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Akmenė (Akmian)

56° 15'/ 22° 45'

Akmene is a small northern Lithuanian town in the Mazeikiai region. Only 25 Jewish families lived there at the time of the German invasion in 1941.

The Germans had occupied the town on 26-27 June 1941 and had immediately organized the local Lithuanian activists, under the leadership of one Vatalis, who had already imprisoned all the Jews in the local jail.

On 5-6 July some Germans appeared at the jail. One of them requested that the prisoners be moved. Fifteen Lithuanians happily responded. After a short while, this German selected the brothers Yosef and Faroush Yosselevich, and one named Shmidt, the owner of a cloth and materials store, and shot and killed them. The remainder were kept as prisoners until the beginning of August, when they were transported to the granary at Mazeikiai, which was on the banks of the river Venta. The men were immediately separated and made to dig pits. The women and children were assembled with others from Mazeikiai and surrounding villages.

All were murdered with the Jews of Mazeikiai, on 9 August 1941. After the war, a large tombstone of black marble was erected at the mass graves.

Sources:

Witnesses:
Chana Reif, Yad Vashem 1555/1670
Tzvi Rosenbaum, Yad Vashem 1637/1799
Ita Palorer and Gita Bloch, Rehovot, Israel
Chana Tiger, Holon, Israel
Sarah Reitzki, Kfar Saba, Israel

Yerushalmi, Eliezer. The Destruction of Lithuanian Jewry. Yad Vashem, Part II

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume III: Part A - Personalities. Part B - Places. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, established by Abraham Dov Abrams and Former Lithuanians in Philadelphia and Israel, 1967. p. 285.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume IV: The Holocaust 1941-1945. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, 1984. p. 240.


Anykščiai (Anyks)

55° 32'/ 25° 06'

Part I

Anyksciai was one of the biggest towns in the region. It is situated in a valley of the river Sventoji surrounded by hills and forests. It is close to Utena (30 km), Panevezys (60 km), Troskunai (15 km), Kurkliai (8 km), Kavarskas (12 km), Viesintos (20 km), and Ukmerge (Vilkomir) (40 km). The town is located on the narrow gauge railway line between Utena and Panevezys, 10 km from the Warsaw-St. Petersburg (Leningrad) main road.

It was a beautiful area with clean fresh air that attracted many vacationers in the summer months. The Lithuanian poet Baranauskas made it famous with his poem ”The Anyksciai Forest.” Lake Rubik, with its 15 islands, was 9 km from the town. It is 7 km from the flat Puntukas boulder used as an altar by the ancient Lithunians of the Perkowus cult.

In the 17th century, Onykscoi was in the Vyzhuonis district of the Zimmet region.

There were 1556 Jews in the town in 1847, and 2756 in 1897, representing 69.7% of the total population.

During World War I the town was completely destroyed and rebuilt during Lithuanian Independence in the 1920s.

Every street was paved on both sides. World War I caused the Jews to flee eastwards into Russia, but after the war they returned to rebuild their homes with the aid of the Joint organisation and relatives in the USA. In 1921 there were 1800 Jewish residents (400 families), but the Jewish percentage of the total population had dropped to 45%.

Most of the Jews were traders of cotton and flax, and they also worked in local factories such as: textile mill (100 workers), shoe factory (150 workers), hosiery factory (40 female workers), agricultural equipment factory (20 workers).

There were also 166 craftsmen, 16 tailors and seamstresses, 46 shoemakers, nine butchers, 11 bakers, nine metal workers, one carpenter, four watchmakers, two jewellers and 90 others. Fifty Jews of Anyksciai were bargemen on the Sventoji and Nieman rivers leading to east Prussia. Their livelihood was threatened and they were expelled as traders by the gentile Lithuanians, supported by the government during independent Lithuania.

They received assistance from benevolent associations financed by the Jewish National Bank, founded in Kaunas in 1920. Jewish depositors of Anyksciai in this bank numbered 275 in 1932. Many Jews had emigrated to the USA and South Africa.

The town had six synagogues, including one for the Chasidim who had their own rabbi. Most of the synagogues were situated around one small square, the Shulhof. Included were the Old Shul, the Kloiz (prayer room) of the shoemakers, and a Talmud Torah. There was also the Synagogue of the Mountain (Der Berg Shul).

During independent Lithuania, there was a small yeshiva, some Hebrew schools (cheder), and three other schools. The Yavne school with 50 pupils was run by Mrs. Bier. The Tarbut school of 60 pupils was under the principal Y. Ben Yehud (Calveson). Among its teachers were Esther Berstein-Koritzsky, Leib Y. Caspi, B. Anyksciai and Baruch Vitchik. At the Yiddish school were 120 students, and 30 children at the Yiddish nursery school.

Two large libraries served the Jewish population, one for the general Zionists and one for the Yiddishists. They also had a drama society. The life of the townspeople was lively and active. In the days of czarist Russia, Anyksciai was one of the strongholds of the Judenbund of Lithuania.

Between the two world wars all Jewish and Zionist movements were active: WIZO, the Yiddish National Party, a branch of the communist party, and the youth movements Betar, Maccabi, Shomer HaTzair, plus various sports organizations.

