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[Page 194]

Days of Horror

Meir Kinbrom K. P-R

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Edited by Philip Shapiro

On the third day after the Germans entered Vilna, the Lithuanian “kidnappers” caught me and took me to the train station for work. We had not yet found out the Lithuanians' intentions, but according to their abuse of us in the course of our transportation and work, we saw and felt that no good would come of it. They made me perform all kinds of menial and hard work for four hours. However, at the first opportunity, I left the workplace and ran away home.

Following the arrangement of the work companies by the Judenrat, it was necessary to get some kind of certificate, because otherwise it was not possible to be anywhere. I had the opportunity to work in the 5th [work] battalion as a blacksmith. The work was arduous, and the worst thing was that we worked under the watchful eye of the “Hitler youth” (“Hitlerjugend”). These youth severely tortured us, the Jewish workers. I was destined to be the scapegoat. My supervisor would force to run me dozens of times around the building, and every time I passed him he would beat me with his gun. When he got tired of beating me, he ordered me to go up on the roof and jump from a height of 3 stories. My brother-in-law, Tsofnat Eliezer, also worked in the same yard. When he saw the German's abuse, he got very angry, took an ax, and ran to kill him. The workers on the spot managed to restrain him lest his potential act would lead to a harsh [collective] punishment for the other workers.

When the ghetto was established, I was assigned to ghetto B. When ghetto B was liquidated, I was transferred as a professional to ghetto A. In that ghetto I went through “the seven levels of Hell.” Although I had been issued a yellow certificate, during the aktziya,[1] I feared the revenge of the Lithuanian policeman Rizgal, who had bore an ill-will against me because of things in the past. I did everything I could to bring food for my family members in the ghetto. My sister Chaya was also with me all the time. After the July 1943 aktziya, when Jews were transported to Estonia, I was transferred to “Kailis” as a professional.[2] The economic situation was not so bad.

During the children's aktziya, on 4 Nissan, March 27, 1944, my daughter and son were taken. This was the last blow and I could not recover from it. In the aktziya that took place on April 20, 1944, I was no longer looking for the possibility of escape and was transferred together with my wife to a concentration camp in Kaiserwald, Latvia. I worked as a tailor until August 1944. They didn't give us anything to eat. We would collect dry leaves in the streets and consumethem, and we suffered indescribable agony. In August we were transferred to a camp in Stutthof, Germany [today, Sztutowo, Poland]. We were in a state of complete exhaustion. There, I met many of my friends and acquaintances from the Vilna ghetto. Among them were the Gegol brothers and their sister. My brother-in-law, his brother Nachum, [and] Ze'ev and Yosef Gegol had been sent to work from Stutthof. They never returned from there.

In January 1945, we left Stutthof for Danzig [then, Germany, now, Gdansk, Poland], where we worked in building submarines (in a Bulgarian camp), until we heard the thunder of the Russians' cannons and Katyushas.[3] Apparently, it was not enough for them yet, and we were again sent to the Riben camp, without food and without clothing. Scharführer Maisel, a sadistic German, would beat us without any reason. In his anger, he broke two of my ribs, and my teeth, and I was left lying unconscious. This happened about ten days before our liberation. We felt and knew that we were the scapegoats for their anger, and that they did not intend to leave living witnesses of their murders, but apparently their calculations misled them. During this time, they needed our labor to dig trenches against the approaching [Soviet] tanks. They used us for this purpose. But they made our life miserable. At that time, I was already practically in despair, and I did not have the courage to wait a few more days, which were the crucial days of our lives. I planned to run away from the group with the intention of being shot and killed, because I thought it would be better to die than live these lives. My friend in the camp, who knew all my secrets, literally used force to prevent me from escaping. Thanks to him, I stayed alive.

Ten days later we were liberated by the soldiers. The Soviet authorities asked each of us to take our sick relatives, friends, and acquaintances, and, with the help of farm carts, drive them behind the lines so that we do not disturb the soldiers who were in the action at the front. Among the patients was also Haim Kotler, who went through all the stages of the Nazi inferno. He was bloated from hunger and died on the way. He saw the redemption, felt it, but did not get to enjoy it. Honor to his memory!


Editor's Footnotes:
  1. In the context of the Holocaust, the term “aktziya” (German, “Aktion”) refers to an organized operation to gather Jews and take them to a site to be murdered. “Yellow certificates” were issued to captives whose work was, for the time being, sufficiently valued for them to be kept alive. Return
  2. Kailis (from the Lithuanian word meaning “fur”) was a forced labor camp in Vilna. Those who received the yellow-colored permits to work there were allowed to bring their families. Prior to 1944, they were generally protected from “Aktions.” As noted by the author, the children were the subject of an Aktion on March 27, 1944. In July 1944 the remaining prisoners in the camp were taken to the mass-murder site in the Vilna suburb of Ponary and killed. Return
  3. A Katyusha is a type of rocket artillery that was developed by the Soviet military during World War II. It consists of multiple rocket launchers use to deliver explosives to a targeted area. It has less accuracy than conventional artillery, but is easy and inexpensive to produce. The Katyushas of World War II were usually mounted on ordinary trucks and thus became the first self-propelled artillery that was mass-produced by the Soviet Union. Return

[Page 195]

Meetings with the townspeople in the Soviet army

Y. M-Man

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Edited by Philip Shapiro

June 22, 1941, was a beautiful day. The day before, the student council organized a trip to Vileyka.[1] Many had signed up for the trip. However, since I was a first-year student at the Vytautas University in Vilna,[2] I did not sign up for the trip because I had to prepare for the last exam in the history of ancient Greece. My sister Hana'la, together with all the youth from Olkeniki who attended the schools in Vilna, returned to the town a week earlier, just as the big summer holiday arrived. Some of the town's members remained in the city of Vilna: Yoske Senznik, Eliyahu Karben, and Binush Moshchanik, who studied and worked in the city. On this day, June 22, we planned to meet and walk a bit in the city. Suddenly, I heard the sounds of one explosion after another.

My initial thought was that these sounds were related to a civil defense maneuver that should have taken place during these days, but the panic that suddenly spread in the students' house also made me jump. When I ran into the hall, I could already hear [Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav] Molotov's voice on the radio saying: “War!” The German planes, in groups of 30, were bombing the city every half hour, and the Soviet army began to evacuate it.

The population was completely confused. Refugees from nearby towns arrived in Vilna and brought bad news.

The Lithuanian students began to whisper among themselves. We felt that they would abuse us even before the Germans came. The radio was tuned to [a station broadcasting from] K̦nigsberg, from where the voice of a Lithuanian fascist was heard, inciting his people to beat and murder Jews and communists.[3] Nevertheless, we slept that night in Vilna. I met with three of my friends in the bombed city. They unanimously urged me: Come home with us, to our parents. I might have joined them if it weren't for the atmosphere in the student house. When I returned there, I found my fellow Jewish students were ready to flee eastward. Without thinking much, I ran to my room, packed what could be put into a small bag, and set off Рto the east.

We thought that after a day or two the Soviet army would beat back the Germans and we would be able return to our home, but unfortunately it was not so.

I will not describe my escape in detail, because it is a long story. But today I will speak about my journey on the road to Oshmina and beyond.[4]

On the road there were thousands of men, women, and children, military cars, wounded soldiers and officers, all of them frightened and terrified, among them the residents of Smorgon,[5] and a silent question sprouted from every face: shall we run, or wait till everything will pass?

The town of Molodchena[6]was burning on both sides of the road. I was on a gasoline tank, clinging and shivering from the cold of the night and the heat of the fire, approaching the old border of Russia.[7] NKVD[8] guards stopped the refugees and forced them to go back. I hid behind a traveling military kitchen and was able to pass by without being noticed. I was in Minsk when it was bombarded and went up in flames. The trains were completely full but, miraculously, I was able to get out of the area of the war front area and the bombings in Borisov - Orsha, Smolensk-Vyazma and get on a train that was heading east to the interior of Russia, and away from the horrors of the war.

In Vyazma, not far from Moscow, I and other Jewish students from Vilna tried to volunteer for the army, but we were not accepted. We were “zapadniki,” untrustworthy “westerners.” The official answer was, “We will call you when we need you.” And indeed, I had to wait for three quarters of a year until I was called to join the army. I moved to a small town in the Mordovian Republic, along with three thousand refugees from Lithuania and the other western provinces. I was shocked by everything that had happened to me. I immersed myself in work out of a desire to forget everything.

I was indifferent to everything and emotionally numb. The town in which I lived was a stop on the road from Moscow to Kuybyshev (before 1935 and since 1991, Samara). Trains full of refugees passed through it every day. At the end of my daily work, I ran to the station and stood for hours, expecting to meet a familiar face, to receive some news from home - but it was in vain. I had interesting meetings and conversations with refugees from Russia, but from home - nothing. Every day the newspaper brought horror stories about what was happening on the home front.

One day, about half a year after the outbreak of the war, a platoon of soldiers appeared in the town. I happened to pass by them and heard people speaking in Yiddish. I stopped, of course. My first question was: “Where are you from?” “We are from the Lithuanian division that was organized near Gorki. We came here to buy all kinds of things.” They said that the division did indeed bear the name “Lithuanian,” but was mainly composed of Jewish soldiers. I could not calm down. I ran like a madman to the “voyenkomat” [военкомат‚ – the military recruitment office] with one request: Enlist me there, in the Lithuanian division. But they repeated what they had said before, “We will call you if we need you.” I couldn't calm down. I was tantalized by the possibility that I might meet someone from my city in that unit. My previous indifference to my circumstances had now been replaced by initiative. My personality changed and [with persistence] I finally succeeded. I received an order to report to Balchana, a town near Gorky – the division's organizing place. The hours of travel there were a huge experience for me. On the train I met guys like me who were going to the same town.

