A few words about why I’m in Lithuania in the first place. In 2013, I travelled to countries associated with my father’s genealogy, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania. For years I thought that my mother’s genealogy was all based in Germany. Long story short, I learned that her father, my grandfather, and several generations before him, while all ethnically German, had been born in Lithuania. Vidas had done some research and found records of Ernst and Patz presence in several towns and cities in Lithuania. For the sake of brevity, I have compressed several days of looking into a few paragraphs. Please understand that I speak absolutely no Lithuanian.
In Stakai, we looked for a Lutheran church or cemetery, with no luck. The town librarian met us in the Roman Catholic cemetery and Vidas asked her about the Germans. No Germans here, she said, but matter-of-factly pointed to a small stream and said, “That’s where the Germans took the Jews and killed them.” It was Holocaust Remembrance Day in Lithuania, commemorating the day of the annihilation of the Vilnius Ghetto in 1943. That day, there were pieces of black crepe on all the Lithuanian flags we passed. An old oak tree is near the site of the massacre of the Jewish residents of Stakai.
Vidas was in touch with the Lutheran pastor who served churches in Jurbarkas and Zvyriai. My grandfather had been born in Jurbarkas, which was Jurberg in Russian and Georgenburg in German, the same name as a city in East Prussia, hence my confusion. The Lutheran church in Jurbarkas is new, and at one time, the parish had two churches, the destroyed church in Jurbarkas and the church in Zvyriai. It is possible that my grandfather was baptized in the Zvyriai church, but nobody seems to know. Indeed, nobody seemed to know where in Jurbarkas the pre-1914 Lutheran church was located, certainly not the people at the information center. The name “Ernst” morphed into “Ernstas” or “Ernestas” in Lithuanian over time. We found some Ernestas graves in the Zvyriai cemetery.