Binkiene, Sofija (1902–1984)

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Binkiene, Sofija (1902–1984)

Lithuanian rescuer of Jews during World War II, honored as one of the Righteous by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem. Born in 1902; died in 1984; married Kazys Binkiene (a writer); children: four, including Lilianne.

Married to Kazys Binkiene, a well-known writer, Sofija Binkiene was the mother of four children. She had little contact with Jews prior to the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, which began in the early summer of 1941. Yet, almost from the first days of Nazi rule, she determined to do as much as possible to assist Jews fleeing from the Kovno ghetto. Scores of Jews of all ages spent varying periods of time in the Binkiene home, despite the danger this presented Binkiene's entire family. Even after her husband died of a heart ailment in 1942, Binkiene continued to assist Jews, though little food was available and the danger of discovery by the German security forces was great. In 1944, when the remnants of the Kovno ghetto were liquidated by the Nazis, Binkiene roved the streets nearby in the hope of bringing a few more Jewish stragglers to the relative safety of her home.

In testimony deposited after the war at the Yad Vashem Archives in Jerusalem, Gita Yudelevitz , one of the Jews rescued by Sofija Binkiene, recounted her life as a 12-year-old in 1941 when she was first rescued from certain death by Jadwiga Muzaliene , a friendly Lithuanian woman who in turn brought her to Binkiene's home, which quickly became known as a place of refuge. Here, the frightened Gita was comforted and warmly welcomed. Introduced to the family, Gita soon was in possession of an "Aryan" identification card that made it possible for her to go out on errands. During the summer, Gita accompanied the Binkiene family to their home on the Dangiene river. After the war, Gita Yudelevitz was reunited with her parents, who were among the few Lithuanian Jews who had been able to flee to the forest and survive the Holocaust.

After 1945, Sofija Binkiene worked for the children's service of the Lithuanian Radio. She also wrote a book about Lithuanians who had saved Jewish lives during the three years of Nazi occupation. Highly respected in what remained of the Jewish community of Lithuania, she was ostracized as the "Queen of the Jews" by some of her fellow Lithuanians who had—despite everything the Holocaust had revealed about the insanity of hatred—retained their anti-Semitic prejudices.

sources:

Binkiene, Sofija. Ir be ginklo kariai. Vilnius: Mintis, 1967.

Paldiel, Mordecai. "Binkiene, Sofija," in Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Vol. 1, p. 217.

——. The Path of the Righteous: Gentile Rescuers of Jews During the Holocaust. Hoboken, NJ: KTAV Publishing House, 1993.

John Haag , Associate Professor, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia