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[Page 314]

Chapter 2

In the Holocaust

The German-Soviet War

Translated by Judy Grossman

With the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, and the retreat of the Russians, there was an immediate release of Lithuanian hatred, rendering the helpless Jews a suitable object of vengeance for the affront they had suffered. It was the discharge of an enormous weight of hatred, revenge and bloodthirstiness. The Nazi invaders willingly accepted the Lithuanians' savage assaults on the helpless Lithuanian Jews, and began carrying out their satanic program for the 'final solution' – the total extermination of the Jews. The Jews whom the Sauliu Sajunga murderers did not manage to kill in their homes were gathered together and imprisoned. Men, women and children were removed from their place of residence and shot on graves that they themselves had dug.

The survivors were imprisoned in the Vilna (Vilnius), Kovno (Kaunas) and Shavli (Sauliai) ghettos, and shared the fate of all the ghettos under Nazi rule. Among those Lithuanian Jews who escaped the talons of the Nazis and their assistants and fled into the Russian interior, were also a small number from Dusiat. Some of them even volunteered for the Lithuanian Division, which was organized in the framework of the Red Army. Half of the soldiers in this division, which engaged in bloody battles, were Jews, but most of them were not fortunate enough to take part in the victory march into Vilna.


[Pages 314-316]

Radio Announces Outbreak of War (June 22, 1941)

By Baruch Krut

Translated by Meir Krut

In the summer of 1940, when the Russians annexed Lithuania, they immediately nationalized my buses (six or seven) and I became a hired driver. I was seen as a capitalist and I was worried about being exiled by the authorities, but my dedication to the job and good relationships with everyone saved me.

Until the Russians came I never drove a bus on the Sabbath, but when they took over I was no longer the owner. On the last Sabbath I drove as usual from Kovno (Kaunus) to Dusiat. At four in the morning, Sunday June 22, 1941, I was woken and told: “They announced on the radio that war had broken out.”

 

“Der Emes” [“The Truth”]

 

At the usual hour I left Dusiat with the bus - my brother Ansel was with me in the role of conductor. We didn't know this would be our last run on this line. Of our fellow travelers I only remember Malka [Rosowski whose whereabouts are unknown], wife of Dov [Berke] Levitt, who got off at Daigal (Daugailiai).

The road was full of army personnel and refugees. There were bombs going off and driving was difficult.

We arrived at Vilkomir (Ukmerge), and Russian officers were already waiting for us. They told all the passengers to disembark, and ordered us to drive to Kovno. I begged them not to separate my brother from me, so he came with.

At midnight we left Kovno and traveled by bus to Russia. I was the driver, and the passengers were Russian officers and their wives. My brother was with me, and I remember that next to Daigal he wanted to get off and continue from there to Dusiat, but I stopped him. I knew the Lithuanians would kill him on the road.

We traveled mostly at night because during the day the Germans were bombing non-stop. After a fortnight we arrived in Novograd. There my bus was taken away, and my brother and I began our hazardous journey through Russia. First we lived in Gorky, where I worked in a factory. From there we went to Tashkent and thereafter to Chimkent. There I worked as a motor mechanic and driver.

When the Lithuanian Division was established we volunteered to enlist. We had many friends with us, and I also met Yitzchak Feldman from our shtetl. When I was wounded in battle, Yitzchak and Ansel were with me and they administered first aid. Both were killed in the hard battle at Alekseyevke. I was wounded three times but I returned to the battlefield. The scars remained on my body.

“The Sixteenth Lithuanian National Rifle Division of the Red Army (in short, 'The Lithuanian Division') - in addition to the tactical military aspect, its establishment, composition and size were primarily dictated by political and strategic considerations.

… In light of its special objective on the one hand, and its composition and the political nature of many of its soldiers on the other hand, it was natural that education and Soviet political instruction had an extremely prominent position in this military unit.”