Among the rabbis were: Rabbi Gershon, son of Rabbi Auly Isarus of Lublin who had been a community leader of the [Polish] Council of the Lands; Rabbi Gershon's son Rabbi Shlome, head of the Beit Din of Posvol; Rabbi Shlome's son, Gaon Rabbi I. Agulnik of Posvol (Pasvalys); Rabbi Arye Leib, son of Natan Neta and head of the Beit Din of Brody; Rabbi Abraham Lichtenstein; Rabbi Yaakov, son of Rabbi Abraham of Emden; Rabbi Eliahu of Ragula; Rabbi Moshe Eliahu, who approved the Vilna Talmud; Rabbi Moshe Yoel, son of Rabbi Meir Shalom Gurion, head of the Beit Din of Alyta and author of Rosh Beshamayim; Rabbi Shlome, son of Rabbi Yaakov Shloshberg and author of the books Or Yakov and Gan Hadasim (sermons); Rabbi Abraham Aharon Borstein; Rabbi Shmuel Avigdor Fetuelson; Rabbi Eliahu Bar Shur; Rabbi Abraham Mordechai Wesler; and the last rabbi, Rabbi Kalman Yitzak Kadeshewitz, author of the History of Isaac and known as the Tzaddik of Leitova, may his blood be avenged.

Respected and well known public figures were: Rav Israel, who studied the Torah and was a member of Ohavei Tzion (Lovers of Zion); Rav Elhanan Scheinsohn, who died in Eretz Yisrael; Rav Abraham Monash Hurwitz, a student from Volozhin; Rabbi Baruch Isaac Charney, Rosh Yeshiva; Pinchas Yavinson, chairman of the Community Council and a founder of the Jewish National Bank; and Zeev Fehler, another co-founder of the bank; Dr. Shumacher, a well known doctor in the area; and the well known merchant families Rapaport and Diamant.

Famous native born were: Rabbi Meir Kahane; Rabbi Epstein, research scholar; and author Wolf Shur.

Part II

Before the German invasion, the Jewish population stood at 2000. The first few days of the invasion passed relatively quietly despite the fact that the population had grown due to Jews who had fled from Dvinsk in Latvia. The local authorities at the beginning succeeded in reassuring the population, thus preventing panic.

That was until 24 June 1941, when the General Secretary of the Communist Party and the active police force left town, leaving the town without any local authority. However by 22 June there had already been the first Jewish victim. A young woman, daughter of Meir Rapaport, had been to an exhibition at the neighbouring town of Kurkliai. On the first day of the invasion, she set out to return home on her bicycle, and stopping at the farm of Listzias, an acquaintance of her family, for a drink of water. This farmer and his son forced her into the granary and there raped and murdered her, throwing her body in the Sventoji river that flowed through their farm. Some days later her body was discovered on the banks of the river and the son of Listzias was seen riding her bicycle.

The arrival of the Germans in town created great fear among the Jews and almost immediately the Lithuanians assisted them in a massacre of Jews from other areas who had sought refuge in Anyksciai.

After this, gangs of of Lithuanians broke into Jewish homes and plundered from everyone who lived nearby. Families with teenage daughters were especially vulnerable. The members of these families were murdered, their household goods and valuables stolen.

There were widespread arrests of the Jewish refugees from other places who were stranded in Anyksciai. They were imprisoned in the cells of the prison on Sakumian Street. Also imprisoned were many Jews of Anyksciai, especially the intelligentsia and those suspected of supporting the Soviet Regime. One of the prisoners, Beinish Stemler, a shoemaker, hung himself. The cruelty to the imprisoned Jews was reported by the Lithuanian witness Butanas. Amongst other information he said that as he tried unsuccessfully to evade the Germans, he was forced to return to Anyksciai. In early July he was arrested at the entrance to the town by ”white scratchers” [?], who imprisoned him. As they brought him there, two Jews were brought out: one of them was Zalman Watt, the other's name he could not remember. They were lined up, first the two Jews and he, Butanas, in the rear. Balis Kutzaiskas, an auxiliary policeman, declared that it was a pity to waste three bullets for the ”gift from God” of a Communist and two Jews; one bullet will be enough. He fired his rifle and Zalman Watt, the first in line, fell dead, but the bullet did not reach the second Jew or Butanas. When Kutzaiskas saw that they were still alive, he scorched [?] Butanas on the face and he fell. From where he lay, Butanas saw the policeman order the second Jew to sit on the body of Zalman Watt. As the Jew was bending to sit as instructed, Kutzaiskas hit him in the face with his rifle butt, which knocked out the victim's teeth.

After a short while the vast majority of the prisoners were moved to Utena where they met their fate. On the day after their imprisonment 13 of them were thrown out to the square in front of the old Beit Hamidrash and there murdered by gunfire and buried. Before they were executed, Mendel Rabinowitz, a shoemaker aged 50, managed to throw some heavy objects at the Germans and their Lithuanian helpers. The rifle fire cut off his shouts and curses. Among the murdered was Mordechai the Boilermaker (Motke der Tefer), one of the veterans of the volunteer fire brigade of the town. He shouted for help to his comrades and friends, the Lithuanian firemen who were among those shooting. His ”friends” ignored his cries. One of them, by whose hands their veteran comrade met his death, left the square. Among the other victims were the local doctor Noah Ginsburg and his dentist wife Freda, and the chemist Diamant and his wife. Dr. Ginsburg was well accepted by the Lithuanians of the area and he often charged no fees for his services. He cried out for mercy for himself and his wife to one of his patients whom he had treated out of charity, but this man shot the doctor behind his ear to hasten his death.

Two weeks after the invasion the remaining Jews were forced to abandon their homes and occupy the Beit Hamidrash and its courtyard (the Shulhof square). The people were squeezed together in overcrowded conditions, even the area outside was too narrow to accommodate everyone. The Jews began to search for places of shelter. Many left the town and sought refuge with farmer friends until the fury subsided. Very few succeeded; almost all of them had to return. One day three SS officers arrived to visit one of the last old Jews of the Beit Hamidrash. Reb Shuel Kalverson stood up to welcome them and said to them ”Guten Morgen” (Good morning). This insulted one of the officers, who aimed his pistol at this old Jew's head and shot him. One evening a gang of Lithuanians came, chose some beautiful young girls, and forced them out into the square. There they molested and raped them.

After a short while the Jews were taken completely out of the town to the nearby Bashiliaks Forest. They were not allowed to stay at the nearby holiday camp and were held outdoors for a number of weeks in the rain and chill of the nights. Many got sick and some died.

From there the adult males and also the young women were taken out each day on forced labor. Farmers under special licences were also allowed to order Jewish workers for their farms. This farm work saved a number of Jews who managed to get out into the villages. Two brothers, Feitel and Isiah Leib Feldman, together with all the members of their households, moved over to an acquaintance, Sakrauonas, owner of an underwear factory in a village close to Anyksciai. After a number of days Sakrauonas told them that the commandant had insisted that he personally return them to the town. On the way back as they passed through a forest close to the road, Sakrauonas opened fire on them, killing all, and kept all their belongings.

At the end of July the authorities returned all the Jews working for farmers to the town. They also gathered all the Jews from the surrounding villages. On 28 July the Lithuanians under the scrutiny of the Germans separated the males and marched them group after group in the direction of Sakmnian. They were told that they were being taken to a work camp and shortly their families would join them. In actual fact they brought the Jews to a sand hill called ”Rabbit Hills” (Haaznanberg), a few kilometres out of Anyksciai. There they were tied together to await their fate.

Upon arrival a number of males, the strongest amongst them, were given hoes and forced to dig a large pit. The rest were made to participate in various physical exercises, obviously to weaken them, which made it easier for their guards to mistreat and humiliate them. Amongst those made to do the exercises was the rabbi of the town, Rabbi Kalman Yitzhak Kadeshewitz, famous author and known as the Tzadik of Leitova. With talis and tefillin he was taken out among the first, and remained holy and pure until the last moments. Lithuanians from the area who observed the spectacle related their shock and amazement. On the same day, the Jews were put to death on the banks of the pit and were thrown inside. Here the lightly wounded and even those not hit at all were thrown in and buried alive.

A few weeks later the women and children were brought to the same spot and murdered on the banks of the pit. A woman, Sarah Schneider, daughter of Hesel Kab, stood with her two small children and cursed the Lithuanian for the brutal murders. The Lithuanians immediately shot her and threw her and her children into the pit.

According to the book The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II, this occurred on 29 August 1941.

These pits were not covered with proper earth, and after some time the winds and rains washed away the thin sand covering. The mass graves and the bodies of the victims were revealed.

Those active in carrying out the massacres at Anyksciai at the Synagogue Square were: Jonikas, son of the farmer Aizdonas, the adopted son of the operator of the Jewish Public Baths, Mishkinos, the son of the midwife Baltreilas, Beinorios, etc. All of them were local residents. To assist them there was also a group of Lithuanian activists who had come from Siauliai and who on their return to Siauliai boasted in front of other Lithuanians that they had returned from their mission of massacre at Anyksciai and that they were also very busy in the manufacture of Jewish wine. Anyksciai was well known in Lithuania for the manufacture of wine made from various fruits.

The lists of mass graves in the book The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II, give the following wording on the monument for the mass graves of Anyksciai:

Place - at the foot of the Tel (archaelogical dig) Liaudishkim, one kilometre from Anyksciai, 300 metres to the right of the road from Anyksciai to Sakaimian. Date - 29 August 1941. Number who perished - about 1500.

Sources:

Yerushalmi, Eliezer. The Shauli Notebook. Jerusalem: Bialik Institute, 1958. p. 369/29.

The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II. Vilnius, 1973.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume III: Part A - Personalities. Part B - Places. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, established by Abraham Dov Abrams and Former Lithuanians in Philadelphia and Israel, 1967. pp. 289-290.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume IV: The Holocaust 1941-1945. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, 1984. pp. 347-348.


Dusetos (Dusiat)

55° 45'/ 25° 51'

See also There Was a Shtetl in Lithuania; Dusiat Reflected in Reminiscences

Dusetos borders the Seventoji River and the Sarta, Swantusia and Dusetos Lakes, from which it derives its name. The town is surrounded by scenic forests. The nearest other towns are: Antewepte (10 km), Salakas (26 km), Zarasai (Eseranai) (36 km., Utena (36 km) and Rokiskis (38 km). Dusetos was situated a considerable distance from the railway line, and its communication with neighboring towns was by gravel roads.

There were three streets of wooden homes, and at the end of one of the streets was the Catholic Church. From the church tower the layout of the town could be seen.

Its known history dates back to 1530. Even at that stage it had been settled by free tradesmen and merchants as well as by a settlement of Jews. The lands in the town were owned by the Church. The town was famous in its time for its revolt against the Russian Regime.

On 23 April 1905 violent riots broke out, as in Czarist Russia. Jewish shops and property were destroyed, as well as Torah Scrolls. A group of Jews took refuge in one of the homef, and from there defended themselves by throwing rocks at the demonstrators. One Jew, Itzhak Broz, was viciously murdered, and three others seriously injured in the same year. In 1910 a large fire broke out in the town, destroying half the Jewish homes and shops, as well as the old synagogue.

The Jewish population was 486 in 1847. In 1894 it was 1158 (89%). After the 1910 fire, many Jews left out of fear, and in 1912 there were only 704 Jews left (about 250 families), 70% of the population.

