If you take the road from Butrimantz to Klidzenys, you will find two large mass graves. You should know that almost everyone who participated in these murders was also born in Butrimantz....
Our parents were married in 1911. My father, Dov Lozansky, was born in the Ukraine in a town near Kiev called Chipovich, but after the marriage, he moved to Lithuania.
My youngest sister was named Nehama after our father's brother Nehemye. Nehemye lived in Kiev. He came to visit us once after a pogrom in Kiev. To his great misfortune, he had seen six of his cousins die. When he returned home, he died too. He was not even thirty.
Nehama had a very strong will and she was really striving for education. We were all educated. Basya even completed high school; I went through seven years; and Tsila, six. Only the first four years of schooling were free. The rest cost quite a large sum of money.
Our father said, "All the boxes in our store are empty. They stand there simply for appearance. It's shameful. Without money we cannot help with your education. I want Nehama to learn to sew."
Nehama did not listen.
"I won't live if I cannot go to school."
She even tried to poison herself. But still there was not enough money for her tuition.
Only the Lithuanian high school was free. In order to attend, however, it was necessary for the student to have a good knowledge of Lithuanian, so Nehama decided to enroll in the fourth grade of the free Lithuanian elementary school.
The Jewish kids would follow her, yelling, "Goye! Why do you write on Saturday?"
The rabbi of the shtetl found out about Nehama and called to see her. The girl cried a lot and brought a note from the principal of the school saying that Nehama didn't write on Saturdays, but only listened. The rabbi accepted the note and let Nehama find secret ways to get to school.
A year passed and our family became even poorer. If Nehama had lived at home and gone to school in our own town, we would have had enough money, but the Lithuanian school was in Visokidvor. Our father could not afford this.
That was when Nehama decided to employ her cunning. The new school year had just begun, and the ten-year-old girl was getting restless. Father was preparing to go to his friend, a Polish woman named Rasohatski, to buy some apples for the winter. Rasohatski lived not too far from the school in Visokidvor. Nehama successfully convinced Father to allow her to go with him. No one noticed that she took along a bag containing her school uniform.
When they reached their destination, Father went to negotiate a price for the apples. Nehama remained in the wagon. When Father returned, she was gone.
Next to Rasohatski's house there was a lake in which carp were bred. Father, who started to panic in a while, called Rasohatski and told her that he thought Nehama had drowned. Rasohatski called her laborers, and everyone was frantically trying to figure out where Nehama could be.
People were dragging nets through the lake when one of the workers said, "I saw a red-headed girl change into a school uniform in the garden. I think she was heading toward Visokidvor."
Father untied the horse from the wagon, jumped onto it and made it race as fast as it could. As soon as he reached the town, he discovered that some people had seen the red-headed girl. They also told him she had gone to see the principal of their high school.
Father couldn't speak Lithuanian. He couldn't speak Yiddish very well either. His native tongue was Russian. In order to communicate with the principal in Lithuanian, he was fortunate to locate a Butrimantz friend, Badash.
Nehama was sitting behind a desk, filling out an application. As soon as she saw her father, she ran toward him and started begging him to let her stay.
At the same time, the principal was saying to Badash, "I have never in my life seen a child who wants so much to learn that she's willing to work to compensate for housing and food."
The principal was so deeply touched by this girl that he allowed her to stay in his own house. Nehama, in turn, studied hard, helped the principal's two small children with their homework, and even made time to sew some pretty doilies and pillowcases for the owners of the house.
Within a year and a half Nehama started to rent an apartment from her new friend, Farber.
The tuition was waived for students who received very high grades. Father didn't have to pay for Nehama even once, and he never sent her any money to help with her living expenses. I still can't figure out how she managed, but every holiday she would walk almost sixteen miles to our house, laden with gifts.
After Nehama completed four years of study, she moved to Kushidar in order to develop her education further. Here the fourteen-year-old Nehama organized an association that helped young Jews from poor families. She was funding it with some of her own money which she earned by doing various things, including tutoring and sewing clothes for these same children.
In 1940, under Soviet rule, Nehama was elected into Komsomol, the Communist youth organization. When our eldest sister, Basya (whom our parents forced into marrying BenZion Dantsig, a well-established man who sold lubricants and kerosene), was to be sent with her husband to Siberia,
Nehama petitioned for them. She went to the district committee.
"My sister is from a very low-income family," she said. "She was forced to marry mostly because of financial problems. She feels it's her responsibility to help her parents."
