By Mordekhai Kentsianski (Max Khenchynski)
Translation from Yiddish by Dr. Sonia Kovitz
Donated by Irene Mauber Skibinski
Lintup was a small shtetele in Sventzian district, where more than 70 Jewish families lived. The shtetl was surrounded on all sides by a large thick pine forest. Most of the bathhouses in the shtetl belonged to the well-known Count Bishevski. He also owned several estates in the region, as well as sawmills, alcohol works, and turpentine factories. He was a liberal person, a serious philanthropist, and a community leader. Just before the outbreak of the World War II, he was 80 years old.
The landowner Bishevski was on good terms with the Jews, and the managers of all his businesses were Jewish. He was therefore sharply criticized by the Polish anti-Semites, but he had few dealings with them. In the Lintup area, all his businesses were managed by Uri Shapiro, a peace-loving man, a generous host, and an outstanding community leader. All Bishevski's Vilna businesses were also managed by a Jew, who hid the landowner during the period of Soviet rule. The Soviets wanted Bishevski in order to send him off to Siberia or even kill him.
The Jewish kehile [community] was not big in size, but it had all the important institutions. In Lintup there was a beautiful beis medresh [synagogue], gemilus khesed [interest-free loan] society, hakhnasas orkhim [hospitality] society, library, and tarbut [secular Zionist school where Hebrew rather than Yiddish was spoken].
Almost all the shtetl Jews were favorably inclined toward Zionism and fervently gave money to be invested in keren kimes and keren hisod [Zionist organizations] and in all Jewish national funds generally. The Jewish young people joined [Zionist groups]: hakhaluts [the Pioneer], hakhaluts hatsair [the Young Pioneer], and tseirei tsion [Young Zion]. The best of them studied in the gymnasia [high school], and one of Shapiro's sons even studied in France.
An ebullient social life pulsed in the shtetl. Almost every Jewish family subscribed to a daily paper and most of the young people borrowed books from the library. A major role in religious, social and cultural life was filled by Rabbi Yudkevski, for whom the entire Jewish population felt great respect and derekh erets. He was highly esteemed by the Christians as well, and was a good friend of the town's mayor, Bielovski [translator's note: alternate spelling used elsewhere by the author is Bialoveyski].
We were indebted to the rabbi for the establishment of the gemilus khesed fund, over which I had the privilege of presiding as chair for many years. In addition to me, the rabbi's colleagues in the gemilus khesed were Dovid and Khaim Katskovitsh, Borukh Matskin, and Uri Shapiro.
In 1924 Dovid Katskovitsh and I established the Jewish town library. I served also as a representative on the City Council, was in the Marske League [?], on the Parents' Committee of the tarbut school, and a member of the Fire Brigade.
The Orphan Chasya. Yudel Pamevitsh, Khayah Beynis, Tsile Tsiblin-Kharmats, Beyle Yavitsh, Berta Strachansky, Lyuba Mauber, Sholom Shapiro zl, Moshe Mauber, Abram Sandak, Khayah Shteynhart, Asher Shapiro
One of the main community leaders of the shtetl was Abram Asher Gilinski. In his younger years he studied in the Slobodke Yeshiva [in Kovno] and returned home well versed in talmud and poskim [halakhic decisions]. He was not only an outstanding baal tefilah [prayer leader] and baal kriyah [public reader of the Torah], but a baal tsedakah [leader in charitable works] and a generous host. Every itinerant magid [preacher] and meshulakh [emissary raising funds for Jewish causes] knew that with Gilinski he would find a warm bed and something good to eat.
A fine shtetl householder was Reb Leyb Yakov Sarafan, who made his living as a butcher. He was solidly built with wide shoulders and he overflowed with humor and witty sayings. Everyone liked to visit his butcher shop because he was always making jokes. On shabbos and yontif he would daven at the omed [cantor's lectern]. He especially liked to be given a juicy aliyah [fete aliyah: to be called up to bless the Torah reading on some special occasion].
The Jewish population depended mainly on small business and crafts for a livelihood. A large number of Jews were engaged in the wood and timber trades. Others were employed in factories and the turpentine works. General contentment prevailed, whether due to economic or to cultural and social conditions.
