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[Page 234]

Lazdey
(Lazdijai, Lithuania)

54°14' 23°31'

Lazdey (in Yiddish) is located in the South Western part of Lithuania, at the junction of roads leading to Mariampol (Marijampole) and Alite (Alytus), with several big lakes nearby. Lazdey was established by King Zigmunt II August in 1570, and was granted the Magdeburg Rights in 1579 as well as permission to maintain a weekly market and two yearly fairs.

Until 1795 Lazdey was part of the Polish Lithuanian Kingdom, when the third division of Poland by the three superpowers of those times – Russia, Prussia and Austria – resulted in Lithuania becoming partly Russian and partly Prussian. The part of the state that lay on the left side of the Nieman River (Nemunas), including Lazdey, was handed over to Prussia that ruled there during the years 1795–1807. During these years Lazdey was a county administrative center.

After Napoleon defeated Prussia and according to the Tilzit agreement of July 1807, Polish territories occupied by Prussia were transferred to what became known as the “The Great Dukedom of Warsaw”, which was established at that time. The King of Saxony, Friedrich August, was appointed Duke, and the Napoleonic code now became the constitution of the Dukedom, according to which everybody was equal before the law, except for the Jews who were not granted any civil rights.

During the years 1807–1813, Lazdey belonged to the “Great Dukedom of Warsaw” and was part of the Bialystok district. The Napoleonic code was then introduced in this region, remaining in effect even during the Lithuanian period. In 1827 Lazdey had a population of 1,988 people living in 272 houses.

In 1815, after the defeat of Napoleon, all of Lithuania was annexed to Russia, as a result of which Lazdey was included in the Augustowa Province (Gubernia), and in 1866 it became a part of the Suwalk Gubernia as a county administrative center.

During the years of its existence Lazdey suffered from many fires.

In 1915 the German army occupied the town, ruling there till 1918 at which time the independent Lithuanian state was established. In 1919 the Polish army took over in Lazdey, but was expelled after several days. Lazdey remained inside the border of Lithuania, but Sejny, the district administrative center, was included in Poland. The district institutions, which were in what was called the Sejny district, were transferred to Lazdey, but the town remained a county administrative center only for all the years of independent Lithuania (1918–1940). The invasion of the German army in June 1941 caused the demolition of almost all the town.

 

Jewish Settlement till After World War I

Jews had already settled in Lazdey by the end of the sixteen's century, but as an organized community they functioned from about 1689 in line with the

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permission granted by King Jan Sobiesky, and by the middle of the nineteen's century they had grown to 60% of the entire population. They built their houses around the market square and made their living from commerce. As a result of frequent fires many Jewish houses burnt down and their owners needed help from nearby Jewish communities and from Lazdey emigrants in America. In the summer of 1879 about 200 houses were ravished by fire and their owners became homeless. An appeal for help published in the Hebrew newspaper “HaMelitz” of St. Petersburg on the 30th of July of that year brought much help in money and food. It is reported that the Russian district officer obtained a loan of 3,000 Ruble for them, but another version maintains that the Polish squire Mishinsky of the neighboring town Meteliai donated 3,000 Ruble for the Jewish as well as Christian victims of the fire. In 1886 another fire caused the destruction of about 250 Jewish houses as well as the death of an old man and a young woman, after that the authorities prohibited the construction of straw roofs in the center of town. Two years later, in 1888, about 70 houses, which had been left intact during the previous fire, burnt down. In this fire the old synagogue and the “Beth–Midrash” with all its books were destroyed, and a Jewish woman was also a victim. Another large fire occurred in 1910, all these events causing the deterioration of the economic situation of the town's Jews, which in 1887 amounted to about 1,500 souls.

Apart from the usual Jewish occupations, Lazdey was surrounded by Jewish farms and farmers till World War I. Many Jewish families also maintained vegetable gardens behind their houses.

Nevertheless the community in Lazdey was well organized and in 1872, during a great famine in some parts of Lithuania, local Jews donated money for the starving, the collectors being Yehudah Glikman and Meir Simkha Zilberman.

Jewish children studied at “Khadarim” and “Talmud–Torah” and by 1887 there were 14 “Melamdim”, 3 private teachers and 14 Judaica studying societies. Among the welfare societies it is worth mentioning “Lekhem Aniyim” (Bread for the Poor) who distributed money to poor families for a scanty subsistence, a “Khevrah Kadisha” (Burial Society) etc.

There were youngsters longing for knowledge and the “Society for distributing knowledge among the Jews” of St. Petersburg sent them books in Russian and Hebrew. The “Khibath Zion” movement had many admirers in town. In 1881 Jews from Lazdey joined the “Yesud HaMa'alah” society, established in Suwalk by Eliezer Mordehai Altshuler with the aim of settling in Eretz Yisrael. One of the members of the second delegation who went to Eretz Yisrael in order to buy land for the society was Mendel Burak from Lazdey, but for various reasons this idea was not carried out. In 1901, for example, there was intense Zionist activity in town, with people buying “Shekalim”, a sort of membership card of the Zionist Organization, and donating money for the settlement of Eretz Yisrael

Individual Lazdey Jews left for Eretz Yisrael sometime before the emergence of the “Khibath Zion” movement. In the old cemetery of Jerusalem there are

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three tombstones of Lazdey Jews: Gershon son of Moshe, died 1910; Reuven son of Yehudah Frid, died 1895; Hayah daughter of Rabbi Yudl Rosh HaGalil, died 1897.

