Domicele Pagojute

Lithuania

Domicele sittingDomicele sitting
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Domicele Pagojute had been the nanny of the Shohat family's children: Haim, born 1932 and Joshua, born 1933. Their mother, Reizl Shohat, was a widow and ran a little inn in the town of Telsiai (Telse or Telz), in the Siauliai District, Lithuania. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union, Domicele had already left the family's service and worked for an ophthalmologist whose office was in the same building as the Shohat's place. Domicele had a small room in the building, and it was there that she hid her former employer and other Jews.

When the Germans occupied Telsiai on 25 June 1941, Reizl and her sons fled from town. They were eventually rounded up with other Jews and put in a camp. They managed to escape two massacres, tried hiding with a Lituanian family, but in September 1941 they were caught again and brought back to Telsiai, where they were put in the ghetto. Domicele kept in touch with the Shoahts and tried to help them. She would ask her relatives in the countryside for food, which she then smuggled into the ghetto. Reizl, her sons and other relatives were sent to a farm to work. When the Jews were ordered to return to the ghetto, the farm owners Butvidas offered them to stay in hiding, and took them to the church so that they would obtain baptism papers.

 However, in January 1942 the Germans came searching for Jews and although Reizl and her sons were not found, Domicele advised them to split and offered to find new places of hiding for them. She put Haim with the Darbutas family, and Joshua with the Sasulys family and eventually moved him to her relatives. When it became dangerous she would move them to safer places and other families; in-between she would also hide them in her room in Telse. Reizl stayed for some time with the Butvidas family, and then was moved to other places. Sometimes she would be in the same hiding place as her sons, and then they were separated again. It was Domicele who kept in touch with them and made sure they were safe.

Domicele also helped other Jews. Rachel Taic Zinger testified that she owed her life to her.

In October 1944 the area was liberated by the Red Army. Domicele stayed with Reizl and her sons and they all lived together. Haim left for Israel in 1945. Reizl and Joshua intended to join him, but by the time they wanted to leave, it had become impossible. Reizl came to Israel in 1970 and Joshua in the mid-1980s. Domicele had been living with Reizl until she left Lithuania, and died two years later.

On 4 January 2006 Domicele Pagojute was recognized as Righteous Among the Nations. Other Lithuanians who participated in the rescue of Reizl Shohat and her sons were also awarded the title of Righteous.

 

This online story was made possible with the support of:

Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany

The Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany works to secure compensation and restitution for survivors of the Holocaust.

Since 1951, the Claims Conference - working in partnership with the State of Israel - has negotiated for and distributed payments from Germany, Austria, other governments, and certain industry; recovered unclaimed German Jewish property; and funded programs to assist the neediest Jewish victims of Nazism.