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[Pages 65-71]

Chapter 2

Among the Gentiles …

[Pages 65-67]

Echoes from the Pogrom

Translated by Judy Grossman

Slovka Segal and Naftali Sarver

In the background – the church and the houses of the “davatkes”

These were devout Christian women who practiced celibacy, but did not live in a convent and did not wear nuns' habits.

… Also among the Lithuanian farmers, who made up the vast majority of the Lithuanian population and were under the influence of the Catholic Church and its priests, there was quite a lot of prejudice against and antagonism towards their Jewish neighbors, but for the more than 700 years of the Jewish community's existence in Lithuania – excepting, of course, the Holocaust period and the ten years prior to it – these opinions were not expressed in a harsh and dangerous way, as occurred in other countries. The isolated and relatively not serious riots against Jews in several shtetls in the Shavli (Siauliai) and Ponevez (Panevezys) districts in 1901, and in Dusiat (Dusetos) in 1906 [should be 1905 – the editor], were uncommon outbursts in the relations between the Lithuanian farmers and the Jews, which in day to day life were almost never strained. The Lithuanian cooperative consumers' movement was, of course, directed against the Jewish shopkeeper, but it was quite small before World War I.[1]

Insert: Excerpt from the newspaper, Voschod, from April 23, 1905[2]

Voschod, Edition 16, April 23 1905, p. 27

In “Sin Otchistva” (a Russian newspaper – “Son of the Homeland”) of April 23, we find the following news item:

According to the news received in St. Petersburg, there were anti-Jewish riots on the first day of Easter in the town of Dusiat, Zarasai (Novo-Alexandrovsk) District, Kovno (Kaunas) Sector. The Jews put up little resistance. Two Jews were killed. Several Jews were severely injured. Rumors of the riots were already being spread before the holidays. The commander of the local police (“Oriadnik”) announced that he was helpless to prevent the riots. Almost all the property of the Jewish population was looted or destroyed. The people in the town, who were anyways very poor, are facing a major crisis.

“Sverzapadni Krai” (another Russian newspaper – “The Northwestern Region”) has received information from Dvinsk (Daugavpils, Latvia): Rumors are going around here that riots have begun in the town of Novo-Alexandrovsk (Kaunas Section), a few versts distance from us. Approximately fifty Cossacks were sent there; however, it appears that these rumors have no basis in fact.


Voschod, Edition 17, April 28, 1905, p. 15-16

From Dusiat, Kaunas Sector, we are informed that last Saturday a fire broke out in the home of a local resident. Both Jews and Christians sustained damages, but in some way rumors began to spread that the Jews were guilty of arson. The Jews, in order to remove all blame from themselves, gathered in the synagogue and swore in the presence of Christian residents that they were not to blame. Thus, ostensibly everything calmed down.

The next day, when the farmers came out of church they attacked the Jews' houses and shops, destroyed everything to the ground, and looted household goods and merchandise. Many Jews fled and hid in attics and cellars. Those that began to defend themselves and their property were seriously injured and their lives are now in danger. One of the Jews – Yitzchak (Itzke) son of Avraham Barron – tried to stand and defend his home, but the robbers threw him from the top storey and afterwards began to attack him with axes, until the unfortunate man died. They also brutally beat his father and brother, whose lives are in grave danger. The situation of the Jews who were robbed, who remain without a roof over their heads and without food, is simply terrible. Immediate assistance is required.

How awesome is this monument
Beth Yaacov go to the tomb
Raise your voices for this trustworthy and sacred person
Yitzchak son of Avraham Halevi
Who defended us in self-sacrifice
On the day he overpowered the enemy of the Jews in Dusiat
By shedding his blood he stopped the curse
Nisan 26, 5606
(The tombstone was erected on the first Remembrance Day, a year after the event)
May his soul be bound up in eternal life

Gravestone of the victim of the pogrom, in the old cemetery in Dusiat

(Courtesy Sara Weiss-Slep, June 23, 1991)

 

Chaim Levitt: When I was in Berlin in 1924, I heard from a Jew that after the pogrom they hired an attorney to make claims for the Jews of the shtetl. “We had a lot of problems with you” – the Jew said to me. The name of the brave woman, Rochel-Leah, Yitzchak Poritz's mother, is always mentioned in connection with the pogrom.

Yitzchak Porat (Poritz)[3]: From my mother Rochel-Leah I heard of this act as something incidental.