We arrived. The first induction procedures began. I received equipment,

[Page 196]

registered, etc. I then went out looking for acquaintances. In one place I met a friend from Vilna, in another place I met some acquaintances, and suddenly I heard a cry, “Yoske!” I turned and fell into the arms of Itzke (Yitzhak) Kupner – my best friend. The eyes of both of us welled up in tears. We couldn't find the words to start a conversation. So – I was not alone. We spent several hours together. The only subjects of our conversations were: Olkeniki, our parents, and our houses.

He was assigned to the special anti-tank division, and I was assigned to the field artillery battalion. We parted, but we each always knew what was going on with the other and we cared about each other. In one of the tough battles, Itzke was wounded in the back. Thanks to the quick medical help that he received, he was out of danger and recovered, but he never returned to the front. After a few months, the division went to the Urals front. It was a very hard winter in December 1942. Because the Ural-Kursk region has neither mountains nor hills and only a few forests, it is exposed to the winds and the frosty cold penetrates to the bones.

One December evening, we got out of a car to position ourselves in a place that was assigned to us. Suddenly, a platoon of mortarmen passed by. I happened to look at them. The face of one of them looked very familiar to me, but I didn't recognize him right away. I ran forward to take another look at him. He must have been watching me, too. He turned around again and we fell into each other's arms. It was my friend Motke (Mordechai) Mark. He too had been in Vilna on the day of the bombings. He had taken the same path as I had to reach the division. He became a mortarman and a “komsorg” (a Komsomol organizer). We afterwards met many times, between battles. He was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and served as a political activist. In the battle near Vitebsk, in 1943, he was sent with his division to the enemy's rear. There, he was captured along with everyone else. He managed to deceive the Germans, saying he was Armenian, but one of the Lithuanians informed on him and he was brutally murdered in front of all the prisoners. I heard this story in 1945, after the war, from a Lithuanian captain who was with him in captivity and was saved thanks to being Lithuanian. He told me a lot about Motke's heroism during the war years and his tragic death. May he be of blessed memory! As far as I know, he was the only one among the soldiers from Olkeniki who served in the Red Army who was murdered by the evil perpetrators.

In 1943, after hard battles, the division was sent to rest and regroup. During that time I met a guy from Eishyshok whom I had known before. We had both arrived in Balchana on the same day. He told me that in the infantry battalion stationed not far from us there was one guy from Olkeniki, but he did not remember his name. After much searching I was able to find out his identity – it was Hanan Bernstein, who now lives with us in Israel. Our division advanced along with the Soviet army to the west, and as we got closer to our surroundings, our hearts beat faster and we longed to hear the name Olkeniki among the many names of the cities and towns liberated by the Soviet army. It was in the forest, near Polotsk. We lived in excellent German bunkers, dug according to all engineering rules. In them were found various Lithuanian certificates, which testified about the great holocaust. At noon one day, the mail arrived, and mainly the bulletins of the “SovInformBureau” (the Soviet Ministry of Information). In one bulletin we read that the forces of the Soviet army had liberated Olkeniki and … my first reaction had been prepared in advance. I quickly tore a sheet of paper from a notebook and sat down to write my first letter in three and a half years.

The whole time I had not received nor sent letters to anyone. I had neither a relative nor a redeemer, and there was no one else who could write me a letter. In difficult frontline conditions, a letter was a soldier's only joy, bringing comfort and encouragement. I rejoiced [vicariously] in the joy of others. Now, I pounced on the long-awaited paper. However, as soon as I wanted to start writing – my hand stopped. To whom should I write? How do I start? I quickly decided what to do.

I wrote a letter to the head of the gmina in Olkeniki, and asked him to deliver this letter to the first Jew he would meet. I did not delude myself; I thought this way was better. And from this moment came days of hard anticipation. Our division advanced quickly towards the Lithuanian border and entered northeastern Lithuania. One of our guys managed to get a short vacation and went to a nearby town – Hidotzishok.[9] He returned with bad news. In addition, my first letter arrived. Trembling, I opened it and looked for the signature at the end. It was a letter from Sarah Rivka Soltz, my friend of the same age, who had survived together with her whole family. I learned everything. I was stunned for many days. More letters arrived from Libke Katz, and from Chaim and Eliyahu Zubieski, who were in the Polish army at the time, somewhere in Germany, and they were happy to correspond with me. The first letter from my uncle in America also arrived.

The war was not yet over, but Olkeniki, the one that we knew so well, no longer existed. Our dearests are gone. There was no town; there was nothing.

I was privileged, about a year later, to come to Olkeniki and see its destruction myself.


Editor's Footnotes:
  1. Vileyka (Yiddish), Vilyeyka (Belarusian), Vilejka (Russian), Wilejka (Polish and German), Vileika (Lithuanian) is about 130 kilometers / 81 miles east of Vilna. Return
  2. The author's use of the term “Vytautas University in Vilna” requires some explanation. Before September 1939, Vytautas Magnus University was in Kaunas, Lithuania's temporary capital during the inter-war period. During that same period, the major university in Wilno (Vilna / Vilnius), Poland, was Stefan Batory University. In September 1939 the Soviets conquered eastern Poland and the next month transferred the Vilna area to Lithuania. In December 1939 the Lithuanians closed Stefan Batory University and dismissed its faculty, staff, and students. Many of the faculties of Vytautas University were transferred to the new “Vilnius University,” which operated under a charter that stated that it would be governed by the statute of Vytautas Magnus University. Return
  3. Under the August 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Agreement, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union became allies in conquering and dividing the territory of Poland and in dividing Eastern Europe into respective “spheres of influence.” As just noted, in September 1939 Stalin seized the eastern half of Poland and soon after transferred the Vilna region to the still-independent Lithuania. (He transferred the remainder of eastern Poland to his puppet state, Byelorussia (today, Belarus)). Eight months later, in June 1940, the Soviets took over Lithuania and soon after incorporated it into the Soviet Union. In November 1940 émigré Lithuanian leaders in Berlin began working with the German authorities on a plan to stage an “uprising” against the Soviets in Lithuania when the Germans would turn on their Soviet allies. East Prussia, the territory immediately to the west of Lithuania, was part of Germany at that time, and the Lithuanians in Germany were able to organize and communicate with underground nationalist units in Lithuania. The preparations for the “uprising” were completed by the Spring of 1941 and awaited radio messages announcing that the German invasion of Lithuania had begun. Königsberg was a major East-Prussian city on the Baltic Sea. After the Second World War, the Soviets annexed the northern part of East Prussia and renamed the city Kaliningrad. Return
  4. Ashmyany (Ашмѓны (Belarusian); Ошмѓны (Russian); Ašmena (Lithuanian); Oszmiana (Polish); אָשמענע (Yiddish)) is about 50 kilometers southeast of Vilna / Vilnius. It was in Poland between the wars and in 1939 was incorporated into Byelorussia (today, Belarus). Return
  5. Smorgon' (Смаргóнь (Belarusian); Сморгонь (Russian); Smurgainys (Lithuanian); Smorgonie (Polish); סמאָאָרגאָן (Yiddish)) is about 40 kilometers east of Ashmiany and thus about 90 kilometers from Vilna / Vilnius. It was in Poland between the wars and in 1939 was incorporated into Byelorussia (today, Belarus). Return
  6. Maladzyechna (Маладзéчна, Maladziečna (Belarusian); Молодéчно, Molodechno (Russian); Mołodeczno (Polish)) is about 40 kilometer southeast of Smorgon. It was in Poland between the wars and in 1939 was incorporated into Byelorussia (today, Belarus). Return
  7. Although the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania in early August 1940, it maintained a border-control force along the border that had existed prior to that time. Return
  8. The NKVD (initials for the Russian term People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs) was the Soviet Union's interior ministry at this time. It was the country's sole law enforcement authority. Return
  9. Adutiškis (Lithuanian), also known as Hoduciszki (Polish) and Гадуцішкі (Belarusian). Return

[Page 197]

These are Your Sons, Olkeniki
(A Few of the Heroes of the Holocaust)


Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Edited by Philip Shapiro


Sheina'le Farber

It was the desire of Fate that I should live close to my hometown of Olkeniki, and that I would be able to closely follow what was going on in it and to record in this memorial book the small and great events and experiences of the lives of our brothers, sons, and daughters during the days of the Holocaust that we have gone through.

It seems to me, even to this day, that the sounds of Sheina'le Farber's speech echo in my ears and I hear the echo of the ringing slap on the cheek, which she slapped on the face of a gentile from Chizon who was bothering her in the big market in Olkeniki, on her way to the extermination place in Eishyshok. I will not exaggerate if I say that for thousands of the daughters of Israel, on the verge of their death, this slap on the cheek was a kind of encouragement and a boost to their dignity and pride. Sheina'le knew how to elevate and to sanctify the name of God[1] and the holiness of the daughters of Israel. Respect must be given to her memory.


Yaakov Zissel HaLevi Vilin

In the Vilna ghetto, at 6:00 every morning, I would meet him and a group of workers at the gate of the yard at number 17 Rudnitsky[2] Street. As the foreman, he knew how to get along with the German employers in the military unit he worked for. He was energetic, knew how to adapt to any situation, and knew all of the Jewish ghetto policemen from the gate guards. He also knew how to set the time [for crossing the ghetto gate] so that people could smuggle food into the ghetto and not get caught by anyone. His friends appreciated him for his loyalty and talents, and they obeyed his orders as sons obey their fathers. He was also the one who took responsibility in matters of buying and selling. He and the group of workers shared the profits equally.

One day, before they left the workplace, the German who usually sold them food and drinks from his warehouse warned them to be careful. As the workers went outside, SS men caught them. They searched their belongings and found all of the provisions that were intended for the people in the ghetto.

On their way to Lukishki prison, the workers were abused by the murderers from the SS police. At the prison, new torments began. The SS police drove hot iron needles under their fingernails. They beat the Jews with iron handles, rubber truncheons, and whatever else they could in order to learn where the Jews got the food supplies, or to persuade the Jews to identify the thief who stole and gave them the provisions. But they all gave the same answer: “We bought and received these from passers-by.” The SS did not learn the name of the soldier who had helped the Jews. The People of Israel do not betray a friend!

They forgot the number of the days and nights that they spent in the dungeon a long time ago. They finished their accounts with this world as well. In their spirit, they already said goodbye to their families, and it is possible that they waited for the death sentence to be imposed on them, because the tortures were more difficult than the trial itself. However, the foreman could not keep quiet and rest; his thoughts were troubling him: Who was the one who had informed on them? How did the SS soldiers know exactly what time they would be able to catch the Jews with the smuggled goods? And when he arranged all the facts in his head, and when he remembered the German soldier's last warning and evil laugh, a shudder went through his wounded and beaten body. How had he failed to understand right away that it was him, their “good and benevolent” soldier, who had tipped off the SS and given them all the exact details? Maybe he was wrong in his imagination? After all, they were in his vicinity for long months. The soldier earned thousands of marks, and they had never previously encountered any problem with him.

He felt with his senses that something is happening. Someone showed him the way, and when the keys rang and he entered the interrogation room, he knew what he should do and even the destiny of his life. The “Gestapo” man asked them: “And what will you, dirty Jews, tell us today, after a sleepless night in the dungeon? Who stole and gave you the smuggled goods?” The foreman then awoke from his slumber and stood ready, and in energetic words, in a loud and proud voice, said: “I am the foreman, and I am in charge of my group. The workers know nothing. I am the one in charge of the warehouse keys. I stole and I took. I lied to the workers. I told them that I had bought all of these goods, and they were only acting according to my orders. They helped me to smuggle it. I am responsible for their actions. I will obey to your command, and I will stand trial. But they, what are they guilty of? How did they commit an offense? I will accept my verdict with love.”

His words, which were said seriously, honestly, and with pride, made an impression on the murderous SS man, and before the SS man had time to sit down and examine the facts more closely, he issued an order to release the seven workers and have them led them back to the ghetto, but the foreman, this proud Jew who had been in charge, would pay for his deeds.

There was a commotion in Vilna ghetto. The freed workers, bent over, withered, and grey, were returned to the ghetto by an SS guard. Their only concern was: how would they, who considered the foreman like a father, be able to face the foreman's wife and his children.

…The “Gestapo” placed this simple Jewish man in a narrow and dark basement.

[Page 198]

In the darkness of the long night his eyes were open. He now conducted a self-examination. He was happy because he had saved seven families and their relatives, which added up to hundreds of people. And to what better goal could a simple guy like him aspire? He was very sorry that he would not be able to share this joy with his wife and daughters. On the 24th of Tammuz 5703, with a group of 30 foremen, foreman Yaakov Zissel Halevi Willin, who was born in Olkeniki, one of the many innocent victims, was also taken to Ponary. May his memory be blessed.


Monish Fein

He was among the few who were saved on the day of the extermination in Eishyshok and managed, with great difficulty, to reach Radun, which belonged to White Russia[3] and was not yet subject to the laws of Lithuania regarding the extermination of the Jews. He lived for about half a year in that town's ghetto. He worked for a German military unit on the construction of a road, until the big Aktziya that occurred on May 15, 1942, when the Radun ghetto was eliminated. In this incident, the Lithuanian and German murderers surrounded the ghetto, took the people out, and pushed them towards the Grodna road, towards the cemetery. In the cemetery they excavated a mass grave, not far from the grave of the Chofetz Chaim, of blessed memory.[4] Monish Fein had no choice; he too made his last journey together with the residents of Radun. And when the “Gestapo man” appeared in the middle of the Aktziya and announced that the professional men who worked in the military unit in the city must return to the city to their working places, Monish Fein was also among them. The “Gestapo man” then ordered him to take his family and return to the city. He was the only survivor of his family, and realized that he had been given a chance to save others. He went into the pit to save one of the families. The people who knew that his family had been exterminated and that he was alone in the world, surrounded him and asked him to save them. And when the Gestapo man ordered him to hurry up and get out of the pit and join the group that was about to be sent to the city, he asked for another moment in order to take his family. The Gestapo man understood the conspiracy that was about to happen and he shot him on the spot.

Monish wanted to save other lives, and lost his life. Respect must be given to his memory.


Shimon Moshe, the son of Heshel Levin

One evening, at the end of the winter of 5702 [Page 1941-1942], when I entered the “Beit Sha'ul” Beit Midrash[5] at No. 2 Shklarsky Street[6] in the Vilna Ghetto, I noticed among the voices of the students a voice that was very familiar to me. I was convinced that I heard the voice of Reb Yossel Der Rov. My surprise grew even more, when I saw in the northeastern corner of the Beit Midrash a figure similar to Rabbi Yossel Der Rov, namely, that of his brother, Heshel Levin, who was in the company of yeshiva students who were, as usual, studying a lesson in the Gemora.[7] There was the same melodic intonation of Talmudic study that hadn't changed and the same yellow pages of text, just like his brother Reb Yosef, in those good times, but there was a great difference between the brothers. Here, in front of me, sat an old man, as white as snow. With wrinkles engraved on his face and under his eyes and his bent back, he looked to be about eighty years old. Only the sparkle of the eyes remained as it had been. I saw in front of me the skeleton of the man who had once been known as Heshel Levin.

To my questions asking who of his family were with him, I received in reply a heavy sigh: “Oh, mein [my] Shimon Moshe'lah!,” as if I had struck a wound that had not been healed. He continued and talked to himself: “We worked together at the train station. We both received white certificates, but he excelled in quickness and graceful manners, and when it was time to keep only the essential workers, he of course received a yellow certificate (life certificate) and I did not. He happily came home and his decision was firm saying: “Father, the certificate belongs to you! You should take Mom and the sisters with you and leave the ghetto according to orders, until the end of the Aktziya in the ghetto, which will last three days. And after the Aktziya, you will return home. I will find some way to hide in the ghetto during the Aktziya.” I argued, but to no avail, that I was already old, and that another year of living would not benefit me much. I begged him and said: “You have not yet seen or known life.. You are young, and your whole life is ahead of you. Maybe, with God's help, you will be saved from this terrible holocaust and our family will have at least a remnant on earth. How many sleepless nights we went through, how much I and his mother begged him to save himself. And he said: “I might survive, or I might fail to survive, but you certainly won't survive, because you can't escape without the certificate.” I managed to see how they took him out of his hiding place and put him among the detainees in Glazer's store on the corner of Rudnitsky Street. I also managed to hear his last word-will: “Papa, save Mother.” After that, the bereaved father continued to speak to himself: “His last words echo in my ears, and my soul is restless. Since then, his mother has remained confined to her bed, because her feet are paralyzed. Oh, God, I accept your judgment with love together with the rest of the People of Israel.”

We, those who were from Olkeniki, knew this young, pampered child. He was not the only member of our community who expressed heroism in the dedication of their lives for their parents and families, during the cruel trial. Many did the same.

Who can describe the great responsibility that these young people then took upon themselves. And will not these actions be considered as an answer to those who ask: “Why did you go like sheep to the slaughter?” These are your sons, Israel, and these are your children and your grandchildren, our homeland Olkeniki.

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Moshe Strachanski, the Jewish Partisan

It was Shevat 5703,[8] and I was in the HKP camp on Sobotch Street in Vilna.[9] The ghetto had been eliminated, and there were four “locations” in the city where Jews could still be found. They did not work on Sunday. Those who were fortunate to receive transit certificates (Passierschein), would come to our camp to meet with Jewish acquaintances. The Jews who were assigned to work for the Gestapo used to bring a cart loaded with bread and potatoes, and sometimes clothes, and distribute them among acquaintances and consumers. Of the 106 survivors were the writer Simiatitzki and the teacher Apskin. Hanan Rimer, who was a worker for the Gestapo, brought a cart with groceries one Sunday. Acquaintances gathered around him to receive greetings from their acquaintances, and there were also curious people who came to hear news. Between one matter and another, he mentioned that the “Gestapo” had managed, for the first time, to catch a Jewish partisan alive with his weapon in the forest, a guy who was from the Vilna ghetto. He continued to talk about the special arrangements that the “Gestapo” officers had made for the captive to the point that there was no possibility of contacting him: They had tortured him to death. All of the efforts made to sneak poison into his cell, so that he could end his life, were unsuccessful.

The people of the camp heard the news, shook their heads, and sighed over the bitter fate of the Jewish boy who fell into the hands of the “Gestapo.” Each one dispersed to his own worries and troubles. When I asked him if he knew the name of this partisan, he confidently answered: Of course! He was one of the former ghetto policemen, who was associated with the Glazmanists,[10] Mosheke Strachansky of the Vilna Ghetto, who was born in Olkeniki.

When the war began, Mosheke Strachansky was in Vilna. His wife, Rivka Sweidoschatz, the Rabbi's granddaughter, and three other families, were sent to Ghetto B. When Ghetto B was liquidated, they were also among the stream of people whom the Lithuanian policemen and “Gestapo” men took to the Lukishki prison. The three brothers-in-law talked among themselves about how they might escape from this miserable ghetto. When they tried to convince the people to escape, they saw that their plan had no chance of success. Rivka insisted that she would not leave her sister Frumka and her children, and that only death would separate them. Their brother Mordechai also said that he would not leave his children. On their way down Wilenska Street, near the garden, Mosheke suddenly noticed the look in the eyes of their yard keeper's son. Magically, he jumped from his place, turned around behind the policeman, jumped on the sidewalk and went in the opposite direction to German Street,[11] arm-in-arm with the yard keeper's son. The gentile did not let him return to the ghetto. For a few days he lived in the ruins of abandoned houses. He also stayed in Ghetto A, where he sneaked in secretly and stayed for several weeks, without any certificate in his pocket, without food, and without any chance of getting settled. When the [ghetto] police commandant, Mr. Glazman (Beitar), started recruiting men for the ghetto police, Moshe sent his resume in Hebrew to the commandant. After a short conversation with Glazman, he was recruited as a policeman. From there he made his way to the partisans. By nature, he was an alert and agile young man, with a warm heart, who directed all of his energy and fiery soul to one goal: Revenge upon the murderers. He remained alone in the ghetto. He lived his life with anticipation for the right opportunity to exact revenge. In acting as a partisan, with a weapon in his hand, he found his satisfaction. He was among the first of those who would volunteer for large and dangerous operations. On one such mission, he and another Jewish scout were sent out late at night from Puszcza Rudnicka[12] to the village of Popishok,[13] which is on the dirt road between Olkeniki and Vilna. Their attention was drawn to a window that was lit unusually. Since the two had to fulfill their mission flawlessly, they cautiously approached the lighted window to learn why the light was on so late at night. And apparently, as if they came out onto the ground, armed policemen and soldiers emerged. A battle erupted between the unequal forces. Monique Radzewicz died on the spot, while Moshe was captured alive. The first Jewish partisan who was caught in the forest with his weapon. The “Gestapo” in Vilna handled his arrest. They promised to keep him alive, and offered to give him money if he would talk about his comrades in the forest. But he turned away from them with pride and contempt. He did not look at their faces and refused to speak, as if he were a mute. They tortured him terribly and made many offers in return for him revealing to them what he knew about the armed group in the forest. But he would not agree to betray his brothers, even if they [would] kill him [for refusing].

At the end, he was placed in the famous brigade of corpse burners in the destruction camp of Ponary. Moshe Strachensky spent his last days shackled in iron chains, but it was no longer Moshe. It was the shadow of the man who once had been known as Moshe Strachensky. On the night of the famous escape from Ponary camp, a bullet from a German soldier killed him.[14]

Moshe, Moshe, no one can be compared to you. There are many saints who sacrificed their lives for the sanctification of the name of God, but few faced the things you went through. You knew your destiny in life and you followed it with pride. Blessed are you, and blessed are your actions. May your memory be blessed forever!


Shlomo Hamburg (from Colonia Dakashnia)

With the arrival of the Germans, the shape of the village was completely changed. Nearby Olkeniki had been burned and many of its residents had come to the village to find shelter from the rain and the cold, in preparation for the coming autumn days. The village of Putshakarna,[15] located next to them, had been burned down some time earlier, during the [first] Soviet era, and as good neighbors, the residents of Putshakarna had been invited with their cattle and whatever property they had managed to save from the fire, to come to Dashkania and stay there until they could rebuild their houses. The Germans did not pay much attention to this remote village. The villagers, who during the Soviet era had been working in all kinds of jobs, returned to their place of origin. In the village it was always possible

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to get something for a living. The granaries began to fill with the blessed harvest.

On one of the hot days of Av 5701 [August 1941], the people of the village realized that they were surrounded on all sides by Gestapo men and the Lithuanian guards at the head, with their peasant neighbors from Putshakarna. An order was given to gather all the residents of the village in the middle of the street, in front of the Beit Midrash. In an instant the village changed completely. People from all workplaces were returned to the only street that was in the village. The women and children were there as well. The women stood by their husbands ready for any trouble that might come. An order was given that the [village] authority was asked, of its own good will, to hand over for investigation the two Komsomol members, the Hamburg brothers. And if the authority failed to fulfill the request, the whole village would be punished as a consequence.

Shlomo Hamburg was a handsome guy and taller than all of the other boys in the village. The villagers were proud of their sons but justifiably were concerned that they might be sought. These guys, who were sturdy as oaks, prepared hiding places for themselves [to be used in times of danger]. They would sit in them, and wait for instructions from their parents. Shlomo's brother, Yaakov Hamburg, was not in the village that day.

The village was buzzing in a commotion. The whole village was actually one big connected family. All past disputes were forgotten and all the differences disappeared. Father Moshe, one of the dignitaries in the village, a wise man who could have contributed his wisdom and experience to the village even at this terrible moment - was gone, he remained stuck somewhere working in the field.

The “Gestapo” man stood and waited, looked at the clock, and said: “Fifteen minutes left.” Any hope was lost. The villagers didn't know what to do. They argued about whose interest should be given higher priority, that of the individual or that of the entire community. No one wanted to be the arbiter of this issue. And time was running out. Shlomo's friends told him about the order issued against him, and suggested that he should be the final arbiter. And Shlomo agreed, even though he stated he was not appropriate to be a sacrifice for the community's benefit. And “is there anything more honorable and noble than devotion for Klal Israel?”[16] “It's fine,” he said. “I am sure that my blood will not be silent and will not rest until you have avenged me,”, and with that he stood up tall and came out from his hiding place, as pale as lime, but quiet and trusting, and when the men from the “Gestapo” asked, “Are you Shlomo Hamburg?” he proudly answered, “Yes.”

On his father's land, from which many generations had made their living by hard work, the “Gestapo” men ordered him to dig a hole, 1.2 meters by 1.2 meters. Calmly, and without a trace of fear, Shlomo Hamburg did his work. And when he saw what they were about to do, he hurled words at the murderers, saying, “You scum of the earth, cowards. Against whom have you found the power and strength to destroy and kill? Do you intend to destroy the People of Israel? If that is your intent, you can forget about it. My revenge will be taken by my brothers, B'nei Israel,[17] because the People of Israel will last forever, but you, I have cursed you for the rest of your lives.” One bullet ended his and pure life. Respect must be given to his memory!

(Communicated by his sister Elka Hamburg, in Vilna Ghetto, 5703)


Translator's Footnotes:
  1. In Jewish tradition, a person who is murdered because of his Jewish faith is said to have died “al Kiddish Ha'Shem” (על קידוש השם), which means “for the sanctification of the name of God.” Return
  2. Since World War II, Rudninku Street. Return
  3. During the inter-war period, Radun, Valkininkai, and Vilna were in Poland. In September 1939 Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union conquered Poland and divided its territory between them. The eastern portion of Poland, also known as the Kresy, was taken by the Soviet Union. The Soviets transferred most of the Kresy, including Radun, to their puppet state of Byelorussia (“White Russia,” later Belarus), but the Vilna area, including Valkininkai, was transferred to Lithuania. Radun was occupied by Nazi Germany in late June 1941 and a ghetto was established in November 1941, but mass murders did not begin until May 1942. Return
  4. Rabbi Yisrael Meir ha-Kohen Kagan (1838-1933), was an influential rabbi who founded a yeshiva in Radun. He was the author of several scholarly works on Jewish law. His book Chofetz Chaim (Seeker of Life), which comprehensively examined Jewish law governing slander, was so well known that he became known by the name of the book. Return
  5. A beit midrash is a house of study that is also used for prayer. Return
  6. Since World War II, Stikliu (Glassblowers') Street. Return
  7. The Gemora (Aramaic גמרא?) is a portion of the Talmud which consists of rabbinical analysis and commentaries. Return
  8. January 1943. Return
  9. “HKP” refers to the forced-labor camp known as Heereskraftfahrpark 562, which was a German motor vehicle repair park located at 47 and 49 Subačiaus Street. Return
  10. Josef Glazman (1913-1943) was a native of Alytus who became the head of the Beitar youth movement in Lithuania in 1937. He also was the editor of the newspaper HaMedina (the State). When the Soviets occupied Lithuania in June 1940 and disbanded Jewish organizations, he joined the resistance to the Soviets authorities. After the Nazis invaded Lithuania, Glazman became a captive in the Vilna Ghetto. For a while he participated in the Jewish administration of the ghetto, including as a policeman, and then formed an anti-Nazi partisan unit that escaped to the forests outside of Vilna. In October 1943 his unit was surrounded and Glazman and the other members of the unit except one were killed. Return
  11. This street, one of the oldest in Vilna, is known in Lithuanian as Vokiečiu gatvė and in German as Deutsche Gasse because German merchants and craftsmen settled there in the 14th Century. Return
  12. Rudnicka Forest; Lithuanian: Rūdninku giria. Return
  13. Polish: Popiszki; Lithuanian, Papiškes. Return
  14. After the July 1943 defeat of the Germans at the Battle of Kursk, the Soviet armies advanced westward and Hitler ordered to destruction of the evidence of the mass murders at Ponary. A group of Jewish prisoners who came to be known as the “Burning Brigade” were ordered to dig out and burn the bodies of the victims. The Burning Brigade and the escape tunnel they dug is the subject of the American documentary film, Holocaust Escape Tunnel (2017). See also, “The Holocaust's Great Escape,” by Matthew Shaer, Smithsonian Magazine (March 2017). Return
  15. Polish: Puszkarnia; Lithuanian: Pūčkornės. The name of the village is related to a cannon and weapons foundry that was established there in the mid-16th Century. Return
  16. A Hebrew expression meaning all of the Jewish people. Return
  17. The Hebrew words for “Children of Israel” and meaning the Jewish People. Return

The Two Sisters
(In memory of Chava and Sarah Trakinski, may God avenge them)

K. P-R

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Edited by Philip Shapiro

The arrival of some of the townspeople to the Vilna ghetto changed the behavior of the local ghetto youth. The people of the ghetto were encouraged by the energy and talented actions that these nice boys of the towns and villages brought with them. Youths of their type, tall and tanned by the sun and wind, with strong and weathered hands, could not sit idly by and did not want to adapt to the life of a prisoner locked up in a ghetto.

