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The first Mass Murder

On that sad and bitter day, the fifth of the month of Av, July 24th, 1941, at one and the same time in the early morning, at all the Jewish farms, there appeared groups of armed Lithuanian activists; some of them were drunk. They commanded that all the Jews form rows in the yard of the farm, empty their pockets of whatever belonged to them, including jewelry, and put these things on the ground in front of them. The order was given to raise their hands over their heads and keep them there. Children and the elderly were also to obey. Some children tired quickly and lowered their hands, but were ordered to raise them or be beaten. Their parents had no choice but to encourage their children to comply. At the Chaluzin farm, the Jews stood in line and waited in silence. After all of their possessions from the buildings and what was lying in front of them, the Lithuanians ordered everyone who was able to work to leave immediately for a work camp, which was prepared, so they said, for them. Many breathed a sigh of relief. The desire to leave these cramped closed places, (the farms) was great. There was no need to convince anyone to leave. There were those that begged to be allowed to leave.

The oldest daughter of the Karabelnik family, Ada, who was still very young, also stood in the line of those who were ready to leave for the “work camp”. Her hand was bandaged, because of an infected wound. Her mother pleaded that she not be taken to the work camp, because she could not work with her bandaged hand. But the Lithuanians did not pay heed to her pleas. Suddenly, when the guards weren't looking, her mother pulled Ada out of the line and took her to one of the rooms in the farm house. During the selection, the well known murderer, the student at the Lithuanian Gymnasia, Mikolas Yokubytis, sat on a clump of wood in the yard and told about his exploits, jokingly. He especially detailed how he, personally, was among the perpetrators of the catching and killing of his classmate from school, the young girl, Frieda Kletz.

On that same day, all the young persons from all the Jewish farms, single people, young couples, and men who hadn't yet been on the prison farms, were taken to the “work camp”. Many went willingly, in hope to put an end to the situation they were in, and maybe do some physical work. They also hoped that maybe, in the work camp, they could come into contact with the outer world. That afternoon, the people who were then left on the farms, which were closer to Kelem, heard gunshots. Later, there began to be circulated, rumors by the Lithuanian neighboring farmers, who were in Kelem earlier in that day, that all the Jews who were taken to Kelem to the ”work camp', were shot to death and buried in the gravel pits by the Grozheviski farm. No one wanted to believe. No one could imagine that a few hours ago, they had bid farewell forever from their loved ones, children, husbands, family members, from their near and dear ones. But the similarity of stories told by the gentiles, continued and grew in corroboration and the bitter truth slapped them in the face. And, it was true; all the Jews who were taken from all the camps on the Jewish farms, and part of the Jewish men from the granary of Zunda Luntz, were slaughtered on that day by the Lithuanian nationalist murderers.

On the farm of Yaakov Chaluzin, and on other Jewish farms, there were left women, children, and old folks. When it became clear to them about the fate of their family members, they cried to the heavens, tore their clothing (ritually), and refused to be comforted and consoled. Unbelievable grief befell the Jews who were left on the Chaluzin farm. The men who were left there and the Chaluzin family said Kaddish (a prayer for the dead) for the victims. That was a shocking night, for in the preceding hours, most of the Jewish men in Kelem, and the surrounding, area had been murdered. On that same day, hope was lost in the hearts of most of those still alive to continue living. That was the great mass slaughter in Kelem. One thousand two hundred Jews, men and women, from all the Jewish farm prisons and most of the men in the Luntz granary were murdered. Fourteen men, who before the slaughter, were taken to work digging peat moss by the farmer, Yankaosas, were taken back to Kelem on that day. They were not killed on that day. Later that day, Yankaosas had them delivered back to his farm to continue their forced labor for him.

According to the testimony of Yonina Mer, on July 29th, 1941, all the Jews who were on the farm of Shimon Osher were taken to the granary on the farm of Grozheviski. Group by group, they were taken from the granary building and marched to the gravel pits and shot. Yonina relates that from the granary on the farm there were taken, among others, groups of mothers who were separated from their children. By threats and force of arms, those murderers forced those frightened mothers to the gravel pits. Yonina will never be able to forget the sight of those mothers being separated from their children. About an hour later, the mothers, for no clear reason, were brought back to their children. Among those mothers was Ada's mother. They were taken a second time, this time they were never to return to their children, who were left orphaned at the granary.

Among the children, fourteen in number, was Yonina, then just twelve, and her brother Yitzhak, who was eight. She relates that, all of a sudden, there appeared the young girl, Teibeleh Baksht, from the path that led to the gravel pits. She was the daughter of the lady dentist from Kelem. She was accompanied by two Lithuanian murderers, who brought her to the granary. No one knows the reason that she was brought back. Great sadness and deathly fear could be seen on her face. She just could mumble that she was now alone in the world. The children were, with the encouragement of the authorities, divided up and given over to families from Kelem, who were willing to take them. But, in the meantime, there came an order to gather those children together and bring them to the farm of Moshe Gelman, where there were, according to Chaya Rose z”l, a small number of Jews, who were brought there after the first mass slaughter.

Yaakov Zak relates, in his account, that after the mass killing, those few Jews left in the granary were ordered to sort out the clothing of the corpses, which were covered in blood, and to put them in the basement of the Lithuanian gymnasia. The Lithuanians washed their bloody hands and boots in the water of the well of the school yard. Very soon, there flowed water, red with the blood of the victims, and formed puddles around the well.

The Lithuanian guards at the granary told the remaining Jews about the mass killing that was carried out on that day. They had come home drunk with victory from the slaughter and bragged to the few Jews left alive, in great detail, about the mass executions. They also bragged that they, too, had personally taken an active part in the murder. A small group out of those remaining Jews were forced to serve at a feast celebrating the murder of their parents and loved ones. They had to serve the drinks and hear the terrible stories of the murders and their experiences during the killing.

As was stated above, before the first mass murder, a group of fourteen able men were taken to work on the farm of the Lithuanian, Yankaosas. They worked there digging peat. This farm was a few kilometers from the town. The owner was satisfied with the work that he got for feeding and sheltering the Jews. The fourteen Jews were also “satisfied”, in spite of the hard work. There, they received food on a much better level than at the granary. Here, also, they had an opportunity to make contact with the Jews on the other prison farms.

On the day of the mass murder, Yankaosas was ordered to return his fourteen Jews to the camp in Kelem. Group after group of Jews were taken that day to be killed from that camp. But these fourteen men were not taken. It so happened that Yankaosas managed to “fix it” that his Jews would remain alive, to return to work for him. And, so it was that, after the slaughter on that day, these fourteen Jews were returned to their forced labor.

After the first mass murder, there were at the Luntz granary, just 36 Jewish men. Then, when the fourteen men were taken to the Yankaosas farm, twenty-two were left in Kelem at the Luntz granary. They continued to work at clearing the ruins of the town, repairing the electric wires, supplying meat to the Lithuanian activists and the Germans, and at many other types of work. The young men, Yaakov Zak and Emanuel Rosenfeld, were sent to work at the farm of the Lithuanian, Kelimas. He, also, was glad to have the free work of those humiliated Jews.

To all the Jews who remained alive at the granary camp of Luntz in Kelem, and to all the others who were on the Jewish farms, it was clear that their days were numbered. The men in the camp in Kelem were depressed, indescribably lacking in hope, separated and cut off from the whole world. Their day by day, side by side, living among the killers, crazed animals, who beat and humiliated them daily, had broken their spirits completely. The Lithuanian activists would visit the camp very often and bragged about their deeds during the slaughter and emphasized that this would be the end of them and all the Jews until there would not be even one Jew left in Kelem.

There were left on the Chaluzin farm, a few elderly Jews, women and children, and the Chaluzin family. Many of the Lithuanian neighbors watched what was happening to these remaining Jews. They followed what was happening with them, and they gathered information in Kelem about their ultimate fate - and waited. Many of these gentiles waited with baited breath for these Jews to “disappear”, so that they could get at their belongings. Many of the Jews left on this farm prison believed that because they had given over some of their belongings to the neighboring farmers, who they thought were friendly, they would get them back some day. But, with hindsight, that was an unwise belief. The Lithuanians encouraged the Jews to give over their belongings to them for safekeeping. But they never ever intended to give them back. They were convinced that none among the Jews would remain alive in the end. Only very few of these neighboring farmers were really good-hearted. These few good neighboring Lithuanians, after the second and final mass murder, did aid the very few remaining Jews and helped them to escape.

About the situation of the Jews on the other farms, almost nothing is known. It is not known if, after the first mass slaughter, there still remained Jews on the Kushelevski, Berman, or Mendelovitz farms. There are no accounts to the effect that any Jews returned to these farms after the first slaughter. It is known that all the Jews were emptied out of the farm of Shimon Osher on that day, to be killed. Yonina Mer relates, that no one returned to that place. The group of children, which was at the Grozheviski granary in Kelem after the first mass killing, were kept at the Moshe Gelman farm.

According to the testimony of Chaya Rose z”l, all the children on the Gelman farm were taken to the “destruction”, including she, herself, and her daughters. She relates that all the Jews left on the farms and the camp at Zunda Lutz were imprisoned on the same day at the granary of Grozheviski. She adds further, that on that same day, a group of women, aged Jews, and children were returned to the Gelman farm. Chaya was also in that group. It is not known why those Jews were spared the fate of the others. Among the returnees were, Moshe Gelman, the farm owner and his family, and Zunda Luntz and his son, Baruch, who weren't in the Kelem camp, but rather at the Gelman farm. It can be speculated that these Jews were brought back in order to work their farms, since these prosperous farms were good suppliers of food for the Nazi occupiers.

The remaining Jews on the Gelman farm, as related by Chaya Rose z”l, took part in all of the work of the farm, along side the family of Moshe Gelman. Chaya writes that they worked like robots, with no motivation. At the farm of Yaakov Chaluzin and at the Gelman farm, the Jews, who were left alive after the first mass destruction, went about their sad lives like living ghosts, without the will to search to find a way to escape and save themselves.

At the farm of Yaakov Chaluzin, only the family members continued to work as usual as in former days, in the fields, in the vegetable garden, and with the animals. The others, as opposed to the Jews left at the Gelman farm, did not take part in the farm's work, but left the work and the initiative to the Chaluzin family, who were efficient by force of habit and lack of choice. The hard farm work helped them to divert their attention from the great tragedy that befell the Jews and from their black thoughts about the future.

The evidence given by Chaya Rose about the destruction of the Jews of Kelem was translated from Yiddish to Hebrew by Bat-Sheva Levitan-Karabelnik.

This evidence was given by Chaya Rose, who was born in Kelem on the tenth of June, 1885. She lived her whole life in Kelem. She had a grammar school education and worked as a seamstress. Her parents names were: father - Moshe Hillel; mother - Chava Vegodski.

The final Slaughter

Thus continued, day by day, the miserable lives of the remaining Jews on the Jewish farms, at the Luntz camp, and at the Yankaoksas farm. This “almost” ordinary existence, which lasted about a month, ended on August 22nd, 1942. At noontime, the Lithuanian soldiers arrived at the Gelman and Chaluzin farms. Nothing is known about what happened at the Kushelevski, Berman, Mendelovitz, and other farms on that day. They came armed and placed guards on all of the roads and paths leading from the two farms. Their official, declared reason for this was to transfer the Jews to a work camp at the village of Padubisis. Some of the soldiers spread out in the area to gather peasants with wagons and horses in order to transport the Jews and their belongings. A long line of wagons was amassed with their owner drivers.

Their declared purpose was, of course, a trick. No one among the Jews believed this excuse for their transfer, and were aware of the real purpose of this move. From the experience of former mass transports and mass executions, that were carried out only a month before, it was clear what was about to happen. With no choice in the matter, they followed orders to pack up and load their meager belongings. The packing up was done even more carefully in order not to leave anything behind. They even packed up their pillows and quilts, anything and everything. Yaakov Chaluzin's wife, Sarah Raisa, z”l, even managed to take down from the attic, the bags of feathers which were to be for pillows, someday, for the family. It is difficult to explain this overzealous packing by people who were facing sure execution. It seems that, deep in their hearts, even with the clear knowledge that they were going to their deaths, they still had a glimmer of hope. Mankind's will to live is tremendous. Like a dying man grasping at a straw, so at this last moment, these poor Jews hoped for a miracle.

The remnants of families, single individuals, women and children, and the aged all climbed up on the wagons with their belongings. The Lithuanians, who came with their horses and wagons, didn't show their thoughts in connection with the true destination of this journey and did not pass on any information to the Jews. It can be imagined that at least some of these gentiles knew what was about to happen, but they mentioned nothing about what they knew. Later, they admitted that they had hunches about what was going to happen, but it was not positive knowledge. Besides, the nationalistic activists, they drafted ordinary people from Kelem for this task. They also claimed afterwards that they had no positive idea about the destination of this convoy, that they did not personally take part in the slaughter (even though they were armed), and that they were only grabbed from the streets and forced to participate.

At the time that the Jews were packing their belongs, some of them, in spite of everything, decided to try to save themselves. They were the whole Chaluzin family, the owners of the farm. Yaakov, the father, was at that very moment in Kelem, and after he had heard the rumors that the Lithuanian soldiers intended to finish off the remaining Jews of Kelem, he decided not to return to his farm. He turned to one of his neighbors, a friend named Baltrukas, and requested refuge with him in his house. He also asked this good friend to somehow give a sign to the other members of his family to flee. The three sons, Yitzak, Hirsh, and Shmuel, each followed his father's orders and ran away from the work that he was doing on the farm at that time. Each one turned to one or the other of the neighboring farmers for help. The daughter, Chaviva, with the help of the neighbor, Baltrukas, succeeded in running from her house and hid nearby in back of some thick bushes near the barn. The daughter, Simia, ran to the Baltrukas house with her father. The mother, Sarah Raisa, went up to the attic and hid there to wait. She knew that the rest of the family was hiding and was sure that they would come to rescue her. And, surely, when the convoy of wagons had left, and it started to become dark, the sons came and rescued their mother and sister Chaviva.

At that time of the packing of belongings and loading the wagons, there, naturally, was a lot of confusion, and others succeeded in escaping at that opportunity. These Jews acted at the last minute, driven by the instinct for the preservation of life. Liba Karabelnick and her mother-in-law, Eta Bluma and her two young children also escaped: her six year old daughter, Hinda and her four year old son, Yitzak. Some of the guards, for some reason, paid no attention to the absence of these two women and children. Even before Liba fled from the farm and was still packing, her two older daughters, Ada and Bat-Sheva, succeeded in escaping with the help of another neighbor, Vitautas Aitmantis. Batyah Broido, who lost her whole family in the first slaughter, escaped also escaped. Among the escapees were: Tzipa Karabelnick and Batyah Malke, who were from the town of Taurage; Mina Leibovitz; Gisa Israel Nachumovitz; Devorah Measnik, with her daughter, Fruma, and her four year old granddaughter, Luba.

All of these, including the Chaluzin family, spread out in the area, in order to find hiding places with the neighboring Lithuanian farmers. The guards, who accompanied the convoy of wagons, knew about some of the escapees, but pretended they saw nothing, and also did not start searching for them either. There was, also, a gesture of kindness by one of the guards by the name of Karalietis. He was a barber in Kelem, and contended that he was taken, for the task of guarding, completely against his will. He proved his true intentions by this act; the two Karabelnik girls, who had escaped and wandered around for an hour, then returned to the convoy of death. Karalietus stopped them from doing this and encouraged them to escape, and even helped them to accomplish that.

The line of wagons from the Chaluzin farm continued on the dirt road, among woods and fields, in the direction of Kelem. This was the last road for the Jews of the Chaluzin farm.

At the Moshe Gelman farm, where there was a small group of Jews who somehow returned from the first mass slaughter. There quickly spread rumors about the intention of the Lithuanians to move them to some work camp. According to the testimony of Chaya Rose z”l, there came to the Gelman farm, on the same day as they did to the Chaluzin farm, armed Lithuanians. That was August 22nd, 1941. Looking back, this was the zero hour which the activists had chosen to murder all of the remaining Jews of Kelem. Here, too, at the Gelman farm, the armed solders gathered farmers and their wagons to transport the Jews and their belongings to Kelem. The Jews were ordered to pack everything, then load the wagons and wait. Some of them could find places to sit on the wagons, but most of the people had to walk behind the wagons.

Yaakov Zak also describes this event in his written testimony. They were walking and getting closer to the Grozheviski farm. Everybody was aware that the story about a work camp was a complete lie and served only to camouflage true intentions - mass execution. The women, children, and old folks were helpless.

They were worn down and without motivation to take any steps in order to save themselves. They were resigned to their fate and followed orders. Even so, there were, as there were at the Chaluzin farm, those whose will to live was such that they tried to escape. Chaya Rose told us that the escapees from the Gelman farm were: Moshe Gelman, with his two sons and his daughter Sarah; Zunda Luntz, and his son Baruch; and, Chaya Rose herself.

The convoys of wagons from the Chaluzin farm, the Galman farm, and the nearby towns of Vaiyguva and Leoliaye were seen around four o'clock in the afternoon by the Jewish prisoners in the camp in Kelem. The wagons and their baggage were led to the Gymnasia's yard, while the people were marched to one of the granarys on the Grozhebiski farm. At the same time, there were brought to Kelem and joined to those already there, the fourteen men who worked at Yankaoskas's farm. All the Jews, who were in the camp in Kelem, were brought to the Grozhebiski farm granary. Twenty men were separated and imprisoned in an adjoining building. The slaughter had already begun at the very hour when the first people had been brought from the farms to the Grozhebiski farm.

In groups of ten, they were marched to the gravel pits. All the others, who had not yet been put into these groups, were forced to listen to the salvos of shots and the screams of the wounded and dying that reached them from the direction of the gravel pits. The slaughter continued for hour after hour. Those remaining alive became less and less in number. At 8:30 p:m, the last two groups were brought out of the buildings (according to the account of Yaakov Zak), ten people in each group. He, according to his account, was in the last group of ten men to be brought to the pits. The whole area was lit up with searchlights, and the scene that appeared was like a great slaughterhouse. Nest to the pits, at that hour, there still were tens of Jews still alive, standing and waiting in line to be shot. Some of them were in their underwear, some were fully clothed.

At that moment, Yaakov Zak made the decision to escape this “Gehennum” (Hell). According to his account, the will to live took hold of him in spite of the hell that he witnessed. He wanted to live and tell the story to the whole world. He wanted the world to know what these Lithuanian murderers plotted and carried out upon the Jews of Kelem. In his testimony after the war, he tells about the wounded who were buried alive and about the total lack of mercy on the part of the murderers for the wounded who cried and pleaded. Yaakov Zak continues and adds, that no one can imagine or picture in his mind, or in his wildest dreams, the unbelievable acts of cruelty that took place by the open, common grave. The description by Yaakov of the place at evening time, the very hour of the horrible slaughter as a slaughterhouse isn't an exact description. It is known that in a slaughter house, the slaughterer tries to make the death all the less painful and all the speedier. What had taken place at the gravel pits at the time of the wiping out of the Jewish community of Kelem was a mass execution of children, women, and old Jews, whose only “crime” was that they were Jews. The killers didn't try to lessen the pain or the suffering of their victims, but rather the opposite; the drunken sadists enjoyed the terrible work of their hands. Any attempt to even compare them to animals is a great mistake.

It must be stated, that in these two great mass executions, Germans did not actively take part, except for those who photographed it as a documentation of the “final solution” that Hitler (may his name be blotted out) and his cohorts preached. The guilty ones were the Lithuanian nationalists alone - adults, youth, and high school students, all possessors of unfathomable hatred toward Jews and full of desire to rid the world of them. Most of them were from the “intelligentsia, and it is, therefore, impossible to claim that these crimes were perpetrated by primitive people. There was, behind these brutal murders, not only ideology, but also greed, the desire to possess the belongings of the Jews. Indeed, these belongings were already very meager, only the clothes on the backs of the victims. All their other possessions were taken by the Nationalists during the first days of the Nazi invasion in Kelem. Houses, stores, workshops, and all the other Jewish businesses had all burnt down in the great fire. There is really no explanation for all the cruelties and barbarianism by these sons of the Lithuanian people.

From accounts of Jews and non-Jews alike, it is a fact that these bands of Lithuanian nationalists not only murdered Jews in their own areas, but duplicated these acts deep in Poland, White Russia, and many other places outside the borders of Lithuania. The few Jews, who survived the Warsaw ghetto, relate that the inhabitants of the ghetto would cringe in terror at just the mention of rumors that Lithuanians were in the ghetto. The cry of “The Lithuanians are coming”, would scatter the Jews to their hiding places.

Let us not sin and blame all of the Lithuanian people as murderers. There were those among them who helped the Jews with all of their ability. It is known that there were Lithuanians, who helped the Jews in the Kovno ghetto, in Shavele, and in other places, with food that the Jews so desperately needed in those days. There were cases where Lithuanians, by means of third parties, smuggled children from the ghettos and saved them. A great deal of work of this type was done by the Catholic priests and nuns in monasteries and convents. They saved and hid Jews (with great dedication and with danger to their lives), who were under their protection.

Also, the small number of Jews, who managed to escape from the “camp” on the Jewish farms and other places, succeeded in surviving, thanks to the good hearts of merciful Lithuanians from the cities, towns, and most of all, from the countryside. They were people whom one could call Righteous Gentiles. It is true that there were some of them who did their righteous deed in order to convert the hidden Jew to Christianity. These were devout Catholics, who thought that they could save a soul for Christianity and reap their reward in the next world. But, the majority of these Righteous Gentiles were simple people, brave hearted, innocent people, who did what they did and endangered themselves and their families without expecting any recompense for it in this world or the next.

It is worthwhile mentioning that the majority of these people, who saved Jewish lives, were not rich people. There were those among them who were wretchedly poor, but rich in spirit. They shared their meager clothing and poor food with the Jews. In those dark times, when all hope had come to an end, when there was no way out, the warm hearts of these splendid people strengthened the hope and helped to give superhuman powers of endurance to the Jewish survivors, so that they might continue to struggle for their lives.

The few Jews from the community of Kelem, who lived through the Holocaust, thanks to the Lithuanians, will never ever forget their noble hearted saviors.