Among the rabbis who served in Lazdey were: Avraham Tsevi ben Meir; Avraham ben Yekhezkel (––?––– 1798), father in law of Yehudah–Leib, son of the “Gaon” from Vilna; Hayim–Yehoshua HaCohen Blumental from 1853 for several years; Yosef–Mosheh Aranzon (1805–1875), died in Chicago; Tsevi–Hirsh Kahana; Yehudah–Leib Ginsburg; Avraham–Eiver Yaffe (1823–1908), in Lazdey 1873–74; his son Yehudah–Leib (1842––––?) from 1908 in Lazdey.

On the first of April 1915 Lazdey Jews were exiled into Russia by order of the retreating Russian army. After the war most of them returned home and found that their property had being stolen.

 

lit4_236.jpg
Lazdey covered with snow

 

During the Period of Independent Lithuania (1918–1940)

After the war the returning Lazdey Jews, who found their property stolen and most of the houses ruined, started to rebuild their lives anew. The conflict between Poland and the new Lithuanian state concerning the sovereignty of Lazdey caused riots against the Jews in town.

According to the autonomy law for minorities, issued by the new Lithuanian government, the minister for Jewish affairs Dr. Max Soloveitshik ordered elections to be held in the summer of 1919 for community committees in all towns of the state. In Lazdey a committee of nine members was elected: eight non–political and one from the Tseirei Zion party. The committee, active till the end of 1925 when the autonomy was annulled, collected taxes as required by law and was in charge of all aspects of community life.

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lit4_237.jpg
The market square 1937–38

 

During this period Lazdey Jews made their living from commerce, crafts, agriculture and fishing. According to the government survey of 1931 there were in Lazdey 72 businesses, including 64 owned by Jews (89%).

Details according to the type of business are given in the table below:

 

Type of Business Total Owned by Jews
Groceries 14 13
Grains 6 6
Butcher's shops and Cattle Trade 13 11
Restaurants and Taverns 7 7
Food Products 4 3
Beverages 1 1
Textile Products and Furs 9 9
Leather and Shoes 6 6
Medicine and Cosmetics 1 0
Sewing Machines and Electric Equipment 3 2
Tools and Steel Products 4 4
Timber and Furniture 1 1
Paper, Books and Writing Equipment 1 0
Miscellaneous 2 1

 

According to the same survey Lazdey had 17 factories, of which 16 were Jewish owned (94%), a power station, 3 flour mills, one shoe factory, one light drinks factory, a workshop for wool combing, 5 bakeries, 2 sewing workshops, 2 mechanical locksmith's workshops.

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In 1937 there were 56 Jewish artisans in Lazdey: 9 tailors, 7 shoemakers, 8 butchers, 6 bakers, 6 blacksmiths, 4 barbers, 3 oven builders, 3 carpenters, 2 painters, 2 watchmakers, 1 tinsmith, 1 wool knitter, 1 saddler, 1 stitcher, 1 wood carver, 1 photographer. There were also several porters and carters in town, and about 20 families engaged in agriculture.

During these years the economic situation of Lazdey Jews began to deteriorate because of propaganda by the Lithuanian Merchants Association “Verslas” against buying in Jewish shops and the Lithuanians established cooperatives in order to compete with the Jewish shops. The severance of Lazdey from its natural hinterland after the Polish occupation of the Seiny region, the murder during a robbery of several Jewish farmers who lived in isolated farms in its surroundings, and the transfer in 1935 of the market around which the Jewish shops were located to another place in order ‘to improve the look of the town', affected the economic situation of Lazdey's Jews. Most of Jewish youth who could not see their future there, left during these years and moved to Kovno or emigrated abroad.

The Jewish “Folksbank” played an important role in Lazdey's economic life. In 1927 it had 233 members, by 1929 – 262 and in 1933 – 250 members. There was also a branch of “The United Company for Credit to Jewish Agrarians”.

In 1922 a large fire caused damage to many Jewish houses in Lazdey. The representative of the “Joint” Association visited Lazdey and approved a loan of half a million Mark, the currency then still valid, for the victims of the fire which was to be divided up by the “Folksbank”.

Jewish children received their elementary education in the Hebrew religious “Yavneh” school, with about 200 pupils and 5 teachers. It also ran a library for children. In addition there was also a “Yeshivah” for scores of boys.

Parents who had the financial capacity sent their children to the Hebrew high school in Mariampol, but most of the Jewish youth studied in the local Lithuanian high–school “Ziburys” (Torch), where tuition was minimal. In 1935, for example, 80 Jewish pupils studied in this school.

Among the Zionist Youth Organizations “HaShomer HaTsair” and “Betar” were active, and for some time there were also two “Kibbutsei Hakhsharah” (Training Kibbutzim), one of “HeKhalutz” and the other of the General Zionists.

Sport activities were performed at “Maccabi” (58 members) with its strong football team, “HaPo'el” and for some time also “HaKoakh” who had a string instrument band.

The Jewish volunteer fire brigade which possessed modern firefighting equipment according to the concepts of those days, had its own building with a hall for shows and also maintained a wind instrument orchestra. The nationalist Lithuanian “Sauliai” society established its own fire brigade and orchestra, threatening to confiscate the Jewish equipment.

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lit4_239a.jpg
The Lithuanian “Ziburys” High School
(Picture taken by Ruth ben David (from the Pilitovsky family) 1994)

 

lit4_239b.jpg
Jewish girls pupils of the “Ziburys” high school 1933
From left: Frida (Shulamith) Pilitovsky, Sarah (Sonia) Dushnitsky, –––––––––––, Olga Gurvitz
(Picture supplied by Ruth ben David – from the Pilitovsky family)

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lit4_240.jpg
Jewish girls pupils of the “Ziburys” high school 1930

Standing from left: Rukhamah Idovitz, Frida Pilitovsky
Sitting from left: Henia Mikhnovsky, Miriam Gail
(Picture supplied by Ruth ben David – from the Pilitovsky family)

 

Lazdey had a public library with about 2,000 books in Hebrew and Yiddish. The Jewish theater from Kovno would come to Lazdey approximately once a year with a Yiddish show. From time to time lectures on different themes, political and literary, were given in town, but this stopped during the latter years. Only the Zionist movement continued its activities, and all Zionist parties had representatives in Lazdey, as can be seen from the results of elections to Zionist Congresses in the table below:

 

Congress
Nr.
Year Total
Shekalim
Total Voter Labor Party
Z”S Z”Z
Revisionists General Zionists
A B
Grosmanists Mizrahi
14 1925 80
15 1927 39 34 19 10 3 2
16 1929 126 82 42 4 32 3 1
17 1931 67 60 32 6 15 6 1
18 1933 203 121 62 19 1
19 1935 490 297 33 115 11 34

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lit4_241.jpg
The string orchestra of “HaKoakh” 1930

First line standing from right: Rukhamah Idovitz, Shelomoh Idovitz, Sonia (Sarah) Dushnitsky, Shulamith Pilitovsky
Second line sitting from right: Asher Borovsky, Batiah Prusak, Zerakh Idovitz, Olga Gurvitz, Khayah Hofman, Avraham Garden
Third line sitting from right: Yitshak Opnitsky, Binjamin Starnapolsky
(Picture supplied by Ruth ben David – from the Pilitovsky family)

 

Jewish religious life concentrated around the synagogue, the “Beth–Midrash” (The Shul), several praying rooms called “Klois”, and the “Yeshivah”. There were groups for studying in the “Talmud –Shas Society”, “Mishnah Society” and “Ein Ya'akov”, and religious youth was organized within the framework of “Tifereth Bakhurim”. The Rabbi during these years was Ya'akov Aryeh HaCohen Gershtein who served in Lazdey for more than 20 years. He was murdered by Lithuanians in 1941.

The welfare institutions included “Lekhem Aniyim” (Bread for the Poor), “Ezrath Kholim” (Help for the Ill), “Gemiluth Khessed” (Loans without Interest) which was affiliated to the “Folksbank”, and “Maoth Khitim” (Help for the Needy for Pesakh).

In 1939 there were 123 phone owners in Lazdey, of which 58 were Jews.

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lit4_242a.jpg
The Synagogue and the Yeshivah rebuilt as a youth club 1994
(Picture taken by Ruth ben David – from the Pilitovsky family)

 

lit4_242b.jpg
The Bath House 1994
(Picture taken by Ruth ben David – from the Pilitovsky family)

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During World War II and Afterwards

World War II started with the German invasion of Poland on the first of September 1939, and its consequences for Lithuanian Jews in general and Lazdey Jews in particular were felt several months later.

In agreement with the Ribbentrop–Molotov treaty on the division of occupied Poland, the Russians occupied the Suvalk region, but after delineation of exact borders between Russia and Germany the Suvalk region fell into German hands. The retreating Russians allowed anyone who wanted to join them to move into their occupied territory, and indeed many young people left the area together with the Russians. The Germans drove the remaining Jews out of their homes in Suvalk and its vicinity, robbed them of their possessions, then directed them to the Lithuanian border, where they were left in dire poverty. The Lithuanians did not allow them to enter Lithuania and the Germans did not allow them to return. Thus they stayed in this swampy area in cold and rain for several weeks, until Jewish youths from the border villages smuggled them into Lithuania by various routes, with much risk to themselves. Altogether about 2,400 refugees passed through the border or infiltrated on their own, and were then dispersed in the “Suvalkija” region including Lazdey where 150 of them were accommodated.

In June 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Following new rules, the majority of the shops belonging to the Jews of Lazdey were nationalized and commissars were appointed to manage them. Also several Jewish houses whose area was more than 220 meters (about 2000 sq. ft) were nationalized and their owners were forced to leave them. All the Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded, several of the activists were detained (the local Betar commander Dzivak and Adv. Bergson) and Hebrew educational institutions were closed. A part of the Jews started to intertwine into the new rule institutions. At the October celebrations in 1940 an amateur troupe (“Artistic Brigade”) from Vishey performed in Lazdey the play “Bar Kokhva” of Goldfaden with the accompaniment of a local Jazz band.

The supply of goods decreased and, as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore most of the brunt, and the standard of living dropped gradually. At the beginning of June 5th Jewish families whose enterprises were nationalized were exiled deep into Russia (among them Prusak, Titevsky, Gurvitz).

The tragic fate of the Jewish community of Lazdey during the Nazi rule is further told by Rivkah Gershtein Mikhnovsky and her husband Ze'ev Mikhnovsky and by Gedalyah Cohen. Their story was translated into English by Benjamin Ronn.

“The night before the war between Germany and Russia commenced, the inhabitants of Lazdey were occupied in digging defense trenches. At approximately 3:00 a.m. on June 21st, 1941, they noticed red flares that were sent from across the border. Immediately thereafter, a heavy bombardment into Soviet Russian territory (Lithuania) began. German bombs also fell in the center

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of Lazdey and the houses caught on fire, which spread and consumed most of the Jewish homes.

The German army entered Lazdey on Sunday, June 22nd at 10:00 a.m. Terror spread throughout the residents. Thousands fled. Only about forty Jews managed to escape with the Soviets by jumping onto their trucks. The rest escaped to the nearby villages where they hoped to find shelter with the farmers. Most of the farmers did not provide shelter for the Jews, did not allow them into their homes, and even denied them a drink of water. The Jews were often received with shouts of “Go back to Stalin, your father!”

During their escape, bomb fragments injured several of the Jews and some were killed.

On Monday morning, the entire surrounding area calmed down. The German Army had moved forward and the city no longer was on the front. Many of the Jews returned to Lazdey only to be attacked by the local Lithuanians. Noakh Kadushin, a leather worker, was badly beaten, and two Jews were forced to dig a grave for him and to bury him alive.

On the same day that the Jews fled Lazdey, they were joined by other Jews who were still roaming around the countryside, and they all moved toward Serey, which was approximately 5 kilometers away. Serey, however, was also burned to the ground, and there was no room for the wanderers. The Jews of Lazdey continued to roam in the fields near Lazdey until Shabbat, when the Nazis gave an order that all the Jews of Lazdey should return to Lazdey.

On Monday, June 23rd, 1941, a meeting of 30 members of the Lithuanian intelligentsia took place in Lazdey. They elected a committee that would manage the affairs of the region. They also declared their thanks and appreciation to the German army and Adolf Hitler. On Wednesday, June 25th, the committee decided to place the Jews in two wooden shacks. The shacks were originally erected by the Russians. In effect, the Jews only had one and a half shacks because the wives and children of Russian officers occupied half of one of them.

Many of the Jews were arrested by the Lithuanians and accused of being of Communists. They arrested young men, almost children, claiming that they were members of the “Comsomol” (Young Communist League). Many were arrested without being accused of anything. If a Lithuanian had any grievances or against any of the Jews, he now obtained his revenge. Many of the people who were arrested were Zionist Revisionists and old people as well. All the people who were arrested were moved to Mariampol and were murdered there.

The remaining Jews were condemned to hard labor. They were given the task of clearing up the ruins of the bombed–out houses and many other jobs that would shame them. Those who had land were given permission to live in their own barns and work in their own fields.

One day a German and a fellow named Zarembo, who was from Lazdey but originally of Polish origin, came to the shacks and took out the Rabbi of Lazdey, Rabbi Ya'akov Aryeh HaCohen Gershtein, and started beating him with riding whips. When the members of his family came out to see what was happening to

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their father, they were also beaten. The Rabbi was later put on a truck and driven away.

The Jews went to the local priest to ask for his help because Rabbi Gershtein served as the local Rabbi for over twenty years and had an excellent reputation among Jews and non–Jews alike. The priest excused himself by saying that he was not able to help the Rabbi at all. The chief of police was also not willing to help. Later in the day, those who were returning from one of the work gangs related that they saw the Rabbi being brought to where they were working. He was forced to carry heavy sacks of cement. While everyone else was allowed to return as usual on the wagons, the Germans mocked him and said, “Let him walk”. Shortly thereafter, the Rabbi returned to the shacks.

The Jews were only allowed to walk in the gutters and were not allowed to step or walk on the sidewalks. Upon seeing a German soldier, a Jew was compelled to remove his hat and bow his head with his face facing the soldier. Only when the German left was he allowed to return his hat and straighten up.

Almost from the first day of the Nazi occupation the Jewish residents were the focus of torture and robbery. Both the Germans and the Lithuanians demanded watches, jewelry, silver, gold, and other valuables under threats of bodily harm. Policemen and Lithuanian thugs would often beat people mercilessly. Every Sunday after the Lithuanians left their church, they would take the Jewish males from the shacks, bring them to the marker square, and would torture them with so called “physical exercise.” They would force them to roll in the dirt, hit each other, and perform other stunts to the amusement and pleasure of the spectators. Thugs would attack the Jews and hit them mercilessly. The Lithuanian guards would demand from the Jews that they turn over their money, gold, and valuables to them. They would force them to strip and would search their clothes. A significant amount of property was stolen from the Jews in those days.

Rumors about murder and extermination of the Jews in the surrounding areas were reaching Lazdey. In mid–September, the rumor was heard that the Jews of nearby Leipun were murdered. On September 15th, the Jews of so Lazdey were ordered to move to the army barracks in the estate of Katkishok (Katkiske) about a kilometer and a half away. They were promised that a ghetto would be set up for them where they would spend the duration of the war. The Jews of Lazdey already knew that the Jews in other cities of Lithuania were almost totally eliminated; therefore, they treated this proposed move with great of suspicion. Some of them went out to explore Katkishok and to find out if there were any pits dug for a mass burial site. The lack of pits eased their concern only a slightly.

A few hours later, Jews from the nearby communities of Vishey, Kopcheve and Rudamin as well as Jews from the nearby villages were brought to Lazdey. All of them were destined for Katkishok. This fact calmed the Jews somewhat. They thought that the Germans were serious in creating a ghetto. That very same day, all the Jews were moved to Katkishok. They were placed in the army barracks and quartered by family, and the entire area was surrounded by barbed wire and

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armed Lithuanian guards. Daily work groups were used for work outside the compound.

Initially, they gave each person 200 grams of unsalted bread and 300 grams of potatoes. Gradually the rations were cut down, and an epidemic of dysentery broke out. People suffered and starved. Some snuck out and ran to nearby villages where they exchanged personal belonging for food or begged for food. A certain relief occurred when some of the local farmers were allowed to engage Jews as workers on their farms, provided that they would return them to the ghetto at night. Those who ate at the farms would give up their share of the food in the ghetto so that others could benefit from it.

The internal arrangements of the work schedule were managed by the Jewish Arbeits Amt (Work Office). A special committee to manage all the affairs of the ghetto was created from representatives from all of the communities. The pharmacist Astromsky from Kopcheve was their leader. He did not do a thing without consulting with Rabbi Gershtein of Lazdey. A Jewish police force was organized in the ghetto but had very little authority.

Every gentile was able to do whatever he pleased. Hardly a day passed without some torture or criminal act. For example, a Lithuanian policeman once took a liking to the boots of Yehoshua Vilensky from Rudamin. He called him over, shot him dead, and took his boots.

One day the ghetto was shocked by the secret news Sheina Idovitz and Golda Katorovsky related upon their return from work on Monday, October 27th. Every day they were taken to the town to work for the German commander. That day, they heard a conversation between the commandant of Mariampol who screamed at the commandant of Lazdey what a terrible shame it was that his Jews were still alive. The commandant from Lazdey apologized and explained that he needed the Jews who were doing necessary work and many of the essential crafts. The commandant from Mariampol screamed again, “You have to fulfill your task or otherwise you will be sent to the front” whereby the commandant of Lazdey replied, “I am a soldier and a man of war, and you won't scare me with this kind of a threat.”

The mood in the ghetto was electrified instantaneously. The mention of the words of death shook the people and scared them in anticipation of the following day. That night some people escaped from the ghetto and went looking for a hideout with the farmers or in the fields. A few days later, however, when no special events had occurred, everything returned to normal. They expected that the commandant would continue to protect the Jews under his control. By the end of October, most of the Jews throughout Lithuania were already murdered, while those of Lazdey were among some of the very few left alive.

On Thursday, October 30th, 1941, the ghetto was sealed and nobody was taken out to work. They were able to see that the murderous Lithuanians were walking in the distance with spades in their hands. Upon asking the chief of the police as to the meaning of this scene, he responded nonchalantly, “They are going to dig pits for you. This will take a few days and that is exactly the length of time left

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for you to be alive.” After that explanation, many attempted to run away even though the place was well guarded by armed guards. The following morning, escapees were returned to the camp, some were wounded and some had been murdered, and the chief of police came to calm the Jews. He told them that running away does not make sense since everywhere the German foot is placed the Jew gets wiped off the face of the earth. He went on to say that a Jew can never find a hiding place from the bullet that is marked for him, and that very soon the end will come for all the Jews wherever they might be.

