On June 22, 1941, the Germans invaded Lithuania. It was frightening. Everyone tried to escape. We moved to a neighboring village and spent three days with our Lithuanian friends. They did not want us to stay any longer, however, so we had to return home.
Butrimantz looked as though a great fire had swept through it. Everything was ransacked or misplaced. The Lithuanian activists issued commands to everyone. We were no longer regarded as people. The husband of Chasya, my eldest sister, was taken away very soon. He was a teacher. Other teachers were taken to Alyta as well. They were told that they were going to work. My sister stole into Alyta with a package for her husband, but it was too late. She was laughed at.
All the youth were assembled in the town square very soon after that. Komsomol members were sorted out. They told them they would be sent to work. I was selected too, but they let me go. My sister Shifra, along with Kely Dimenstein and Shmuel Donsky, were released also. We were not Communists.
In a few weeks they snatched my father, along with most of the men in Butrimantz. They told them they would be sent to work. No one has seen them since....
The only ones left in Butrimantz were the elderly, women and children. We were assigned to live on two streets in the ghetto - Klidzenys and Tatarys. My mother, six siblings and I moved into Shamson Abramowitz's home.
The ghetto didn't last very long. On September 6 every Jew still alive was ordered to go to the Lithuanian school. Women and children from Stoklishok and Poon had been placed at the school beforehand. Terrible things were already happening: the children were crying; they were hungry and thirsty. There was no food or water to be found. The people were jammed together. Activists went around the school confiscating anything they hadn't yet taken. Only one Lithuanian, Ginkena, a teacher, came with water and bread a few times.
I remember standing next to a window as the Lithuanian activists approached with their shovels.
"Mama, Mama, they're going to kill us all, shoot us!" I yelled. "Look at those Lithuanians with their shovels. They're going to dig a grave for us!"
All the women turned to Mama.
"Chaya, your daughter has gone mad! What is she saying? There's no way they'll shoot us all! She must have gone insane!"
And I kept screaming, "Mama, Mama, they're going to kill us. My heart tells me they'll kill us!"
Then I calmed down a bit and whispered to her, "We have to run away!"
"Who can run?" she replied. "The eldest, Chasya, has her children to worry about. Zlata has a newborn - she won't go either. Aselya, Pesal and Abba are just youngsters. You and Shifra should go. I'll stay here and wait for whatever is going to happen to us."
I had just turned seventeen, and Shifra was a little younger. That night we left the school, as though we were going to the bathroom, and went to hide in the potato fields. We waited a while and then sprinted out of there as fast as we could....
Close to the school lived some Polish friends by the name of Egerski. We spent two days with them, hiding in their shed. We heard everyone from the school being marched
down the central road. Then we heard the gunshots.... I have never cried so hard in my life.
Egerski's wife came the next morning.
"Girls," she said, "my youngest, Manuek, comes home today. He's a policeman and he'll give you away. It would be better if you left."
Next to the Egerski home was a barn that belonged to Adomas, a butcher and good friend of our father. We ran to his house.
"I don't have any customers right now," he told us. "Everyone is busy hunting Jews. You can stay until someone comes."
In three days a cow was brought to be slaughtered. We left Adomas' barn and went to the Asanawicz family. They kept us hidden for three months.
It's a sin to complain, but life there was not sweet. Every day the woman, Valya Asanawicz, told us the same thing: "You're crazy to have run away! Couldn't you just go to your grave with your parents? Where are you going to go now? When spring comes you girls will be nice and warm again. Or maybe I should just buy you some arsenic so you can poison yourselves."
She barely gave us anything to eat. During those three months we lost so much weight that we could hardly hold ourselves up.
Once, when the activists were making the rounds and searching people's homes for Jews, the Asanawiczes' daughter ran into the house, screaming for us to go hide.
"Quickly, hide in the shed! The police are coming!"
Just as we ran into the shed we heard the gate to the front yard open. We looked around the shed but couldn't find any place to go. There was a lot of hay stacked up, but the pile was very high and we couldn't climb over it without a ladder.
Suddenly a shot was fired in the yard - one of the activists killed a dog. I don't know where we found the strength, but we climbed over that stack in less than a second,
or so it seemed. We buried ourselves in the hay and remained there until evening.
"I can't keep you around anymore," Valya Asanawicz told us. "Go wherever you like."
Well, she had hidden us for about three months. We appreciated that.