The Jewish merchants ran 30 shops. A number of Jews farmed on hired land, and the rest were either merchants, barrow-owners or tradesmen. The merchants conducted their business mainly with the town of Daugavpils (Latvia), on the same road to Zarasai. Wednesday was market day, and two fairs were held annually.

During World War I the Jews of Dusetos did not run away, although many of them did move to larger settlements. After World War I, by 1921, there were only 100 families left; and just before the Holocaust there remained only 80 families. The Jews had left the town after WW I because their trade with the town of Daugavpils was obstructed by the new borders.

Then began the anti-Semitic movement of verslininki (Lithuanian businessmen) against the “foreign” merchants and tradesmen. The Jews who remained earned their living as foreign merchants and tradesmen in the workshops. At this time there were 32 tradesmen (eight of them tailors), five butchers, five shoemakers, four metalworkers, two coppersmiths, and others. There were also a few farmers. There were two flour mills and an electric power station, all three of which were owned by Jews. A branch of the Jewish National Bank was opened in November, 1924. Due to the bad economic situation, many Jews emigrated to South Africa and the USA, and a few to Palestine.

Before World War I, there were five or six Hebrew Schools and one shul which had been restored. In independent Lithuania there was one elementary cultural school which had 65 pupils in attendance. The Principal was Hillel Schwartz, and its teachers were Yehuda Salnat and Leib Gordon. The school also conducted evening Hebrew classes, a drama club, and had a library. The HaShomer HaTzair Zionist Movement had 80 members. There was also a class of Torah studies and a charitable society called the Linas HaTzedek and Gemilus Hesed.

Among its Rabbis were: Rav Menahem Mendel, a native of Lublin, who taught and read Torah in the Midrash for the communities of Zaamit, Panevezys and Dusetos; Rav Natsan Neta and his son Rav Bonim Tzemah Silver, a native of Dusetos; and finally Rabbi Tuvia Dov Schlezinger, may his blood be avenged.

Some of the town's founders included the writer and poet, Mordechai Joffe, and Dov Griner, who was the conductor of the Choral Choir at the Kaunas (Kovno) Synagogue.

Before World War II began, there were only 80 Jewish families in the town of Dusetos. When the German army approached the town, a number of families succeeded in fleeing to Russia—those who had some sort of transport. The large majority of those who tried to flee on foot had to return as the Germans had already closed in, but before the Germans had even entered the town, the Lithuanian thugs had already gone wild, creating great fear among the Jewish population.

In the first days the Jews were ejected from their homes and were forced into a Ghetto which consisted of a few small homes belonging to some Jewish families, as well as the dairy sheds and adjoining storerooms behind the bridge. The prospects looked bad as the responsibilities of guarding the Ghetto were put in the hands of the Lithuanians, and each of the guards endeavoured to be more cruel than his comrades. The homes of the Jews and all their belongings were appropriated by the Lithuanians of Dusetos and the surrounding villages.

Up until 26 August 1941, Jewish men were forced to do the hard menial work both in the town and in the surrounding fields belonging to local farmers. On that day these men were taken on a forced march, together with the old and feeble, including smaller children in wagons, to the Daugutzai Forest, adjoining the village of Sauvitzianai. There they were murdered together with the Jews of Zarasai (Eseranai) and surrounding villages and towns. One woman and two of her children miraculously managed to escape. The previous night she had overheard the Lithuanian guards conversing and saying that the next day, they would slaughter all the Jews. She grabbed her two children and escaped, travelling through forests and fields until they reached Kaunas (Kovno). There they succeeded in slipping into the Kovno Ghetto, but in vain, as there, she and her children perished in the “Great Action” in the Kovno Ghetto.

Sources:

Witness Saulias Rabinowitz (Holon).

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume III: Part A - Personalities. Part B - Places. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, established by Abraham Dov Abrams and Former Lithuanians in Philadelphia and Israel, 1967. p. 298.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume IV: The Holocaust 1941-1945. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, 1984. p. 261.


Inturkė (Anturke)

55° 10'/ 25° 33'

Part I

Inturke is on the road from Moletai to Vilnius and is surrounded by lakes on all sides. It was 12 kilometers from Moletai, 11 kilometers from Joniskis and 13 kilometers from Dubingiai.

Prior to World War I, there were 62 Jewish families (250 persons) in the village, and before the Holocaust there were only 40 families there including the adjoining village, Raitarada. The others had emigrated to South Africa and the USA, with a few to Palestine.

In 1919 there was a great fire in the village, and almost all the Jewish homes were destroyed. The population was reduced further during Independent Lithuania when Vilnius was ceded to Poland. The Jews worked as fishermen and petty merchants and thus made their presence known at three annual market fairs.

There was a Beit HaMidrash, and before World War I a small yeshiva. During Lithuanian independence, there was also a small national library, but there was no school or cheder. Children of Inturke attended schools at Moletai, Kaunas, and Ukmerge (Vilkomir).

Until 1923 their rabbi was Rav Zalman-Tuvia Markowitz. After he left for Anteliepte, no new rabbi was appointed; and regarding all matters of religion the Jewish community of Inturke was served by Rav Beilitsky of Moletai.

On the eastern side of one of the lakes, about one kilometre away, was the previously mentioned village of Raitarada, considered a suburb of Inturke, with a Jewish community of 20 families.

A post office was opened in 1926, and there was also a government church school in Inturke.

Part II

No signs of common graves or other signs of massacres were found at Inturke and Raitarada after the war, and it is assumed that the population met their fate at the regional capital of Utena, where all Jews of the region were brought by force. The probable period of the deaths was August 1941.

