“The Holocaust in Mazeikiai” - Lithuanian Jewry
(Lithuania)

56°19' / 22°20'

Translation of “The Holocaust in Mazeikiai”
chapter from Yahadut Lita
(Lithuanian Jewry), Vol. 4

Published by The Association of The Lithuanian Jews in Israel

Published in Tel Aviv, 1967 (Vol. 3) and 1984 (Vol. 4)


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator and Translator

Arye Harry Shamir

 

Our sincere appreciation to Joseph Melamed, Advocat, for permission
to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Yahadut Lita: (Lithuanian Jewry),
Town: Mazeikiai, pp. 309-310 (Vol. 4)


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[Pages 309-310, Vol. 4]

Mazeikiai

A district capital in northern Lithuania, close to the Latvian border. In the year of the Holocaust about 1000 Jews lived there.

The Germans entered the town on Wednesday, June 25, 1941.

The day before the Germans entered, a group of Lithuanian “activists” took over the town and set up a new governing order for the town. As District Governor was chosen Pazulis, a former colonel in the Lithuanian army . His second-in-command was the former captain Tutilas, who also headed the “activists”. Second in command of the “activists” was Yozes Smauskas, who excelled in his cruelty toward Jews.

Seeking a way to solve the “Jewish problem” in Mazeikiai and the district, the “activists” eyed the large granaries near the Venta River. Years earlier The German Mr. Letz had constructed there a large flour mill, and near it large wooden silos to house the grain. These silos seemed suitable to the "activisits" for interning in them the Jews of Mazeikiai and vicinity.

Early in July 1941, the authorities ordered all the Jews to leave their homes and gather in the Synagogue (Beit Midrash). Some, such as the dentist Dr. Fanya Lampe, refused to obey. When she declared she won't leave her home, the “activists” shot her, and her child, dead.

The Beit Midrash was only a transfer station. The Jews were kept there for a few days and then were taken to the granaries. Only the Jewish physician Dr. Ovsei (Yehoshua) Krongold was allowed to return to Mazeikiai - he was needed in the town.

In the granaries the men were separated from the women and children. Men over the age of 15 remained in the granaries, while all the rest were transferred to the Psherkshkniai estate, near the town of Tirksliai (Tirkshla in Yiddish).

The Jewish men were then forced to perform hard labor in Mazeikiai and vicinity. One of the main tasks was stevedoring at the local train station. The attitude to the workers was rough and cruel, no tools were provided and all the work was done manually. Sometimes the men were sent along with the cargo, to unload the train cars at destinations as far away as Kretinga. They were then forced to walk back.

On the August 3, 1941 (10 of Av, 5701), all the men were taken from the granaries and brought to pits, that had been dug in the ground not far from there, near the Jewish cemetery. They were brought there in small groups, and a company of “activists” shot them to death.

From the pit, rising from among the dead and the wounded, suddenly arose Kalman Rachmel, and in a loud voice hurled at the murderers: “Our blood will not remain silent! Revenge will come!” A shot silenced his voice forever.

Details of the mass murder were given by Stasis Stechnovicius [sp?] on August 25, 1958, while he was questioned in a trial against him in Soviet Lithuania. He himself had participated in the murders, and told that he had also taken part in arresting the Jews of Akmene (Okmian in Yiddish). After having been held two or three weeks in the Beth Midrash, all the Jews were transferred to Mazeikiai… All were brought to Tirksliai and were put in the granaries. The following day the police chiefs of Mazeikiai along with German officers arrived, and announced that the Jews are to be shot. The shooters were promised an appropriate reward (in his words “honorar”). The participants were split up into three squads: one was to guard, one to bring the people from the granaries to the pits, and the third to shoot. The witness was among the latter, the shooters. The commanders were German. They were brought to about 800 meters from the Jewish cemetery. There were three large pits. They (the shooting squad) were positioned in two rows. The front row knelt, the back row stood behind them. Soon the first group of Jews was brought … at the first volley some 20-30 people fell. Whoever had not been killed straight away was shot at close range. The witness had participated in the murder of five groups. He said he had felt sick at the sight of so much blood and screams of the victims. He left the shooting squad and joined the squad that brought the Jews from the granaries to the pits. The murder of the Jews continued non-stop for about 5 hours. The “activists” discussed among themselves that on that day alone they had liquidated some 2000 people. The belongings of the victims were piled up in mounds. When the killing was over, the participants were permitted to take for themselves whatever they wished. The strongest managed to grab the best clothes. The witness managed to grab two pairs of shoes and a man's suit. Later the victims' valuables were also distributed among the squads. The witness had received an Omega watch and three gold rings. Afterwards they all returned to Mazeikiai, where they had a festive meal. They ate and drank merrily. When he returned to Okmian the estate manager gave him a fur coat, a man's suit and a few more small items.

