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[Pages 358-359]

A Most Terrible Scene Was Revealed Before My Eyes …

Translated by Judy Grossman

Upon their return to the shtetl, the survivors heard from the goyim (gentiles) the tragic and bitter fate of their families, about their extermination and about the end of the shtetl.
Dusiat (Dusetos)[1]

A town in the Ezerenai District on the Sventoji River, in the north-east of Lithuania, about three kilometers west of Ezerenai (Zarasai). Before WWII its Jewish population numbered approximately eighty families.

When the German army approached the town, several families who had means of transportation fled to Russia. Most of those who tried to escape on foot returned, because the Germans had overtaken them.

Even before the entry of the German army, Lithuanian thugs began running wild. The Jewish population became fair game.

The Jews were evicted from their homes right from the start. A ghetto was established for them in the small houses of a few Jewish families, on the other side of the bridge, and in the warehouses and barns beside them. Conditions were extremely crowded.

The Lithuanians were in charge of guarding the ghetto, and each guard tried to surpass the others in cruelty.

The homes of the Jews in the shtetl were immediately occupied by local Lithuanians as well as by those from neighboring villages. They also took over all the property for themselves.

The Jewish men were driven to all kinds of hard labor, in the shtetl and in the farmers' fields.

The situation continued this way until August 26, 1941. On that day the men were brought on foot, and the old, the weak and the little children in wagons, to Deguciai Forest beside the village of Savicionai, where they were murdered together with the Jews of Ezerenai and the surrounding area.

A Jewish woman (Rivl Karabelnik, nee Barron) miraculously escaped the slaughter, along with her two children (Sheinale and Yitzchak). The previous night she had overheard two Lithuanian guards saying to each other, “tomorrow they will slaughter Jews.” She took her children and fled, passing through forests and fields until she reached Kovno (Kaunas), and succeeded in stealing into the ghetto with her children. She did not have a better fate. She perished in the “Great Aktion” (October 28, 1941) in the Kovno ghetto.

Sources: Testimony of Rachel Slovas-Rabinowitz, Holon

(See: Ezerenai)

Lithuania was the first country in occupied Europe in which mass and total extermination of Jews was carried out. The “Einsatzgruppen” incorporated thousands of Lithuanian volunteers in their murder actions. Jews were grabbed in the streets and from their homes and taken outside their towns and shtetls, shot and buried. … This wave of murders included the majority of towns and shtetls in Lithuania.

Simultaneously to the acts of murder, the military government issued anti-Jewish decrees that included the obligation to wear an identifying sign (a yellow Star of David or a white armband), various restrictions of movement, restrictions on purchases in the markets, shops, and so on. The small concentrations of Jews were liquidated in one Aktion. In certain regions, the Jews from all the shtetls in the area were concentrated in one place, where the murder was carried out. In larger concentrations, such as Ponivezh (Panevezys), Rakishok (Rokiskis), Vilkomir (Ukmerge), Utian (Utena) and other places, the extermination was carried out in two or three “Aktionen”, in which thousands of people were murdered.

The commander of Einsatzgruppe A, Brigadenfuehrer Stalaker, reported on October 15, 1941: “Since the occupation of Lithuania by the German army, the active anti-Semitism that was quickly incited has not abated. The Lithuanians report voluntarily and diligently for every action against the Jews…” [2]

Shmuel Levitt: We reached the shtetl and its environs in the company of Russian officers, and the local Gentiles showed us the place on the lakeshore from which our parents and siblings, the Jews of the shtetl, were led, group by group, dozen by dozen, to the slaughter pit…

Baruch Krut: When I arrived in Dusiat I was still in uniform, and the Lithuanians were walking around in fear. Zina, the maid of my sister Chava-Leah, told me what had befallen my family, and she also revealed to me that I would find some of my sister's possessions in the home of the brother of the Lithuanian, Bilonis, in the Jashkinishok Forest.

Malka Gilinsky: When I arrived in Dusiat at the end of the war in 1945, I saw a dreadful sight, a terrible sight that is hard to describe in words.

My family had owned three houses, but I was only able to locate one of them. My grandfather's house was no longer there, nor did I find the second one. There was a kindergarten in the third house. In most of the houses the windows were covered with boards. It was apparently dangerous to live in them.

