The memory of a historical personality in Kaunas will be commemorated with an artistic Lighting Installation

Very soon all of the attention of Kaunas citizens and the city itself will be orientated to “Laisvės alėja”, where the new cultural-historical object will soon be launched. There will be a unique artistic Lighting Installation here. This will be commemorated by the monument to Jan Zwartendijk (1896-1976), the Dutch Honorary Consul and the “Philips” representative in the Republic of Lithuania who saved the thousands of Jewish lives during the Second World War .

“Kaunas is foremost a kind of open-air city-museum, which has plenty of signs that witness different stages of history. We have proved once more that the city is strong when it has strong content and when it is able to show it to others. It is incredibly gratifying that the remembrance of Jan Zwartendijk incredible acts will be commemorated not by a remembrance board on a building or classical sculpture, which as a memorial might seem quite plain, however this is amazing and unconventional solution, which will appear in a very authentic “Laisvės alėja”. This is a symbol that will remind us of the extremely important work of this person “, – Simonas Kairys, Deputy Mayor of Kaunas, who was immensely pleased with the project.

The original monumental idea was presented and implemented by a well-known light artist – Giny Vos. The project of this artifact has already received approval and support from the Lithuanian Artists’ Union, the Department of Cultural Heritage, other responsible and related institutions. The place for the monument is “Laisvės alėja”, in front of the historic house at Laisvės al. 29, in which 1939-1940 was the Consulate and businessman J. Zwartendijk‘s office.

Honorary Consul of the Netherlands and the then-oldest representative of “Philips” in Lithuania, in 1940 summer, issued so-called Visas for Life to thousands of Jews to save them from the Holocaust.

“Throughout the realization and creation of this project it took us a long four years road. However we are already approaching the finish line. I am very pleased that in a few months we will be able to see a monument in Kaunas for this outstanding personality, who saved around 6,000 people. The Foreign Ministry has supported this idea from the very beginning, as it is an important project both nationally and internationally, “, – Dainius Junevičius, Ambassador of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for special assignments.

“J. Zwartendijk was a modest man and did not care about his merits, saying that under such circumstances everyone and anyone would have done that. However, I am sure that all this needs to be well commemorated and appreciated, therefore I am very happy to meet today and to report the good news, as well as seeing the representatives of the “Philips” company here, “, – said H.E. Bert van der Lingen, the Ambassador of the Netherlands  in  Lithuania.

He expressed hope that this event will not only strengthen Lithuania’s cross-border ties with the Netherlands but will, in particular, bring together the cities of Kaunas and Eindhoven. It was exactly the city where Zwartendijk lived after the war until his death and established “Philips” and its headquarters. During the development of the memorial, representatives of the Glow Light Festival in Eindhoven were consulted, and the Ambassador hopes that this cooperation will intensify in 2022 when Kaunas will become the European Capital of Culture.

Virginija Vitkienė, Director of the public institution “Kaunas 2022”, says that the city needs to renew its memory in order to avoid the often-occurring historical amnesia. Thus, this contemporary, modern memorial, according to her, will remind us of the multicultural history of Kaunas city, which is undeservedly forgotten: “Kaunas is considered to be the most culturally Lithuanian city, but we have to remember that a hundred years ago it was a multinational.”

The author of the work, G. Vos, has spoken about that her very original idea was a shape of the circle, but she didn’t want it to be closed, so the idea to create a spiral-like light circle was born. It will consist of a number of light bulbs of different lengths, arranged in one row. A dynamic light-emitting diode lane with a variable intensity will be located around one of the lime trees in Laisvės Avenue.

The integral entirety of the relic symbolizes the thousands of peoples life that was saved by             J. Zwartendijk, and each separate element of the installation –  his issued ” Kiurasao vizas “.

These are the documents that, with the help of another diplomat, the Japanese Consul in Kaunas Chiune Sugihara, was able to issue the transit visas for his country, protecting thousands of Jews from the Holocaust.

Faina Kukliansky, the Chairman of the Jewish community in Lithuania, presented, as an example, with preserving and fostering the history of the Jewish people: “Kaunas is a city where Jewish rescuers are respected. We say that the project lasted four years, but this is a small detail compared to the six million people killed during the war years. It did not interfere with any underwater issues that are found in other cities. Such signs, reminiscent of history, are of utmost importance.”

In developing of this project for the celebration of the World Peoples Righteous, his children, the son of Rob and the daughter of Edith born in Kaunas, expressed their support for such an initiative. They are expected to arrive at the opening of the memorial, which is scheduled to take place in June.

Information by the Public Relations Department