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[Page 369]

Al Kever Ahim (On Mass Graves) – Lamentation

By Dovid-Leib Airesses (Aires)

Translated by Judy Grossman

 

Arthur Aires reading the Lamentation beside the Monument in the Paziemiai Forest (Deguciai Forest), August 2007
From right to left: Gidon Lerman, Dov Stern, Sara Weiss (Slep), Arthur Aires, Leuma Lerman, Dani Toker

(Courtesy of Yonatan Mandel)

 

A wide road stretched ahead.
On one side the forest,
And on the other side the river.
 
Deep in the forest
The surrounding trees were uprooted
There a large grave was dug…
 
And anyone who tried
To flee to the river
Was shot and killed outright.
 
He silently
Held his brother
By the hand,
But the bullet
Of the Nazi murderer
Sought him out.
 
The earth could not rest,
Neither by day nor by night,
And the big wide world
Beheld all
And paid no heed.
 
Nobody wants to talk about it anymore
One tries to forget,
 
While we, we have not yet “Shiva” sat …
Only the trees
Left standing there
Will be eternal witnesses
To the shouts and cries.
 
Two hundred meters long
And eight meters wide -
Eight thousand
Women, men, and children
Lifeless there lie.
 
Every year we visited the grave,
Sometimes many, sometimes fewer.
 
Everyone walked around the grave
And could not but shed a tear.
 
On Remembrance Day we did not eat.
Everyone cried out in unison:
“We will never ever forget!”
 
My heart felt
Heavy as stone,
My ears reverberated
With their shouts and cries.
 
It seems to me
As though it was just today.
 
I wandered
Among the trees in the forest
Perhaps one would call out:
“I saw it before my very eyes!”
 
But the trees bent over dejectedly
As if deep in thought
And the earth and the trees
All wept together with us.
 
Perhaps I was too late
In writing this down
No greater pain
Rests heavy
In my heart.
 
We must in no way make a mistake
And we must not forget
That on the way from Dusiat
In the Paziemiai Forest
Eight thousand Jews
From Zarasai, Dusiat and Salok,
Lie buried alive.
 
How is it possible to forget?
We must be vigilant
So that such destruction
Will never recur!!!
 

 

[Page 370-372]

In the Kovno Ghetto
and Stutthof Extermination Camp

By Rachel Rabinowitz (Slovo)

Translated by Howard Adelman

Donated by Eleanor B. Rothman and the Yaffe family

Members of 'Hatikva' [The Hope], Hashomer Hatzair, Dusiat 1928
From right to left, standing: Meir Slep, Etka Shneiderman, Lana Visakolsky, Elka Melamed, Iska Zeif and Micha Baron
Kneeling: Rivka Milun, Slovka Yoffe, Rachel Slovo, Rachel Shub, Rivka Scop
Sitting: Sheinke Chaitowitz, Rivka Melamed, (-)

Rivka Melamed's handwriting reads:
“Let this picture be an everlasting memoir of those days when I was the leader of the group 'Hatikva'. The memories of those days will sweeten my life in Eretz Yisrael”

 

Members of the Hachshara in Kibbutz 'Chaim', Panevezys, 1936
Rachel Slovo (left) with Rivka Shub

Rivka Shub's handwriting reads:
“Rachel and I are at a time of happy days, dreaming about a new life”

 

I had already been in hachshara (training) for quite a while in order to qualify for a certificate, but when it arrived I did not have money to pay for it. At that time the family was helping my aunt Ida, who was about to be married, and they were not able to help me as well.

I was also approved for illegal aliya[1]. I remember that Reinke Levin [from Antaliept] came to see me in Kovno together with a shaliach (emissary), and they told me to pack a backpack immediately and go with them to Eretz Yisrael via Romania. But how could I go without taking leave from my parents? Reinke and the shaliach said: “Look, you are likely to miss the opportunity!” That was in the spring of 1939. And, indeed, I did miss it.

In 1938, at the end of hachshara (period of training), I started doing a course for nurses in Kovno, and when I finished, worked in the university hospital in the city. The smell of war already hovered in the air. They began to train the personnel of the university hospital to defend themselves against tear gas that the German planes were liable to spray. Most of the patients had been released from the hospital, but the medical staff remained on duty.

This was on the eve of the Sabbath. I was in my uncle's house, the journalist Yisrael Yoffe. (The Germans gave the name Zofer during WWI.) My sisters Itale and Sonia, and my brother Lolik were with me. When Lithuania was annexed to Russia, mother sent them to Kovno, to our uncle so that they would not join the Komsomol [Communist Youth Movement]...

Because of the training held in the hospital I was apprehensive of war, and expressed my fears to my uncle but he calmed me down. I remember him pointing out that the upper echelons of the Russian army were still living in the new houses on the banks of the Nieman River (Nemunas), “and we have not seen them in the process of evacuating” - so he said.

At midnight I returned to the hospital, and sat down to write prescriptions. Suddenly the dear doctor, Dr. Elkes, entered the room. Coming up to me, he said in Lithuanian: “Nurse Rachele, hear these words coming from my heart. Leave the hospital immediately, and I will stay and work instead of you. Go now! Go to any place you see fit! Run to the border! Because it is going to be terrible and dreadful here, especially for the Jews! Run now and save yourself and your family . . .”

