Jewish trove hidden in a church from Nazis, Soviets gives up its secrets

For decades, a confessional in a church in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius kept a precious secret: a trove of documents offering an unprecedented glimpse into Jewish life in Eastern Europe before and during the Holocaust. The cache, with documents dating back to the mid-18th century, includes religious texts, Yiddish literature and poetry, testimonies about pogroms as well as autobiographies and photographs. “The diversity of material is breathtaking,” David Fishman, professor of Jewish History at New York’s Jewish Theological Seminary, told AFP via telephone, describing the discovery as a “total surprise”. “It’s almost like you could reconstruct Jewish life before the Holocaust based on these materials because there is no aspect and no region and no period that is missing,” he added. The trove was discovered earlier this year during a cleanout of the church that was used as a book repository during Soviet times.