The Jewish Hotel
Stand for Israel | April 17, 2023
Kazys Binkis was a renowned Lithuanian writer, poet, and journalist. So when the Nazis invaded his home country, the righteous actions this Gentile took to save his Jewish neighbors were even more noticeable and life-threatening, which make him and his family true heroes of the Holocaust.
In 1941, the Nazis established the Kaunas Ghetto, a place to imprison the Lithuanian city’s Jewish population until they would be murdered. Local woman Sofija Binkiene knew she had to help her Jewish friends and neighbors, and with the approval of her husband, the family turned their home into a refuge for many Jews.
This wasn’t easy for Kazys Binkis. Not only was he known in his home country, but he was also deathly ill—he would pass away only a year later. But Kazys and Sofija did not hesitate to do what was right. They opened their doors to Jews escaping certain death, their home coming to be known as “The Jewish Hotel.”
The Binkis’ home became a refuge for numerous Jews, as well as a stopping point for Jewish refugees on the run, providing physical and emotional nourishment and support as they raced to reach safety far from Nazi-occupied Lithuania.
The young Jewish girl in the above photo (with her own family in happier pre-war times), Gita Judelevich, came to the Binkis’ home in 1942, staying there for more than two years until liberation. The family told outsiders that little Gita was their son-in-law’s younger sister, a ploy they often used to hide the identities of Jews who would arrive.
In 1942, Kazys Binkis sadly succumbed to illness. But his wife and children continued to harbor any and all Jews who came to their home until war’s end. After the war, Sofija carried on her husband’s writing legacy, putting together the first and most comprehensive book about Lithuanian rescuers during WWII in 1967.
That same year, Sofija Binkiene was named Righteous Among the Nations by Yad Vashem, an honor that would also be bestowed on her husband Kazys, as well as their children and son-in-law, all heroes of the Holocaust.