And so the years flowed by until the cursed and terrible days of June 1941.
Immediately upon the outbreak of the German-Soviet War on June 22, 1941, a heavy black cloud cast its shadow over Lintup. In the very first days, the Lintup Jews paid with the lives of two beloved family members. The two brothers Moshe and Yudel Mauber were murdered by the villainsrandomly, without a reason, without a why or a wherefore.
Several months later Lintup paid very heavily when the bestial criminals slaughtered the entire family of our renowned Rabbi Yudkevski. The terrible event happened as follows. The rabbi lived, as everyone knew, in the same building as Mayor Bielovski, who was on friendly terms with the Jews. When the Germans gave the order that all Jews must hand over their radios, the rabbi and other respected householders often went to listen to the radio in Bielovski's home. This was strictly forbidden. A Jew must under no circumstances enter a Christian home, above all, not to listen to the radio. One time the rabbi happened to be sitting in the mayor's apartment when one of the Enemies of Israel walked in. The man immediately left to inform the police.
A big raid took place right away. The rabbi with his familythe rebbitsin [rabbi's wife] Khanah and their nine-year-old son Mendelewere taken to Postav. The mayor wasn't allowed to go free either; his house was searched and he was arrested. A few days later the news came that the rabbi and his wife were in great danger. Immediately there was great panic in the shtetl. A large amount of money and valuables was collected and the decision was made to send it to Postav to bribe the police and to free the rabbi.
A young man and a girl, Abram Rein and Frume-Basya Rudnitski, set off for Postav to carry out the dangerous mission.
They dressed as landowners, rented a small cart of the type used by landowners, and left for Postav. It was a cold, wintry early morning and along the road they came across an overturned sleigh. They gave some money to a policeman to help get it righted. Scattered over the snow around the sleigh were bloody b'godim [specifically Jewish clothing]. Suddenly they recognized the rabbi's silk bekeshe [fur-lined coat], talis katan, and wide-brimmed kapelush [hat]. A drunken man told them that the rabbi and his family had been murdered. They quickly turned around and drove home, bringing us the terrible news. It is hard even to conceive of the mourning that gripped all the Jews of Lintup on that day. In this event we had a preview of the destiny awaiting the Jewish people.
A few days later Mayor Bielovski was released from jail. He came back deeply griefstricken and let us know that we, khas'vesholem [heaven forbid], should have no illusions. In his opinion the Hitlerists would destroy all the Jews and all of us should expect the worst.
Barely a week after the death of Rabbi Yudkevski, the police liquidated the Lintup ghetto. We were told that all the Lintup Jews would be transported to Sventzian. We immediately considered all the options and succeeded in creating a work camp where the useful Jews could be held and put to work. Since the shtetl offered for this purpose the saw mill, the smolarnia [place where pitch is burned], several courtyards, and the woodcutting operation in the nearby woods, out of all the town's Jews the productive element that remained alive was around 100. The rest were transported to Sventzian.
Life in the camp was extremely hard. People were beaten and chased and sometimes struck with truly murderous blows. One time some Jews were harnessed to a wagon and ordered to pull it to the railway line. When one of them paused a moment, the Germans whipped him with sharply pointed rods. Nevertheless, some Jews endured and persevered and it was perhaps only thanks to this camp that they survived. In a short time, though, all our illusions ended and the work camp was liquidated.
The reason for the liquidation of the Lintup work camp was as follows: on the night of the 18th-19th of December, 1942, a group of Russian partisans unexpectedly attacked the Lintup woods. They set fire to several important military objectives and for several hours engaged in a tenacious battle with German troops. We were sitting in the camp and with delight saw all of Lintup on fire, and flames coming from our enemy. Revenge sprang up in our hearts. We knew well that we would soon pay dearly, but nevertheless we were gratified and didn't think about what the morning would bring.
At dawn our camp was surrounded by the Lithuanian police, who began to shoot at the workers without a goal or a warning. The first to fall were Yosef Rudnitski and his brother's son. The police chased us straight into the open field, where peasants with sleighs were already waiting for us. They packed us in like cattle and drove us toward the forest. We hadn't gone even 200 meters before we saw long narrow graves. We instantly realized what that meant for us.
Not far from the graves were masked gunmen. We couldn't get out of the sleighs and there was an onslaught, a hail of bullets. When I saw the first victims fall, I started shouting to everyone to run. I made a break from the sleigh and with all the strength I possessed I leaped and set off running into the woods. Bullets were flying over my head. I ran and fell, ran and again fell. Finally I found myself deep in the woods. I was so exhausted that I simply could not move from the spot. I burrowed into the snow and decided to rest for a while. I began to catch my breath and think about what to do next.
When it became very still and I didn't hear any more of the terrible sounds of shooting by the villains and the cries of their dying victims, I got up and walked deeper into the woods. I walked without a goal and without a path until I arrived in a little village. There I discovered that in addition to me, a few other Jews from the Lintup work camp had survived. I found there in the woods Abram Rein, Moshe Gilinski, and Hirshe Kharmats.
Together we went back to the site of the horrible murders and there, by the fresh mass grave, we swore to take revenge for the spilled blood. Then we decided to go to the Sventzian ghetto. But I separated from my two friends and told them that first I wanted to go and find out whether any of my family might still be alive. What I had in mind was that possibly some of them had been taken in by Christians in the area. I asked here, asked there, but no one had any news about the members of my family. So I decided to head for the Sventzian ghetto too.
I was feeling deeply discouraged and bitter and didn't even notice that I was walking along the main highway just as in the former good times. By the time I realized my mistake, it was already too late. Directly ahead of me three large trucks filled with German soldiers suddenly appeared. I started to run into the woods, but they saw me and sprayed the woods with a hail of bullets.
Luckily they didn't want to go further into the woods. I covered myself with the branches of a pine tree and stayed there for several hours, not moving from the spot. Meanwhile a thick snow fell and completely covered me from my head to my feet. Probably the snow saved me since it covered my tracks.
When it became quiet, I stood up, shook off the snow, and set off walking again. After some time passed I oriented myself and went in the right direction to find my way to Sventzian. I followed the route through the night and arrived at the Sventzian ghetto.
To my great happiness, in the ghetto I found my daughter Basya and son Leybele, who had been wounded in the leg. At first my only thought was to go into the woods and join the partisans there, but my children wouldn't let me. My son was wounded and unwell and my daughter was so completely exhausted she couldn't take another step. So by necessity I too stayed in the Sventzian ghetto. But I could feel the unrest among the young people, who wanted to escape into the woods and take revenge on the brutal enemy. Mikhelson felt the same strong unrest that I did.
In the end 27 young people left the ghetto and went into the woods. The group would have been a lot larger if we hadn't been deluded by the Vilna commandant Gans. He made a special effort to come to our ghetto in order to assure us that the Sventzian Jews were not in danger. He said we would be taken to Vilna and Kovno and placed in various work camps. People let themselves be convinced. There were even some optimists who saw a good sign in the fact that the liquidation of the ghetto would be carried out by Jewish police instead of by Germans or Lithuanians.
I hadn't the slightest confidence in Gans and tried extremely hard to convince my children to leave the ghetto and hide in the woods with me. They simply would not come to the same conclusion. In the end it came down to all of us being transported to New Sventzian. Special railroad cattle cars were waiting for us there. My intuition instantly told me that these cars would take us not to life but to obliteration and extinction.
At the very last minute we succeeded in getting away from the railway station. The following people escaped with me: Moshe Gilinski, Abram Rein, Hirshe Kharmats, Ber Fisher from Heydutsishok, and one other person, Khaim Leyb from Sventzian. For the next three weeks we wandered around the woods, fields and villages. Wherever we would spend the day, we would not stay the night in case they came looking for us. So there was a practical purpose in our wandering.
We decided to lead our lives as partisans and survive by our wits. Near Strunvits we broke into a large dairy that provided dairy products to the German army. We smashed all the machines with a hatchet and ruined all the prepared dairy products.