On Tuesday, August 5, 1941, all the women and children were taken from Tirksliai to the granaries. On that day Dr. Krongold was also taken from the town.

Four days they were held in the granaries. On Saturday, the 16th of Av, 5701 (August 9, 1941) they were all taken to the same pits where their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons had been murdered.

The women were taken first. They were brought in groups of ten and were ordered to undress. Behind them stood twenty men in two squads, with two men aiming at each woman: one at the head, the other at her back. Even before the bodies were thrown into the pit, sometimes when they were still alive, a second group was brought, ordered to strip, was shot, thrown in… then another … and another …until no soul was left alive.

After the women, it was the children's turn. Here a “simpler” method was used: they were all thrown alive into a large and long ditch. The "activists" walked around the ditch, shooting at the children. The children shrieked. Then the murderers brought earth and lime, poured it into the pit, filled it and so buried the children - the dead, the wounded, the still living, all together.

Along with the Jews of Mazeikiai were murdered the Jews of Sede (Siad in Yiddish), Viekshniai (Veckshna in Yiddish), Tirksliai (Tirkshla in Yiddish), Zidikai (Shidik in Yiddish), Pikeliai (Pikeln in Yiddish), Klykoliai (Klilul in Yiddish) and other towns.

The only source for estimating the number of victims is the report submitted by the National Committee For Investigating the Crimes of the Nazis and their Collaborators, which had been set up in Mazeikiai. On December 7, 1944 the Committee handed in its written report and included the statement that it had visited the site near the bridge over the river Venta, at the Jewish cemetery, some three kilometers from the town of Mazeikiai, where Soviet citizens were murdered between 1941 and 1944 (during the retreat of the Germans).

The Committee examined five mass graves:

  1. Grave #1: length – 17 meters, width – 4 meters, depth 1.8 meters. Human bones of varying ages were found, mixed with lime, shoes, and remains of clothing. Also found were personal objects such as cups, baskets, etc.

  2. Grave #2: length – 14 m., width – 4 m., depth – 1.6 m. Here also were found remains of corpses of various ages, mixed with lime.

  3. Grave #3: length – 40 m., width – 5 m., depth 1.8 m. In this grave were found an exceptionally large number of corpses. They were corpses of men, women and children, mixed together. They were found in various positions, bent over, reclining, and one on top of the other. The corpses of children were found mixed in with those of adults. Some corpses were exhumed and examined forensically. In this grave were buried 1800 corpses.

  4. Grave #4: length – 14 m., width – 3.5 m., depth 2 m. The corpses in this grave were totally decayed. Some Remains of clothing were found.

  5. Grave #5: length – 4.5 m., width – 2.5 m., depth 1.5 m. In this grave were found the 16 corpses, which were exhumed and examined forensically. These were the people that were murdered on August 6, 1944. They were 12 men and 4 women, all in their underwear. The corpses were in a good state of preservation.
According to the evidence found the Committee concluded that at the examined site were over 4,000 corpses.

The mass graves were left unmarked and abandoned. Ms Haya Tiger, who came to visit the site of the graves in 1946, reported that on a large expanse of land she found long and broad lines of earth, with lines of white lime on them. In some places the lime got mixed with the blood [of the murdered] and the lines were of a pink hue.

Only one corner of the holy ground was fenced in. This was where the murdered Lithuanian Communists were buried. Their graves were neat and decorated with flower wreaths. A caring hand was visible here. The Jewish graves were abandoned, lacking a caring eye to see over the sacred graves.

Due to the efforts of the survivors of Mazeikiai and the remnant of Tirksliai, the area was later fenced in, and a black marble memorial marker was set up.

In the list of mass graves published in “Mass Murder In Lithuania”, part B (in Hebrew) the mass grave is described as follows:

The place – the town of Mazeikiai, the Jewish cemetery, 3 kilometers from the town, on the Vetna river; the period – 1941-1944; the number of victims – about 4000 men, women and children.

Sources


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