I could not believe what I heard. Hadn't I just returned from my uncle's house where I had been reassured? I told the doctor this, but he continued urging me to flee. What was I to do at that time of night? How could I reach my uncle's house? How could I reach my parents?

At dawn on Sunday [June 22, 1941] the first bomb fell. The gates of the hospital were locked. It was clear that the manager of the hospital, who was a communist, had run away during the night, and the new manager, Uzhelis, was already walking around in the courtyard. Dr. Schneider turned to me and my friend, Tzipora Kril, who was on duty with me, and said to us: “Just as you are in your smocks, run immediately and board the bus that is about to leave the hospital!”

Tzipora had a friend in Kovno, and I remember her saying: “How can I leave without saying goodbye?” And I in an instant thought, “How dare I request permission to leave from Uzhelis the anti-Semite?”

There was a woman doctor Grodita, a Lithuanian Trotskyite and graduate of the Rakishok Gymnasium, who came from Markonai, about a half a kilometer from Dusiat. A friendship had developed between us, and we would often sit and chat long into the night. Grodita approached me. “What can I do for you?” – she asked. I asked her to obtain permission for me to leave. She brought me the permit, and I went down to the courtyard. There was an ambulance waiting, the driver and a Lithuanian doctor were sitting in the front seat. They agreed for me to join them, and I went to sit in the back. Suddenly, I heard them say: “Where can we get rid of her? Obviously they will kill her,” and they let me down by the Subor church. “They will kill her here immediately,” said one of them. A large crowd of people, including many nurses still wearing their white smocks, were milling about. Among them I found [my friend] Emma Stolov. I fell into her arms, and she suggested that I comb my hair at once, in order not to look as if I was fleeing . . .

The impression was of flight from a great fire. Everybody was running towards the train station. Among the crowd, I spotted Dr. Pertzikowitz, wearing his smock and carrying a suitcase. I remember joining the crowd. I-saw-and-I-did-not-see. I ran, while everything was hazy and incomprehensible. I fled to my uncle's house.

Alik (Albert) Yoffe: I was then 9 years old. I remember that the situation was still not clear. In the courtyard adjoining our house lived Russian pilots, and immediately after the explosion they vanished like the wind… In the morning a Russian officer called. His daughter had studied piano with my mother, and he was friendly with my father. In the conversation he offered to take only the three of us: father, mother, and me, without any luggage. We had only a half an hour to decide. Mother hesitated. She was diabetic and feared suffering road fatigue, and believed that it was within the power of the Russians to overcome the attack. Father refused the officer's proposal. The next morning we were woken by a commotion. In Daukshos Street there were streams of people and wagons loaded with possessions. Father feared that the Germans would start conscripting the men immediately, however he was sure that they would not touch the women and the children. So he decided to leave Kovno forthwith, he got on his bicycle and disappeared.

I remember aunt Mania packing a small suitcase and giving it to my uncle, and then seeing him ride away on his bicycle. I never saw him again.

Alik Yoffe: We deliberated whether to run or to remain. About an hour later the bridge over the Nieman River (Nemunas) was blown up, and we saw the iron beams flying in the air. There was also an explosion on the roof of our house. Before the morning was over, mother gathered some belongings and hid them among the covers. Immediately after the bombing we gathered the covers and left the house. We wanted to go to Dusiat, to be with close family, and we thought that there it would be quiet.

We set out: Aunt Mania and her little son Alik, my sisters Itale and Sonia, my brother Lolik and myself. Mania's father remained behind to guard the house.

Alik Yoffe: The bombing accompanied us. After walking for a couple of days we neared Vilkomir (Ukmerge). When we learned that the Germans had parachuted in military forces, we deviated through the forest and found shelter about two kilometers from the road.

People warned us not to continue because Jews were being attacked. Alik developed water blisters on his foot, and I remember that we entered one of the houses to rest. The gentile woman offered us shelter in the pigpen and warned us not to leave because her husband was among the rioters.

Alik Yoffe: I remember that the gentile woman offered us shelter in the granary, and we stayed there several days.
Alik Yoffe son of Yisrael Yoffe-Zhofer and Mania-Mere (Budnitzky)

 

One morning we left the place. When we found out that the Lithuanians were waiting in ambush along the roads and attacking and killing those who passed, we decided to return to Kovno.

Near Vilkomir [Ukmerge] we met Yitzchak-Itzke Shteinman with his wife Itale Charit. I asked them where they were going to, and Itale replied: “Wherever the wind blows us...” I never saw them again.

Mina Elam (Shteinman): Itzke and my father were brothers. I used to visit Dusiat and stay with my grandmother, the widow Sore-Leah Shteinman.
I was in the Kovno Ghetto when Itzke and Itale, who was pregnant, arrived there. They arrested Itzke and took him to the “yellow prison”, where he was murdered. I don't know what befell Itale.

   
Itale Charit and Yitzchak-Itzke Shteinman

Footnotes

  1. When certificates for immigration were not available, the young people sought illegal ways of reaching Palestine. Return

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