, Kaunas. This was the location of a very rich and traditional old Jewish community and now, a refuge for hundreds and even several thousand refugees, the lucky ones who managed to cross the border before it was shut tight.
As the days went by it was becoming clearer that the situation would not remain safe for long. With both German and Russian soldiers massing up on the borders of the tiny small country, all feared the worst. All began to anticipate the inevitable: the possibility of conquest and invasion into still safe Kaunas. And this was the case: On June 15th the Soviet army invaded. They were trapped.
During this year, several diplomats who were stationed in the city did the unthinkable and went even against the orders of their superiors: they issued life saving visas to hundreds and several thousand Jews and other refugees. Such actions even put their own life at risk, yet, they did so without thinking twice: Japanese consul Chiune Sugihara and Dutch representative Jan Zwartendijk.
Some though managed to obtain other means to flee occupied Lithuania as the holder of this set of documents here did: JOEL BLUMENCWAJG, a young man, obtained the rare “War Refugee Certificate” from the Lithuanian Ministry of Interior, the” Commissioner for War refugees”. The document was translated into French by the well-known Lithuanian dignitary Vladas Daumantas, then acting Kaunas County Court jury translator, who had a rich contribution to the founding of the country after World War One. The certificate was obtained prior to the occupation but put into use afterwards. Young Joel, who found refuge in the small town of Tauragė, transited through Moscow, Turkey & Syria to arrive safely into British Palestine on March 15th, 1941, after crossing the border checkpoint at Nakoura.
Not many where as lucky as he was. Following operation Barbarossa on June 1941, thousands upon thousands were shot in make shift ditches and graves throughout the Baltic States, what would later be the beginning of the end for European Jews: the mass execution of complete communities began following the invasion of the Soviet Union and would not stop until 1945.
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