Until the beginning of World War II, the Jews of Kelem lived in their small town for many years, maybe hundreds of years. They were born here, grew up here, and established families. The well-to-do Jews and the poorest ones worked as best they could to sustain their families. Their livelihood was obtained by the sweat of their brows, from their skills and crafts, businesses, and other trades. Some excelled in their businesses and others less so. All the Jews of the shtetl were united in keeping the principle of living a Jewish life according to the tradition of their fathers and of Judaism. All the heads of families managed to obtain for their children a general education, but they also were concerned that their children would learn the traditions of the people of Israel in their schools and famous yeshivas. A small community like Kelem gave birth to great men of the spirit and of Torah from her midst, whose names were renowned throughout the whole Jewish world.

The Jews of Kelem were honest and generous people. Outside of their concern for their livelihood and for their children's education, they also worried about the life of the community, especially and principally on help to the poor, sick, old, weak, and needy.

Then, too, the love and yearning for Zion wasn't missing from their midst. A witness to this aspect of their lives are the many Zionist parties that flourished there, along with their varied activities.

The life of this small community, rich in spiritual values, was cut short at the start of World War II. On June 6th, 1941, the invasion of the Germans gave legitimacy to anti-Semitic Nationalistic Lithuanians to harm the Jews and to murder them without giving reasons to anyone or any power. The Lithuanians in Kelem fell upon the Jews of the town, imprisoned them, separated the men from their families, and worked them at backbreaking hard labor. Some of the Jews were murdered, during the first days of the occupation, through trumped up and false accusations. Their property was stolen and they were humiliated “into the dust”. The horrific deeds of these Lithuanian murders lasted a month. The pinnacle of their works of evil took place on the fifth of Av in 1941. Most of the Jews of Kelem, principally the younger ones, were brought by pretense to the gravel pits next to the Grozhebiski farm and slaughtered with great cruelty. The small group of those still alive lost all motivation and hope to go on living. On August 8th, 1941, the final execution of the Jews of Kelem took place. Elderly Jews, women, and children were murdered and their bodies were thrown into the same pits wherein, a month before, their loved ones and families had been buried.

Thus was terminated the life of the Jewish community of Kelem. The very few who managed to survive will never, unto the end of all their days, forget the glory of their shtetl and its bitter end.
May their Memories be blessed .

Descriptions of People and Families from Kelem according to
Recollections of Kelmers living in Israel

The Osher Family

Yosef Osher and his family lived in the building that housed the public bath in Kelem. The family was responsible for the running of the public bath for the convenience of the people of the shtetl. The parents, their son Moshe, and their young son, Hersheleh, were all destroyed in the Holocaust. The two daughters, Sara and Esther, moved before the war to South Africa. Their two other sons, Noach and David lived, at the time of the German invasion, in Kovno, and were imprisoned in the ghetto with the rest of the Jews. In the ghetto, Noach married Shayna. They hid in an attic when the ghetto was eliminated, and there they survived. After that, they hid out with various Lithuanians until the liberation. In 1972, he and his family came to Israel from Vilna. A heavy tragedy befell Noach and his family; their only son volunteered to go into the Israel Defense Forces. The Yom Kippur war broke out and on one of the first days of the war, on the Golan Heights, their son, Hillel, was killed. It is impossible to forget the words of the mourning mother, Shayna, Noach's wife. She was comforted, and comforted her friends and relatives with these words: “Isn't it better that my son should sacrifice his life in the Land of Israel than fall on a stranger's land, Soviet Russia”? The couple have already gone to their final rest. Their daughter, Rachel, lives in Israel. David, Noach's brother, succeeded in escaping just before the elimination of the Kovno Ghetto. He hid out with gentile families and in the forests and started a family there. David is now, also, not among the living. The daughter, Esther, who lived many years in South Africa, made aliyah to Israel and lives near her daughter, who also came to live in Israel.

The Karabelnik Family

Moshe Elimelech Karabelnik was the brother of Avraham Karabelnik from Kelem. He studied every day in the shteibel “Chayah Adam." The family moved from Kelem before the Second World War and lived in the town of Taurage, which was near the border with Germany. With the beginning of the war, they fled back to Kelem. Afterwards, they were put into the prison camp that was formed at the farm of Yaakov Chaluzin.

The Karabelnik family was a family that observed the commandments and was God fearing. Some of their sons, Yosef and Ze'ev, studied in the Yeshiva in Kelem. Yosef and his brother, Shimon, came to Eretz Yisrael in the 1930's, before the war. They are still living in Israel and live according to the Jewish tradition, as their parents did. Their daughter, Malka, the sons Yehudah and Ze'ev, after they fled from Taurage, joined their parents at the Chaluzin farm prison. The father, Moshe Karabelnik, was killed with the rest of the Jews of Kelem. The mother, Tzipa, and the daughter, Malka, were left alive. When the Lithuanian soldiers came to collect the last Jews from the Chaluzin farm, Tzipa found courage and hid herself and Malka at the last minute. Tzipa wandered from place to place, finding refuge at the houses of peasants. She found it easier than others to do this, because her appearance was Lithuanian in her facial features. Her hair was light colored, and her face appeared to be that of a typical Lithuanian. Also, she spoke excellent Lithuanian. She had no need to hide from neighboring farmers, so that she could participate in almost all of the work at the farm at which she lived. In 1946, she and her daughter, Malka, came to Palestine with the illegal immigration. Malka did not live long with her united family in Israel; she died at a young age from cancer. Tzipa Karabelnik, also, has passed away since then.