([15] Levin, Dov. Fighting Back: Lithuanian Jewry's Armed Resistance
to the Nazis, 1941-1945,
in Yahadut Lita, Vol. 4, pp. 32-33.)

During my army service I tried to keep the traditions of our fathers, as did many other Jewish soldiers, even though we knew that our commanders might plot against us. My brother Ansel, who was a yeshiva student, and I were well versed in Jewish law, knew the exact Jewish calendar and prayers by heart. I carried my tefillin with me and laid tefillin in the most pressing circumstances.

I remember Yom Kippur, when the Jewish soldiers in my group and I fasted bravely. We received our usual rations that day, as did everyone, but we didn't touch them. As the leader of the group I was called to the commander the following day. I feared what was to come, because I had refused his repeated requests to join the “security forces”, on the grounds of my being without education, leaving him to choose someone more suitable. This time – so I thought - my fate was sealed. It turned out that one of the soldiers informed the officers that we had fasted and the commander found a reason to provoke me. He gave me a tongue-lashing and noted that my behavior the previous day was added proof of my lack of loyalty and unwillingness to help the Motherland… When he asked if I still refused his request, and I replied in the affirmative, he threw me out of the room like a dog. I was sure that my fate was sealed; yet in spite of this, I remained in my role. As always, I did my tasks dutifully, and with trust and there wasn't a single complaint filed against me.

Raya Krut: Baruch describes the difficulties involved in being Jewish, even fasting during the war. I want to add that even after the war, we couldn't celebrate the Jewish holidays openly. I remember on Passover I was careful of the little children knowing, in case they would inadvertently let it be known outside that we celebrate the holiday at home…

 

Confirmation
In accordance with the instructions of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union of May 7, 1965
Raya, the daughter of Josef Gilinsky has been awarded the medal commemoration
“The Twentieth Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945”
(-) Seal – September 12, 1966
Raya Gilinsky
In uniform of the 16th Lithuanian Division

 

Towards the end of the war, when they announced that we [the Lith. Div.] were going to liberate Lithuania, I felt as if my heart would explode. I only wanted one thing and that was to go home, home...

We had heard news of the destruction, but deep in my heart, I hoped that maybe someone had remained alive. When the time came that I returned to my shtetl, I discovered that I was the only one left alive of our whole big family. My world turned to darkness and I wanted to commit suicide. I had a Russian soldier friend with me who prevented me from trying.

I went to the old graveyard, found my mother's gravestone, and restored it. Her yartzeit is the same Day of Remembrance as the Martyr's of Dusiat and the Surroundings – the third of Elul.

 

After the War
A Visit to the Jewish Cemetery in Dusiat

Baruch Krut with Ada beside the gravestone of his mother Devora (daughter of Mordechai Kapolushnik) who died before WWII (on 3 Elul 1938)

 

After the war we lived in Kovno, and then moved to Vilna (Vilnius). There the refugees of the shtetls of Lithuania gathered. By word of mouth, news traveled of who had survived and was in town and where they lived. In particular we got information in the synagogue. Thus we met a small group of survivors from our shtetl and helped one another.

We traveled together to the forest where our families had been killed by the fascists, may their names be cursed. The gentiles didn't let the dead rest. They would dig up corpses in their search for gold…

I was among those active in erecting a headstone on the mass grave and once a year on Remembrance Day we would pay our respects. Slowly, slowly the immigration to Israel began. When I saw that all the family members could not leave together, I begged our children to go first. “You're young”, so I thought and told them. “Your lives are ahead of you”…Within the framework of “family reunion” Raya and I followed them.

On Remembrance Day we are united by the memories of our loved ones, and think of the small group of Jews remaining in Lithuania and visiting the graves of our fathers, and receiving letters of how the day passed and who was there…

 

Yitzchak Krut son of Yentel and Shepsl [Moshe-Ber's brother]
In uniform of the 16th Lithuanian Division

Raya Krut (Gilinsky): This picture was taken a half an hour before he was killed.

 

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