Some of them left the ghetto labor camps and headed for the forests. Those from the towns who remained in the ghetto were an ingathering of the exiles (kibbutz galuyot); a young and proud generation, each from a different background, who gathered together. Their bitter fate united them and turned them into one family, all of whose members who were devoted to each other, for life and death.

Two sisters [Chava and Sarah Trakinski][1] were among those who came with the towns' youth. They were similar to each other and stood out in the group. A smile always hovered over their delicate faces. The girls were fit and beautiful in their appearance and were always ready to assist their friends.

I met them for the first time in the “kolkhoz”[2] in the ghetto, when they were sitting on the planks in their room. At first, I thought I had met their mother because their faces resembled that of their mother in her youth. When I heard their voices, I immediately knew who they were and where they came from.

The war and the disaster had hit them when they were, respectively, 13-year-old and 15-year-old gymnasium students in Vilna. Their father had been captured by the kidnappers; and their mother did not even manage to reach the ghetto. The two daughters, whose fate was bitter, stayed with a gentile acquaintance in one

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of the villages on the outskirts of Vilna. They knew every path around their place of residence. They were hidden in the corner of a granary that was full of grain.

Months had already passed since the day of the slaughter in the surrounding towns, and the gentiles could not yet satisfy their lust for Jewish property. They traveled from town to town to rob and loot the property that had been left in the Jewish homes. They drank thousands of bottles of schnapps in the course of their daily celebrations of the plunder and loot that they brought back to their homes. However, they were not at peace; they feared the few surviving heirs, not knowing the spirit and nature of those “Zhids” (Jews) who remained. Rumors circulated in the villages that many Jews had been saved and remained alive. Who could guarantee that the Jews would not return to ask for their property with an additional percentage? The gentiles quarreled among themselves and argued about the distribution of the spoils.

There was a rumor that the grandson of the Jewish butcher was hiding with a farmer in the village. The gentile warned his neighbor that a day would come and this Jew will take from him twice the amount of the plunder. In the meantime, the police were investigating and searching the houses [for Jews who had eluded capture]. The police promised 1000 marks for every living Jew who was handed over for arrest. And if a Jew was found about whom they had not been informed, the gentile who sheltered him would be hanged.

The decrees and the conflicted situation in the villages also hurt the two sisters. For a long period, the gentile – “their savior” – had been estranged from them. The property he received from their family was worth thousands of rubles. Clothes and valuables, which their parents had transferred to his house, would be enough for him and his family members for decades, but how would he keep in his house the living evidence of the “estate” that he possessed? He could not sleep at night, and here he received help “from heaven,” in the form of the neighbors and the police who helped him in this matter.

In the evening, the farmer came to the sisters in the granary and told them that he would no longer hide them. He gave them food for their journey and asked them to leave his house and the village as soon as possible.

And so, the two Jewish girls, disguised as farm girls, wandered through villages and farming towns, looking for work to support themselves. If they had made their way separately, it would have been easier for them to somehow manage, but how can you be parted at a time like this? In the summer season, it was possible to get field work. However, in the winter, it was difficult for them, because together they looked suspicious to the farmers, and their black eyes testified that they were daughters of Israel.

They arrived at a new village and found shelter with one of the farmers. In the forest that was near the village there were Jews working [as slave laborers]. They cut down trees, and the farmers drove them to the gathering place. Sometimes the echoes from the forest were carried on the wings of the wind. – the workers speaking in juicy Yiddish. Sometimes they heard a vigorous curse in Hebrew that was addressed to the enslaving Nazis murderers.

In their hiding place, the girls heard the cries of blood and could not overcome their storm of emotions. It was difficult for them to always be disguised, to live as Christians and be alienated from everyone. And no one knew if they would be able to last like this until the end.

After a night of wandering, they decided, while in an abandoned granary at the edge of the village, to go to the Jews in the forest. In the morning they arrived at the Jewish labor camp in the forest. The Jewish foremen found certificates for them, and they were accepted as members of the labor camp.

* * *

The woodchoppers' camp was one of the “Todt” [company] camps[3] and the workers were moved from place to place. The girls went to work together with hundreds of boys and girls. When the camp arrived in the Vilna ghetto, the two girls arrived with it. They lived a normal camp life in the ghetto. They were well aware of their situation and waited for the right opportunity to leave the camp and wander until the end.

They knew about the death of their parents. They heard a rumor about one of their uncles and his family, who [while being marched to a place of captivity] ran away from the line. On one of the cold winter days, the sisters once again arrived at the camp of the wandering woodchoppers, where they had previously been hiding. The roads and paths are known to them, and they felt a constant longing to escape to a settlement of free people.

By noon of a working day they had completed their quota for cutting trees. After that they made their way to the village of Zachary [Zakoriai]. They wanted to buy a slice of bread and potatoes for money, or clothes, or even to receive something as charity. They went from one farmer's house to another, but no gentiles were willing to sell to them. The farmers did not want to share their bread with the two hungry girls. Finally, they reached a hut that had sunk into the ground. An old man who smoked a pipe lived in the hut. He recognized that they were Jewish and he remembered, apparently, that he had spent many hours of his life in Jewish homes. He asked them, out of curiosity, how did they had ended up in this remote village, what was their job, how did they make a living, and whether there many Jews left alive in the country. The girls were puzzled and did not understand the meaning of his interest in them; it was the first time that a gentile farmer had shown any interest in Jews. He should not have continued with his questions because as they started talking their words burst forth like a stream of water. They told him about their past, about their hardships, about their work and their “sources of livelihood.” While talking, they told him that they came from a town not far away, from Olkeniki, and that they were the granddaughters of Shmuel Yaakov, who was known to the farmers of the village and the surrounding area.

When the old farmer heard the name, he made the sign of the cross over his chest twice and became silent.

[The farmer was not alone.] For months a Jew had been living in this hut, hidden behind a false wall next to the hot stove. There, he was sheltered from the eyes of neighbors and acquaintances, and also away from friends. The days passed and he measured every day and every hour. Who

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knew what would happen tomorrow? He did not feel or know that the hairs of his head and his beard had turned white. It was hard to recognize him. During the day he shrank between the narrow walls and tried to check whether he was still alive and breathing. At night, he came out of his hiding place into the [main part of the] hut, to breathe air and straighten up and test his legs to see if they were still able to carry his tortured body.

Ever since the Jewish woodchoppers came to the vicinity of the village, his “rest” was taken from him. For over two years he had neither seen a Jew nor heard Yiddish spoken by a Jew. Sometimes, indeed, behind the wall and the oven he heard the slang language of the drunken farmers, imitating in their drunkenness the language of the “Zhids.” And now he was hearing the voices of the Jewish girls, and the voices were so close to his heart and familiar to him. He swore that he had heard these sounds previously in his life. He was all tense and nervous. He stood on the tips of his toes, his mouth was open, his ears were wide open, and he was satisfying his thirst to hear Yiddish words coming out of their mouths. And suddenly he felt as if he had been hit by lightning. He remembered that the voices were surely known to him because they mentioned the name of his father-in-law, Shmuel Ya'akov. Oh, these were the daughters of his wife's sister!

His heart swelled until it burst. Should he come out of hiding? Should he allow himself to inform them of his existence, and get to know them, or not?

The girls continued to tell their story to the farmer. Their clear voices penetrated through the very deep wall and into his heart. He won't stop until he can see them. He burst with endless sorrow. When he noticed that they were preparing to leave, the uncle's warm emotions overcame the cold countenance of someone who had been sentenced to death. He came out from his hiding place. He was their uncle, Reb David Ribak, with a face now as pale as lime and his hair like the feathers of the white dove. He was very thin and his eyes were sunken and burning in their sockets. This is how the uncle was revealed to the eyes of the girls, his only relatives in the world, in the shabby hut, at the edge of the village of Zachary, and, who knew, perhaps this would be the last time in his life that he would see a Jewish face.

…That night, the sisters' sleep wandered off. They hid their secret in their hearts, whispering and talking, planning how to get out of the camp and again contact their uncle. For more than two years their only uncle had been holding on to life by hiding at farmers' places. It might be possible that he would again see good days. Their uncle [they imagined] was looking for ways to save them. They would fall asleep for a short time, daydream, and sometimes wake up out of fear. The next day at noon they made their way to the hut with light feet and hearts full of hope. When they opened the door, they realized that something had happened, because they couldn't find their uncle…

The old farmer told them his sad story. The neighbors had complained about him and said that in his old age he was living too good a life; so, they thought, he must be hiding Jews in his hut. With the arrival of the Jews to work in the surrounding forests, the neighbors' suspicion of the old man grew, and the girls' visit to the hut only added to it. After the girls' visit, an elderly neighbor, who was in his eighties, told the farmer that his “enlightened” young grandson was preparing to search his hut. The old man had time to inform the uncle and take him out through the garden of fruit trees to the abandoned bathhouse. At that moment, the young man accompanied by the police came to search for the hiding Jew. The old man did not know where the uncle had gone because the uncle himself did not know where he would be heading.

