by Rashel Oysher
Translated by Gloria Berkenstat Freund
In 1939, when Hitler Germany occupied Memel, the Gordz population was left almost without any opportunities for existence. Many young people from Gordz and even entire families moved from Gordz to other cities and shtetlekh [towns, shtetl is the singular form of the word] of Lithuania in order to look for a source of livelihood. However, the greater part of the Gordz population remained in place.
Gordz, which lay right near the border with Germany, was occupied by the German army even earlier than the official announcement of the outbreak of the war. The Gordz population remained in place.
As soon as the bloodthirsty Fascists invaded the shtetl they immediately drove the population out of their houses and set fire to the small amount of remaining goods left over after the great fire of the summer of 1939.
Two young Jewish men, Mendl Man and Josef Osherovitz, who helped the small border garrison to resist the incoming German army were later found dead near a machine gun. The Hitlerists used the fact that young Jewish men fought against them; they staged a public trial against the men in the shtetl. They drove all of the Jewish men together on a side of the shtetl and told them to dig a grave for themselves. When the grave was finished, they carried out the sentence: for staging resistance to the German army, all of the men were sentenced to death by shooting…
The death sentence was carried out immediately.
The first heroic death during the execution was my sister Toybe's husband, Motl Meirovitz. He had well mastered the German language and hearing the death sentence, he
called out: You shoot us because we are Jews; you are tyrants, vile dogs and dirty pigs!
He tore open his shirt and his last words were; Shoot, you will pay dearly for our innocent blood! The first bullet immediately found him and he fell dead.
The Jewish women and children were driven to a stall in Anieliske (a village near Gordz). There they were held hungry in cold and dirty conditions under the heavy supervision of
the Lithuanian nationalists. The women were forced to clear the streets and dig potatoes.
When the work ended, everyone, young and old, was shot in a swampy forest. The outrage took place in October 1941. The aktsia [action, often deportation] was carried out by drunken Lithuanian nationalists. They rampaged and shot to the right and to the left during the course of an entire day. In the morning they placed their bloody work in the ground and not finding the grave used the previous day, they dug out a second one.
Thus the Jews of the shtetl ended their lives and all that remained of our Gordz martyrs was one large grave at the side of the shtetl and two graves among the swamps and forests on the road between Vezaiciai and Anderame.
Three mass graves remained of our dearest Jews of the shtetl, who were murdered in a savage manner, brothers and sisters, friends, comrades and innocent
children. Three mass graves – this is the fresh cemetery of the Gordz Jews.
Ruchl Yami-Gritziana, who until the end was with all of the women at the grave and survived by chance, later spoke about the tragedy of our Gordz Jews.
When the women were shot she jumped into a pit and lay there until it became dark. She crawled out of the pit late at night and left for the village of Vezaiciai. The teacher in the local Lithuanian school hid her for a time and later he took her to a secure place where she survived until the liberation.
Ruchl Yami-Gritziana is the only living witness to the bloody tragedy of the Gordz Jewish community.
At the outbreak of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, a small number of the young from Gordz, who lived in various cities and shtetlekh [towns] in Lithuania, succeeded in escaping to Russia. I was among those escaping.
Our will was strong and we proudly fought against the Hitlerist army and took revenge for the spilled innocent blood of our dear annihilated families.
Heroically perished in the savage fight against the enemy:
Jukhl Zilberg and so on.
In innumerable struggles the roads of war were crossed until victory:
Avraham Ornshtein near the graves of the murdered women
I voluntarily mobilized in the Lithuanian division and took part in all battles with the division. During the last year of the war, my fight continued in a partisan headquarters.
Returning after the war, I immediately visited our Gordz, which had become a ruin, and the graves of our Gordz martyrs.
With our extremely limited resources, we erected three headstones on all three mass graves. A great thank you
for organizing and placing the headstone belongs to our Gordzer, Avraham Ornshtein and Yitzhak Zilberg.
Several years later, the local regime also placed a memorial wall near the grave in the forest and a road to the grave was also paved.
We Gordzer, who still remained in Lithuania, were invited by the local regime to the opening of the meeting at which gathered a large number of the Lithuanian population. We appeared as the representatives of the victims to thank the local regime for the initiative to erect a monument for our murdered Gordz Jews.
In my short speech, which was translated
on television, I turned to the local population to ask them to take care of the sacred earth of our murdered brothers and sisters in a respectful manner and to honor their memory. At the same time I branded the traitorous deeds of the murderers and of those who lent a hand to the murder of our closest and dearest families.
Each summer we would travel to visit the graves of our parents in order to be together with our closest and dearest even for a short time.
Let their memory be sanctified for eternity.
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