Through a Christian I tried to establish contact with my children, who at that time should have been in the Vilna ghetto. She brought back the horrible news that they had never gone to the Vilna ghetto, that the entire transport had been murdered on the edge of Paneriei [the Ponary Forest south of Vilna].
From that time on my sole thought was to find all possible ways and means to take revenge. With my entire soul in a furor I threw myself into battle and together with my friends, went back to the Lintup area to find all the peasants who had helped the Germans. We set fire to their houses, stole their sustenance, and most importantly, their weapons. In a short time we were well-armed and the entire area was afraid of us. Because of their fear we prolonged our activity there. Then we began to search for a way to join the regular partisan detachment.
At this time Hirsh Kharmats became seriously ill. He had an abcess that required an operation. I myself had to conduct the operation. We hid in a barn and there I cut out the abcess with a razor blade. When he recovered, we were contacted by the partisan organization. Eventually we were accepted into the Suvorov detachment of Markov's brigade.
In Markov's brigade, a proposal emerged to organize a special Jewish division called Revenge. A young man from Vilna, Katzenelenbogen, and I were appointed as the leaders of the division. In all, the division numbered 30 young Jewish men. This was not a large number, but all the same we carried out a series of very important assignments. We blew up bridges, burned villages, killed Germans, and earned in partisan circles a name for ourselves as bold heroes.
Our detachment was then located four kilometers from Miadl. We in fact commanded the entire area. We were free as birds and woe to any German who entered that zone. With us in the forest lived entire familieshusbands, wives and children. They all benefited from our protection and we considered ourselves one large partisan family.
We carried out all our assignments in the middle of the night. One time our task was to go to the Lintup forest and investigate the large German garrison that had been established there. We were eight Jews divided into two teams. Not far from the forest we found two small bathhouses and we hid there. The owner of the bathhouses noticed us and, no doubt realizing that we were Jews, must have immediately informed the Lithuanian police. In a few hours both bathhouses were surrounded by a large number of policemen, who fired at us in a hail of bullets. In one of the bathhouses were Yehoshua Gertner, Leyb Gurvitsh, Simke Levin from Sventzian, and Hirsh Kharmats from Lintup. They ran out of the bathhouse and were killed. However, Yehoshua Gertner first managed to throw a grenade and killed a lot of the heinous Lithuanians.
We saw this from the other bathhouse and also threw grenades into the group of Lithuanians. This created a great confusion there. We of course made use of the opportunity and ran for the forest. We managed to take with us Moshe Gilinski, who was hit by a bullet.
We succeeded in escaping and returned to our base. I gave headquarters an account of the brigade and proposed that we should dissolve the special Jewish division. I made it clear to them that anti-Semitism was very strong in all the villages, and that some Christians should be sent in each group in addition to Jews. Headquarters agreed and the Jewish division was dissolved.
A few days later a group of 12 partisans was sent out to find the provocateur who had informed against us to the Lithuanian police. The group found him and carried out to perfection the psak din [sentence of the court] against him. After that we were entrusted with various other important assignments in Markov's brigade. It is important to tell about one of them especially. Once we were walking at night through a thick forest when we happened to come upon the Vilna-Polotsk Highway. Suddenly we noticed something glimmering opposite us and it seemed to us that it might be a wolf. We stopped and stood there, quietly consulting each other about what to do. On the other side of the highway evidently our talking could be heard because shooting broke out directed at us. We realized a large force was located there and we chose not to enter into battle with them. We had to retreat. Such cases happen, but in my life as a partisan it happened only this one time. On the way back all of us swore on our lives to expel the Germans from the entire forest.
Meanwhile the regular Soviet Army came closer to our district. This was in the first months of the year 1944. We received an order to blow up all the bridges and railroad lines in order to make a normal retreat more difficult for the enemy. We were supposed to make sure that the Germans would have no way to take back their plunder with them to Germany. We carried this order out with accuracy, happiness and enthusiasm. We felt that with each kilometer that the Red Army came closer, they were bringing to us Jews, more than to everyone else, blessed freedom.
Finally the long-awaited moment arrived. The regular Soviet Army took command of our area and expelled the German forces. We were free.