Looking for another place to hide led us to the Shegunewicz house. It was already dark when we set out on our way. It was also stormy and frightening.
When we finally reached the house, we knocked on the door. The owner, Juozas, came out.
"Who is it?" he asked. "What do you want?"
"We are Reznik's daughters. Can you hide us?"
"All right. Come inside."
My sister and I remained in their shack for a few days. Then Shegunewicz made a hole under his bed for us to hide in. It was very small. We stayed in there for three months.
The Shegunewicz family were extremely kind people. Once, however, in the spring Juozas called us up from the hole.
"It's going bad," he told us. "In the Gelein village they found out that the Golombewskis were helping Jews hide. The Jews were shot right away, and the Golombewskis were taken to Alyta. You girls have to leave."
"If they go," his wife said loudly, "I'm going too. You can't send them away. They have nowhere to go. Let's think of a better way to hide them instead."
We climbed back into the pit. All the holes were sealed, and the owners put lots of potatoes on top of the lid.
After a while I told my sister, "I don't feel good. I don't know why, but it's getting worse. Shifra, Shifra, I can't breathe anymore!"
We started yelling to the Shegunewiczes to let us out.
"Open the lid, open it!"
But the owners must have left the house and didn't hear us. I thought that was the end of us. We gathered our
strength and pushed the lid up as hard as we could. It opened! The pile of potatoes and junk collapsed on us, but we didn't care. We were able to breathe!
The Shegunewiczes' daughter, Zina, came to see what had happened.
"Oi vey, she sighed. "You've turned blue!"
In a few days Mrs. Shegunewicz returned, bringing us some food. Then she put her hand under my cheek and said, "Dear girls, you have to go. I feel sorry for you, but I'm worried about my own family."
We left that night. We circled round the Shegunewicz house for ten days, hiding in the forest, bushes and their shed. Juozas brought us milk and bread.
My sister and I started thinking, and we decided to go to our mother's friends, the Veronovskys. Mother had given them many of our belongings for safekeeping.
We walked for five miles in constant fear of being caught. It happened that just at that time the Poles were taken to the camps. People stayed at home; the streets were empty.
We were able to reach the Veronovskys' house without being seen. We tapped on the window. The lady lifted the curtain, saw us and let it drop again. She wouldn't open the door.
We stood there, not moving, just thinking: Where do we go now?
To our good fortune, the old man came to the door and we ran inside, crying and begging, "Please save us! We have nowhere to go!"
We remained with these people until the autumn of 1942. At night we hid in their attic; by day, in the rye in their cellar. When fall came it grew very cold. We asked the owners for something warm from the clothing our mother had given them.
"We don't have anything," Veronovsky told us. "My brother's son is wearing the jacket, and the coat went to his daughter."
In a few days they asked us to leave....
That autumn was spent in the forests. We slept in ditches and potato fields. I don't remember that time very clearly. We approached many houses, but all the owners rejected us. They either told us to leave or referred us to someone else.
We knew better than to go to their referrals. We realized that the only reason they would send us to someone else was so that they could later report them to the police and get both their referrals and us arrested.
I remember a certain incident very clearly.
It was a stormy night. We were running toward a shack. The shed was leaking. The wind was so strong that the whole structure moved from side to side. It was frightening and bitter cold. We clung to each other for warmth.
Shifra said, "Dvora, let's go to the owner's house. No one could be mean enough to turn us away in this weather."
And so we ventured to their door. There were three people inside: a father, mother and daughter. The parents did not object to our presence, but their daughter yelled, "Jews in our house! Get out of here! When it stops raining, I'll go to the police to report you myself!"
Out the door we went. The mother followed and gave us a loaf of bread, whispering, "There's a potato field behind the house. Go hide in it."
And so to the field we went. It was very wet, scary and infested with bugs. We spent three days in that field. The woman brought us some bread every day and we shared it. My sister would hold the bread in her mouth and offer it to me at the same time.
"I'm full," I would say. "I don't want any more."
I would later hold the bread in my mouth too and offer it to Shifra. That was how we lived through those days.
After a while we decided that we had to find a safe place to live, no matter what. We went to the Rodlinskis. They were relatives of the Shegunewicz family.
If God had tried to ease our troubles just once during that dreadful war, this was the time!