The Lithuanians sealed all windows and doors to the barracks with planks and metal bars. The Jews were locked up without water or food. Despite all their efforts, 180 people managed to escape from the barracks in the first two nights.

On Monday, November 3rd, 1941 (the 13th of Mar–Heshvan, 5702), the Jews were taken naked from the barracks to the dug out pits about 300 meters away from the barracks and about 300 meters west of the forest. About 1600 souls were shot to death there. Not one person managed to escape. Although the Germans gave the orders for the ‘operation,’ they participated only as the observers at the scene of the crime. The actual executioners were Lithuanians. A gang of apparently experienced murderers from Mariampol also participated in the executions. This gang seemed experienced because of their actions and later, that they refused the Germans' offer to photograph them in order to “memorialize” their actions. Only in December of 1941 did the first signs of the German's retreat and defeat appear when the Germans were forced back into winter defensive positions. As mentioned earlier, many escaped before the slaughter. Some were badly wounded, caught, and brought back to the ghetto. On the day of the slaughter, they were dragged with the other sick and helpless to the pits. Many of the escapees were killed by the farmers. After a while, the Lithuanians stopped murdering the caught escapees and incarcerated them instead. When the number of the caught escapees reached 35, they took them to the mass graves and murdered them there.

From the entire 180 who escaped, only 6 survived the war: Rivkah (Gershtein) Mikhnovsky and her husband Ze'ev Mikhnovsky, Dov Zef, Miriam Kuleisky and her sisters Gita and Bath–Sheva Koifman–all from Lazdey; Khmilavsky from Vishey; Gedalyah Cohen from Rudamin.

In 1944 and 1945, the Soviets recaptured Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia, and they were again made Soviet republics. Seven kilometers from the Polish border, Lazdey was made a Soviet administrative district center in the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic. Suvalk remained in the Bialystok province of Poland.

After the war, Rivkah and her husband Ze'ev Mikhnovsky returned to their native town of Lazdey. There they had a child there, the last known Jew to be born in Lazdey. Shortly afterwards they moved to Eretz–Yisrael and no Jews are known to have lived in Lazdey since. Lazdey's population in 1959 was 3109.

During the war, the tombstones in Lazdey's Jewish cemetery were overturned. Apparently, it was not demolished and built over as the Soviets did to numerous other Jewish cemeteries.

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The entrance gate of the Jewish cemetery, the only scraps
(Picture taken by Ruth ben David 1994 – from the Pilitovsky family)

 

“On the 13th of Mar–Heshvan every year, natives of Lazdey living in Israel assemble in the Tel Aviv area for a memorial service in memory of the day of the annihilation of the Jews of Lazdey. After the memorial service, there is usually a friendly get–together. The well–known lawyer and native of Lazdey, Avraham (Golub) Tory, often speaks at these meetings. Each year, however, the attendance decreases as fewer natives of Lazdey remain alive”.

The names of the Lithuanians who sheltered them are saved at the archives of Yad–Vashem.

After the war the survivors of the above mentioned towns erected a monument on the mass graves at Katkiske. In 1991 a new monument was erected with the inscription in Lithuanian and Yiddish: At this place the Hitlerist murderers with their local helpers murdered on the November 3rd, 1941 1,535 Jews from the Lazdey district, men, women and children.

According to the survey of Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania performed in 1990, a Jewish cemetery was found at the Lazdey district in the village Bukta.

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lit4_249a.jpg
Sign on the road: The place of the mass murder of the Jews in 1941 at Katkiske
(Picture taken by Ruth ben David 1994 – from the Pilitovsky family)

 

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Entrance gate to the mass graves and the monument
(Picture taken by Ruth ben David 1994 – from the Pilitovsky family)

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lit4_250a.jpg
The Monument
(Picture taken by Ruth be David 1994 – from the Pilitovsky family)

 

lit4_250b.jpg
The tablet on the Monument

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Bibliography:

Yad–Vashem Archives, Koniukhovsky Collection 0–71, Files 131,132
Central Zionist Archives: 55/1788; 55/1701; 13/15/131; Z–4/2548.
JIVO, NY, Collection of the Jewish Communities in Lithuania, Files 517–540, pages 22596–23618
HaMeilitz (St. Petersburg) (Hebrew): 30.7.1879, 16.11.1879, 29.3.1881, 14.7.1884, 9.7.1886, 2.7.1888, 11.12.1893.
Folksblat, Kovno (Yiddish): 23.6.1935, 24.6.1935, 25.7.1939, 17.11.1940.
Di Yiddishe Shtime (The Yiddish Voice) Kovno (Yiddish): 28.12.1920, 22.8.1922, 12.2.1928, 9.8.1932, 22.5.1935.
Der Yiddisher Kooperator –Kovno (Yiddish): Nr.2–3, 1922
Dzuku Zinios (Lithuanian) Nr.55, 22.7.1992

Appendix 1

List of reporters from Lazdey to the Hebrew periodicals “HaMeilitz” and “HaTsefirah”

In “HaMeilitz”: Shmeriah Gisovsky, Tsevi–Aryeh Ginzburg, Avraham–Yitshak Hurvitz, Yosef Meirberger, Shemuel Burak, Zalman–Mordehai Bernshtein.
In “HaTsefirah”: Elyakum Levinzon, Yehudah Akhron.