When the girls returned to the Vilna ghetto, I heard from them their story about their uncle living in exile with the farmers. When they spoke about the agony they caused the uncle by appearing at the hut, it became clear to me once again, the great and wonderful thing about the nature of the holy and pure daughters of Israel, the daughters of Hannah the Hasmonean, our mother.

I met Reb David Ribak, who was also my uncle, in Vilna after the liberation. When I asked him about his meeting his nieces, I saw in the tears in his eyes the holy souls shining with a precious light, the ancient light of the daughters of Israel.

This is how the girls of our town were. Honor [to them] and [their] precious memory!


Editor's Footnotes:
  1. The Yad Vashem database of Holocaust victims shows that Sara Trakinski, of Olkeniki, Poland, was murdered, and that Chaya Trakinski was listed as a captive in the Vilna ghetto. Return
  2. “Kolkhoz” (Russian: колхоз) is a word formed by blending elements of the Russian words for a collective farm (коллективное хозяйство). The term originated in Soviet Russia and typically referred to an agricultural production unit operated by several families. Return
  3. The “Todt Organization” was a private contracting firm that undertook many public works projects for the Nazi regime. It routinely used involuntary labor. Return

The Memorial Candle

K. P-R

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Edited by Philip Shapiro

A yahrzeit [memorial] candle for the souls of my father and teacher, Reuven, and my mother and teacher, Chana Feige, may God avenge them.

I was small in the year of grandfather Beinish's death. I had not yet reached school age. I was loved by my grandfather and he did not deny me good food and sweet things. I remember how beautifully he knew how to draw my attention to him with his heartwarming stories and beautiful and funny sayings.

When he noticed that I was satisfied with a beautiful gift or sweets that I had received, he would say to me, his little grandson, “When you grow up, and I will no longer be alive - will you remember me? Will you ever light a candle for the ascent of my soul?”

I grew up, left my home, and went to a faraway place to study Torah. There, I spent the days of my youth. When I would return on holidays to the family circle, to the home of my father and mother, my relatives would remind me of my grandfather's words and ask: Had I forgotten my late grandfather Beinish's last request?

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It seems to me that today, and every day, my grandfather's will – his wish – echoes in my memory. And this was also the last request of my father and mother, and the request of all of the fathers and mothers, which is – to mention their names, to perpetuate their memory, even if only by lighting a candle for the ascent of their souls.

I am sure that in your last moments, when you stood on the threshold of life, by the great and terrible mass grave in Eishyshok, sick and exhausted, shocked and lonely, and you did the terrible final reckoning, there was a prayer and a request in your heart, similar to my prayer and request when I was in a situation similar to yours, in the ghetto and in the camp: That someone will be found to take revenge on the evil, the Nazi German predator, and that there will be a remnant left on earth who will remember to light a candle for the ascent of your soul.

It seems to me that in your pure and innocent faith in the God of Israel, and in your complete and unshakable confidence in the Eternity of Israel, you knew and felt that the blood shed for sanctifying his holy name was not shed in vain.

The Almighty counts every drop and there is justice and there is a judge. You knew that your faithful children whom you nurtured with the blood of your soul, with the majesty of your spirit, will know how to honor your name and perpetuate your memory and will remember to light a candle for the ascent of the souls of their holy fathers and mothers, who gave their lives for the holiness of God. May God avenge your blood.

On the Ponary Hills[1]

K. P-R

(Translated from Yiddish: S. F-R)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Edited by Philip Shapiro

The news that the Soviet Lithuania authority[2] was organizing a memorial event for Ponary, the place where the Jews of Vilna and the surrounding area were exterminated, passed like an electric current through the factory “Electric,” where over 80% of the remnants of Vilna Jews worked after the liberation.

We had been freed only a few days earlier, but we had not been allowed to approach the Ponary hills, as units of soldiers were guarding Ponary and the weapons depots near it.

Ponary! Is there anyone among the remnants of the Jews of Vilna and its surroundings who utters this word without fear and trepidation?

The Ponary hills! Where is the mourner who will know how to express the great lamentation for the masses of the graves and for the paths [of pain] inside you.

The Ponary hills! There will be no dew or rain upon you. May it be that your land will not absorb any drops of rain and dew because it is saturated with the blood of all the thousands of holy and pure souls that your land absorbed.

* * *

Jews from the workshops and industrial factories, from cooperatives, and from office buildings went out into the streets. The number of participants in the demonstration increased rapidly in the square in front of the train station, which was the departure place.[3] Each group had its own train car. We were also joined by groups of Polish workers from the leftist political parties.

We started travelling. The mood was suited to the circumstances. The wound was still fresh – we had been freed only a few days earlier. It was difficult to adjust to the idea that the last Jews of Vilna, those who, after the liquidation of the ghetto had remained alive in the HKP and Kailis camps[4] and in the Gestapo and military hospitals, were the last to be exterminated on the Ponary hills.

The passengers remained in a troubled, absolute silence. Because our journey was common to all of us, only the one destiny interested us, the path of suffering.

The train stopped in the middle of a field. Here! Exactly in this place the engine used to stop, but under completely different conditions. Back then, when it was run by man-eating executioners, it took holy sacrifices to be slaughtered. And on this day – it took free and liberated people to a holy memorial place, where everyone would make his own self-reckoning and his reckoning with the world.

And as soon as a tremor shakes your soul, you remember that you are standing on the same ground, among the same bushes, on the same paths, where they were led and pushed, where they beat and tortured our loved ones and the best of our sons and daughters.

Not so long ago was the day in which they piled up here the Jews who had been captured in Oshmyany, Shventzian, Smorgon, and Kreva, over 4,000 souls, holy and pure Jews, among them the great in the study of Torah, righteous and saints of the world.

And in this very place the unfortunates revolted with only their fists, unarmed, with their claws and teeth that they imbedded in the flesh of the haters. Here they died, torn and cut, but a few of them also remained as witnesses of the horror.

But - they are all silent. Those who gathered are without speech; you can only notice a tear in the eye of one or the other, which finds a way to slide down to earth.

* * *

In the afternoon, we walked on the road, across the railroad tracks. We walked along the path towards the fence of the barbed wire, and suddenly… we started running over potholes and branches, over tree trunks and barbed wire, and we stopped at an open gate.

To this day I cannot understand the meaning of our running. Probably

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an instinctive force drove and pushed us, calling and pulling us to the holy place.

We turned to the right, to the hole in the barbed wire, and we stopped reluctantly. Yes, at this point the victims already knew for sure where they were being led. Here, they also stopped and asked: Where? and why? Here, in this place, began the tortures from hell, the humiliations, the beatings, and the satanic laughter of the executioners. Here, the victims were stripped and, stark naked, they went in groups of dozens to the pit, between the closely knit rows of murderers and torturers.

Who is the man whose imagination could raise up the images of the horror that occurred in this place? Did you hear anything from the few survivors? Heroic Jews also walked here, with confidence and courage they marched toward the abyss, while singing “Beztet Israel Mi'mtzrayim” (“when the children of Israel departed from Egypt”).

The German monsters in human form, bloodthirsty wild beasts, went crazy here; the degenerate sadists carried out their abuse here.

And our neighbors ever since, the Lithuanian “Ypatinga” (special companies),[5] fulfilled, with diabolical precision, the orders of their evil masters.

* * *

We walked to the mound of the first mass grave, which has just now been opened. The smell of death penetrated our noses. Here on the mound the picture of horrors is revealed, the living testimony of the horrors of the cannibalistic murderers.

Here are laid before me, in a pit, in a circle, my brothers and sisters, my relatives and friends, all of them are lying in stunning order and exemplary wildness.

The entire top row is laid out, with the faces of the saints facing up and close to each other. The faces of some of them seem to decipher their interrupted thoughts, the fears of their recent experiences that left marks on their faces.

Some bodies were laid with their cloths on, some have some of their clothes covering their bodies, and the skeletons of some bodies are bleaching. You can see women with one shoe on their feet, as well as barefoot women. The murderers did not spare anything big or small, they also looted and stole “Jewish clothes.”

All of the bodies in the second row below were lying with their faces down. As it been told by eyewitnesses, the saints were laid in the pit while they were still alive and waited for their turn to be shot. Most of them were shot in the head. The depraved murderers, whose souls longed to abuse their victims, would shoot other parts of the victim's body first, and, when the unfortunate victim was fluttering between life and death and requesting that they hurry up and end his misery, the murderers would growl with wild satanic shouts.

There were horrible pictures that cannot be put on paper. Who will name those who spat in the faces of the murderers and called them by their satanic name, and those whose fists attacked the murderers, and their teeth embedded into their necks? These did not have to wait for their turn, for a bullet from the murderers, they were tortured and murdered immediately.

Here lies in a corner a pile of bodies dressed in long military coats. These were Soviet prisoners. The terrible smell of death penetrated the nose and throat.

You stand in this place like a fossil, senseless, and something pulls you to affix you to the place and not move from here.

In the city, on the street and wherever you walk, sadness accompanies you, darkness and gloom on a clear day. You are walking in the streets that were full of Jews, where there was a vibrant life, and today - sadness, and no sign of Jews in the street. The destroyed and ruined houses add to the feeling of sadness.

And here, in the valley of slaughter, everyone is in front of you. Here pass those from the last Aktziya. After all, we were together, in troubles and joys, and we talked so much about Ponary, often with fear and trepidation, and sometimes also with longing. And we have asked, when will we be saved from the terror of death, from terror, but not from death? How intense was the envy in those who died a regular death, just like any other person.

* * *

…Down the hillside to the left, on the opposite side, there were two long rows of graves, about 20 meters long and four meters wide; and near them is a small gravestone bearing the inscription “Children's Grave.” Next to it was grave of one of the last martyrs, Dr. Figos.