Sources:

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume III: Part A - Personalities. Part B - Places. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, established by Abraham Dov Abrams and Former Lithuanians in Philadelphia and Israel, 1967. p. 289.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume IV: The Holocaust 1941-1945. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, 1984. p. 244.


Joniškėlis (Yaneshkel)

56° 02'/ 24° 10'

See also Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Lithuania

Joniskelis is a small village of the Birzai region, 10 km west of Pasvalys. In 1941 there were some 70 Jewish families there.

When the Germans arrived, the Lithuanian activists headed by a previous Colonel of the Lithuanian Army, Yurgaitis, immediately organized and started to oppress the Jews. The Lithuanians saw their opportunity to get rid of the Jewish population to settle various personal grudges and accounts. Thus in the middle of the street, they shot and murdered Yochanan Forman and David Shapiro, who were the first victims of Joniskelis.

Then began the cruel abuse and ruthless maltreatment. They forced the Jews into various public labors, tormenting and mercilessly beating them as well as stealing their property and belongings. This carried on for a number of weeks and in the end the Jews were taken to Pasvalys where the fate was that of the Jews of Pasvalys.

Sources:

Witness: Hirsch Forman, Tel-Aviv.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume III: Part A - Personalities. Part B - Places. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, established by Abraham Dov Abrams and Former Lithuanians in Philadelphia and Israel, 1967. p. 298.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume IV: The Holocaust 1941-1945. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, 1984. p. 294.


Kėidaniai (Keidan)

55° 17'/ 23° 58'

See also Lithuanian Jewry

Keidainiai was the regional capital of central Lithuania. In 1941 the Jewish population was 3,000. Also in the town was a small group of HaShomer Hatzair refugees from Poland.

When the Germans invaded, there was a group of Lithuanian nationalists who called themselves “partisans”. They were headed by the bank clerk Konigis, Joasis Makiavitzios, two sons of a former mayor who attitude was aggressive towards the Jews, the three Soltzias brothers (Vatzis, Joasis and Stiafas), and Vatzlavas Latzionskas.

When the Jews recognized this hostile attitude, some of them were greatly confused, and some of the young people sought hiding places while others attempted to flee with the Soviets. Many were fired on and murdered by the Lithuanians while they were trying to flee. Very few managed to reach the Soviet lines. One gifted student, Nisim Saltzberg, saw that his escape route was blocked and hung himself in the village of Seta.

The Germans entered the town and immediately issued orders regarding Jews:

  1. They must wear yellow stars.
  2. They were forbidden to walk on the pavements.
  3. They were forbidden to fraternize with Lithuanians.

Lithuanian activists rounded up 100 Jews who they claimed were Communists, plus a few score of Lithuanian Communists. They were marched through the town in their underwear and taken to the Haburi Forest two kilometers from the town, where they were murdered by gunfire.

The rampaging against the Jews started in the first days that the Lithuanian activities took control of the town. For example, they caught the cinema owner, M. Berger, and beat him to death. Reuben Chesler ran to reach his parents who were in the yard of the Shulhof synagogue where the shohet ritually slaughtered chickens. There a Lithuanian stopped him and shot him to death on the spot. After a number of days, the Jews were rounded up to do forced labor. Most of them were employed at the airport working on the removal of shells left by the Soviets. Their guards were from the newly reorganized Lithuanian police, especially when a number of shells accidentally exploded killing ten Jews. Other Jews were taken to the nearby large government experimental farms, e.g. Palodnigi, which in the early 1910s was the first pioneer hachshara (training) farm in Lithuania, Podbarg, Zairginiai, etc. Young Jewish girls were escorted to work at the German officer clubs and were raped. The nightly entertainment was carried on without cease. The town lived in fear in the following days.

On 23 July the Lithuanians together with some Germans loaded 200 Jews onto six transport vehicles, supposedly to do forced labor. They never returned. Their worried families petitioned the Lithuanians about their fate without any results. They paid a Lithuanian individual a large sum of money to investigate what had happened. He informed them that on that same date they were taken to the Babenai Forest and shot. At first these families refused to believe it and lived in the hope that their dear ones would still return. Day after day passed until eventually they realized that it was true.

Some time after this episode, Mayor Povilios called upon the important heads of the Jewish community: Zadok Schlapobersky, Chaim Ronder, Chaim Blumberg, Avraham Kagan, Israelov, Shalom Chait and others. Povilios ordered them to advise the remaining Jews of Kedainiai to vacate their homes and congregate in Smilgia Street, which had been fenced off with barbed wire through to the Shulhof synagogue and the surrounding lanes to the long street Gaidiminiu. This now formed the ghetto of Kedainiai. On the same day that the ghetto was established, the Lithuanians transported about 1,000 Jews from the villages of Seta and Zeimiai which now included others who had fled their homes and assembled there in the first days of the war. Conditions were terribly overcrowded. This also affected the food supplies held in the ghetto.

Mayor Povilios imposed a fine on the Jewish community of 10 rubles per person, including children, and threatened to eliminate the community if the fine was not paid. The Jews collected money and jewelry from all those who still had some and hoped that this ransom would improve their situation. Their conditions did not improve in spite of the fact that the 3,700 Jews had paid 370,000 rubles. These fines were not enough. The Jews were forced to give their last ruble.

Some of the young people, realizing they were in the hands of the devil, approached the community leaders to get permission to escape from the town, or at least to concentrate in one area of the ghetto. Their request was refused on the grounds that it would endanger the entire community. The leaders still believed that the only intention of the Germans was to use the Jews as a labor force.

