A Story from Kalvariya, Lithuania

Posted By Ann Rabinowitz

Today, I was given a link by Dr. Saul W. Issroff (member of the JewishGen Board of Governors) which was posted on the Psychology Today Blog, dated October 27, 2009. He often gives me such interesting pieces and I was happy to note that this one included information about Kalvariya, Lithuania.

The piece was written by Dr. Danielle Ofri, who is a physician and also the founder and editor-in-chief of the Bellevue Literary Review. The piece discussed four unique readings which were part of an evening sponsored by the Review at Bellevue Hospital in NY.

She wrote of the final reader of the evening:
“Itzhak Kronzon, a cardiologist from NYU, was the final reader of the evening. With his thick Israeli accent, he told the story of his father growing up in Kalvarija, Lithuania. Having graduated at the top of his class, his father applied for a professorship at Prince Vytautus the Great University. The selection committee informed him that he was the most qualified applicant for the job, but since the department already had one Jew, they could not accept another.

Furious, his father renounced his country--a land of civilized European life--and set off for the swamps of Palestine with his new bride. Eleven years later, in 1941, every member of his father's family, along with the rest of the 8000 Jews of Kalvarija, was murdered.

More than a half century later, while lecturing on cardiology in Europe, Kronzon was approach by a delegation of young Lithuanian physicians, inviting him to visit his ancestral homeland. At first he was terrified by the idea of traveling to Lithuania, recalling his aunts and uncles who perished, some of whom injected their own children with poison as the Nazis and peasants were breaking down the doors, others who were burned alive in their homes.

But eventually he and his brother made the trip. Their grandfather's house was still standing. Remnants of the Kalvarija synagogue could be identified. Prince Vytautus the Great University granted Kronzon an honorary degree, in memory of his father. In a moment infused with irony and sadness, Kronzon thanked the university for its racist policies--policies that saved the life of his father and was responsible for three generations of descendants who would otherwise never have existed.”
This was an amazing story and Dr. Kronzon could have enhanced it further by providing knowledge about his family that he had posted on GenForum which is part of Genealogy.com. This is one of the many places on the Internet where individual researchers can post about their families.

Dr. Kronzon stated the following about his family in his posting:
Before the war,there were at least 100 Kronzons in Kalvaria. My Grandfather Shmuel Kronzon, was a successful merchant of agricultural machinery. He had 3 sons and 3 daughters (5 of the 6 were MDs). My father, Zalman Kronzon immigrated to Palestine (now Israel) in 1934 together with his sister Rachel. Most of the others were killed with there families in the holocoust (by their neighbors, the Lituanians). By now there are at least 7 Kronzon families in Israel, and others in the US, England & South Africa. I have a fairly detailed six generations family tree of our branch of the Kronzons.
NOTE: This is a fascinating story, but other researchers can find additional information about Kalvariya on the JewishGen ShtetLinks site and on the Litvak SIG All-Lithuania Database.


  1. My great-grandparents came from Kalvarjia and I have written about the town in my book "National Geographic Jewish Heritage Travel" and elsewhere. Ten years ago, as part of a series of articles marking the 10th anniversary of the fall of communism, I wrote an account of my first visit to Kalvarija and a strange stroke of fate that enabled me to meet a man there who remembered the family. See http://www.jewishvilkaviskis.org/Kalvarija%20Ron%20pictures.html

    Ruth Ellen Gruber

  2. I am glad that people are commenting on the posting and the shtetl itself and discussing their visits there. These types of things help others to learn more about their heritage.

    In addition, Dr. Danielle Ofri has just sent me a link to the full piece that Dr. Kronzon published in the BLR:


    Hope you all read and enjoy it.


Comments are welcome. Please post responsibly.