Moshe Berl Rose and his Family

One of the not so well known tailors in Kelem was Moshe Berl Rose. He and his wife, Sarah Malka, were religious people and raised their children in the spirit of Torah and commandments. The parents and the son of their old age, Edel, were massacred with the other Jews of Kelem. Their son, Reuven the Schochet, was killed in a small town where he lived. Their son, Noach, studied at famous yeshivas in Lithuania and came to Israel in the early 1930's. Today, he is married, and his wife is from a rabbinical family. They both live in Switzerland. The sons, Chaim and Shmuel Yaakov, studied at the Slabodke Yeshiva in Kovno. At the start of the war, they were put into the ghetto and then put in a concentration camp in Germany. Chaim found his death there; Shmuel Yaakov survived. After the war, he served as the Chief Rabbi of Munich in Germany. In the 1960's, he came, with his large family, to Israel. The daughters of the Rose family, Rachel and Tzipa (Tzipporah), lived in Kovno, at the beginning of the war, with their married nephew, Chaim. Rachel died in the Kovno ghetto. Tzipporah was sent from the Kovno ghetto to a concentration camp in Germany. After the liberation, she came to Israel. She founded a fine family here and lives in B'nai B'rak.

The Adler Family

Bread was baked for the whole shetl of Kelem at the Adler home. In their house there was, also, the Jewish town library. All the young Jews, and the adults who loved to read, would exchange books there. This was an active Zionist family who raised their children in the spirit of Zionism and love for the Land of their Fathers. The father of the family was active in the General Zionist Party and in the League for the Land of Israel. He served for a long time as a member of the Parents Committee of the Tarbut school. Their daughter, Esther, made aliyah to Israel in the early 1930's. Before the outbreak of the war, the daughter, Leah, lived in Kovno. At the start of the war, she was put in the ghetto and then sent to a concentration camp in Germany, with other Jews from the Kovno ghetto. She went through the fires and tortures of hell. Through a miracle, she stayed alive. After the war, she came to Israel and lives in Holon.

Lieb Yanever and his Family

The Yanevers were a well-to-do and well known family in Kelem. They were merchants and also dealt in light industry, the manufacture of sugar, and its distribution. The brother of Lieb, Naftali (Tulya), was active in the Betar movement. At the outbreak of the war, he tried to escape; apparently, he was killed trying to do just that. Until today, no one knows the reason for his disappearance, or what his fate was. His brother, Moshe, tried to get to Israel after the war. He was caught and sent to Siberia for ten years for trying to leave Russia illegally. After his release, he came at last to Israel. He is no longer living, but his sister, Rachel Yanbar, who came here in the 1930's, lives in Israel.

Lieb and his wife, Shana, had three children, a son and two daughters. The family was in the ghetto of Shavel. Their young daughter, Tzila was taken to Shtuthof concentration camp and died there a few days before the liberation. The older daughter, Popa, was transferred to Shtuthof in Germany. After the liberation, she raised a family in Kovno. In the 1970's, she came with her family to Israel. Popa and his son were also taken to a concentration camp in Germany, from Shavel. This camp was in the area of the occupation of the American troops. After the war, the father and son did not return to Lithuania, but emigrated to Australia. The father Leib, is no longer alive, but his son, Moshe, is well and living in Australia.

The Karanovitz Family

This was a well known religious family. The father of the family died when the children were young. Their mother, Esther, had to do her best to sustain her family. She lived on Konigishiki Street, not far from the Catholic church, and earned her livelihood from a grocery store. The daughter, Zelda, survived the hell of the ghetto, but died afterwards; it is not known for what reason. The son, Yisrael, is the only surviving remnant of this family. He managed to escape to the Soviet Union and was saved there. He later studied at a Yeshiva and became a rabbi. He served as a rabbi in Chicago, in the United States. The rabbi now resides in Israel.

The Mark Family

The father of the family was a tailor. The children of the family were Zionists and were active in Zionist parties, such as the Zionist Socialists and Hashomer Hatzair. It is known that the daughter, Ita, survived the war. She and her husband established a family and made aliyah to Israel, where they served as teachers in a school in Ashkalon.

The Shevelovitz Family

This family made their living from the meat business. The adults and youngsters worked in that business. Like most of the youth in Kelem, the Shevelovitz children were active in the Zionist parties. During the 1930's, their son, Hillel, made aliyah to Israel. When he came to Israel, he made great efforts to make it possible for his girlfriend, Batya Rose, from Kelem, to also get to Israel. He succeeded in the end. They raised a family. Hillel was in the building business in Israel and did very well. By the fact of their being in Israel, the couple were saved the bitter fate of their family members in Kelem. Hillel is deceased now, and his wife, Batya, lives in a home for the aged.

The Leibovitz Family

This was a family which was blessed with many children, nine in number. They were business people. Their son, Ezra, came to Israel in 1932, as a chalutz. He hebraicized his name to Lavi. Ezra also succeeded, after very great efforts on his part, to bring his sister, Fruma, to Israel.

Fruma lives in Israel and is a member of Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar. Some of the brothers and sisters were killed in the Holocaust, and some survived and lived in the Soviet Union. With the great wave of immigration of Jews to Israel from Russia in recent years, all the surviving members of the family have come to Israel.

The Soloveitchik Family

This was a family which followed the commandments and feared God. The father's father was a scribe. The mother's father was a rabbi, with a very special personality marked by cynicism. The Soloveitchik family owned a store that sold material, such as linen, wool, cotton, silk, etc. It wasn't easy to support four boys and four girls.

