Irena Veisaitė is a Lithuanian Jew and survived the Holocaust. She earned a doctorate in Leningrad in 1963 with a dissertation on the poetry of Heinrich Heine, and was a lecturer at the teacher's college in Vilnius from 1953 to 1997. She has also been head of the Thomas Mann Cultural Centre in Nida, Lithuania. She was awarded the Goethe Medal in 2012 for her contribution to the cultural exchange between Germany and Lithuania
A German scholar and theatre critic, she has been at the helm of the Open Society Fund for many years.