In the first days we couldn't accustom ourselves to the new situation. We didn't know what to do or where to go. We knew that our homes were destroyed and that we would not find anyone alive there. We also could not imagine being face to face with the neighbors who had spilled Jewish blood and taken part in theft and the actions.
Finally we decided to go to Lintup. Our hearts wanted to fantasize that perhaps we would find someone there of our families or friends or acquaintances.
I returned to Lintup together with Moshe Gilinksi and Abram Rein. There we found Frume-Basya Rudnitski with her two nieces. They were all that remained of our Lintup Jewish kehile.
Our first task was to dig a mass grave for the 100 martyrs who had fallen in the first work-camp. We also brought there the body of Hirshe Kharmats. Then we went six kilometers from the shtetl and buried the bodies of the four friends whom we had honored there a few years before.
Over the mass grave we placed a gravestone and wrote on it that these were all that remained of the good and dear Jews of Lintup.
The Soviets offered me a good government post, but I decided not to accept it because I felt that I could not live on the ruins and among murderers.
I went into the depths of Poland and from there I wandered through various Jewish refugee camps, until finally I came to erets yisroel and I now live in the old historic town of Sfat.
By Tsilia Matskin-Tsiblin
Translation from Hebrew by Dr. Sonia Kovitz, with appreciation for the assistance
of Itzhak M. Itzhaky and Eilat Gordin Levitan
Donated by Irene Mauber Skibinski
My trip to Lintup after ten years
Lintup is a typical shtetl. In the autumn, the mud sticks to your shoes. When the first snow falls, people are happy that everything is covered with a clean white blanket. Later in the freezing cold, everyone impatiently longs for spring.
The layout of the shtetl, surrounded by a forest with streams, is picturesqueso beautiful that you would think an architect designed it. But the Jews' lives were graythey worked hard six days a week running after parnosse [making a living]. In the beys hamedresh on shabbos the bitterness of a week of quarreling was lifted from their shoulders. Every Tuesday farmers would come from all over to the market, and the noise was overwhelming. At the end of the day everyone would sit at home and calculate how much they and their neighbors had made.
I made aliyah to erets yisroel in 1924. Ten years later, in 1934, I came back to Lintup for a visit. Nothing had changed, except that many friends who had been Zionists dreaming of making aliyah to erets yisroel were now Communists and sitting in jail. I went to visit three of them. They were surprised since they didn't know I was coming, and were amazed to see me. The Polish guard treated me with respect.
The antagonism of the Christians toward the Jews was widespread. Wild slander and provocation by speakers full of hatred and venom was heard in the market. At night the Jews were afraid to go out, and hooligans would throw rocks at the windows of Jewish houses. Despite all this, a group of boys and girls from the Christian school visited me and even brought me and my daughter all kinds of gifts. When I remarked on how much the times had altered the relations between Jews and non-Jews, they replied, Not everyone here has turned into an animal.
Rabbi Prutovitz had seven children at home and his salary was barely able to support them. One after the other they left Lintup to go to Vilna. Of all of them, only one son survived. Mikhal lives in Haifa; one daughter, Esther, lives in Kfar Mala; and the second sister, Sarah, lives in America.
In the family of the shokhet Zilber, there were three sons. One of them, the older son, Bentsion, survived and lives in Lud.
Of the four Gilinski brothers and three sisters who lived on Sventzian Street, two survived: one brother is in Israel and one sister in America.
Of the family of Mordekhai Kentsianski [Max Khenchynski], his wife and children perished in the Shoah. He came to Israel and died in Sfat.
My familymy father Sholem Matskin, my brother Borukh and his wifedied in April 1943. My brother Borukh's daughters are in Israel; his only son is in Warsaw.
Of the Katskovitsh family, I don't know their exact fate but they are gonetwo brothers and two sisters and their families. One of the sons survived and is in Lintup.
Of the Rudnitski family, two daughters survived.
Of the Sarafan family, not one survived.
Of the family of Yudel Mauber, the mother and daughter survived. The daughter studied medicine in Russia.
