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Finding Matilda: Uncovering the Life & Death of a Jewish Lithuanian Poet

January 27, 2021 @ 6:00 pm

International Holocaust Remembrance Day was designated by the UN General Assembly in 2005 as January 27, marking the date in 1945 when Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest Nazi concentration and death camp, was liberated. In commemoration of this date, the Vilna Shul and its partners will convene a panel to discuss the search for a little-known Holocaust victim, Matilda Olkin, and her extended family who were killed in an isolated location in northern Lithuania in the beginning of Holocaust in 1941.

The film, “Finding Matilda: The Anne Frank of Lithuania” by Kyle Conti, follows the search for the mass grave. Matilda Olkin was a wonderfully talented Jewish poet and a college student at the University of Vilnius. Like Anne Frank, she kept a diary that was discovered after her death. Matilda’s diary and poetry were hidden by a local priest under the main altar of his church and only recovered many years after the Holocaust. The poetry and diary, mainly written in Lithuanian, chronicle Matilda’s life just before her untimely murder at the hands of Nazi collaborators in her native Lithuania. Her poetry, in particular, has touched Lithuanians college students in an unanticipated way and a successful play was produced that highlighted her talent and the story of her death. The film traces the life and death of Matilda and her family through the lens of the scientists tasked to use testimonies and documents, historical photographs, and geoscience to find the isolated mass grave where they were placed after their brutal killing. The geoscience team is the same one working on the Great Synagogue and is another attempt to recover the lost histories of the Holocaust.


Join the science team, Dr. Richard Freund of Christopher Newport University, Dr. Phil Reeder of Duquesne University, and Dr. Harry Jol of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire to discover how and why they sought to reclaim Matilda’s story and discover her grave. The science team will be joined by Matthew Shaer, who wrote an extensive account of Matilda’s story for Smithsonian Magazine and Dr. Susan Cardillo, University of Hartford Director and Kyle Conti, Editor and Student Filmmaker.


The Words of a Young Jewish Poet Provoke Soul-Searching in Lithuania | SMITHSONIAN MAGAZINE | November 2018 


PRIOR TO JANUARY 27: Watch the Full Documentary

ON JANUARY 27: Join the Zoom Webinar discussing the film

The documentary will NOT be shown during the January 27 Zoom Webinar.


Register Now

  • Registration will provide you access to watch the Full Documentary AND attend the Zoom Webinar.
  • Under “Please Choose Tickets,” you MUST select the number of tickets.
  • NO donation is required.
  • You MUST fill out the Registration Information with your name, address, etc.
  • Upon completing registration, you will be sent access to the Full Documentary (20 minutes) and a second link to join the Zoom Webinar.

The Alabama Holocaust Education Center is a promotional partner for this event. All questions regarding the online program should be directed to the Vilna Shul. See those details below.


January 27, 2021
6:00 pm


ZOOM Online


The Vilna Shul
View Organizer Website