Schmerke Kaczerginski

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Schmerke Kaczerginski

Also Known As: "Shmerl"
Birthplace: Vilnius, Vilniaus miesto savivaldybė, Vilnius County, Lithuania
Death: 1954 (46)
Argentina (airplane crash)
Immediate Family:

Son of Vulf Kaczerginski
Husband of Barbara Kaczerginski and Szufan Kaczerginski
Brother of Jacob (Yankel) Kaczerginski

Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About Schmerke Kaczerginski

Schmerke was the organizer of Jung Vilne, a group of young Lithuanian intellectuals and artists working in Yiddish, who rose to cultural prominence in Vilnius during the 1930s (see YIVO biography).

During WW2, Shmerke fled to the Soviet Union but decided to return to Vilnius to offer help there. He was confined to the Vilna Ghetto in 1942 and 1943 by the Germans. He collaborated there with Hirsh Glik on music that galvanized and unified the Jewish resistance movement across Europe (hear Shmerke himself singing Shtiler, Shtiler ... "Quiet, Quiet"). (Also see this chapter about his friendship with Hirsh Glik from Kaczerginski's own memoir.)

Shmerke helped lead theatre productions in the ghetto to maintain morale. He also co-organized the so-called 'Paper Brigade', which worked to hide and save scholarly books and other treasures from their misappropriation and/or destruction at the hands of the Nazi's chief racial ideologist, who had come to Vilnius expressly to study these texts personally.

Shmerke married Barbara Kaufman in 1942. She had been sent to the Vilnius ghetto by the Nazis after being captured for her own partisan activities in Krakow, Poland. Barbara died in April, 1943. Shmerke wrote and performed a song (Friling) in her memory.

In the fall of 1943, Shmerke abandoned the Vilnius ghetto with other partisans. They engaged in sabotage and acts of guerilla warfare against the Nazis from the nearby forests. With other partisan groups, they entered Vilna just ahead of the Russian army, engaging in direct combat with retreating German soldiers.

After the war, Shmerke continued his work to save and restore Vilna's cultural inheritance. He spoke across Europe and Israel about his experiences and wrote several books about those years. This included what is today considered a classic text, "The Destruction of Jewish Vilna," available by loan from the Family History Library.

Shmerke married Szufan Meri of Lodz after the war and is believed to have started a family. They considered settling in New York, but decided instead on Buenos Aires, Argentina. During the early 1950s, Shmerke continued his artistic and political work, focusing mainly, but not exclusively, on South America. In 1954, he was killed in a tragic plane crash while returning from a speaking engagement in Argentina.

Shmerke's parents are believed to have died in WW1. The young boy and his brother were raised by his grandfather and may have also spent time in a Jewish orphanage. These early tragedies have resulted in our having scant recorded knowledge of his ancestors, parents, brother and other cousins or relatives. We hope that this account and the posting of his family tree will encourage those with knowledge about his family to come forward with confirming records.

See the recent documentary, Partisans of Vilna, for historic photos, video and interviews with Shmerke's fellow artists and fighters.

(The manager of this profile is not a family member, but is serving on behalf of living Kaczerginski descendants. Please direct correspondence to him, where it will be routed promptly to relevant family members.)

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Schmerke Kaczerginski's Timeline

Vilnius, Vilniaus miesto savivaldybė, Vilnius County, Lithuania
Age 46