Seeing it reminds you of the many cases in which children ran at the edge of the abyss to their mothers. The mothers begged and asked the executioners to hurry up and end their lives, so that their eyes would not see the torment of their children, but the murderers did not listen to their request and did the opposite of what was requested.

At some distance, on the hills, there were traces of large pits filled with dirt. These are the mass graves from which the bodies were exhumed for burning, to thereby obscure the traces of the murders.[6] We stopped at the top of the hill, by a large circular pit. Its diameter was 21 meters and its depth was 7 meters. The pit was plastered with cement. It had been installed [during the first Soviet occupation, from June 1940 to June 1941] as a place camouflaged by the forest for storing the Soviet army's gasoline reserves.

It was the terrible fate of about 70 Jews to live and work in this huge pit to exhume the bodies of their holy brothers and set them on fire.[7] Contact with the outside world was completely denied to them. Here, in the pit of the grave, they lived, worked, and died. For three months they worked hard, from 7:00 [in the morning] until 4:00 in the afternoon, and they managed to burn about 40 thousand bodies.

The order of work was as follows: They would lay 2 rows of bodies, 40 in each row, place wood and tar on them, and set them on fire. The ashes were scattered to the sides and covered with chlorine powder [chlorinated lime]. The bodies would be brought up to the top row by a special iron ladder. The ladder stands to this day as a witness to the horrors that took place here. Both sides of the ladder are black

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and sticky with blood. To this day, fragments of bones, jaws, and buttons torn from bodies are stuck to the iron bars, which serve as endless evidence and a memory.

A German-Lithuanian guard stood in this place and watched over the workers day and night. After the work for the day ended, the prisoners were lowered into the pit, and the ladder was brought to the ground surface. The guards were stationed on both sides of the pit and on the hills, with searchlights that illuminated the area. An SS company strictly guarded its victims – the workers, who were chained to each other with iron shackles. They built a wooden shed, a kitchen shack, and a toilet for them in the pit.

On January 29, 1944, some of these unfortunates began to dig an underground tunnel. They took out the excavated soil in their pants pockets. With their very hands and food spoons they dug until they managed to dig a tunnel that was 40 meters long, 60 cm. high, and 70 cm. wide. They worked day by day for two and a half months until, on the 15th of April, the tunnel was completed and the light of the outside world was revealed to them.

According to the assigned fate they had to come out of the trap of their grave. The sick and the weak, whose strength did not allow them to join the escapees, were afraid to be left behind due to their fear of the terror that they would experience because of the escape of their friends.

The exit from the tunnel was beyond a hill upon which a guard was stationed. Beyond the exit was a wire fence that surrounded the entire area of the forest. One of the escapees stumbled and fell, and the noise he made attracted the attention of the guards, who immediately opened deadly fire on the escapees in the middle of the night. The guards increased the brightness of the searchlights and illuminated an area of several kilometers around. Of the 20 escapees, 13 Jews and 7 Soviet prisoners, only 4 remained alive. Among those who were shot at the site was Moshe Strachensky, from Olkeniki, may God avenge him.[8]

Scattered in the grove are bags, handkerchiefs, torn pieces of money from different countries, combs, and more things. They are the last remnants of the lives that were cut off by the wicked people of the world.

* * *

High-ranking personalities of Soviet Lithuania spoke at the memorial event. As a side thing, they also mentioned the Jews who had perished in this place, including the professors of the Lithuanian University in Vilna, Noah Prilutsky, Lazarson (who survived!),[9] and Epstein, who were brought here after long tortures in the “Gestapo” cellars.

As one of the survivors of the inferno, a shiver of frost grips my body and a sadness descends on my heart when I hear the words [of the Soviet Lithuanian personalities] that contain not even a trace of participation in the sorrow and grief of the Jewish suffering, or consolation for the great disaster. As if it had to be so; even here, in our Ponary, we are redundant. Everything belongs to them, to the gentiles – the world, life, and the pleasures of life. And even with our death, their heart is not a whole.

The only speaker from the remnants of the Jews of Vilna, Dr. Livo, who spoke words that came from the heart, also spoke in the language of the gentiles. When the memorial event officially ended, and when the tumultuous applause in honor of the freed people was heard, we, a group from the remnants of the refugees of Vilna Jews, approached the open mass grave.

We recited the prayer “El Male Rachamim” (“God Full of Mercy”) to sanctify the souls of our brothers and sisters, our parents, and our children. Our souls clung to the souls of the holy and pure, the inhabitants of Ponary, and with a voice bursting through the clouds, we cried out together into the space of the empty world:

Exalted and sanctified be His great name…

Vilna, Elul 5704 – “Electric factory”


Editor's Footnotes:
  1. Ponary (Ponar, Yiddish; Paneriai, Lithuanian) is the Polish name of a village southeast of Vilna that is situated on the side of long, low-lying, and mostly forested hill. In the 19th Century it gained prominence as an obstacle that stalled Napoleon's retreat in the War of 1812. During the Second World War, between July 1941 and August 1944, it was the site of the murder of approximately 100,000 people, the majority of whom, approximately 70,000, were Jews from the Vilna area. The remainder were primarily ethnic Poles and Russian prisoners of war. Return
  2. On August 3, 1940, the Soviet Union annexed Lithuania. On June 22, 1941, Lithuania was invaded by Nazi Germany, which controlled the country until the Soviet army drove the Germans out in 1944. The Soviet Lithuanian regime in Vilna was restored in July 1944. Return
  3. Many of those murdered were transported approximately 13 kilometers by train from the Vilna central railway station to the Ponary train station. Return
  4. “HKP” refers to the forced-labor camp known as Heereskraftfahrpark 562, which was a German motor vehicle repair park located at 47 and 49 Subačiaus Street in the city of Vilna. “Kailis” (Lithuanian for “fur”) was a forced-labor camp in Vilna that produced winter clothing for the German military. Return
  5. The “Ypatingasis būrys” (Lithuanian for “special squad”), which was comparable to the German Einsatzkommando (German for “special purpose squad”), was a death squad composed of ethnic Lithuanian volunteers. Return
  6. After defeating the Germans at the Battle of Kursk in July 1943, the Russian armies advanced westward toward Lithuania. At the same time, the Germans' hold on Vilna became increasingly tenuous as their supply lines were attacked by anti-German partisans in the nearby forests. To destroy the evidence of the massacres at Ponary Hitler ordered that the victims' bodies be dug out and burned. Return
  7. This group of prisoners is known as the “Burning Brigade.” Return
  8. The Burning Brigade and the escape tunnel they dug is the subject of the American documentary film, Holocaust Escape Tunnel (2017) . See also, “The Holocaust's Great Escape,” by Matthew Shaer, Smithsonian Magazine (March 2017). Return
  9. Professor Vladimir Lazerson (1889–1945) was a prominent psychologist who was the founder of the discipline and practice of psychology in inter-war Lithuania. He was the head of the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Humanities of Vilnius University until he was fired on June 22, 1941, the day when Nazi Germany began its war with the Soviet Union. Lazarson died in the Dachau (Germany) concentration camp. Return

[Page 206]

And these are the Names
of the Townspeople who Survived the Holocaust

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Edited by Philip Shapiro

In exile in Siberia:
The late Gad Zandman (died in Israel)
Haim Zubiszky (lives in Israel)
Eliyahu Zubiszky (lives in Israel)

In the ghetto, in the camps, and in the bunkers
Kalman and Fanya Farber (live in Israel)
Niota Kotler-Levin (lives in Mexico)
Meir Kinbrom (lives in Israel)

In the woods and hiding places
Leib Kopans and his sons (live abroad)
Lazer Shtraf (lives in America)
David Ribak (lives in Israel)
Miriam Ribak (lives in Israel)
Leibe Katz (lives in Israel)
Y. Zalotsky (lives aboard)
The late Haim Solz (died in Poland in 1960)
His daughter Hana Solz (lives in Israel)
The late Yekutiel Solz (died in Poland in 1959)
The wife of Yekutiel Solz and their son and daughter (live in Israel)
Avraham Taykan (lives in Israel)
Duba Shachor (lives in Israel)
The late Ze'ev Goldberg (died in a car accident in Italy)
Hana Rivka Grodzenchik (lives in Israel)
Lisa Kaplan Starobolsky (lives in Russia)
Yechiel Kaplan (lives in Russia)
Mrs. Eidelman, the daughter of the butcher Reb Shmuel Eidelman.

In the partisans
Yosef Hariztal
Hanan Pitlock, his son and his daughter (live in Israel)
Dov Lifshitz, from Salo (lives in America)
Levi Lifshitz, from Salo (lives in America)
The late Leibke Katz (killed in an action)

In the Red Army
Shmuel Farber (lives in Russia)
Hanan Bernstein (lives in Israel)
Yosef Maltzman (lives in Israel)
Haim Bakalraisky (lives in Israel)
The late Simcha Goldberg (wounded and died in a hospital)
The late Mordechai Mark (died in a Nazi POW camp)
Leib Pitlock
The Balon brothers

A Tribute to the Souls of our Townspeople Who Died in Israel in Recent Generations
The late Reb Shlomo Manos the blacksmith
His late wife
The late Rabbi Ya'akov, the son of Shmariahu HaCohen LeZion, Jerusalem
The late Rabbi's wife Kayla Levin
The late Rachel, the daughter of Reuven Farber,
The late Ze'ev Braz, Petach-Tikva,
The late Leah Baraz, Petach Tikva,
The late Shraga Faiva Dan, Jerusalem
The late Yehudit Dan, Jerusalem
The late Eliyahu Menachemi, Afula
The late Chaya Menachemi, Afula
The late Gad Zandman (Holocaust survivors), Bnei Brak
The late Prof. Yosef Kloizner, Jerusalem


Important Dates in the Life of the Town
The 16th Century
5300 - The 16th Century: Polish kings Sigismund the Elder and Sigismund August visit their palace in the town of Olkeniki (sources). 5350 - 1589: Gravestones were found in the old cemetery in town in from this date forward (eyewitnesses).