We spent the rest of the war with these people. In the winter we lived in the cellar; in the summer, in the haystacks. They taught us to sew, and this distracted us from the terror we lived with. Anything we tried to think of would always lead to that night when our mother and sisters died. We learned not to think about the past at all. We just stitched and stitched and stitched....
The Rodlinskis didn't own any land; they rented it. In 1944 their rental agreement expired, and we had to move to another place. Before we left, Rodlinski dug a bunker for us to hide in. I guess it was still better to be alive in the ground than dead on top.
The Russian army was advancing rapidly, and we could already hear the sounds of the machine guns. We could barely wait.
Once, the owner came to us with a smile on his face.
"Girls, I saw the Russian army!"
We were speechless. We just sat there with our mouths open.
"You still shouldn't leave yet. Stay with us another week until things settle down."
We spent that whole week imagining how we would meet the Russians. When we went outside and saw the red stars on the tanks with our own eyes, we started to cry.
What saved my sister and me? The kindness of people. We were two poor girls, barefoot, in tattered clothing. Yet no one gave us away. The people saved us. I owe my life to those people.
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It would have been customary to divide the money three ways, but Raymond had decided otherwise. He didn't give his son Boleslaw any part of the fortune. I don't know why.
Boleslaw was very angry at his brothers. He waited a long time to take his revenge. When the war came, he carried it out.
Our house stood in a forest about three miles from Butrimantz. So there we were, living in our forest house, when we heard about the war. The bombing in Alyta was much too loud to escape us.
On June 22, 1941, a few Jews came to our house to hide, but they left a day later. Then, in a matter of weeks, Father told us of the terrible things going on in Butrimantz. A week later he brought Lipka Garbovsky, son of a close friend, to our house.
"Just remember, all of you," he said, "should anyone ask, this is Mother's nephew. He's going to live with us."
I was ten years old. Lipka was thirteen. We became friends.
In August there were ten Jews helping us. They went to the rye fields with my father. All of them wore a yellow star on the back of their jackets, indicating they were Jews. Eight days later they went to Butrimantz. We never saw them again.
Once, in September, I recall hearing terrible rounds of gunfire. I ran straight to my father. Daddy, Daddy, what's happening?
The Jews of Butrimantz are being killed, answered Father.
Winter came. Somewhere far away the Germans were fighting the Russians. People even said that Moscow had been taken. It didn't interfere with our lives, however. It didn't get in our way.
One night at the end of February 1942, Jews once again appeared at our door. Uncle Bronislaw brought six of them inside. We fed them and gave them a place to sleep. In the morning they went to Father and asked him to hide them. Father thought for a very long time. He looked at me and my sisters, and then agreed.
The Jews didn't get in our way. We were quite rich. We owned about five acres of land and had ten cows. Father felt sorry for these people.
Four of them were hidden in our sauna a third of a mile from our house. The other two, Riva and Tsalka from Stoklishok, remained in our house. Riva was pregnant and delivered in two weeks. I remember that at the time a neighbor of ours went outside for a smoke and stood leaning against the side of our house. Tsalka had to press his hand over Riva's mouth so that her screams would not be heard by the neighbor. And Father went outside to distract the neighbor by talking to him. Riva gave birth to a boy. My mother helped with the birth. She herself had had her first son not quite a year before.
Zelik Shuster, his wife Ada and her brother and sister from Memel lived in the sauna. The brother's name was Borka Boruch; I don't remember the sister's name. Food was brought to them by me and our maid, Kruisa. Father asked Borka to be nice to Kruisa, but what happened is that she fell in love with him. Every day Kruisa would say, "Victia, let's go visit the Jews!" We'd put potatoes and bread into a bucket and
go on our way. We always knocked three times so they would know it was us.
Borka left soon afterward. He confided in me that he was really in love with Zelik's sister Raya, but he made me promise not to tell Kruisa. He had heard that Raya was hiding in Parankava with some Poles. (Jonas, a Lithuanian from Stoklishok, was the one who actually hid her until the end of the war.)
Borka went everywhere looking for Raya until an old Lithuanian woman, Kivilskiene, saw him. She wanted to take revenge on her neighbors and saw her opportunity. She had Borka stay with her for a day, and then she told him, "I'm leaving for a long time. You should go to the Janavichius family. They're good people and will let you stay. When I return, you can come back."
The neighbors really were very kind people and let Borka in. But as soon as he had stepped inside their door, Kivilskiene ran to the police and reported Borka. The smaugiks surrounded the house.
