The Journeys of Remembrance
It took a full year for the first journey of remembrance to come to fruition. Seventeen people, each related in varying degrees to one of the deportees, participated in the trip which took place over the 24 to 28 May 1988. Our party first visited the Ninth Fort in Kaunas, where a part of the Convoy (around 600 men) was liquidated and then Tallinn where the remainder (about 300 men) was put to death. The Convoy consisted only of men, 878 precisely, the majority young and able-bodied, of whom only 22 survived.
This first journey to remember our dead was exceptionally moving. Coming after the trip organised in 1993 by the Association of Sons and Daughters of Jewish Victims of Deportation in France run by Serge Klarsfeld, it included one of the 22 survivors of the Convoy, returning for the first time to the place where he was so vilely imprisoned and his fellow deportees exterminated.
No Holocaust pilgrimage had previously been organised from France to Lithuania and Estonia. These have only become possible since the Baltic States gained their independence.
Four more journeys have since taken place:- In July 1998, by the daughter of a deportee, who shot a film of her trip and kept a journal recording her feelings and emotions;
- In August-September 1998 which brought together eleven people including several who had taken part in the 1995 trip;
- In May 2000 with 19 people.
- From 29 April to 3 May 2002, with twenty four participants. During this trip, two memory plaques were unveiled in memory of the deportees of the convoy Nr 73 : one in the Ninth Fort of Kaunas (Lithuania), and the other at the Patarei prison in Tallinn (Estonia). The whole report of that journey was published in the fourth volume of " Nous sommes 900 Français ".
Photo: Arlette Glacet
Photo: Serge de La Fonchais
The memory plaque unveiled in Kaunas (Ninth Fort) on 30 April 2002 The memory plaque unveiled in Tallinn (Patareil prison ) on 2 May 2002
We had invited Alex Faitelson and he arrived directly from Israel to join us in Kaunas. While we were visiting the Ninth Fort where he was imprisonned with his companions in December 1943, he commented for us on the photos and tools they used to escape. On the last evening of our stay, he agreed to lecture on his escape. Since he doesn’t speak French, he spoke Yiddish while Renée Kaluszynski translated into French.
Photo: Jean-Claude Elias
Alex Faitelson in the Jewish Museum in Vilnius, in front of the panel of photos reminding his escape.