As a result, Basya and her family remained in Kushidar. It would have been better if they had been sent away....
From the age of sixteen I was a member of Gordon, a Zionist organization that provided work for the youth. In our chapter they gave many lectures about Palestine and taught us Hebrew language and Jewish history. Gordonists learned traditional dances and frequently played ping-pong. There were special literary evenings as well as many concerts. We had about seventy members in our group, some twenty of whom emigrated to Palestine. I too had the opportunity to go, but I decided not to leave my family. Our instructor, Peisach Rudnik, emigrated right before the war.
Most of the youth who went left the soggy swamps of Lithuania to turn the Palestinian desert into a blossoming garden. Hillel Sheinker, one of our Gordonists, died of sunstroke shortly after moving to Palestine.
We were all born in Lithuania, but we knew that our true homeland was Palestine. We were not wanted here. The primary focus of Gordon was to prepare us to make aliyah. Another youth organization that worked in conjunction with us was Beitar, which included mainly older kids. There were about sixty members of Beitar. The leader was Moshe-Dov Kabachnik. He died in Kovno during the early days of the war.
Just before the war a small group named Hashara was formed in Butrimantz. The leader was Binyamin Boyarsky. Hashara's goal was to train Jews to work the land. Usually the
training lasted only until they received the documents per- mitting them to emigrate from the country.
The Jews were not the only residents of Butrimantz. There were also large numbers of Lithuanians and Tatars. In nearby villages there were many Poles. We were all generally friendly and neighborly toward one another. Many Jews had friends who were of different nationalities. I remember, for instance, all sorts of people attending weddings. Among my father's close friends I recall Vaitkavichius and Ruskauskas, who later turned out to be willing assistants to our destruction.
Many of the Lithuanians who lived in our town were able to speak Yiddish well. In the beginning of the 1930s, when hooligans from surrounding towns tried to create a pogrom, every person in Butrimantz stood up to stop it, whether they were Jews or not. The men got sticks, some even axes. To everybody's surprise, even Vinetsky, a director of a local Jewish school, went running down the street with a shovel in one hand, holding up his eyeglasses with the other. The villains were defeated that time. They ran away as far as they could, until the summer of 1941....
In June 1941 I was offered a job in a military retail store in Oran. They offered me an apartment too. I accepted. On June 18, a Wednesday, I returned to Butrimantz to pack my things, and the following Monday I was to start my job. But on Saturday, June 21, an officer came to our house.
"Pack your things immediately," he directed. "You're coming with us to Oran to help empty out a store."
My father was against it.
"I cannot allow her to go alone with those soldiers."
I was permitted to remain at home.
On Sunday morning my father left for Kushidar to find Nehama, but in an hour he came back, extremely distressed.
"The Germans are bombing Alyta!"
That day, not far from our town, a Russian plane was shot down. The injured pilot was able to escape by parachute.
At nine o'clock in the morning the Russian army started to crawl up to Vilna. Yankel Tsafnas' son, who was still going to school at the time, jumped into a car and drove off without saying farewell to anyone, escaping the claws of death.
My father was a lumberjack. He knew the forests around our shtetl, as well as some of the people who lived there. We would have been able to reach Russia before the retreating army. Some of our friends - Shimelewitz, our neighbor, and Gordonist Dov Shtukarewitz - came to our house, trying to convince my father.
"We'll gather our families and take the shortcut through the forests to Russia. Will you be our guide?"
Father refused. "Have you ever seen a Jew who would disregard his own children and think only of himself?" he replied. "Three of my daughters are not with me at this time. I'm not going anywhere without them."
We went to seek advice from the relatives of Tevie Sheinker, my sister Tsila's husband. The Sheinkers were wealthy and highly educated.
"We are not much interested in politics," they told us. "We farm our own land and always will. No one will interfere with us."
Many people decided to hide in the forests for three or four days in the hope that the Russian tanks would come and expel the Germans. We too started to get our things together and stack them on a wagon.
It was four o'clock in the afternoon when, as if parading, without a single bullet shot, a column of German troops marched through Butrimantz.
Everyone was frozen with terror.
We took our valuables, including a cow, and left with our neighbors, Shilar and her five children. Shilar's husband had been sentenced to prison under Smeton's rule, and eventually died there. Also in our group was the family of Komsomol member Ratsin and a young Lithuanian woman named Kaminsken who had moved to Butrimantz with her Communist husband after the establishment of Soviet power in Lithuania.