"Come out, Jew!" they yelled.
Borka started to throw grenades at them, and the smaugiks returned with gunfire. The daughter of the Janavichiuses was killed in the battle, and the policeman Stoshkus was wounded. (After the war, Stoshkus was sentenced to fifteen years in prison.) Borka was fatally shot. He had searched all over for love, but found death....
Our Jews gathered their weapons and took them to the forest. I remember how Zelik Shuster pulled out rifles and grenades that were hidden in the cellar.
"I won't sacrifice my life for nothing," he said.
Our sauna was a very good one and our neighbors had often used it. When the Jews moved into our house, however, Father started to revoke the privilege. He would say "no"
once, twice, and then "okay" so that they wouldn't suspect anything.
The Jews would leave our house for a day; the neighbors would come to use the sauna. To our misfortune, however, they once spotted some scraps of onion and bread. They started to watch more closely and observed me with Kruisa. They went to Father.
"Pieter, who is hiding in your sauna?"
Father answered, "I don't know anything about anyone hiding in there."
As soon as it grew dark, he ran to the Jews. I went with him. Father asked Zelik to leave at least for a little while, to sleep in the forest for a few nights.
Zelik pulled out a grenade, yanked the tab off and put his hand on the table with it.
"We have nowhere to go," he said. "No one will hide us any longer. If you throw me out, I'll release this. The whole place will be reduced to splinters!"
Why did they not listen to my father? Maybe my whole life would have been different if they had. But it's hard for anyone to blame them. In any event, I would never do so.
The next day the smaugiks arrived on their wagon -Stoshkus, Janushauskas, Proshkus and some others. They surrounded the building.
Our Jews fought back. It lasted two hours. Zelik wounded Proshkus with a grenade. The sauna caught on fire. The Jews jumped out and ran toward the wagon. There were four of them left: Zelik, Ada and her sister, and Lipka, the boy we referred to as Mother's nephew. Ada guided the horses; Zelik and Lipka fired at the smaugiks.
They might have made it, but the wheels got caught in a hole and the wagon turned over. The Jews sprinted into the woods.
Zelik was killed right away. Ada and Lipka were wounded. Lipka made it to the forest, but the women were caught. They beat them up. Then they went to violate Zelik's
body. He had quite a few gold teeth. Janushauskas attempted to extract them with a shovel. I saw this with my own eyes and rushed over to our neighbor Valangewicz. When she got there, she was furious.
"If you want to desecrate dead bodies," she shouted, "I won't let you bury him here. This is my property!"
Janushauskas dropped the shovel. The smaugiks dug a hole and threw the body inside. Afterward they piled rocks on top of the grave.
"That's so the Jew won't escape," they said.
Valangewicz told me later that someone dug up the grave that same night. I guess he couldn't sleep because of Zelik's gold teeth.
As soon as they had covered the hole with rocks, we returned to our house. Tsalka and Riva had escaped into the forest when they heard the gunshots. The bandits came to search the house. In the shed they found a newborn wrapped in cloths.
"Whose Jew is this?" they asked.
"We don't know," we told them. "There are forests all around this place. Someone must have abandoned the boy here."
They started to laugh.
"We have a formal statement that you're hiding someone. We know all about you."
Stoshkus had huge spurs on his boots. He swung his foot and ripped open my father's cheek.
My great-uncle Yan, my uncle Bronislaw and my father were taken to Alyta with the Jews. Uncle Boleslaw was not taken. He was the traitor who had reported his brothers to the police. By getting rid of his brothers and keeping the family wealth for himself, he executed his revenge.
Everyone in the surrounding villages had heard of this event. Shortly thereafter, about thirty Jews gave themselves up to the police because they had been kicked out and had nowhere to go.
It was on April 23, 1942, that my father was taken to Alyta. I never saw him again. Yan was set free in three months. He came home dark as death. He couldn't even speak.
Mother rushed to Alyta to find out what had happened to her husband and his brother Bronislaw.
"The Golombewskis?" they said. "They are not on our list. They were crossed out some time ago."
Lipka was caught at the end of the summer as well. After he left us, he hid in the forest and later went to Rutkowski, the woman to whom his parents had given all their belongings. Rutkowski tried to treat Lipka's injured hand as best she could, but it was only getting worse. Lipka went to the pharmacy in Butrimantz and spoke to Matskevich, who had been a neighbor before the war. Lipka asked for medication, but instead Matskevich reported him to the police. He was executed beside a tree in the town square.
