by Sinai Persky of Tel Aviv
Transcribed and adapted by Yitzchak Burstein
Translated by Daniella Thompson
|Sinai Persky (Tel Aviv)|
I was 14 when the war broke out. That day I was in the Lithuanian middle school, where I continued my studies after graduating from the Tarbut School.
I am the son of Avraham and Frumel. Our house stood close to the Viliya, on the left side of Road Street. We had a billiard table that my father had acquired, a cafe offering tasty meals that mother used to prepare, as well as beer and soft drinks. My father also erected bathing huts next to the river willows on the beach. We weren't very grand, but we lived the life of ba'alei bayit. We were six souls, including my younger brother Chaim, my sister Miriam, and aunt Ita, who lived with us. We all studied at the Tarbut School. Our favorite teachers were Shaul Keidansky, Aptekina, and Manes. They planted in us the love for Hebrew and Eretz Israel.
During the Soviet period, the billiard room was used by the army, and father worked there as an employee. On Monday, when we saw the stream of refugees, we loaded a cart and set out on the road to Vilkomir. With us were my uncles Yiztchak and Hillel Perevoznik and their family members: Hillel's son Aizik and his two daughters, Sara and Miriam, and uncle Yitzchak's son, Tzvi. Our relative Heishel Kaper also joined us. His sons, Levi'ka and El'ka, were in hiding in Kovno to evade expulsion to Siberia.
We reached Luki [Lukšiai?] Mountain. There we met Yudel Katzenberg, who had fled before us on a bicycle. He told us that he was going back, since he found out that the Germans were already in Vilkomir and the road was cut off. When we heard this, we also turned back. For several days we sat at home. When the shooting increased and Yanova was already ablaze here and there, we found shelter in the cellar of Leizer Levin, who lived in the Vilkomisrky house on Kovno Street. Yiztchak Perevoznik lived in the second wing. When the fire spread, we all ran to the spring next to the watermill. We sought shelter from the shells in trenches that we dug. When conditions worsened and the danger increased, we ran to Vertigo Mountain and found a hiding place in a gorge. Hundreds of Yanovans were concentrated here. German soldiers who were in the vicinity warned us not to budge from the place, since the battles were escalating.
The first victim of the German bullets was Berl Gold: he tried to run across to the other side, was ordered to stop and didn't, was shot and died on the spot. On Saturday we returned to town. The center had become a bonfire. Remaining on the road by the Viliya were the bus station, the Namiot and Manosevich houses, and the house of Yosef Katzenberg. We spent the night here, and on Sunday morning our family set out with Heishel Kaper toward Kovno via the dirt road that passed by the brickworks. The Perevozniks remained in Yanova. That evening we reached Slabodka and found accommodations with an elderly woman of our acquaintance.
The next day I went with Heishel Kaper to the Green Mountain, to my uncle Elchanan Perevoznik. Staying there were Heishel's two sons, Levi'ka and El'ka, and also Levi'ka Perevoznik. From there I frequently went to visit my family in Slabodka. I was blond, looked Aryan, and nobody bothered me. On July 2nd, the Lithuanians took Father and other Jews to clean the streets. Then they transferred everybody to the Seventh Fort. A day later they took Mother there as well; and on July 5th they collected all the people who were staying at Elchanan Perevoznik's houseamong them Heishel Kaper and his sonsand transferred them to the Seventh Fort. I was also among them.
There were hundreds of Jews there. Among those from Yanova I saw the raft operators, the Brezins, Alter Jog and Chaim Yitzchak Vikar. The men were collected in one gulley, the women in another. I could not find my father any more, since groups were led from here every day to the Ninth Fort, where they were shot to death. In this vale of tears I spent three days. The men were forbidden to stand up. They were allowed only to lie down or to kneel. We were surrounded by Shaulists (members of the Lithuanian Rifle Union). They frequently ran amok and would start shooting the prostrate crowd with their rifles and machine guns.
Once a Jew got up. He had been a volunteer in the Lithuanian army, was disabled and decorated. He hurled a hysterical shout at them:
Who are you shooting? I spilled my blood in battle for Lithuanian libertyand you, the Lithuanians, are shooting us!
This had some influence. Several hours later, Lithuanian officers arrived and ordered all former volunteers to report to them. My uncle hinted to me to run after them. I did so, but I lost them on the way and arrived at the gulley where the women were assembled. There I found my mother and also Elchanan Perevoznik's wife, Masha (formerly Burstein, a native of Aleksotas) with her children, Yanke'le and Shneye. We were all conducted to the Ninth Fort. For two days we wallowed there. They gave us something to eat. All of a sudden they started to let women and children go. I was also set free with my mother and aunt. We went to Slabodka. My little brother was there, and our younger sister was kept in hiding. The Kapers and Elchanan Perevoznik did not return from the Ninth Fort. The groups that were transferred from the Seventh Fort were the first victims.
From the ghetto I was compelled to go out and work at the airport. I worked as an angel, which, in the language of the ghetto, was a kind of saint for hire, replacing those who refused to go out to work. In the fall of 1943, wemother, brother, sister, and Iwere sent to camps in Estonia: my brother and I, to the Kuremäe camp; mother and sister, to the Soski camp. Only in the fall of 1944 did I meet them again at the Stutthof camp.
My brother and I worked on the railroads, wondering from camp to camp. Conditions were appalling: we were naked and barefoot and suffered hunger and cold. In Stutthof I also met the Yanovan barber Lieberman and the two Khasid brothers. The latter were annihilated in Estonia.
At Stutthof I worked near the crematoria. With another Jew, I carried a stretcher full of embers for the burning ovens. Once, my eyes caught the sorrowful gaze of my mother and little sister, who stood far away by the barbedwire fence. They were emaciated, very pale, and dressed in rags. I wept bitterly, but their tears were invisible to me. That was the last time I saw the souls who were dearest to me. One day, as I returned from work, I didn't find my younger brother. They had marched him with a group of children to the killing place. From there they did not return.
And in all those trials, all that I and we went throughI held on! My will to live was strong, because I was still young. I still knocked about other camps in Germany. The English liberated me in BergenBelsen. Since I was ill, I was taken to a hospital in Bergen. From there I was transferred to a hospital in the Soviet sector.
After I got well, I returned to Kovno. I stayed with Tevya Jaffe, who survived by fleeing Kovno Ghetto. In 1953, I married Mirka Levin of Yanova, and in 1969 I arrived in Israel with my wife and our two children.
by [Sidney Iwens] Yeshaya Ivensky [USA]
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