We traveled a short distance into the forest but did not hide. After leaving our wagon by the side of the road, we lit a fire, fed the children and waited.
At nine o'clock that night many motorcyclists with white patches on their sleeves appeared in Butrimantz. On entering each Lithuanian and Polish home, they warned everyone not to allow Jews to hide on their property.
One of the Germans noticed us, rode by fairly close, and shouted loudly for us to go home.
We weren't afraid of our own neighbors. In time of peace we didn't feel any antisemitism. Fish, as we all know, rots from the head, and Smeton was a friend to the Jews. There were, however, individual antisemites.
Lebanauskas came running by not far from where we were stationed.
"Stay away from Jews, Kaminsken," he warned the Lithuanian woman among us. "You'll get yourself killed! Come to our house."
Kaminsken left. All of a sudden we heard gunshots and voices hollering, "You should have known better than to marry your Communist husband!"
Kaminsken dropped all her things and ran to hide in the woods. She didn't stay with us from then on. She returned to her native village in the Daug region.
Once again we gathered all our possessions and went farther away, moving in the direction of Ratsin's residence and our Polish friend Botkewicz. We had other friends in the
same vicinity, including Rasohatski, whose grandparents had been friends of our grandparents.
Botkewicz led the eleven of us into the small shack outside his house. That night the local Jews and Poles met beside this hut. They sat there and talked.
At about midnight Rasohatski's sons returned from Butrimantz.
"They are forbidding us to allow Jews in our houses and have threatened to burn them down if we don't obey," they warned.
"You understand yourself, of course." Botkewicz sounded very depressed. "I'm sorry but I can't let you stay here."
In the morning he fed us and took any valuables Father wanted him to save for us. They said farewell to each other, hugged and cried.
We then had no place to go but home. On the way we encountered numerous tanks and soldiers.
As we were heading toward our neighborhood, we met Nehama. Her last day in her final grade in high school was June 20, and the war had caught her on her way home. The Russians had invited her to go with them, but she wanted to be with her parents.
On the evening of June 22 everything was closed in Butrimantz. The Lithuanians started breaking into stores and stealing anything they could get their hands on.
Nehama took a place in line because she wanted to find out if people still remembered her. Now she spoke Lithuanian very well, and in addition to that, she had light hair. They didn't recognize her, and they gave her a pair of shoes. That was when she decided to go find us.
Father stopped the wagon before entering town and went to see if any of the Jews had returned. That day most Jews were hiding in the homes of their Lithuanian or Polish friends. But it soon became clear that all of them would have to leave, many without their belongings. They weren't just
told to go home, but were relieved of their possessions. This was the first organized crime against the Jews.
We rode down empty streets. Windows, doors and any other entrances to the houses were locked. Most of the Jews decided not to go into their houses but instead to hide in their yards.
There weren't any Germans around. Lithuanian "activists" were governing the place. These activists were members of the "Front of the Lithuanian Activists," an organization whose goal was to free Lithuania from Communists and Russians. During Soviet rule in Lithuania in 1940-1941 the "Front" was an underground organization. At the beginning of the war the activists took care of organizing things for the Germans, and later the Germans mobilized many of them into police. Special military units were formed from the activists - groups who destroyed Jews. The distinguishing mark of the activists was the white patches they wore on their sleeves.
Among the activists were Savitscas, the teacher; Pelyonis, who under Smeton's power had been the chief of police; Proshkus, Joseliunas and Potinskas from Gerulay; Asakavichius from Plasauninkay; Urbanavichius; Stoshkus; the Cosco brothers and Strumskis from Butrimantz; Sinauskas, former Communist from Klidzenys.... But who can list them all?
Their first victim was a local simpleton, Shimon Nagin. Joseliunas and a policeman dragged him into the yard of the butter factory and killed him.
For two whole days we sat in the fields and didn't appear in the streets at all. Tsila joined us. She and her husband, Tevie, had just returned home from helping some Russians evacuate.
Jews were driven out of the better homes in the center of our town. My father's former so-called friends Ruskauskas and Vaitkavichius posted big signs on all the other Jewish houses, indicating in both Lithuanian and German that Jews
lived there. Activists went to these houses, telling the Jews that they were not allowed to walk on sidewalks or leave the town, that they must wear yellow stars, and that they could only walk the streets between eight o'clock in the morning and six o'clock at night.
