When Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, newlyweds Genya and Leiba Chaitas tried to flee to Soviet territory but were caught by the Germans and sent back to Kaunas, where they were confined in the ghetto. Leiba was sent to forced labor at the construction site where Lithuanian Kazys Tamašauskas was manager.
In 1941, Genya and Leiba's son was born. Soon afterwards, what came to be known as the "Great Aktion" took place. The ghetto inhabitants were instructed to gather in Democratu Square at 6 AM, and after a selection was carried out, close to 10,000 Jews who were considered "unproductive" were sent to the Ninth Fort and murdered. Afraid for her son's life, Genya wrapped him in some material that she found. The young couple presented themselves in the square with the baby wrapped up like a large parcel. Fortunately, the couple managed to pass the selection together with their "parcel" and they were saved.
In spite of the increasing danger, Genya managed to keep her son safe but after the infamous "Children's Aktion" carried out in the Kaunas ghetto in 1944, the couple decided that they would have to smuggle Beni out of the ghetto. Pleading for Tamašauskas' help, Genya fell on her knees, kissed his feet and begged him to find a hiding place for her son. Tamašauskas acceded to her request.
In order to smuggle him out of the ghetto, they drugged the child and tied him on to his father's back, hidden under a large coat. Leiba went out to work with his son under his coat, when suddenly the child started to cough. The other Jews in Leiba's work detail immediately started to cough to disguise the sound, and in this way the Germans didn't notice and Beni was spirited safely out of the ghetto.
At the building site, Leiba placed the sleeping child in an attic but once the drug wore off, he woke up and began to cry. Fortunately, just at that moment the German foreman was called away and Beni wasn't discovered. In the evening Jadvyga Tamašauskas took the child to her home in the village of Panemune.
Beni was hidden in the Tamašauskas home for several months until Jadvyga decided that the danger was too great, and she placed the child outside a home in a neighboring village. The woman who found him there realized that he was a Jewish child, and decided that it was worth her while caring for him and receiving compensation from the parents when they would return at the war's end.
When Lithuania was liberated, the entire area was searched for hidden Jewish children. Beni was retrieved from the home of the Lithuanian woman who had taken him in, and placed in a Jewish children's home where his aunt found him. Later on he was reunited with his parents who had been sent from the Kaunas ghetto to the camps, survived and returned to Kaunas. In 1967 the Chaitas family immigrated to Israel.
The Chaitas family decided to donate the blanket that the child was wrapped in when he was smuggled out of the ghetto and that accompanied him until he was reunited with his parents, to Yad Vashem, so that it would serve as a testament to Beni's rescue during the Holocaust.
On November 28, 2000, Yad Vashem recognized Kazys and Jadvyga Tamašauskas as Righteous Among the Nations.
Yad Vashem Museum Artifacts Collection
Courtesy of Chen Shachar, Jerusalem