On 15 August of that summer, the illusions and hopes of the Jews of Kedainiai were shattered. On that day the Lithuanian police with the help of the activists and a few Germans forcefully gathered all the Jews into the Shulhof Synagogue and yard. They lined up all the men above age 14 in fours and took them through the garden to the riding stables of the convert Totlavian at Zirginas. The women, children, sick, elderly, and new mothers with their babies were put on wagons. The Lithuanian intelligentsia came to view the spectacle. It was like a circus performance at Zirginas.

Lithuanian guards kept close watch over them for 13 days. The conditions were terrible and crowded. They only food given to the Jews was coffee. At this stage the Lithuanians came and took the few remaining personal items which the Jews still possessed.

When the Lithuanians started to move the Jews from their homes to the Shulhof, Benzel Berger urged some young people to escape through the Smilga stream. When he found no one supporting this plan, he fled on his own. For days he hid under bushes. While hiding he watched the massacre and afterwards he fled to farmers he knew and hid there.

On 28 August 1941 railway clerks and police armed with rifles and hand grenades appeared at Zirginas. They separated all the young people and the strong men, moved them in groups of 60 behind the Catholic cemetery on the road to Datnuva and not too far from the Smilga stream, above which was a Jewish cemetery on a hill. There was a long pit, wide and deep, that had been dug over the previous five days by Soviet prisoners of war. The Jews were forced to remove their clothes and enter the pit. The Lithuanians immediately opened fire with automatic weapons. To muffle the screams of the victims that echoed through the forest, the Lithuanians revved the engines of their tractors. Many Jews fell into the pit wounded, and some fell unharmed. The Lithuanians came closer and in orchestrated firing, shot at the victims. Among the Lithuanians were Silaiva, the high school principal, and Mayor Povilios. A young Catholic priest never left the scene of this massacre.

In the first group was the son of Rabbi Aharon Gallin, son-in-law of the famous Keidaner, Reb Shlomo Feinzilber, chairman of the Lithuanian Rabbinical Council. As he called out, “If the nation of Israel is dependent on trials of this nature, our blood will not be spilled in vain,” the Lithuanians opened fire on them. Immediately afterwards the second group was brought to the pit. Among them was Zadok Schlapobersky, a man in his 40s who had been an officer in the Lithuanian army and had participated in the battles for Lithuanian independence after World War I. For many years he had been a member of the municipal council and was friendly with the Lithuanians. In facing his execution he attacked his murderers, among them a German officer. It is said that when the German commandant did not allow him to speak a few words after another Jew had refused to undress, while a Lithuanian activist was trying to force this Jew to undress, Schlapobersky, standing next to this Jew, pulled the Lithuanian activist into the pit, grabbed his revolver, and fired at the German commandant. He missed and as the German jumped into the pit, he released the Lithuanian and smashed the revolver into the German's head. Other Lithuanians then jumped into the pit and pulled out the German and then fell upon Schlapobersky, bayoneting and stabbing him, proclaiming loudly that because of his audacity in wanting to make a speech they were happy to eliminate the last vestige of Jewish rule. This was told by the witness Vladas Silvustraivitzios.

Because of this act, the cruel murderers started bringing smaller groups to the pit. In one of the smaller groups was the metalworker, Baruch Meir Chesler, owner of a shop selling radios, bicycles and metal products. As he was brought to the pit, he grabbed a machine gun from a Lithuanian, but unfortunately did not know how to operate it. He was immediately shot, but in the confusion two young men started to run toward the river. Sadly they were gunned down.

After all the men had been murdered, the women and older children were brought in groups of forty. The cruelty of the tormentors increased. Rachel Shisiansky, wife of the late miller, begged the murderers to shoot her first and then her children. In reply they grabbed her children from her arms and shot them in front of her eyes; then they killed her. The next group of women, who were sickly, was pushed into the pit alive. The Lithuanians used the children as balls, passing them from one to the other and then threw them into the pit to be buried alive. The ground heaved afterwards with pools of blood. The murderers used a steamroller to subdue the movements of the bloodied Jews of Kedainiai. The first visitors after the liberation of Lithuania from the Nazis made sure that the mass grave remained higher than the surrounding ground.

Murder of the Jews continued until the evening. The butcher, Hirsch Libiotkin, at the end of this bitter period was still at Ziginas and hung himself. Of all the Jews held at the Ziginas stables only two survived: Chaim Ronder, born in 1903 in Kedainiai, and Shmuel Smulasky, a refugee from Poland born in Poznan. Ronder and Smulasky advised some of the young people to escape, but it was too late. The two hid behind some timber stacked at the Zirginas stables. After the massacre, the clothing of the victims was brought to Zirginas and placed under guard. The better quality belongings were shared by the murderers, and the remainder was sold in special places to the Lithuanian population, at the same price to everyone.

What happened on the day of the massacre had been stated by eyewitnesses and recorded in the book The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II.

On 7 October 1957 Chaim Ronder gave evidence and in addition told that:

…on the 15-16th August all the males above the age of 13 were told that they were being taken to work camps. They brought us to the stables of the convert Totlavian and locked us in the barn which was only a few meters long. There we were held for 13 days. All the time we were transported to various labour projects.

….on the 26th August the German commandant came to use to tell us that it was imperative to hand in every personal item of value. The student Kagan did not hand in his watch; he hid it underneath some timber. The Lithuanians collected all the items of value. Kagan went to the place where he had hidden his watch. Suddenly he screamed because where he had the watch, a man had hung himself.

…As I approached I saw that it was Jew. At this place I discovered the pile of timber.