The 17th Century
5416 - 1655: The town was conquered by the Cossacks

[Page 207]

of Tsar Alexander Mikhailovich (according to historical sources).
5455 - 1695: A meeting of the state committee was held (the Council of the Four Lands) in the town. (Dubnov).

The 18th Century
1700: A war between the Schlachta [noblemen] families (Sapiega - Vishnovtsky) broke out in the town (sources).
1765: The population census of the of the townspeople and the surrounding population. 535 Jewish taxpayers (encyclopedia).
5541 - 1781: Rabbi of the Galilee, Rabbi Shmuel Vigdorowicz, signs in the town's register.
1795: In the [Third] Partition of Poland, the town is included in Russian territory (according to historical sources).
1798: The congregation decides to invite a builder to build the synagogue (according to the register).

The 19th Century
1802: The wooden synagogue building was completed (according to articles in the synagogue)
1808: Expulsion of the residents from the surrounding villages (according to historical sources).
1812: Napoleon (or the father of monarchy in France) visits in the town and in the synagogue (according to the legend).
1840: The town is considered as an estate (“Mayantec”) (according to historical sources).
1844: The Kahal was abolished as a public institution (according to historical sources).
1847: The population census showed that there were 1153 Jewish residents (encyclopedia).
1848: The Jewish settlement of Panshishuk was founded (archive).
1850: The construction of the Vilna - Warsaw railway began (according to historical sources).
1850/51: The Jewish colonies of Salo (Dakashnia) and Liepine (according to historical sources) were founded.
5620 - 1860: The railroad's construction was completed; the townspeople work in construction (according to the elders).
5623 - 1863: Avraham from Kilik participates in the uprising of the Poles (according to the elders).
5629 - 1869: The beginning of emigration from the town and its colonies to the United States (according to historical sources).
5630 – 1870: The “Workers' Company” was founded in the town (according to the elders)
5632 - 1872: The Controversies of the Rabbis, Rabbi Abba and Rabbi Yosef Trivush (“Hashachar”).
5633 - 1873: Rabbi Yaakov, the son of Rabbi Shmariyahu Levin, was appointed as the rabbi of the town (according to historical sources).
5657 - 1897: In the population census there were 2619 residents, including 1126 Jews (encyclopedia).

The 20th Century
5660 - 1900: The IKA [Jewish Colonization Association[1]] company begins to support the Jewish communities (according to the town's archive).
5663 - 1903: The work at the cardboard factory of the Solz from Vilna stopped (according to the archive).
5664 - 1904: A group of amateurs presents “David and Goliath” at the Solz factory (according to the archive).
5665 - 1905: The town's youth organizes “The Defence”[2] (according to the archive).
5665 - 1905: Ze'ev Braz visits Israel for the first time (his words).
5666 - 1906: The [Jewish] People's Bank was founded (H. Lonsky).
5667 - 1907: The emigration of the town's youth to the United States increases (according to the archive).
5669 - 1909: The public library was founded (according to the archive).
5671 - 1911: The eight members of the Ze'ev Braz family immigrate to Israel (according to family tradition).
5672 - 1912: The reformed “Tchiya” [תְּחִיָּה renewal] school was founded.
5672 - 1912: The old register was burned in a fire that ruined an entire street behind the church (from the memory of the writer of these articles).
5674 - 1914: Rabbi Zvi Polachek, may God avenge him, travels to a visit in Israel (from the memory of the writer of these articles).
5674 - 1914: World War I breaks out; young men enlist in the army (from the memory of the writer of these articles).
5675 - 1915: Lithuanian deportees[3] come and settle in the town (from the memory of the writer of these articles).
5675 - 1915: The retreating Russians blow up the factory and the flour mill of H. Bernstein.
5676 - 1916: The Germans occupy Olkeniki with “Haust Gevit” (according to the town's archive).
5677 - 1917: The “Tze'irei Zion” (Zion Youth) Association was founded.
5678 - 1918: The library reopened after its destruction during the war (Lonsky).
5679 - 1919: Z. Sternin participates in the “YeKoPo”[4] conference as the town's representative (according to the town's archive).
5679 -5680 – 1919 - 1920: Zionist activity in the town increased.
5680 - 1920: Lithuanian and Polish partisans battle[5] in the town's streets (from the memory of the writer of these articles).
5680 - 1920: S. Farber participates in the second “Tze'irei Zion” (Zion Youth) conference in Vilna (according to the town's archive).
5680 - 1920: The first pioneers (Chalutzim) immigrate (on foot) to Israel (according to the town's archives).
5681 - 1921: The first Democratic People's Committee was elected.
5683 - 1923: The charity (gmilus chasadim) was founded with the help of “YeKoPo” (according the register).
5684 - 1924: A group of pioneers (Chalutzim) and the family of Eliyahu Menachemowitz (Menachemi) immigrate to Israel (memories).
5684 - 1924: Rabbi Yaakov Levin immigrates to Israel (memories).
5684 - 1924: Rabbi Waldshan is appointed as the rabbi of the town (memories).

[Page 208]

5686 - 1926: The HeChalutz Hatzair was founded.
5687 - 1927: The Yavne School was founded by the “Cherus” [freedom] center (memories).
5687 – 1927: “Wilbig” branch was founded (Lonsky).

Dates Relevant to the Holocaust
1940: Youth groups go to study in gymnasiums in Vilna.[6]
1940: The road in the north of the town was paved, near Gemina - from the “Piłsudski road”[7] to the train station.
1940: A truck started going to Vilna every day.
1941: The town was occupied by the Soviets.[8]
1941: Gad Zandman was exiled to Siberia.[9]
23.6.1941: The Nazis entered the town.
25.6.1941: The town burned down from a Nazi shell that set fire to a gasoline tank.
1941: The library was demolished.
20.9.1941: On Sunday, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah 1942, the townspeople were led on their last journey to Eishyshok.
25.9.1941: Thursday-Friday of the week, on the 4th-5th of Tishrei 5702, they were murdered there in a mass grave.


Editor's Footnotes:
  1. The Jewish Colonization Association was a philanthropic association to assist Jews who lived in depressed economic circumstances or in countries of persecution to emigrate and settle elsewhere in productive employment. It also worked to improve local farming methods. Return
  2. Footnote added by the translator:] In 1903, the czarist government instigated pogroms – violent riots – against its Jewish subjects. In many cases, the police and army participated in the riots. In response, many Jewish communities organized and began training self-defense groups. The situation became worse in 1905, when the government publicly called upon “the wrath of the masses” to turn against the Jews. Return
  3. In the Spring of 1915, the czarist army summarily expelled the Jews living in the central part of the Kovna Gubernya (province), ordering them into exile in the interior of Russia. Almost most went to declared destination provinces, some came to the Vilna Gubernya, where Jewish residents were not subject to the expulsion decree. Valkininkai was in the Vilna Gubernya and there deportee may have been Jews from the Kovna Gubernya who found refuge in Valkininkai. Return
  4. “YeKoPo” is the acronym for the “Yevreyskiy komitet pomoshchi zhertvam voyny,” (“Jewish Committee for the Relief of War Victims”). Return
  5. From September to November 1920, the new Lithuanian and Polish states fought a war to determine the border between their countries. When an armistice was reached in November 1920, the ceasefire line was west of Valkininkai. That line was the de facto border between the two countries for the remainder of the inter-war period. Return
  6. In September 1939, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union invaded and conquered Poland and divided its territory. The Soviet Union took possession of eastern Poland (the “Kresy”). In October 1939, the Soviet Union transferred the Vilna area, including Valkininkai, to Lithuania. Return
  7. During the inter-war period, Vilna and Grodno were in Poland. In the 1930s, the Poles paved a road which connected Vilna via Grodno to Warsaw and Krakow. This road, which was called the Piłsudski Road, in honor of the Republic of Poland's first chief of state, Józef Piłsudski (1867-1935), did not pass through Valkininkai. Return
  8. The Soviets seized control of Lithuania on June 15, 1940, and retained it until they were driven out by the Nazi invasion, which began on June 22, 1941. Return
  9. On June 14, 1941, the Soviets arrested about 17,500 people in Lithuania and sent them to Siberia. Of this number about 1,700 were Jews. Return

Closure of the Book

S. P-R

I agree with the words of our ancestors who said, “What comes out of the heart enters the heart.” And I am certain that you, too, dear reader, have felt our pain and your heart was aching for our dear town and its saints who perished in the Holocaust.

And now, if you are a member of our town, or one of its descendants, then our request for you is that you read the book about Olkeniki at least twice a year, on the memorial days for the saints of our city, the 4th and 5th of Tishrei, and on the 10th of Tevet – the Memorial Day for the saints of the Holocaust of all of European Jewry.

And if you light a memorial candle on these days for the souls of your family members and relatives, and shed a tear for those who perished on these terrible days, you will know that your tear added a drop to the sea of tears of our aching people.

And it is your commandment to tell your children and your children's children after you, so that they will pass to the last generation, what the Amalek of our time, the accursed Nazis, damn them, did to you and to your people. And those of your family who came to the land of their ancestors - to Israel, and all the children of Israel in every place in the worlds, will dwell safely and peacefully, and they will enjoy the complete redemption of the people of Israel in the Land of Israel.

24th Sivan 5720 (20.6.60)


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