I looked for, and found the home of our maid, Fania Dudaina. I saw her – and she looked like an old woman… When she opened the door for me, I was shocked! My parents' furniture, the furniture from our house stood in the apartment! Our bedding! And she served the food in our dishes! The plates! The knives! The forks! The woman who had been our maid was wearing my mother's jewelry! Mother's earrings! Mother's rings!

From our maid I learned the details of the liquidation of the shtetl. She told me that the Lithuanians emptied the houses, and she took home what remained in our house. I stood there in rags and tatters; it was cold, and she said to me: “I didn't know that you would come. If I had known, I would have kept you the beautiful coat your father bought…” She told me she had sold our possessions for food, and that is how she lived. She also told me that when the Russians entered the shtetl, the Lithuanians informed against her that she had Jewish property in her possession, but the Russians did not find anything. When she saw me almost naked, she began to cry. And I thought to myself: it was she who raised us…

That night I slept in the Charit's house, where a law court employee lived. My encounter with the shtetl was horrendous, and I just wanted to run away!

Footnotes

  1. [30] Barak, Zvi. Arey Hasadeh [Shtetlach], in Yahadut Lita, Volume 4, pp. 261-262. Return
  2. [31] Arad, Yitzchak. Policy and Modus Operandi of the “Final Solution” in Lithuania, in Yahadut Lita, Volume 4, pp. 40-41. Return


[Pages 359-360]

In the Ghetto Unter-Dem-Brik (“Beyond the Bridge”)

Translated by Judy Grossman

In a manifesto published in Berlin by the anti-Soviet “Lithuanian Activists Front” on the day the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, and aimed at the Lithuanian population, it states:

“… The crucial moment to settle accounts with the Jews has arrived. Lithuania must be liberated not only from its subservience to the Asiatic Bolsheviks, but also from the yoke of Judaism, which we have borne for many years.”

Thousands of Lithuanians responded to this call.[1]

 

Once there was a nice summer day…
The Teacher Yehuda Slep
extreme left

 

And then, one day, in July 1941
All the Jews of the shtetl were concentrated in this place beyond the bridge…
[2]

 

Esther Pomus: From Dovid-Leib Aires I heard that when the Jews of the shtetl were driven to the ghetto, my mother refused to leave her house, saying: “Here I was born, here I raised my children, and here I will remain!” And she was shot…

Rivka Friedman: I found out that this happened during the shiva (period of mourning) for our father, Eliyahu Orlin.

Malka Gilinsky:I learned that all the Jews of the shtetl were concentrated in Unter- dem-Brik (“Beyond the Bridge”). They were crammed into a number of houses from which the Gentiles had been evacuated. Each family was allocated one loaf of bread a day, and no one was permitted to leave the ghetto. One day my mother sneaked out of the ghetto to our house, and gathered a few vegetables from the garden. “Your mother left some silver spoons with me, to be given to Malka or Yitzchak if they showed up,” our maid told me. Then I wondered, “Did Eme and Bebe (Avraham and Dov), the Schwartz brothers, ever reach the shtetl and tell my mother that I was on my way home?”…

Rachel Rabinowitz: I had already heard about the suffering of our loved ones, their hunger and distress, in the Kovno Ghetto when one day Rivl Karabelnik, the daughter of Sara-Leah and Yitzchak Barron, came to our small apartment with her two children, Yitzchak and Sheinale, who had already graduated from the gymnasia.[3] We learned that one night Rivl overheard a conversation between two Lithuanian guards, from which she understood that “tomorrow all the Jews will be slaughtered.” Rivl and her children stole out of the ghetto in Dusiat, and after much hardship they reached the Kovno Ghetto. They lived with us for a while, when Tzirale Kagan and Batya Shub were also with us. One day I returned to the apartment and found them gone. I was told that Rivl had decided to seek shelter in the synagogue. I never saw them again.

Raya Krut: I heard that Yitzchak Karabelnik survived and is living in Russia.