"Tell us, Lipka," they asked, "where did your parents hide the gold?"
"I won't tell anything to my enemy! I won't, even if the damn gold goes to waste."
He didn't shed a tear or make any last-minute wishes. His final words were, "Shoot me in the heart."
The policemen fired, and Lipka's head was blown to bits.
(The details of Lipka's execution were provided by Stashes Cosco during the trial held after the war. Cosco, an activist, had witnessed the murder.)
Tsalka and Riva were able to survive another half year. Once, at night, I heard a knock on the door. Mother went to open it. I heard her say, "What are you doing here? We asked you to leave. This is the end for me and my children. There's nothing left to do. Speak up!"
In response, there was only silence.
Their last half year was spent in the forest, roaming with the rest of the people who were hiding. Then the bodies
of Riva and Tsalka - butchered with a hatchet - were paraded through the village for everyone to see. It is said they were captured when they repeatedly returned to a site in an attempt to retrieve some valuables they had buried there.
The autumn of 1942 came. We, the Poles, were also taken to Alyta. The smaugiks came and told us to go to the ghetto just like the Jews. Uncle Boleslaw was with us. His brothers' blood didn't help him....
We were placed in barracks. There were wire fences and watch towers surrounding the compound.
Many Poles who lived in Lithuania had filled out documents giving their children to various Lithuanians. When the war came, many of these "Lithuanians" went to work for the police. Some of them served as guards for our camp. What sometimes happened was that the children worked in the watch towers while their father was behind the fence.
In this way, some of our youth, thanks to their friendships, were able to escape. The rest of us were moved from Alyta to Radvilishok and situated there in place of the Jews who, poor souls, had been taken into the woods and shot in front of our eyes. They left all their items to us as well as their fear. A rumor circulated that we were next in line.
However, in a few weeks small groups of us began to be sent home. My mother and I were in one of the first groups. We returned to an empty house. The neighbors had taken everything. The house itself didn't even belong to us anymore. It had been given to Lithuanians. They were very generous toward us, for some reason, and gave us a room in our own house.
I was later told that our neighbors were standing just outside our house, waiting for the Golombewskis to be taken away. While some endured war and terror, others found paradise.
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Thefts started from the very first moment of the new order and continued to the very end, to the last gold crown in a Jew's mouth.
One by one new orders were issued for the Jews and the whole country in general. The stores were robbed by June 23 and all the products disappeared instantly. No one knew what to do. The German troops rushed right by, leaving us completely puzzled.
The intellectuals and Communists were taken to Alyta right away. The rest of the population was brought to the town square a week or so later. Chief of Police Kaspariunas appeared with a list and called out the names of about ninety youth, the pride and strength of Butrimantz. My wife's sister, Nehama Lozansky, was taken along with them.
Kaspariunas later told his aide Joseliunas, "Well, you can choose some for yourself now. Take anyone you like."
Joseliunas moved through the crowd.
"That one," he said. "Good! And that other one, and..."
He selected nine people. That whole group was also taken to Alyta.
I didn't go to the square that day. I didn't go anywhere they ordered us to go. I hid in many places and did not spend a minute working for the enemy.
After that first group was selected, I began to stay at Yoshe-Leizer Meirowitz's house. He made saddles for the police, so I figured he would be one of the last ones they would touch. That's exactly what happened. The night that all the men were taken out of Butrimantz, Meirowitz wasn't even disturbed. That night so much blood was spilled because of
one single bastard - Miliunsky, the Jew, leader of the ghetto. Miliunsky went around the town, knocking on windows and exclaiming in Yiddish, "This is Miliunsky. Don't be afraid. Open the door, please."
People opened their doors to their death. That's how my brothers were caught.
After this incident, I stopped hiding in Butrimantz. My wife, Tsila, left with me. We hid with Kovalsky, another Butrimantz Jew, who owned a large piece of land with a house outside of town.
Some time after this, a hundred more Jews were taken - mostly the elderly, mothers and their children.
At night I usually visited my mother and father in the ghetto. Believing that circumstances were only getting harder, I divided my possessions among people I knew. This is what saved us.
On the day that nearly the entire ghetto was taken to the Lithuanian school, death almost found us. Policemen came to Kovalsky's house: Stoshkus and his friends Rameika, Raklavichius and Gramauskas.
