Almost two years have passed since The Litvak Landscape map was published in the Kaunastic series. Due to popular demand, the original English version was since translated to Lithuanian, Hebrew and Russian. A new route has stemmed from the map covering all of Kaunas – called The Litvaks of Slobodka, it’s also part of the Kaunastic series.
Slobodka is another name for Vilijampolė, a historical district in Kaunas. It officially became part of the city in 1919. The “Slobodka” version derives from a Slavic word “slabada” which meant a village free from serfdom. The first official mentioning of the neighbourhood was found in documents dating 1663 – “Sloboda Wiliampolska”. This is around the same time when the first Jews moved here, as it was forbidden for them to settle in the city. The neighbourhood experienced fast growth in the 19th century. Around 37 thousand Jews lived in Kaunas before the second world war. Only about 3000 of them survived.
Just as its predecessor, The Litvaks of Slobodka is a map mixing different chapters and layers of the history of Kaunas, that’s open for improvements and further investigations. The route was prepared together with Asia Gutermanaitė, a Kaunas-based Litvak cultural heritage scholar and guide.
A lot of the objects on the route are or were located in the territory of Kaunas Ghetto, which was established in Vilijampolė on August 15th, 1941, and turned into a concentration camp in Autumn 1943. It was burned in July 1944. It was one of the longest-running ghettos in Lithuania. It was also probably one of the most photographed one in Europe.
As the name suggests, the route also presents essential people that were either born in Slobodka or were imprisoned in the Kaunas Ghetto.
You can pick up a free copy of The Litvaks of Slobodka in the Kaunas IN Tourism Information Centre (Rotušės a. 15) and the numerous tourism information friendly spots around town, or download a PDF of the map. There’s a Lithuanian version, too.