Potinskas announced to everyone, "I can kill anyone without being punished for it."
The one store open to Jews was operating only during certain hours. We knew that unwarranted punishment and beatings were on the way. Many people in our town were already going hungry. My family was saved only by our cow and garden.
Zlata Reznik was the first one to convince me to go to the store that was open to Jews. I agreed. It's not as frightening when you go with someone. We went barefoot. During this time Jews were forbidden to wear shoes in Butrimantz.
When we arrived, there was already a waiting line for the rotten fish that was being sold. The clerk, Koskenija, was scandalous.
"My oh my, so many kikes at once! Where did Joseliunas go? I'm sure he'd love to have some fun with you girls!"
We became frightened and ran away.
Jews were trading their scarce food with one another. Their supplies were very low. We shared our cow's milk, which was badly needed by our neighbor's children, and some cucumbers from our garden.
My father spoke sorrowfully, "It's very sad to see my former friends behave like this. I've spent my whole life with them, and now they rob my house and laugh, if not spit, in my face."
"Don't make me stay here," Nehama said. "I want to go where people don't know me. I don't look like a Jew. I'll teach children or something. I managed on my own when I was small. I can surely take care of myself now."
I convinced her not to leave.
"What about us? You know Lithuanian so well and you're so pretty. Even when enemies look at you, they start speaking kinder words. What would happen to Father? You know he doesn't speak any Lithuanian."
By persuading my sister Nehama not to leave, I myself put her to death. I still cannot forgive myself for that....
On the seventh day of occupation all the remaining Commu-nists, teachers and educated and respected men were arrested, and most of them were put in prison. Some were released. The rumor was that only those cooperating with the Russians were held and sent to work in Alyta.
It was true. They were really sent to Alyta, but not to work. They were sent there to be shot. A few were released on the way there. However, they were taken back in a week. No one ever saw them again.
Through these temporarily released people we heard about the death of the teacher Arpahsander. His legs were aching. His friends Berl Vinetsky and Litvin were supporting him by his arms. Finally, the guards grew tired of this. They pulled the teacher out of the crowd and shot him.
A few days later a large convoy of Russian POWs was taken through Alyta. They were barefoot and naked. They were severely beaten. All the guards were Lithuanian activists; none of them were German.
Among the prisoners were some of our friends, Jewish Communists from Anushishok. The prisoners were stopped to rest near the butter factory.
"If you wish, you may bring them water and bread," said one of the guards.
A twelve-year-old Lithuanian boy, Borisas, brought a bucket of water and a few loaves of bread. An old Jewish woman, Baile Shoufer, also brought them bread. Her husband and children had been killed several days earlier; they were
Communists. The guards knocked out the old woman's teeth and drove her together with the others.... They put a bullet in her head before they left town.
The sight of prisoners being driven through the town was quite common. They looked dreadful.
The activists once caught a Russian fugitive dressed in peasants' clothing. They cut out his tongue and set him free in the town. They wanted to see who would dare to feed him.
Nehama took a bucket, put a piece of bread in it and left it by the well. The poor man saw her, understood everything, and picked up the food. Toward evening Joseliunas and his assistants took their prisoner outside of town and ordered him to dig a big hole. They buried him alive.
Jews from Poon were brought to the Butrimantz ghetto. Among them was Mother's sister Mazovsky and her husband, daughter Shoshana, and her twin grandchildren.
The Mazovskys had five children in all. Two of them - their son Monyas and daughter Rachel - left for Palestine prior to the war. The Mazovskys also had twins, Mendel and Eliahu, who were over six feet tall. Eliahu was recruited into the Lithuanian army. He served in Oran. Most of the soldiers deserted after hearing about the war. Together with a group of fleeing Lithuanian soldiers, Eliahu headed for home. He was killed by them near his house. Eliahu was twenty years old.
In June 1941 Mendel married Roza, an orphan who had been brought up by a church pastor named Radzia-vichius. The clergyman took a substantial portion of Mazovsky's property and helped hide Mendel and his wife. Radziavichius was an active Shaulist member. In fact, it was he who had organized the Shaulist group, whose members willingly shot Jews on command. However, Radziavichius hid Mendel, Roza and their two children born to them while in hiding until the end of the occupation. He fed them with whatever he had. At night Mendel would go to his Lithuanian friend Baranauskas to ask for food.