Stoshkus asked Kovalsky, "Where is your wife and daughter?"
He knew everyone in the town. He even spoke some Yiddish.
"In Butrimantz," Kovalsky replied.
This was true. His wife and daughter actually had gone there the previous night and hadn't returned. I suppose they were taken to the Lithuanian school with the rest of them.
They didn't believe Kovalsky. Rameika and Rakla-vichius began searching his house and found Tsila and me.
"Ha-ha-ha," Stoshkus laughed, watching Kovalsky put a piece of bread into a sack. "You don't need to do that. You'll have thousands of loaves where you're going!" With a swing of his foot, he kicked the bread out of Kovalsky's hand.
We were brought before Stoshkus. I understood some-
thing right away: if we didn't get out then, we never would. But I couldn't run very far with Tsila. I asked him to free us, took off my wedding ring and gave it to him along with some money.
"Where will you go?" Stoshkus asked. "We'll kill you all anyway."
But our long friendship with Rameika saved us.
"We can let them go," he said. "Just make sure Gramauskas doesn't see. He'd kill all of us."
Gramauskas was busy searching the house for valuables at the time.
"Let's do it this way," said Rameika. "We'll give Gramauskas the cow. He'll take her home, and I'll free you."
Gramauskas took Kovalsky's cow, along with the owner, to his place. Rameika walked us toward the forest and said, "Run for your lives!"
I saw the smile on Stoshkus' face, and I heard the sound of a gun being loaded. When we ran into the forest, I heard a gunshot, but I think it was fired into the air. We ran a long way until we were sure there was no one pursuing us.
I decided to go to my Lithuanian friends, the Maldanis family. The land that their house occupied was just inside the forest. They had bought this land in partnership with my father. Father took the trees; the Maldanis family, the land.
It was ten and a half miles from the Kovalskys to the Maldanis home. We met a ranger on our way. He told us how all the Yezna Jews were shot before his eyes just a few days earlier. After I heard this, I stopped wondering what had happened to the Butrimantz Jews.
In the evening we reached Maldanis' place. To our misfortune, his house was full of guests and we could not go inside. We went to his neighbor, Danilavichius, who had also purchased land with the help of my father. I asked him to hide us. Danilavichius must not have known about Yezna.
"Fine," he said. "Let's wait and see how things turn out."
The next day Danilavichius' mother-in-law went to Butrimantz to find out the latest news. Even before she returned, we already knew. We had heard gunfire from nineteen miles away. The woman came back terrified.
"They're searching everyone's houses. They'll be here soon. In Butrimantz everyone of your kind has been killed. They said soon there won't be any Jews left in Lithuania. Please leave right now."
Danilavichius took us to his neighbor Kochim. We stayed there in his haystacks, but the following day we went to Gukevich. He was another friend of my father. Gukevich proved to be a very good man, and we remained in his shed for three months.
Once, Gukevich told us what he had heard from others. He said that someone had seen my wife's mother and sister in the nearby woods. Tsila started to cry and begged me to go and find them.
"Let's search for them. Perhaps they have survived!"
I tried to consider where they might be. Two women couldn't survive alone under these conditions. They were probably hiding with one of their Polish friends - perhaps their best friend, Yankowski.
When we reached Yankowski's place, he told us they were hiding at the Shestakowskis. In a couple of days we located them and went to hide with them.
I did not reveal to the women the identity of those who had hidden us because I feared that if they were captured they might be forced to disclose the names.
In the spring the Golombewskis were caught hiding Jews in their house. Among them was a pregnant woman who gave birth with the help of a midwife who had promised not to tell on them. However, she lied, and almost everyone in that household was taken away.
When they heard about this, the Shestakowskis became too afraid to hide us any longer.
"We'll get killed because of you."
In response to this incident, we left. After spending many days in the forest, I led everyone to the Maldanis house. They were afraid to let us stay in their house, but instead they brought us food on a regular basis. Then someone spotted us in the forest and alerted the police.
About eighty policemen arrived from Alyta. They surrounded the forest and searched all over for us. We fled out of the forest, but four people awaited us.
"Stokit! they shouted, commanding us to halt.
I turned around and ran in the other direction. The women followed me. Yankel Bernstein, who was also hiding with us, was shot and could not continue. We fled for about a mile, hearing dogs barking and gunshots from behind. Our strength exhausted, we ran into the Chertovo swamp. It was treacherous, but we had no option.