The father Soloveitchik had a pleasant voice, and he was a cantor in the synagogue. Two sons, Zelik and Yehuda, studied in the yeshiva in Kelem. Their brother, Isar, learned the watchmaker's trade with the watchmaker, Meir Mordachi Myerovitz. The second son, Chaim, studied at the Ponevezh Yeshiva. In 1933, he was the victim of an anti-Semitic incident, when he was spat upon in the face by Lithuanian youths for no other reason than hate of Jews. As is known, in that same year, Hitler rose to prominence in the German political scene, and legitimization was given to anti-Semitic Lithuanians to harm Jews. Chaim came to the conclusion that he must leave Lithuania and make his way to the Land of Israel. He joined Hapoel Hamizrachi. He spent half a year at their training farm. At last, he made aliyah to Israel in 1934. He started a family and worked at all kinds of difficult jobs, mainly he worked at drilling at building sites. The girls of the Soloveichik family studied at the school for girls in Kelem. All of this respected family were murdered with all the Jews of Kelem. Chaim lives now in Rehovot.

The Chayton Family

This family lived on Konigishiki Street. They had a grocery store and, also, a house for rent. The rent from the house helped them as added income. The Chayton family had three girls. Their daughter, Tema, moved to South Africa in the 1930's, before the war and was saved the terrible fate of the Kelmer Jews. Their daughter, Rachel, married a young man from Ponevezh and was most probably killed with the Jews there. Their daughter, Chana, married a young man from the yeshiva in Kelem. From the Chayton family, there remains no one except the descendants of Tema in South Africa.

This was a strictly observant family, but together with this, they had a great desire to live in the Land of Israel. In 1936, all the family went up to Israel. They left their son Yitzhak to study in the Teltz Yeshiva.

Yitzhak was really a Torah genius, and the heads of the Yeshiva convinced the family to leave him there to study, which they did. At the time of the Holocaust, Yitzhak was killed, along with all the students of the famous Teltz Yeshiva. His parents never stopped mourning for him and suffered from strong guilt feelings because they had left their son behind, instead of bringing him to Israel.

The Hepner Family

This was a truly religious family. They also yearned to make “aliyah” to Israel, the “Land of our Fathers”, which they did in 1936. Yitzack, their son, was left back in Lithuania to complete his studies at the Teltz Yeshiva.

Yitzack was a young genius, and the heads of the Yeshiva convinced the Hepner family to let him stay at his studies. During the Holocaust, Yitzack was killed with the other yeshiva students at the Teltz Yeshiva. His parents in Israel never ceased mourning for him and blamed themselves for not bringing him to Israel with them.

The Cavaeden Family

This was a family of deep religious tradition. The father of the family traveled to South Africa and, to the sorrow of the mother and children, never returned to his family. Even so, their brave mother educated and brought up her two boys and her daughter, Sara, in the spirit of the Jewish tradition.

The two boys studied in yeshiva. The girl, Sara, studied in Shalomit, the girls school. The family didn't have financial problems. Their source of livelihood was a textile shop and also houses which were rented out. At the beginning of the war, the mother, her daughter, and their young son were imprisoned with the rest of the Jews of Kelem in one of the Jewish farms. Their older son, Chaim Zundel, succeeded in escaping to the Soviet Union. He joined the Lithuanian Division (the 16th) and fought against the Nazi enemy. The mother and Sara were killed with the other Jews of Kelem. The younger son, Reuven, was shot by the Lithuanian soldiers while on his way from the farm prison camp, where he was staying, to another Jewish prison farm, to seek out his friends. This is according to the testimony of Chaya Rose, z”l.

When the Red Army succeeded in pushing back the Germans and was on the way to Germany, Chaim Zundel, then in Lithuania, tried to free himself from the army's framework and get to Israel. He was caught and accused of desertion; he was sentenced to ten years in Siberia. After he returned from there, he started a family, and they all came to Israel. He now, also, is not among the living. He was the last of the Cavaeden family of Kelem. He passed away a few years ago.

The Ziskind Family

The father of the family was a shoemaker and sold shoes to the people of the shetl. He was widowed and married again. Three girls, Chaya, Pessia, and Ita, were born from the first marriage. Chaya was a clerk in the Stern's store. In the late 1930's, she got a certificate, because of her work with the Zionist Socialist party, and came to Israel. Chaya is at present a member of Kibbutz Givat Brenner. All the rest of the family was destroyed in Lithuania during the massacre at Kelem.

The Freedman Family

Bryna Freedman was a widow. Her older son, David, was a teacher. In the 1930's, he came to Israel with Dr. Lehman from Kovno, who was the head of the Jewish orphanage, and settled in Ben Shemen. David Freedman was a counselor there. Later, David Freedman served as a teacher at Kfar Vitkin and lived there.

The second son, Isaiah Freedman, was an excellent youth, but was born deaf and mute. He learned to be a tailor and worked at it. The daughter, Golda, was full of the joy of life; she, also, belonged and was active in Hashomer Hatzair. At the first opportunity that presented itself, she made aliyah to Israel. She started a family here and resided on a moshav near Kfar Saba. During the 1960's, she passed away from a heart condition.

The older daughter, Pessia, emigrated in the 1920's to South Africa. She was married to Yitzak Karabelnik, son of Avraham Karabelnik, from Kelem.

The mother, Bryna, and her son, Isaiah, were killed in the Holocaust. Also, the other members of the family are no longer living, except for their descendants in South Africa and in Israel.

The Cahf Family

Moshe Eleazer Cahf was a religious man, and knowledgeable in Torah. His only son studied at the Teltz Yeshiva. He was, apparently killed there with the other Jews of Teltz.

The father Cahf earned his living from a small shop that sold cloth on Konigishiki Street. He lived next to the Yavneh school. He would teach Torah every evening in the Chayah Adam shtiebel. On the Sabbaths, he would read the portion of the week before the worshippers. He was a precious Jew, who smiled to everyone. He was murdered with all the Jews of Kelem.