Baranauskas was killed by hooligans after the war. Mendel and his wife and children were killed by the clergyman himself, either because he was afraid that the Jews would expose his alliance with the Shaulist coalition or because he didn't want to part with everything he had acquired from these people. Along with Bolis Narkevichius and Jonas Kasparavichius, the clergyman Radziavichius hacked the poor family to death. The three murderers split their heads open with axes while they were sleeping. It happened three days before the city was liberated. Pastor Radziavichius' kitchen maid had witnessed the massacre. She told me about it three years later.
Shoshana married Itzhak Kushelewitz from Eznasa. They loved each other very dearly. On June 22 Eznasa's activists dragged away Communist Kushelewitz to be shot. Shoshana, carrying her six-month-old twins, ran after them. Itzhak was brought to the Jewish cemetery, set beside a grave and shot in front of his wife and babies. Shortly afterward, they returned Itzhak's jacket and boots to his widow.
Shoshana put on the clothing. She ran to a nearby lake and jumped into the water with her children. She was rescued by a policeman who happened to be passing by. After that, Shoshana went to live with her parents in Poon. The poor woman went insane. She acted ecstatic to have her husband's clothing. She kept on wearing his jacket and boots, and she kept on laughing....
Mazovsky's sister, taken to compensate for one of the fallen German soldiers, was shot in Allots during the first days of the war. Mazovsky begged the rabbi to allow him to kill himself. "What is there for me to live for?"
By this time Leonardas Kaspariunas had been appointed chief of police. He was not known in Butrimantz. People said that under Soviet power he had been the accountant for the Alyta food service as well as a member of the Communist Party. In independent Lithuania he had been a commander in the army.
Butrimantz literally died out. The Jews were in hiding. The farmers from surrounding villages remained at home. The smaugiks confiscated anything of value they could find. (Smaugiks were members of special troops, much like storm troopers, formed from the activists. The Jews and many Lithuanians called them smaugiks, which in Russian means "to take one by the throat and strangle him.")
The town became a resting site for the German troops. For their amusement they cut off old men's beards. They forced the rabbi to burn his Torah and to break windows in the synagogue. Balchunas, a Lithuanian Communist, hid one of the scrolls and gave it to me after the war. It is still in my possession.
One day all the Jews were instructed to gather in the town square at eight o'clock the following morning. We all appeared in front of Dvogovsky's building, the only two-story structure in Butrimantz. Kaspariunas had turned it into the city hall.
I still cannot comprehend how such an educated man could command a bunch of bandits and could steal and kill....
Surrounded by policemen, the oppressed, misled Jews lamented, "The people with whom we have lived as neighbors for decades now run into our homes, strip us naked and shoot us...."
In the evening there appeared the commandant of the German forces, his next-in-command, and a few soldiers with dogs. They read their announcement in two languages, German and Lithuanian:
"Lazy Jews never worked a day. They don't even know how to work. They must learn from the hard-working people of Lithuania. Beginning tomorrow the Jewish youth shall start working for free for their Lithuanian masters. They should act thankful that they will not have to pay for such an opportunity to educate themselves."
I knew the German language. I had studied it in school and had read many books in German. Besides, it is very similar to Yiddish. I understood every word before they translated it into Lithuanian.
"What can the Lithuanians teach us?" I asked a nearby officer in German. "I've worked since I was a little girl. Look at my hands."
The commandant smiled. "Very good then. Since you already know how to work, you'll be my translator."
Many farmers from the various neighboring villages arrived. Activists divided up the youth evenly into work units and assigned them to the farmers.
"Leave right now. Tomorrow you'll start working."
I regretted having opened my mouth and tried to sneak away with the others who were going home, but the officer saw me.
"Are you deaf? I told you to be my translator."
I was brought into the yard of the Sheinkers' house, where the commandant was staying. My frightened mother remained nearby. I refused to enter the house.
"Mr. Commandant, a young lady cannot stay in the same room with the soldiers. Please appoint me to another job."
An aide brought a chair for the commandant. The officer sat down.
"Do you like German rituals and customs?"
"We Jews don't have any rights, sir. I can't tell the truth, and I don't want to lie. I would rather not answer your question."
"I give you my word that nothing bad will happen to you. I want to know what you think."
"You sorted people out. Before your troops invaded Butrimantz, the only thing sorted here was the flour. People were judged by their level of achievement in life, by their level of education. The blood is all the same whether it's mine or yours."
