1. Written by Peretz Kliatchko, a native of Kibart.
I lived in Kovno after the war and visited Kibart from time to time. I would walk along the streets and alleys and try to imagine the beloved pleasant town in which I had spent my happy childhood. I would stop beside houses and backyards and try to remember the names of the families who had lived in these houses. No Jews lived in Kibart after the war and of those who had lived there when the war began nobody had survived and I did not expect to meet any. I did not even meet Lithuanian acquaintances, because the battle front ended near Vilkavishk and the Germans evacuated the entire population from the front zone, including Kibart, to Germany. Exhausted and battered I would return to Kovno.
In 1960 my friend Dov Shtern, who was born in Kibart, and I went to Kibart in order to look for the mass graves. We knew that the men had been murdered in the sand quarries (Peskynes) and so we went there. In nearby single houses nobody knew, or did not want to know, the exact site of the mass graves. The answers we usually received were that these people had been living there only since the war and therefore had no local knowledge, but we were under the impression that they were lying. Then we met a middle aged Lithuanian who asked us what we were looking for, and after we told him he said that he too was looking for the graves of the 15 Lithuanians, communists and activists of the trade unions from Kibart and vicinity, who were murdered together with the 185 Jewish men. He joined us and then he asked the questions. One woman pointed in the right direction saying that it was easy to locate the graves, because the grass on them was much greener than in the fields nearby. We found the place easily, it was not fenced, there were no signs, and cows were grazing in this field. With the exception of the different shades of the color of the grass, it looked like any other field. We stayed there, bowed down, and departed with much pain in our hearts.
Returning to Kovno I wrote a sharp letter of protest to the local authorities, demanding the repair of this terrible injustice. A year later, when we, Dov Shtern and myself, visited this place again we found it fenced off with barbed wire and in the middle there was a wooden sign with an inscription. Cows did not graze there any more.
At the end of the 1960s I received information that a trial was to be held in Kovno of one of the criminals who had participated in the mass murder of Kibart's Jews. The trial was to be held in the upper Lithuanian court, in camera. The accused was a Lithuanian, the son of a former estate owner, who had hidden all the years until caught recently, but I have unfortunately forgotten his name. It turned out that another murderer, the former policeman Betinas, who had been sentenced to 25 years in prison, had been freed. According to the agreement between Chancellor Adenauer and Secretary Chrushchov all German prisoners, and some Lithuanians too, who did not take an active part in the murder of Soviet citizens, were freed from prisons and camps. Thus, many murderers, against whom there was no legal evidence available that they had actually shot innocent people, were freed. The Lithuanian murderer, who had been in hiding all these years, secretly met with that freed prisoner and concluded that he too was exempt from punishment, but this did not happen. He was detained, investigated, the mass graves were opened up and as a result a charge sheet was prepared and he had to stand trial.
After great efforts I managed to get an entrance permit to the court room. On arrival in court on the day of the trial, I met many old women in the corridor, apparently the wives or relatives of the 15 murdered Lithuanians. As is well known, there were no Jewish witnesses left.
Two soldiers, who took turns every hour, brought the accused into the hall, a tall blond man in his fifties, with fluttering eyes. The court consisted of three judges, a prosecutor and a defender. The prosecutor was a young man with red eyes and a plaster on his nose, apparently the result of a nightly spree. People looked at me in surprise, since apparently my appearance caused some confusion, but nobody asked me anything, because they understood that I had not entered under false pretenses. The judges, the prosecutor and the defense were all Lithuanians, only the soldiers were Russians and they did not understand anything about the trial, because it was conducted entirely in Lithuanian.
After the procedural part, the charge sheet was read, which said that the accused had volunteered to join a group of Lithuanian nationalists who detained all Jewish men in Kibartí as well as 15 Lithuanian communists, brought them to a barn near the "Peskynes" where they were tortured for a few days, left without any food or drink, and then were shot group by group. I remember that the murderer was asked how it happened that a young person was found amongst the skeletons, because only males above 16 years old were supposed to be killed. He told the court that the 14 year old daughter of the grocery owner Halperin arrived at the barn and did not want to be separated from her father even after she was threatened that she would be killed too, and so she was shot together with all the others. A stethoscope and a pouch embossed with the symbol of the Red Cross was found in the opened graves, "it belonged to the medic Sher" the murderer explained. He gave the court more details, which I have already forgotten.