….On 28th August when they started to take the groups of Jews for execution, I and Shmuel Smulansky had hid underneath the time and afterwards we escaped, hid in the forests and in 1943 joined the Partisans…

On this massacre he and Vladas Silvustraivitzios gave their evidence:

….While I was in the yard of the barracks I heard that the Jews had been fired upon. On my truck they loaded 10 small barrels of lime, 10 barrels of vodka and some barrels of beer. After we moved about 1 kilometer there was a large pit covered with branches and roots. About 200-300 meters to the left side of the road that from afar it was not possible to see the pit was 100 meters long, 4 meters wide and a bout 1 meter deep. When we arrived, I was told to line up on the side of the pit. Along the pit Russian prisoners of war were milling around, plus many armed persons. The prisoners unloaded the barrels and cases next to the pit. I was told to drive back to the riding stables. It was about midday. I noticed that the males were being held on the threshing floor and the females in the barn. There were many armed persons guarding them plus a number of Germans. Also the German commandant and the Chief of Police, Kurkutis. The commandant standing next to the Jews on the threshing floor told them that they were being transported to work at Datnuva and that the older people who had difficulty in walking would go first. I was told to go to the gate of the threshing floor. As I got there, I opened and dropped the left side of the truck.

….Next to the truck was a bench and the old were told to climb up onto the back of the truck. If anyone had trouble in climbing up they would be helped by other Jews. When I arrived I saw that everyone was sitting on the floor of the truck and I was told to drive to the pits. Afterwards, when I got to the pits, the side of the truck was opened and the Russian POWs were told to throw the old people into the pit. They threw them in like sacks. There was a chorus of screams. The same treatment was given to the people on the second truck. When we drove off, they were fired upon. Thus we made four return trips. When we had finished with the old people, they brought out many males from the threshing room and made them stand in rows of fours with the hands clasped behind them. They were surrounded by many armed men, amongst them a number of Germans and moved by foot. I and another driver drove behind them empty -- why I did not know!!

….When they brought the males between the channel and the pits, and they were told to undress, there following a great disturbance and I saw that one Jew had refusred to undress. A civilian armed with a revolver approached him, grabbed him by the coat and tried to force him to undress. Next to him stood a Jew already undressed who grabbed the armed civilian and pushed him into the pit (I later learnt that the civilian was Tziyozas) in a spot where many males had been thrown. The Jew took the revolver from Tziyozas and fired at the German commandant who was standing at the edge of the Pit. He missed and the German jumped into the pit. The Jew then let go of Tziyozas and hit the German in the head with the revolver. The technician, Yankunas, had also jumped in after the commandant. First they took the commandant out of the pit, then Yankunas and finally Tziyozas. After some time, I discussed the event with Yankunas who boasted that he had stabbed the Jew to death, did not see Tziyozas but heard afterwards that he had been taken to hospital. It seems he died because of a slit throat.

…At the edge of the pits I also saw Gillis the manager of the Kedainiai power station firing in to the people in the pits, using an automatic weapon. When the first group was brought there three Jews attempted to escape over the Smilga stream, but were shot at and killed. When they stopped to fire on this group, we again drove back to the riding stable.

….When they finished with the males, they brought the females and older children on foot, but for some reason, we had to drive behind them. The females were fired upon in the same fashion, but only the first group was made to undress. From fear and panic some woman had torn out their hair. The firing went on until sunset, including the children. The Russian prisoners then spread lime over the bodies. After this the Chief of Police Kurkutis gave me permission to return to my home.

The lists of mass graves in the book The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II, include the following:

Place - Babeniai forest, eight km from Kedainiai, 300 meters from the main road from Kedainiai to Surviliskas. Date – 23 July, 1941. Number who perished - 125 men and women.

Place - Two km from Kedainiai on the left bank of the Smilga stream, bordering the airport. Date – 28 August, 1941. Number who perished - 2076 men, women and children.

Sources:

Witnesses:
David Wolpe, archivist, Yad Vashem 1564/1415
Berel Cohen, in the book A Jew in the Forest, New York, 1955
Baruch Zvi, archivist, Yad Vashem 1700/1569

The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II. Vilnius, 1973.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume III: Part A - Personalities. Part B - Places. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, established by Abraham Dov Abrams and Former Lithuanians in Philadelphia and Israel, 1967. p. 345.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume IV: The Holocaust 1941-1945. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, 1984. p. 345.


Kretinga

55° 53'/ 21° 15'

Kretinga is situated in western Lithuania on the previous East Prussian border. In 1941 there were 1,000 residents, among them some families that were refugees from Memel. Kretinga fell into the 25 kilometer belt of territory subject to Commander Stalaker's orders that all Jews had to be exterminated.

The Germans had entered the town on the first day of the invasion without any opposition. With them came a group of security police from Memel and Tilsit. Among them was a Lithuanian, Franas Lukis-Yaniks, who had already served the police in independent Lithuania. Upon the occupation of the Baltic States by the Russians in 1940 he had fled to Germany. He returned with the first Germans and was made Secret Police Commander of the Kretinga region. Under his command were the Lithuanian activists, headed by the monk Petras Yanrushaitas, a brother of the local minister. On the first day of his rule he ordered all the adult men of the town to assemble at the market square. The Jewish men were herded into a special designated corner. The gentiles were not harmed, but the Jews were immediately subjected to cruel humiliation, torture and murder. They were forced to kneel on their knees and run around the square in this position. The Germans and wild Lithuanians beat them mercilessly with belts, clubs and whatever other weapons they could find. This cruel humiliation went on into the afternoon, and at twilight the Jews were forced into the synagogue.

On 26 June, 180 Jewish men were taken into a fenced plot on the ruins of the Provoslavit Church, which had been hit and destroyed in the first days of the war. At the same time the Germans, led by the Lithuanians, began a search of Jewish homes, and rounded up another 30 Jewish men who had defied the assembly order, forcing them to join the others in the square.