The commandant asked other questions. I replied to them. And then very quietly, as if to himself, he said, "At home in Germany I have a daughter your age. I would be happy if she turned out like you."
Then he added, "Tomorrow at ten we have a meeting with the Lithuanians. Those fools can't understand German. I want you to translate for me, both orally and in writing."
On our way home my mother and I saw German soldiers with dogs ferret out Jews hiding in yards. They forced people to open doors to their homes. They were checking everywhere for Jews.
When I arrived home, my sister and I started to wash up. As I was changing my clothes, the front door opened and one of the commandant's aides entered. I grabbed a robe and wrapped it around myself.
"Please don't be afraid," the German said quietly. "I'm ashamed of our behavior."
My mother invited him to our table and treated him to whatever we had - bread and milk.
The German sat down but said, "I want you to eat some of it yourself first."
"Are you afraid that we'll poison you?"
"I'm not afraid of anything, but I must do this during times of war."
After he ate he started to tell me about himself. His name was Hans Yohaim Pliushka. He was twenty-nine years old and married.
"The commandant asked you to come to the meeting at ten o'clock tomorrow," he said. "Don't go without me. If he tries to touch you, I'll shoot him. We are moving out of here fairly soon. I'll finish him off anyway - he's a wicked person."
In the morning, looking through my window, I saw someone in a German uniform hop over the fence into our yard. We jumped up from our beds, frightened. Our lives were full of fear, and it was very hard to get used to it. The man was Pliushka, carrying a bag under his arm.
"You can go now. I'll be nearby. If anything happens, scream."
He gave my mother the bag containing some food.
"I'll try to find more food for you," Pliushka said. "Just keep quiet. Otherwise, there'll be a lot of trouble for you and me."
In about ten minutes I saw him near the city hall building where the meeting was scheduled to take place. The square was full of horses that were brought from surrounding areas.
I was told to write notes in both German and Lithuanian, addressed to the owners of the horses. The commandant distributed these notes personally. The farmers, most of whom I knew very well, refrained from looking into my eyes.
The commandant told me to come and work for him every day. There were notes and conversations of Germans and Lithuanians that needed daily attention.
The following day Pliushka came again.
"Don't go to the commandant," he said to me. "If you'll be needed, I'll come and get you. Also, none of you should even go outside. The Lithuanians have the right to kill you. If you need to buy anything from the store, tell me and I'll bring it."
"There's a rumor that the Jews are getting slaughtered," I said. "Is that true?"
Pliushka didn't say anything except, "You should hide and be very careful. I was in Poland, and I saw many Jews suffering. Hide as well as you can. Our army is planning to take Moscow in only two weeks. I don't really believe that. It's very likely that all of us here are going to be forced to fight. It would be really bad for you then...."
Soon he came again for the last time, bringing six pounds of butter and a piece of soap.
"We just received an order," he told us. "Tonight we have to go and join the battle. If I ride by your house singing,
you'll know that Moscow was not taken. Go and hide now because the Lithuanians are going to do everything they can to destroy you."
When he said goodbye to us, he started to cry.
We didn't sleep that night. At three o'clock in the morning we heard the roar of engines and looked out of our windows. Pliushka, sitting atop one of the vehicles, was singing loudly.
In the morning it all became clear: the Germans were forced out.
"All Jews must stay at home," we were told. "No one is allowed to leave. On August 20 everyone from fifteen to sixty years of age must go to the square. If you don't, you'll get shot."
There were very few people who dared to ignore the order. Nehama was afraid someone would remember that she had been in the Komsomol.
Miliunsky, a shoemaker, who was the leader of the ghetto, said, "The smaugiks know everyone who fed any of the Russian prisoners and everyone who spoke at Russian gatherings."
Early in the morning he came to our house.
"Everyone must go. If Nehama doesn't show up, we'll shoot the rabbi. We know she's here with you."
By using the word "we," he was referring to the executioners.
Nehama came down from the attic.
"No one needs to get shot because of me. Here I am. Shoot if you wish...."
Our surname was called.
"Is Nehama here?"
My sister took a step forward. They led her away. She blew us a kiss and yelled, "Riva! They are going to kill me today. Please save my high school graduation certificate and my uniform. I gave my life away for them."
The rest I remember only vaguely. About a hundred young people were selected. Among them was Binyamin Boyarsky, the organizer of Hashara. The others were set free.