Appendix 2

Partial list of personalities born in Lazdey

Yisrael Prais (1869–1942), reporter and writer, from 1890 in USA, pioneer of spreading the “Khibath Zion” ideology among religious Jewish circles in America, published articles in the Hebrew periodicals “HaMeilitz”, “HaMagid” and “HaTsefirah” and later in the Yiddish press in America. Published many books on Jewish historical themes.
Yosef Akhron (1886– 1943) composer, violinist and teacher. Among his compositions: “Hebrew Tune”, 3 concerts for violin, concert for piano and many more.
Shemuel Bortn Sekler (1897–??), immigrated to USA, researcher and inventor.
David Cohen (1901–murdered in 1941), painter.
Yakov fon Idelson, in 1843 Russia's consul in Koenigsberg, despite being an apostate, helped Jews in trouble.
Sarah Dushnitsky–Nishmith–Shner, born in Sejny in 1913, but lived from the age of twelve in Lazdey where she graduated in the Lithuanian high–school. M.A. in Educational Psychology from Vilna University and M.A. in Classic Linguistics from Kovno University. In 1940 headmistress of the Teachers Seminar “Tarbuth” in Vilna. 1942–1944 with the partisans in the Belarus woods, from 1948 in Kibbutz Lokhamei HaGetaoth, writer and researcher of the Holocaust in the “Ghetto Fighters House”. Published 2 books for children, many books and stories and many articles mostly on research of the Holocaust.

[Pages 252-256]

Appendix 3

List of Lazdey Jewish families who perished in the Holocaust, according to the streets in which they lived

(Compiled by Rivkah–nee Gershtein and Ze'ev Mikhnovsky)

Starishok Street (beginning from the bridge)

  1. Ozhekhov Yitskhak
  2. Paulan Binyamin
  3. Paulan Efraim
  4. Paulan Yosl and Payeh
  5. Falkovitz Ber–Leib
  6. Falkovitz Avraham
  7. Grudzin Bertshik
  8. Dumbelsky
  9. Ribak
  10. Sider Yekhezkel
  11. Mariampolsky Getsel
  12. Matskibutsky Mordehai
  13. Punsky
  14. Dimant Barukh–Shelomoh
  15. Bas Yosef–Heshl
  16. Epshtein Mosheh–David
  17. Punsky Shemuel
  18. –––?––– Tsadok+Pantofel (daughter and husband)
  19. Pintshikhovsky (blacksmith)
  20. Bergzon Dobrusha and sons
  21. Zilonsky Zalman
  22. Mariampolsky Barukh
  23. Zubritsky
  24. Shilingovsky Reuven
  25. Prusak Avraham
  26. Khoronzitsky
  27. Matskibutsky Yerakhmiel
  28. Bas Hayim
  29. Rabbi Gershtein Ya'akov–Aryeh
  30. Man Hayim–Yenkl
  31. Goldman Alter
  32. Gibralter Shimshon
  33. Ribak Yosl–Henakh
  34. Einbinder Alter
  35. Frank Khloine
  36. The sisters Sarah and Heshka (seamstress)
  37. Leidman Mosheh
  38. Leidman Hayim
  39. Bernshtein Alter
  40. Man Yitskhak and brother
  41. Smolan and wife Feige
  42. Gisovsky Leib
  43. Subartevitsky Hayim
  44. Shats Karpel

The Alley between the Prusak and Khoronzitsky families

  1. Shimantshik Elyakum
  2. Sveisky Reuven
  3. Luksniansky Yeshayahu
  4. Katkishky Avraham nad wife Zlate (seamstress)
  5. Zef Aba (mortician)
  6. Zusman Mendel
  7. Lefkutz
  8. Kovalsky Yisrael
  9. Polazdeisky
  10. Yakir (mortician)
  11. Yablon
  12. Paulan Hayim Itsel
  13. Lefkutz
  14. Lefkutz Zisel

Starishok Street (continuation from the other side of the bridge)

  1. Rindzunsky
  2. ––––––––––––– (the shoemaker from Suvalk)
  3. Milikovsky (teacher)
  4. Shchupatsky Avraham
  5. Vafner Eli (Scriptures copier)
  6. Prager Yisrael
  7. Prusak Ya'akov
  8. Prusak Shalom
  9. –––––––– Meir (tailor)
  10. Borovsky
  11. Ozhekhov Yisrael
  12. Levin Matityahu
  13. Groznik Shemuel
  14. Gurvitz Tsevi
  15. Prusak Shemuel
  16. Paulan Hayim Yitskhak
  17. Mariampolsky Avraham
  18. KantarovskyYa'akov
  19. Gorfinkelv
  20. Kshevitsky–Luksiansky
  21. Zeligson
  22. Grudzin Reuven
  23. Grudzin Gershon
  24. Kufran Malka and Kazys (survived thanks to her Lithuanian husband)
  25. Grudzin Sarah
  26. Prusak Eliyahu
  27. Prusak Nekhama
  28. Kulitsky Shemuel
  29. Levinzon Note
  30. Reikher David

