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Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History
Vilniaus Gaono Žydų Istorijos Muziejus



Published: 2022-09-29
My door is open to everyone...
Mykolas Šimelis
When Mykolas Šimelis, a forester in Bačkonys, the Žiežmariai Forestry District, found his acquaintance Meyer Koren from the ghetto in Kaunas being used as forced labour, he said: ‘My door is open to everyone.’ During the interwar period Meyer Koren had a resin and turpentine workshop in Vievis. Šimelis and Koren knew each other for many years and had even worked together previously. When Meyer Koren started thinking of how to escape from the ghetto, he remembered the words of Mykolas Šimelis, but there were two major problems that had to be solved. Koren understood all too well that Mykolas Šimelis and his wife Jadvyga with their five young children would not be able to support five more members of the Koren family. Therefore, he decided to take Alter Aranovsky and his wife, who promised to cover the food costs, with them. A no lesser problem was to find a way for such a big group of people to reach Tarpumiškis village in Strošiūnai Forest where Mykolas Šimelis lived back then. The latter problem was solved by Moshe Musel who worked at a German garage. He made arrangements with Ignas Šepetys, a driver who he knew, and in November 1943 brought from the Kaunas Ghetto to Tarpumiškis village a group of nine people: his wife Polia, the Korens and the Aranovskys, and three more people several months later. Still later, Polia Musel’s sister and her husband, the Nechmods, fled the Kaunas Ghetto and came to hide at Mykolas Šimelis’. The Šimelis family entered a very worrying and deadly dangerous period. The children were ordered to keep silent about the guests. All the refugees took Lithuanian names and a bunker was set up with the only access to it being through a cupboard in a boxroom. It was there that the refugees from the Kaunas Ghetto lived till 13 July 1944. Mykolas Šimelis saved 14 Jews during the war and paid for it with his life. Mykolas Šimelis was murdered in Strošiūnai Forest on 10 July 1945.
From: Whosoever saves a single life, saves an entire universe
Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, Vilnius, 2019
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