The youth were taken into the inner yard of the city hall. Pavka Sobolevsky inspected everyone, took away rings the girls wore and removed their earrings as well. The youngsters thought they were going to work in Alyta.
Again, a few of the Jews were set free. Nehama asked one of them to tell her boyfriend, Meir-Nohem Kabachnik (nephew of Dov Slobodsky), the following: "I saved your ring. With it I shall die...."
After the war, an Alyta Jew, Itzhak Lifshitz, who later moved to Israel, remembered:
"I, along with a few other Alyta Jews, was sent to a forest to dig holes. We were told to step aside when we were done. A crowd of naked, beaten-up and tortured people were forced to stand in front of the holes. These were Jews from Butrimantz, and I knew every single one of them. They were all shot down at the same time. Among them there stood Nehama...."Back in Butrimantz no one knew what had happened. In the morning everyone was sent to work. Neighbors and friends tried to calm people down, following the executioners' instructions.
"Don't panic. They are all alive. We saw them ourselves."
Gitsavichius came to me and said, "Your sister is working on a road with the other POWs. They're all alive and well and have plenty of food."
That night my mother and I went to the Parankava village to see Volkovichiene, Nehama's high school teacher. It was thirty miles there and back. We could smell that something was wrong. We offered the teacher a lot of money and begged her to get Nehama out of Alyta. She promised to help but didn't take any money from us. We didn't believe her, and we were right: there was nothing she could do.
My sister Tsila went to Kaspariunas. This was very dangerous. If he would have liked her, he wouldn't have let her go. He already had six girls in his house.
Kaspariunas refused. "Your sister was one of the Komsomol organizers in her school and spoke at many meetings. She deserves this."
The next night we decided to go to Liutsius Konstantinowicz, a Pole who was also a teacher at the same high school. Our mothers were good friends. We hoped that he, an educated and respected man, would help us.
Konstantinowicz did not hesitate to tell us that Nehama had been killed.
"Don't look for her any further," he said. "The youth of this town were finished off. Nehama was shot by Proshkus from Gerulay."
For some reason we believed him right away.
The Jews of Butrimantz suspected that a tragedy had occurred. They wandered around dirty and neglected.
"We can't live like this!" they often yelled to each other. "We must hope for the best!"
Men with white patches on their sleeves circulated rumors that everything was well.
When everyone's hopes were down, there was always someone, like an old lady, running around and telling people, "Don't believe anything you hear! I just spoke to my Lithuanian friend and he said everyone is alive and healthy."
And once again the people would start wondering.
My father did not want to live without Nehama. His face was bloated, his eyes bloodshot. His youngest daughter was the pride of the family.
Back in June our friends Nachum Kassel, his daughter Batya and son Meyer had moved in with us. They were chased out of their house in the center of town. We spent those August nights together. None of us could sleep, and we talked until sunrise. To us every clap of thunder was a bomb exploding. Whenever we heard the sound of an engine, we prayed that it was the Russian army coming to save us.
On the night of August 21 our town lit up with projector lights. Someone came knocking at our door. I jumped out of bed and, wearing only my pajamas, ran to the window to see who it was.
"Who is it?" I called.
"Open the door immediately," someone growled. "Police!"
"Hold on. I'm getting dressed."
"Open the door! We've seen it all tonight."
Kaspariunas, Erushavichius, Joneika and Stoshkus ran into our house. With them was Miliunsky, the ghetto leader.
Kaspariunas took a seat. The rest of them ordered the men in our house to face the wall.
"Put anything of value on the table!"
A rifle was pressed against my chest.
"Open the dresser!"
I gave them the keys.
The policemen emptied the dresser and stuffed anything they desired into their bags. Then they searched everyone individually. They found Batya's money sewn into her jacket. They placed her next to the wall along with the men. Then they were all led out of the house. They were in their nightclothes and were not even allowed to get dressed.
My mother and I started to pack food for them, but Kaspariunas laughed.
"A piece of bread will be enough for them."
"They're not leaving Butrimantz," Miliunsky added. "You'll be able to visit them tomorrow."
From our porch we could see the Badash family being taken out of their house.
When the policemen left, I went to look for my mother. She was lying on the floor in the bedroom, unconscious. I revived her, then went out to check on what was happening in our neighborhood.
I met Dvora Volpiansky. She was crying loudly. She had been left alone. Her three brothers had been taken away. The same was true for the rest of the town. All the men were gone.