The women witnesses told the court that the accused, together with several other evildoers, appeared on one night knocking loudly on doors and windows, and after shouting "where are the Bolsheviks?" forced the men to dress quickly, not allowing them to take anything with them. They were seated in carts and taken to the barn, where during the few days that they were kept there, the women were not allowed to approach or to bring them any food. One day a lot of shots were heard from there, during which all the approaches to this place were blocked, and when the women arrived on the next day they found an empty barn and covered graves. They also heard that the clothes of the victims, which they had been forced to remove before being shot, were divided up among the murderers.
The accused claimed that he did not detain people and did not shoot, but that he, armed with a rifle, only transported them in groups to the holes. But the witnesses insisted that he arrested their husbands and one of them even said that his voice still rang in her ears and would never stop. The accused, when replying to the witness, maintained that his voice had changed during the years and she, as a devoted catholic, would surely have to give account of her testimony before a heavenly court and should therefore rethink her testimony. The woman crossed herself trembling and declared fearfully that maybe she was mistaken.
The prosecutor demanded maximum punishment, whereas the defense asked for an acquittal, because the accused had already suffered enough by hiding all these years, there being no proof that he himself had shot people and there was an amnesty for collaboration with the Germans. The speeches of the prosecution and the defense were monotonous as if this were a routine case, instead of being the trial of a murderer of 200 innocent people.
The trial ended with the verdict that the accused was guilty of murder, but taking into consideration that there was no proof that he himself had shot people and that there were no witnesses to this effect, he was sentenced to seven years in prison.
I looked at the murderer's face when sentence was pronounced and saw fear in his eyes on the verdict of guilty of murder, but when he heard the punishment was only seven years in prison his face lit up and he was satisfied. The sentence was final, with no possibility of appeal.
I left the hall confused and hurt, and for several days I could not find peace of mind nor was I able to sleep. Once again I was overcome by all the tragedy of Kibart and could not free myself from these feelings for a long time.
2. Written by David Shadchanovitz, a native of Kibart.
In June 1965, after returning from exile in Russia, I visited Kibart and Virbalis. I wanted to visit the graves of Kibart's martyrs who were murdered by the Nazis and their Lithuanian helpers. With great emotion and a trembling heart I went out in the direction of the Peskynes, where the first 200 victims were murdered. On my way there I tried to ascertain from local inhabitants where the exact place was, but all of them evaded answering, saying that they had been living there only for a short while. A Lithuanian woman from whom I bought flowers, agreed to point out the place of the murder. I found the place in accordance with her description, which was about 2.0-2.5 kilometers eastwards from the railway station along a dust road. I found the graves surrounded by a wooden fence and a sign written in Lithuanian: "Passerby, stop and bow your head for the victims of fascist terror. In this place 200 Soviet citizens are buried, who were shot by German fascists."I placed the flowers there, and with a bowed head said "Kadish."
I returned to Kibart and from there I went to Virbalis in order to visit the graves of the remainder of the Kibart and Virbalis Jews. I knew that these were in the Vygainis, a field about 1.5 kilometers from the town. I remembered this place still from the time of my studies in the Hebrew High School in Virbalis when we went to play soccer and other games. I saw 12 holes /graves, but no fence and no sign could be seen, with cows and horses grazing on the graves. I cried bitterly seeing this terrible sight and recorded it in a photo. I was shocked because of the inhuman attitude of the local authorities who did not care about minimum conditions for remembering the victims. I made my way to the Virbalis local council which was situated in a former Jewish house in the main street, where the only clerk there, a girl, informed me that this issue of commemoration was under the authority of the town mayor, who resided in Kibart. I returned to Kibart, found the office of the mayor and put my case to a clerk, since the mayor himself was not present. He told me that they were aware of the situation, that a monument would be set up soon, and that the area of the graves would be fenced off. Returning to Vilna with a broken heart I sent a letter to the town mayor in Kibart on the same issue, and after some time I received an answer assuring me that a decision had been made to set up a monument that year (1966) and to erect a fence around this place. Three years passed, during which I did not visit the graves again. A week before our Aliya to Israel (1969), together with my wife and my two daughters, I visited the graves at the "Vygainis" in Virbalis. I brought my young daughters there in order to show them what the Nazi murderers had done to our nation and to our family.