In 1905, close to the Passover holiday, a rumor spread in the shtetl that there were going to be riots, and the Jews organized defense.

When an incited mob came out of church on Sunday and moved in the direction of the Jewish streets, some of the young men from the shtetl defended themselves, using guns. When the few bullets ran out, the young men ran for their lives. One young man, Yitzchak Barron, who was our neighbor, holed up on the second floor of his house, and the rioting mob had difficulty getting to him. After shooting his last bullet he went up to the roof, took apart the bricks of the chimney and hurled them down onto the rioters. When he was left empty-handed, the rioters went up to the roof, threw him down and killed him.

My mother, who was blonde, dressed like a Gentile woman, crossed the shtetl along the main street and went to the priest's house. On the way she was recognized by a Christian woman who whispered to her: “They'll kill you like they killed your neighbor Yitzchak. Run and hide!” My mother pretended not to hear and increasing her pace, came to the priest and said to him: “You won't slaughter all the Jews. Even if only one of us remains he will avenge our blood from you. You are responsible for it. You have the ability to give an order and stop the riots!” My mother had just left the priest's house when the bells began ringing, the rioters returned to the church and from there they dispersed.

I was named after the victim Yitzchak, as I was born a few months after he was murdered.

Shayke Glick: While I was still a little boy I heard about the pogrom, the events of which were related over and over again. On the Sunday, the Gentiles swarmed to the shtetl from the whole surrounding area and gathered in the church, and it was rumored that they were carrying axes and knives. The brave woman, Rochel-Leah Poritz, entered the church dressed like a Gentile woman and heard the priest instigating the people to riot against the Jews of Dusiat. She immediately went out to warn the Jews of the riots. Many tried to flee and hide in attics and in the bathhouse. Only a few local Gentiles opened their homes to Jews in order to protect them.

When the incited Gentiles left the church, they searched for Jews but didn't find a living soul in the Jewish houses, and they took out their anger by damaging their possessions. The elders of Dusiat gave exaggerated descriptions of the chaos that took place, how the barrels of honey rolled in the streets and the feathers from the pillows flew in the air like snow…

In the center of the shtetl stood the two-storey house belonging to the Barron family (originally from Antazova), who were foresters and had weapons. The two brothers, Itzik and Shmuel, the sons of Avraham Barron, remained to defend their home, and when the Gentiles began to riot in the house, the brothers began shooting. The rioters set fire to the staircase and captured the two brothers. They found Itzik behind a wooden barrel, and chopped him up, limb by limb, and Shmuel they threw off the top of the building. A Gentile woman took pity on him, carried him on her shoulders to the granary, gave him water to drink and revived him. In the meantime, the Jews had hired a Gentile to go to Zarasai (then Novo-Alexandrovsk) to notify the authorities about the pogrom. When the group of policemen neared Dusiat in song, the rioters heard their voices and ran in the direction of the lake. Some of them managed to get away in boats, and it was said that some of them drowned. Whenever the story was told, it included praise for Rochel-Leah Poritz.

Itzik Barron left behind young children when he died – Srulke, Chayke, Zelig and Rivel, to whose names their mother's name, Sore-Leah's, was always added. She raised them very strictly. Several years passed, and when Srulke Sore-Leah's was discharged from the army he decided the time had come to take revenge. He learned that it was Savitzkas, a peasant not from Dusiat, who had murdered his father. Srulke killed him. He was brought to trial and sentenced to prison, but he was not in prison for long before he was set free.

Rachel Rabinowitz (Slovo): It was around August-September 1941 when I met Rivel Sore-Leah's and her children in the Kovno Ghetto. Rivel fled from Dusiat with her two children Sheinel'e and Itzik Karabelnik, and I met them in the Kovno Ghetto. After a couple of days of living with us, they disappeared. I think they were killed in the Great Action (October 28, 1941).

Raya Krut (Gilinsky): Itzik Karabelnik survived the war. He lives in Russia and we met him in Vilna (Vilnius). He didn't plan to make aliya to Israel and preferred to live in Russia.


Footnotes

  1. [26] Garfunkel, Leib. The Struggle of Lithuanian Jewry for Rights of Independence pp.35-72, note on p. 34, in Yahadut Lita, Vol. 2, Tel Aviv, 1972. Return

  2. [27] Voschod - a Jewish paper in the Russian language. Return

  3. [28] Porat, Yitzchak. “Beth Hahorim” (My Parents' Home), Private Collection, Kibbutz Afikim. Return

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