© Richard Schofield

Held on or around Lithuanian Holocaust Memorial Day on September 23, the annual Reading of the Names—or Vardai—event is a privately organised initiative during which the names of Holocaust victims are read out in the Lithuanian towns and villages in which they perished. Surprised to discover that the event was of no interest to any of the 300,000 or so residents of Kaunas, in 2016 we decided to organise our first Vardai inside the city’s former Gestapo headquarters, and continued to do so in different locations around Kaunas until the pandemic made holding such events impossible. Click here to see several photographs from our 2018 event, which was held as the site of the 1941 Lietūkis Garage Massacre.

The Kaunas Requiem

© Mark Adam Harold

In December 2015, the International Centre for Litvak Photography commissioned the Ukrainian electronic musician and composer Anton Dehtiarov to write a theoretically endless piece of experimental music in memory of Annushka Varšavskienė. Known as The Kaunas Requiem, extracts from the piece were performed live over a week-long period inside an abandoned former synagogue in Kaunas that we rented in September 2016. Click here to listen to some of the music from the project.  

Fifty Schools

In 2016, we received a number of invitations to visit several high schools in and around Kaunas to talk about our work. During these visits, it quickly became obvious that the vast majority of Lithuanian teenagers (not to mention a woefully large amount of their history teachers) know next-to nothing about the life and culture of their grandparents’ former Jewish neighbours. And so we launched Fifty Schools, an informal education project that, with the help of Mariana Sutkienė in Vilnius, we took to dozens of high schools all over Lithuania to share our own experiences, to listen to what young Lithuanians had to say on the subject of Lithuanian Jewish history, to have open discussions about the Holocaust, and to try and figure out what it really means to be ‘Lithuanian’.

Two students climb up to look at the interior of the abandoned former synagogue in Čekiškė
Mariana Sutkienė holds up a copy of The Last Bright Days during an informal visit to the Jewish cemetery in Kavarskas 
Richard Schofield talks to high school students in Naujoji Vilnia


© Richard Schofield

Together with the University of Latvia's Centre for Judaic Studies, the Jews in Latvia Museum in Riga and Paideia in Stockholm, in July 2019 the International Centre for Litvak Photography piloted the so-called 'Challenging the Past' travelling summer school. With the help of 16 young participants from Latvia and Lithuania, the five-day trip from Riga to Kaunas included a total of 24 events and activities, including meetings, discussions, walking tours, workshops with a wide variety of locals working in the field of Jewish heritage and memory, visits to sites of cultural and historical importance, learning about (and eating) Jewish food, and, during the Friday evening of the journey, meeting with members of Kaunas' secular Jewish community during their weekly Shabbat celebration. After a three-year break due to the Covid pandemic, in July 2022 we expanded and improved the programme, including the addition of an intensive online learning module before everyone hit the road. Now called the Baltic Jewish Heritage Study Programme, or BJHSP, the organisers are currently raising the necessary money to do it for a third time. A copy of the original 2019 project report can be downloaded and read here.

Back to Shul

© Richard Schofield

Lithuania’s 100 or so surviving former synagogues are among a tiny handful of reminders of the country’s once large and diverse Jewish population. In August 2017, Richard Schofield spent 12 days hitchhiking and travelling by public transport around the country, photographing them with a cheap Latvian smartphone and writing a short book about the experience. Although the book is currently unavailable, we’ve kept a few memories from the project online, including David G. Roskies’ original Foreword, the 100 captioned photographs that were included in it and our constantly updated spreadsheet, complete with information about the current condition of each surviving building.