At 5 p.m. all the Jewish males were transported out of the town not far from the farm of Prishmenti, which was on the road to Polaknow. There the Soviets had prepared anti-tank ditches. The Jews were forced to build embankments alongside of these ditches. According to the plans of the Germans, the victims would stand on the embankments, aware they were to be shot, and fall into the ditches. The evening was approaching and the embankments were far from ready.

The murderers fell upon the Jews with shouts, blows and kicks, to make them work faster. The screams of the victims were heard from a great distance. When the embankments were completed, the Jews were taken in groups of ten to the top of the embankments with their backs to the pits, facing the firing squads.

The Gestapo chief then read out each group's sentence: ”You are to be executed on the orders of the Fuhrer, as you have harmed the German army.” The firing squads consisted of 20 German soldiers and Lithuanian policemen. Those who did not die in the first volleys were then finished off individually by members of the Gestapo. If any bodies did not fall into the pits, the following group of victims was forced to clean the embankments by throwing the bodies into the pits. On this day more than 200 Jews were murdered.

The following should be noted:

  1. FIfty Lithuanian gentiles were accused of being Communists and arrested. The Germans considered the number too high and brought them before an investigating board. After a short while, they were released. The remaining twenty met the same fate as the Jews.
  2. Among the Jewish victims were fathers and sons. In one group a boy of 12 was in line after his father. The father was counted the tenth of his group. The son begged the Germans to let him die with his father. The Gestapo officer agreed and removed another Jew from this group and allowed the boy to take his place.
  3. Among the Jews was a former German officer of World War I, who displayed the Iron Cross First Class on his chest. He was removed from the line and taken to Memel. His fate is not known.

On the same day the women and children were transported from the synagogue to the stables of the Prishmenti Farm. During the night of 26-27 July a fire broke out in the synagogue, and it quickly spread to the surrounding houses. The Jews were accused of this arson, and on 28 June 1941, 63 men were taken from the Prishmenti Farm and executed. Within a few days another 15 men met the same fate.

During this entire time, the local prison was filled to capacity with Jewish men of Kretinga and the surrounding villages. The Lithuanian guards took great pleasure in humiliating them. In the board of inquiry after the German retreat a witness, Antanas Betzanicius, reported that he saw 80 Jews being taken out of the cells to the banks of the river, forced to crawl from the height of the bank down to the river. Those who did not crawl fast enough were severely beaten with clubs. Later the armed guards forced them into the river to swim from bank to bank. Those who did not succeed were shot in the river. Afterwards the survivors were returned to the cells.

Between 11-18 July, 120 men were shot at the Jewish cemetery. There were attempts to escape, but those caught were forced into the pit to straighten out the bodies, and were shot last. In the middle of August, 20 women and children, members of families of 15 men already murdered, were executed.

Until this point the murderers were Germans who had come from Memel and Tilsit. The Lithuanians did guard duty and were allowed to humiliate and torture the victims. The executions had been carried out by the German squads in an organised manner.

At the beginning of August a meeting was held at the headquarters of the Lithuanian military governor of the region. Sedviatas, the Mayor of Kretinga, Piktucius, the Secret Police Commander, Lukis-Jankis, Police Commander Patriusikas, commander of the activists of the region, and a number of Gestapo officers, attended.
Various problems of the region were discussed, among them the economics of the Jewish population. The Germans recommended that the Lithuanians exterminate the Jewish women and children as they were not worth feeding, nor were they of value as labourers. They also recommended that the Lithuanians carry out the executions.

The Lithuanians hesitated, declaring that they had no orders to do so from Kaunas (Kovno). They delayed the decision until the next day. In the meanwhile the Chief of Police in Kaunas telephoned and told them that no decision had been made to carry out the murder of women and children. They left that to the local commanders. The Lithuanian leaders of Kretinga accepted their advice and prepared to carry out the execution of the women and children at the beginning of September.

A group of 120 women and children were thus murdered as planned with extreme cruelty. Those women and children and a small number of old persons were still being held at the Prishmenti stables. They were always told that the heads of their families had been taken to a separate labour camp. The women had always requested to join their husbands. In the beginning of September they were told that their request would be granted.

All the women, children and old persons were assembled and taken to a nearby threshing hall and told that they would undergo a medical examination. Each in turn was asked to disrobe and step outside. There the Lithuanian military policemen waited, drunk and intent on murder. As each person came out, the policemen fell upon them with branches, iron bars, bayonets and knives, beating and stabbing them. Throughout, the Gestapo stood watching and photographed this event. After this individual attention and taking of the photographs, the rest of the Jews were murdered by shooting.

The lists of mass graves in The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II, include the following:

Place: Jewish cemetery. Date - August 1941. Number who perished - 356.

Place: Kweitziar Wood, to the right of the road from Kretinga to Polangen. Date - June – July 1941. Number who perished - 700 men and women.

The leaders involved in the murders were Franas Lukas-Jankis, Shilgas and Barazsinkas.

Sources:

Witness: Shraga Alswang
Reports of the World Court
Proof of the Guilty
Results of the research of the Academy of Sciences of Soviet Lithuania.

The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II. Vilnius, 1973.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume III: Part A - Personalities. Part B - Places. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, established by Abraham Dov Abrams and Former Lithuanians in Philadelphia and Israel, 1967. p. 356.

Lithuanian Jewry, Volume IV: The Holocaust 1941-1945. Tel Aviv: Association of Former Lithuanians in Israel, 1984. p. 353.

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