Around the Market Square

  1. Sider Avraham
  2. Shmulkovsky Yosl
  3. Finkelshtein Barukh
  4. Gilary Eliezer
  5. Rozenblum
  6. Golub Zerakh
  7. Beker Betsalel
  8. Smolsky
  9. Pilitovsky
  10. Kantorovsky–Mikhnovsky
  11. Meretsky Asne
  12. Lishkov Mordehai
  13. Volovitsky Velvl
  14. Volovitsky Yosl
  15. Kantarovsky Aba
  16. Shilibolsky Kune
  17. Finkelshtein Shepsl
  18. Shilingovsky Shalom
  19. Kahanovitz
  20. Kalvarisky Yisrael
  21. Shishlov Mordehai
  22. Aks Yeshayahu
  23. Prusak Leibush
  24. Khalote Ya'akov
  25. Kubelsky (lawyer)
  26. Tsimerman
  27. Kreingel
  28. Kohen Alter
  29. Levin
  30. Kulesky Bath–Sheva
  31. Broide Pesakh
  32. Bergson
  33. As (barber)
  34. Idovitz
  35. Milman (teacher)
  36. Mirkes

Kovna Street

  1. Markus Sime
  2. Lipsky
  3. Kalir Menakhem (cantor) immigrated to Eretz Yisrael before the war
  4. Pilitovsky Yakirv
  5. Krasnopolsky
  6. Baranovsky Hayim–Shimon
  7. Krikshtansky brothers
  8. Abramovitz Ane
  9. Kaufman Shelomoh
  10. Soloveitshik
  11. Oftshinsky Yosl
  12. Prusak Eliyahu
  13. Klibansky+Liberman Naftali
  14. Hakhnokhi
  15. Lefkutz
  16. Katsenelenboigen
  17. Shapira
  18. Voltshansky
  19. Khoronzitsky
  20. Dzivak Kalman
  21. Kohen Ya'akov–Yosl
  22. –––––––– Eli (poultry merchant)
  23. Pintshikhovsky David
  24. Rabinovitz Mordehai–Velvl
  25. Doberman David
  26. Zavatsky Avraham
  27. Zavatsky Yitskhak
  28. Sokol
  29. Sider Leib (oven builder)
  30. Gerdasky Shmerl
  31. Getker
  32. Levin (hatter)
  33. Levin Velvl
  34. Zinger (tailor)
  35. Liubovitz Peshe
  36. Prusak Hayim–Yosl
  37. Okunevitz Hayim–Mendl
  38. Berkman
  39. Breitbord
  40. Tenenboim Hayim

Seiny Street

  1. Titevsky Yeshayahu
  2. Kopilovsky David
  3. Okunevitz Moshehe
  4. Paulan and sons Iser, Aba, Shelomoh, Nakhum and married sister Khayah
  5. Lipshtein
  6. Paulan Asne
  7. Dunsky Avraham (baker)
  8. Dunsky (bank clerk)
  9. Paulan Berl–Zelig
  10. Norkin
  11. Dushnitsky
  12. Lisovsky
  13. Paulan Meir
  14. Rubinshtein Motl
  15. Paulan Mosheh–Mikhel
  16. Shilingovsky
  17. Yurzditsin Yisrael
  18. Brozovsky Shepsl
  19. Polazdeisky
  20. Sheiman
  21. Navisky Iser
  22. Paulan David
  23. Tsevikler Sarah–Ita
  24. Dvorsky Reuven
  25. Shtabinsky
  26. Mark Hayim
  27. Gibralter Barukh
  28. Ginzburg (doctor)
  29. Paulan
  30. –––––––– Yosl and family (son in law of Moshehe David Epshtein)
  31. Shtabinsky (rope maker)
  32. Prusak Yosef
  33. Burak Meir
  34. Burak Iser
  35. Kovensky Rukhamah
  36. Levin–Kovensky

Dumbli Street

  1. Rabbi Domovitz
  2. Ratshkovsky Iser
  3. Katkishky Leib–Iser
  4. Rindzhunsky Kopl
  5. Shimantshik Binyamin
  6. A family of 4 persons, sister of Ane Abramovitz

The estates in the vicinity of Lazdey

  1. Roslender (Sventezeris)
  2. Kalvareisky Yosl (Barova)
  3. Kalvareisky Alter (Barova)
  4. Pagirsky (Barova)
  5. Ziman (Barova)
  6. Gishtrovsky Zerakh (Rali)
  7. Gurvitz (Katkishok)
  8. Leben (Nirovtse)
  9. Shapira Mosheh (Milotshisky)
  10. Zef Mosheh (Bukta)

 

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