Kovalsky's son, Yankele, and some other Jews were caught. The search for us was abandoned because they confused those people with us. Death had once again brushed us by, tagging someone else; but the only thing on my mind at the time was where to go next.
In the morning I cautiously emerged from the swamp to investigate the situation regarding the smaugiks. I went to the Maldanis house and knocked on their door, but no one answered. I knocked louder and the door opened.
"Who is it?" a woman asked.
"It's me, Tevie. Have the police left?"
"Run away, fool," she whispered. "They're here at our house."
I ran away so fast I thought my neck would snap. When I got back to the women, we all went to Gukevich. We spent the next day near his house, and in the evening I asked him to go to the Maldanis family to find out what was happening.
Gukevich returned very quickly.
"Everything's all right. The police just left. You can go back to them now."
He told us how Yankel Bernstein had been tortured when the police interrogated him for the names of those who had hidden him.
(Slavinsky, who lived in the Parankava village, later told how the police had made him dig a hole before they shot Bernstein. He testified that Bernstein was asked who had given him food and shelter from September 1941 until June 1942. The police promised him his life in exchange for this information, but Bernstein refused and was executed.)
From the Lithuanians and Poles I found out how far the Germans had conquered Russia. I heard that the Germans were retreating again. They had reached the very heart of the country. Even if the Russians were to save Moscow, Lithuania would probably remain under German power. What would we do if this happened? I tried not to think about that and concentrated on getting food for ourselves.
From Gukevich we went to Randomanski. He hid us in his field. There, in the rye, we remained almost the whole summer. But when the rye was harvested, we had to leave.
In the fall I divided up our group according to the way it had been at first. Four people in one group were too many.
During those autumn nights I searched for any source of food, often with Tsila's sister Riva. We went barefoot so we could feel tire tracks on the ground. These were usually made by the trucks driven by "protectors." When we reached the various houses, Riva would ask for bread while I inquired about the neighbors.
"Who did you say lives behind you? In front of you? To the side?"
In this way I would recall the people who used to be friends of our family, and I'd go to those houses the following day. I rewarded these people with anything I had that they desired. That was how I bought life for myself.
Many Poles and even Lithuanians helped us out of their good natures. Others helped because they were afraid God would consider it a sin if they refused. Markauskas, a Lithuanian, hid three Jews. After the incident with the Golombewskis, he went to Butrimantz to get advice from Andrikonis, a clergyman, on whether he was doing the right thing by keeping the Jews there.
The clergyman answered, "The Almighty will think good thoughts about you. Keep on helping these people."
Markauskas hid the Jews until the end of the war.
The clergyman Andrikonis was an honest man and a true believer in God. He liked people of all kinds, whether they were Lithuanians, Poles or Jews. After the war he helped us build a memorial on the location of the mass grave of the Jews of Butrimantz. I remember the words he spoke at the site: "When I look at all this destruction, I feel ashamed that I am a Lithuanian."
On the other hand, Kaushila, a pastor from Pivash-unai, urged people to help in the destruction of Jews.
"Go see if you can catch one or two today," he would say. "Make sure there's not a single one left."
Many of those who helped us expected something for their efforts after the war. There was a rumor that American Jews would reward those people generously....
We spent the winter of 1942-1943 with Mamortas Alishauskas in Yanova. He kept us solely for the money he expected to receive. I paid him in small amounts every four days. I told him I had to beg for the money. If he had known that I was using my own funds, he would have taken everything and reported us.
We spent the summer of 1943 out in the fields and woods again. In the winter we returned to Mamortas' house. Once Tsila told me she had overheard him talking with his wife, who was saying, Go and take a look at her coat. She must have some gold sewn into it. I saw it myself. Don't be a fool, Mamortas. Turn them in.
We did not stay to find out what Mamortas' decision would be. I gathered the women and we rushed over to Kulesh, an old friend of mine who lived close to Alishauskas. He refused to let us in.
"Go to Shwabowski. He's a good man. He might let you stay."
Shwabowski allowed us in. He sold stolen goods and made alcohol himself. In other words, he was the kind of person who didn't hesitate to take risks. We stayed with him until the end of the war.
In a year the war was over. The Russians came and saved our lives. We Jews must never forget who saved us.
It is very difficult to recollect everything we endured, to recall the faces of those who died and to whom we were so close.... Thank God this won't happen again. We now have Israel.
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