Shayke Glick: The Gentile, Markelis, also told me about the ghetto in Dusiat. The hunger in the ghetto was unbearable, and seven young people decided to try to get food from the Gentiles who were indebted to them. However, Lithuanian guards were standing on the bridge, and immediately opened fire on them. After the war the Russians found their bodies under the bridge. Apparently, one of the Gentiles told the Russians about this murder. The bodies were collected and buried on the road leading to the “heif” (yard), at the turnoff to the Barovker Wald (forest). Gentiles pointed that place out to me and told me that my brother Aharon was also buried there.

Braukilis and Lilieikas, may their names be wiped out, were also mentioned among the murderers. Braukilis was a hooligan, who was always ready for any malicious act. Lilieikas, who was like one of our family, murdered my brother with his own hands!

Baruch Krut: Among the seven victims mentioned was Alter Getz from Abel (Obeliai), who lived in Unter-dem-Brik, and also Yisrael Yosman, Froike Zeligson, my brother Benzke, and others whose names I cannot recall. I know that my brother Benzke was warned, and he was urged to flee ahead of time, but the hand of the murderers overtook him.

Popieikis, Kuzmis and Idis, may their names be wiped out, were also said to have been among the murderers.

It was said that the murderess Blinkeche, who had a candy shop, used to rip the earrings from the women's ears with great cruelty!

Tzila Gudelsky: I remember Blinkineia (we nicknamed her Blinkeche) and her daughters Tamara and Jenka. Blinkineia was the first Gentile to open a grocery shop in our shtetl, in Valulis' house, in the cellar. The first gatherings of the Sauliu Sajunga[4] took place in her home, resulting in increased activity to liquidate Jewish commerce in the shtetl.

Leib Slovo: My brother Yoske managed to escape in the direction of the forest. A Gentile passed by and offered him a ride in his wagon, when suddenly the Lithuanian Popieikis, may his name be wiped out, appeared, with two other Gentiles. They took Yoske off the wagon, led him into the forest, and beat him. However, Yoske did not surrender and fought them, grabbing Popieikis by the throat and forcing him to the ground, but the others overcame him and murdered him. That is what his good friend Popieikis the Lithuanian, may his name be wiped out, did to Yoske.

I discovered that a shepherd was standing at a distance and witnessed the brutal murder. I received help in locating the shepherd, and tried to convince him through words and goods to reveal my brother's place of burial. I returned to the forest three times and looked for the body, but did not find it.

Baruch Krut: I remember when Popieikis worked in the dairy, and I would bring their butter to Kovno from where it was exported to Germany. They said that he and his brother were extremely active in murdering Jews. Popieikis, may his name be wiped out, boasted that he had been appointed “Zido karalios” – the King of the Jews – and that he washed his hands in Jewish blood, as much blood as he wished…

I discovered that he had stolen my sister's golden jewelry, but he denied it and sent me to his mother. “Go and ask her,” and she, of course, denied it.

I brought charges against the murderers with the local police and they were put on trial. Kuzmis was sentenced to ten years of imprisonment.

Popieikis succeeded in escaping to the forest, and when it was announced that whoever gave himself up would not be charged, he returned and was set free. Today he is called “the Jew-killer”.

It came to my attention that at the time of the rehabilitation of the murderers (in 1991), the Lithuanians also cleared Popieikis' name and awarded him thousands of dollars.

Idis managed to escape with the Germans, and I know that he is living in America.

Footnotes

  1. [32] Arad, Yitzchak. Policy and Modus Operandi of the “Final Solution” in Lithuania, in Yahadut Lita, Volume 4, p. 40. Return
  2. Chronicle of the Actions of the Activist-Partisan Group in Dusetos, Dusetos, August 4, 1941, The Uprising of June 1941, Collection of Documents, The Centre for the Study of Genocide and the Resistance of the Residents of Lithuania, Vilnius 2000 [Leituvos Gyventoju Genocide ir Rezistencijos Tyrimo Centras, Vilnius 2000] Return
  3. Equivalent to high school, but much more prestigious, as only a small proportion of the population reached that level of education. Return
  4. Lithuanian National Sharpshooters Association. At first they comprised paramilitary (civilian fighters) who fought for Lithuanian independence. Over time they become anti-Semitic extremists, and during the Nazi occupation they played an instrumental role in the annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry. Return

 

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