Of the Kharmats and Khaimovitsh families, not one survived. The two Yavitsh families (my uncles) perished, with their sons and daughters and grandchildren.
Of the Leyzerovitsh family, two of them live in Israel.
Of the well known Shapiro family, one son survived and is in France. The rest perished.
Of the Shteynhart family, not one survived.
Of the Levin family, their daughters and sons with their families perished, and many many more.
Regarding the suffering that these people went through, we must write about this with our blood and let the blood endure in the light.
By A. Kril
Translation from Hebrew by Dr. Sonia Kovitz,
with appreciation for the assistance of Itzhak M. Itzhaky
Donated by Irene Mauber Skibinski
In the old cemetery on Trumpeldor Street in Tel-Aviv a lonely stone is standing. No one has visited on memorial days since the first yahrzeit in the year 1921 * because his parents who were left bereaved in the little village of Lintup, near Svencionys, were murdered [in the Holocaust]. When I come every year on the memorial day of Khaim Alozorov, I visit this stone and stand for several minutes reading the lines inscribed on the stone.
A devoted soldier in the company of the workers
In the land of the pioneer,
Sholom ben Yisrael Uri Shapiro zl
From Lintup in Vilna District.
He was cut down in the flower of his youth
On the 9th day of the month of elul.
We called him Shliomke as a nickname. He was given this name by his friends because he was a lovable guy. He belonged to the 5th platoon of Kibbutz ha-Kovesh. When the platoon arrived in erets yisroel early in 1926, they got off the boat and came to Lemak-ha-Shevah in Petakh-Tikvah, to the orchard located between the farm of the female workers and Camp Yehuda. This area was a temporary settlement of seven groups, the largest of which was ha-Kovesh.
When the 5th platoon arrived, among them Shliomke Shapiro zl, we had already taken over the dining room, a big wooden building used as a meeting hall. There were also small wooden shacks to live in. The good-hearted Shliomke, totally devoted to work and to the community, came with his friends that first evening to my tent, which was the central gathering place for the sons of the villages around Svencionys. In his hands he had two containers of teyglakh, a delicacy of baked dough dipped in honey, and buttery cookies which his beloved mother had prepared for the trip.
A friend from the Khodotsishki family took care of providing a bottle of wine, and on the wooden box that we used for a table, the delicious treats were spread out, with plenty for everyone. And so this friend from Lintup was absorbed into our family, the family of pioneers. We sat until a late hour and heard Shliomke tell us what he had gone through, how he managed to leave his parents' home and emigrate to erets yisroel. Everyone liked him immediately.
On days of famine and through an epidemic of a disease of the tongue, Shliomke remained optimistic and happy with his lot. The shovel stayed glued to his hands when he went to dig the ground for the planting of new trees, always with a smile on his face. He was always looking for a way to help his friends, and always participated in group discussions on the the future of the kibbutz and plans for a permanent settlement.
At the end of the harvest and the beginning of the major new plowing for the next year, he was the leader of the group. In the evenings he kept his shovel under his bed so he wouldn't have to use a different onehis hands were accustomed to this one. I recall how during the great famine he once came into my tent and said with a smile, Listen Kril, now I'm even willing to eat bread and onion… if we just had bread. His friends joked about the things he said. Shliomke found a way to handle even starvation with humor.
When the diseases startedno one knew their nameShliomke walked around healthy and took care of his friends. And then suddenly one sunny day he came back from the orchard with sickness in his face. His temperature climbed without stopping. We called the doctor to come, and found out he had typhus of the stomach. He was transferred to the government hospital in Jaffa, and when I visited him, I saw his temperature had come down. I thought he would be coming back to us. But suddenly at night an emergency message arrived that we had lost Shliomke.
One of our dearest friends, Shliomke Shapiro, was no longer among us. He was only 21 years old when he was taken from everyone dear to him.
*Translator's note: The Hebrew year in the original is tav-resh-pey-aleph representing 1921, but the final digit, aleph (1), may be a typographical error, since Shliomke didn't arrive until 1926 according to this account. He died about a year later so tet (8) is most likely the intended final digit. Return
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