Inscriptions in Yiddish and Lithuanian (free translation):
"In this place the Jews of Kibart and a group of Lithuanians
were murdered by the Nazis and their local helpers."
Among the victims were the Author's Father and two Cousins.
The inscriptions in Lithuanian and Yiddish on the tables says:
"Here was spilled the blood of about 10,000 Jews (Men, Women
and Children), Lithuanians, War Prisoners
of different nationalities, who were cruelly murdered by the Nazi murderers and their helpers in July and August 1941."
Among the victims there were the author's Mother, Sister, Aunt and Cousin.
The monument at the mass graves near Virbalis was established in 1991.
On that visit we found the place fenced off with a chain and there stood a concrete monument more than two meters high. The inscriptions on it, in Lithuanian and Russian, said that in this place Soviet citizens were murdered in 1941 by the Nazi fascists. There was no mention of the fact that at least some of those Soviet citizens were Jews and that their only crime was their Judaism. I found an empty barrel nearby onto which I climbed, and with my small pocketknife I engraved a Magen-David on all four sides of the top of the monument. I heard later from friends who visited the place that those Maginei-David could still be seen and were not blurred. I suppose that no one visits this place anymore, and therefore there is no one who could rub out my engraving.
During those two visits to Kibart I was curious to see how the town, where I had spent a happy childhood, would look after the 23 and 27 years that I had not been there and what changes the events of the war had made. I did not expect to meet acquaintances, not Lithuanians and surely no Jews. I only wanted to see the streets and the buildings, each of them a reminder of something my past.
I arrived in Kibart by bus from Virbalis. The entrance to the town along the main street had not changed much. The "Torklerina" stood as before, with a few small changes and the sawmill, which once belonged to Shemesh, continues to work as before. Opposite there stood the former German school and I had no idea which institution was using the building now. Vishtinetz (Vistytis) street was partly ruined and the small houses looked as though they had sunk into the earth. From there on, in the direction of the border, the ruins started. The whole quarter, beginning from our house (Shadchanovitz), Miltz, Budrevitz, the shops of Rosin and Katzizne and further along in the street of the synagogue the house of Pliskin, the synagogue itself, the house of Weitz, the bathhouse, were all destroyed, with cattle grazing where the buildings had formally been located.
In 1969, on my last visit to Kibart, I noticed that on the plot where our house had stood, a large building, designed to be a restaurant, was under construction.
The red brick houses of the railway workers were intact, without any damage, as was the building of the fire brigade, and also the Pravoslav and Catholic churches, which stood there as before.
The grandiose railway station had been razed to the ground, there was nothing left, and in its place a small building had been erected, for selling tickets. The station sign read "Kybartai," not "Virbalis" as it had for the last 100 years. The"Railway Garden" was ruined too and only some remnants of the bowling alley and a pile of stones where the raised balcony for the orchestra used to be, reminded one of past beauty.
The public park in the main street was not damaged. The houses of the local police and the government bank were ruined, but new similar buildings were being built. Seinensky's house and other buildings towards the border were not damaged, except for some small buildings in the yards which had been burnt. The long Torkler house near the border was undamaged, Lithuanian families lived in the former Jewish shops and in the former customís building near the border. The wooden bridge over the Liepona stream had apparently been burnt down and a new concrete bridge had been built in its place. Eydtkuhnen was totally destroyed except for the railway station and a few buildings where the shops of Rubinshtein and Zilberman used to be. There was no civilian population in Eydtkuhnen and those few existing houses were defined as a military zone.
To tell the truth I felt some satisfaction that our house and those of the neighbors had been destroyed, but I also felt sorry that many Jewish houses still stood intact, their owners and their tenants having been buried in mass graves, with Lithuanians living in them instead.
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