I heard a frightening cry and turned around. Joseliunas was dragging Shimelewitz down the road by his feet. Bleeding profusely, Shimelewitz was yelling, Nekome! ("Vengeance!")
Joseliunas hauled him to the yard next to the prison. He threw him into a previously dug hole and buried him alive.
The arrested people, a hundred men and fifteen women, were brought to the prison yard. Rabbi Vitkind had his beard torn out. All were stripped naked, their hands were tied with wires, and they were walked to Alyta. My mother and I followed.
On the wagon at the rear of the crowd sat the injured people and the elderly. My mother and our neighbor Pitelewitz ran up to the wagon to give them some bread. My mother was struck with a horse whip on her head. I helped her get up and tried to calm her, but she didn't hear me. She had gone deaf in one ear.
Our rabbi had a tall cylinder-shaped hat on his head. The police had made him and a shoemaker exchange hats. This gave them great joy and delight as they laughed heartily.
We returned home. Later we learned about the fate of our dear ones. Alyta already had holes in the ground for these people.
Before they were shot, they were forced to write letters back home claiming they needed more bread and clothes. We received such a letter, delivered by the policeman Vaitkavichius, who was an old friend of Father. It requested cigarettes, clothing and food.
"You can send a package to your father if you like," Vaitkavichius said. "I'll take it to him."
A group of neighbors gathered from nowhere and asked if they could send something with him as well. Vaitkavichius did not refuse. He accepted everything people gave him - money, food and many other things - and he took the offerings directly to his house. On his next visit to Butrimantz, Vaitkavichius brought us all thank-you notes.
Uhlyavichius, another policeman, was busy doing the same thing, promising to deliver articles to people long since buried in the mass grave.
We had believed Vaitkavichius when he told us that our family members were still alive, and we greatly appreciated his gestures. Many of us even hid much of our belongings at his place.
That night Juozas Asakavichius took Aron Kuts out of his house and shot him. Since Kuts's sister cooked for Kaspariunas, he allowed her to discreetly bury her brother in the Jewish cemetery at night.
The following morning, in the presence of everyone in the town, they arrested Asakavichius for trying to rule the town himself - a demonstration of their sense of justice. Within two hours, however, he was roving the streets again.
The only Jews left in Butrimantz were the helpless women, children and the aged. No one tried to resist the forces. All quietly awaited their time to die. We, of course, knew that something terrible was going on, but had trouble believing it.
A few Butrimantz Jews had been able to hide successfully. Among them were my sister Tsila and her husband, Tevie Sheinker. They had found safety in Tevie's parents' house, which was very large; it had eight rooms. The youth slept at the far end of the house, close to the rear exit. When the police came, they were able to escape into the yard and hide. But there were very few such people. Most went numb from constant terror.
There was no one left for the Germans to gather into the labor force. On August 29 about seventy Jews were brought from Poon to Butrimantz. They were given temporary shelter.
The following morning the Germans announced their orders. "Everyone must assemble in the town square. You will be given better homes on Klidzenys Street. Anyone not complying will be left without a place to live."
Tsila, Tevie and I went to hide in the potato fields.
Mother protested. "My friend Dobl Badash lived through a very dangerous operation on her skull just before the war," she said. "She and her little daughter are the only ones alive from their whole family. They might be left without a home. I must help her move."
Mother went to the square with Badash. Again the police surrounded the people and selected the ones destined for Alyta. All the youth from Poon were chosen, along with some people from our town - those who had been singled out by the Lithuanians.
Vaitkavichiene pointed her finger at my mother.
This crowd, like the ones before, was taken into the interior yard of the two-story building. The people remained there until it grew dark.
At midnight the officials received them in pairs. There were horrible screams and protests. Later my mother told me what she had seen.
"Jews were thrown to the ground and had their heads kicked. They were folded in half and tied up with wires."
Moshe-Egudu Mazovsky was injured so seriously that his own mother didn't recognize him.
As Moshe Goldberg was dragged outside the yard, he was screaming, "Bastards, what are you doing? I spent my whole life working together with you. We were friends. Why do I deserve to be tortured like this before my death?" He was shoved into the crowd with the rest of them.
The rabbi's two daughters, Mira and Golda Vitkind,
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Butrimonys, Lithuania Yizkor Book Project JewishGen Home Page
Copyright © 1999-2017 by JewishGen, Inc.
Updated 20 Aug 2005 by LA