The Skir Family

Rabbi Yitzak Skir was a Godfearing man; he taught in the Talmud Torah. He earned his livelihood from his small textile store, that was located between the two rows of stores on the Konigishik street. He, his wife, his son, and his daughter died in the Holocaust. No one survived from their family.

The Shaffer Family

Avraham Shaffer was the “Sanyounis” (in Lithuanian) or the representative of the town council. He was also called the “Tzvansig Kapkener” (20 kopkes). No one knows the origin of that nickname. Abraham was the brother of Moshe Gelman, on whose farm the infamous prison farm for Kelem's Jews was established.

Many Jews changed their names in order to avoid the draft into the Czar's army. They became “only sons” and didn't have to be drafted into the army, which was usually for twentyfive years. Most soldiers never returned to their families. So, by changing his name from Gelman to Shaffer, he was saved from being drafted. He was called “Senyounas”, which was a sort of representative of the City Council among the Jews. He always walked around with a pile of papers in his hands; notices to Jewish families from the township. He was saved from the Czar's army, but not from the claws of the Nazis. He died with the rest of his family in the slaughter.

The Fraid Family

The children of the Fraid family were orphaned by their father at an early age. They lived together with their mother. The family owned a factory for the making of soft drinks.

Their son, Mendel, managed the business. He, also, was the spirit behind the Tiferet Bachurim movement. Mendel used to pray there, give lessons in the Bible, and teach Midrash. He, also, would help Mendel di Payes print wall posters calling on the Jews to fight the Arabs on the soil of Israel. The second son, Chanan Fraid, managed the distribution of the soft drinks. The daughter, Chasia, married a man named Factor, from another town. At the time of the war, they hid out in the area of that town and survived. In 1942, Chasia and her family came to live in Israel. The Fraid family were Zionists and were active in Zionism and the Zionist parties. All members of this family were murdered in the massacre in Kelem, except their daughter Chasia.

The Pas Family

Rabbi Pas will be remembered in the minds of everyone who knew him as an honored and respected man with a long white beard. He studied Gamara in the Yavneh School.

He was easily angered by the tricks of the pupils. More than once, he broke his cane on his desk in anger, thereby showing his anger at the students misbehavior. Rabbi Pas had a daughter, who married the teacher Yitzak Levin. He was a well known teacher at the Yavneh School. All of the members of this family were slaughtered.

The Kaplan Family

Mr. Kaplan was a Godfearing Jew. He devoted his whole life to the study of the holy books. He collected money for yeshivas, and traveled from city to city, town to town, in order to do that work.

The Kaplan family had two daughters. Both of them were educated in the spirit of the tradition of Israel. The older daughter was a clerk in the Jewish bank in Kelem. The younger daughter, Hannah Rashka, was very talented. At school, she excelled at her studies and showed great sharpness of mind. At the early age of eight or nine, she knew how to play chess and to defeat players older than herself. Her parents sent her to study at a school in Teltz. All of the members of this family were murdered.

The Broide Family

Yona Broide had no family connection with the family of the same name, which dealt in transportation and hauling. This was a family which followed the commandments. They lived from the earnings of their clothing material store, which was located next to the metal goods store of Payah Freedland.

Yona Broide had a number of children. Their son, Shimon, was especially religious. People can recall an incident when a Gentile from a village brought a gift of fish to the family for a holiday. Youngsters began teasing Yona, saying that a religious family shouldn't take fish for a holiday from a gentile, even though the fish were a gift. They, also, compared him to Yona, who was captive in the stomach of a fish. They called him forbidden names, all in the form of jest, but Yona took it seriously. He took it so seriously that he was taken with a bout of deep depression. The whole family was wiped out in the massacre of the Jews of Kelem.

The Markovitz Family

Like most of the people of Kelem, the Markovitz family were Godfearing and followers of the commandments. This family had three boys and five girls. The father of the family dealt in the trading of cattle and sometimes, traveled to villages to buy cattle from Lithuanian farmers. A number of years before the beginning of the war, a tragedy afflicted the family. The father passed in the street with a cow, and a truck came along and ran over him. The mother, a housewife, was also killed by accident. A bee stung her, and she died from the poison a few months before the invasion of the Germans.

Their son, Meir, took the family into his hands. He was known as an activist in the Betar movement. The two younger brothers studied in the yeshiva. After the death of the father, Meir made sure that his two younger brothers were able to continue their education. When the Nazis invaded, Meir and the other children fled to a small village, where their grandparents lived. The terrible deeds of humiliation and annihilation were carried out in that village, as they were in all of Lithuania. Meir, his wife, his son, and another thirteen Jews found refuge with a Lithuanian farmer. Close to the end of the occupation, they were given away by other gentiles and were killed.

The daughter, Berta, made aliyah to Israel in the 1930's, and was, until her recent death, a member of Kibbutz Yagor. The daughters, Chaya and Sarah, who were in Kovno at the start of the war, were imprisoned in the Kovno ghetto. From there, they were taken, with a group of Jews, to the concentration camp, Shtuthof, in Germany, They both went through days of inhuman suffering and almost died of hunger. Close to liberation, the two girls hid in a bunker, in order to save themselves. The Germans had decided to destroy any evidence of their crimes and to kill the remaining Jews in the camp. Sarah, at the last minute, moved from the bunker to a safer place, while her sister Chaya, was burned alive when the Nazis set the bunker on fire.

After the liberation, in spite of the fact that she was frail and weak, she acted with great caution with the food given to those former inmates. Some of them, because they had been starved for so long, stuffed themselves sick with food and died as a result. Sarah married in Germany after the war and then moved to Australia. Her daughter, Rachel, with her husband and children, lives in Tivon, Israel.

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