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[Page 1849]

Devastation of the Jews from Posvol and nearby
shtetlach (Yanishkel, Vashki, Linkuva, Salat, Vabolnik)

by B. Reinus in Lite

Translated by Dr. Sonia Kovitz

Posvol was a terrible graveyard not only for the local Jews but for all their fellow children of Israel in the surrounding shtetlach. (The following is based on information supplied by Taibe Aizikovitch-Gutman and Moshe Gutman, both from Posvol, now living in Philadelphia.)

As yet isolated arrests (Chane Akhbar, Meir Binder, Yankl Milman) took place on the morning of June 27, 1941 when the Germans marched into Posvol. A week later (July 4) the arrests of hundreds of shtetl Jews began. Some of the captured Jews were imprisoned in jail and some in a shop for selling rye that belonged to Yoel Farber. One night two policemen (Lithuanian partisans) and two Germans came and demanded that young Jewish girls be handed over to them. By means of a large bribe this calamity for Jewish children was narrowly averted.

A few days later the arrested Jews were taken in two transports to the jail in Shavl. Some of the women were freed and of these the majority returned to Posvol, where they were later murdered. Of the women who remained in Shavl a small number were ultimately saved.

Around July 15 the [people in the] Posvol ghetto were shot. The area of the ghetto included half of Birzer Street up to Leib Milner (Balishker's) house and all of Polevener Street.

One day the virsheitis [town-elder] Maldutis came to the ghetto and announced that anyone giving gold and money would be sent to a camp from Popovesse to work. The few who believed in this speech had their money and jewelry taken by the bandits and then were brought back to the ghetto.

For the short time that the Posvol ghetto existed, people ate food distributed by a ghetto-cooperative managed by the local rabbi, Rav Yitzhok Agulnik.

A few weeks before the liquidation of the Posvol ghetto, Jews from various surrounding shtetlach were sent there. Among the persons from Yonishkel were the Todes sisters, Dr. Lichtnshtein, the Asch family (the husband was shot in Yanishkel), Moshe-Aharon Zlot, Reuven Zlot's daughter-in-law, and others.

The Yonishkelers reported the khurbn [destruction] in Linkuva, which was among the first of the kehillot [Jewish communities] to be slaughtered. Immediately in the first days of the German occupation, the Linkuva partisans with the police chief Petreitis incharge locked up Jewish males in a stable. Some of them were shot and the rest were transported to Shavl. Also the wives and children of the men who were shot were murdered, later in a camp behind Linkuva.

One of the Linkuva partisan-leaders, Pavilis Ratshis, was later “promoted” to the office of “Plenipotientiary for Jewish Affairs” in the Shavl ghetto. He caused grave difficulties for several Linkuva Jews who were in the Shavl ghetto, and denounced Barkum, Girsh and Blumenson as Communists. They were temporarily saved by this calumny but later they were murdered.

Among the murdered from Pumpian were: Chana Kramer (“The Innkeeper”) and her family, Ester Milner, the Segal family and others.

Among the persons transported together from Vashki were: the family of Shmuel Katz, Hirsh Katz, Dorfan Trapide, Motl Galin, Tose (Dovid Balsher's aged mother-in-law), Chaim-Shloime (the Vashki shammas) and others.

From the arrested Jews of Salat the names of the following Jews are remembered: Avraham Chait, Chaim Shvidgal, Motl Lurie, Ida Chait, B. Volpe, Musnson, Novishets – all with their families.

Among those brought from Vabolnik were: Chaim Kruk, Ben-Tsion Davimos, Abba Stolier, the Levin brothers – all with their families and other Jews.

A bizarre occurrence took place among the Jews from Vabolnik – certainly not for the first time in Lita: over 40 Jews from Vabolnik converted to Christianity in hopes of saving themselves in this manner from the hands of the German-Lithuanian butchers. The Jews who decided on this terrible step in order to save their families deliberated long and painfully. They tried to find a protector among Rambam (Maimonides) and other brilliant scholars, and tried to reason with each other that they were only going to change their faith for appearances' sake “until this passes” and then they would become Jews again. They rummaged around in the history of the marranos and asked each other: aren't we marranos no less than our fellow Jews of former times in Spain? And with a bitter spirit they set out on the bitter path of apparent conversion.

Here it should be noted that the priest from Vabolnik who administered baptism to these Jews knew very well that the conversion was only temporary. He himself emphasized to the Jews that he wanted not to “capture any souls” but was only counseling them for conversion in order thus to save them from death.

The converted Jews were taken to Posvol along with the other Jews from Vabolnik. For a period of time they were held separately and thought that their conversion would perhaps save their lives. At the last moment, however, they were driven out with the other Jews to the slaughter.

On August 27 the Jews from the ghetto were ordered to assemble in the bes medresh (which was located outside the boundaries of the ghetto). A sham order was given that they were being taken to work and had to bring all their things along with them. Later the men were separated from the women and children, who were taken away to the Lithuanian school on Vilner Street.

On that same day the martyrs were taken into a grove of [… trees] four kilometers from Posvol. The Lithuanian partisans carried out the slaughter under the direction of the Germans, who stood nearby. At the last moment the following managed to escape death: Anna Maras (now in Vilna), Tana Balan and Tsippa Davidovitch (both now in Posvol) and both the Todes sisters from Yanishkel (now in New York).

Here it is worth mentioning an interesting fact on whether or not the Posvol Lithuanian city government officially took part in exterminating the Jews of the Posvol ghetto. They debated and discussed the matter exactly as if it concerned paving a little bit of street with cobblestones or handling dog license fees – and they decided, yes, murder them all!

The names of the following Lithuanian hooligans who especially “excelled” in violent deeds should be recorded for future generations and also perhaps for revenge. Petras Bieluskas and Veitkus (a shoemaker) came to loot the home of Leib Aizykovitch and killed his wife Beila Gitta. Strazdas Yuazas (a tailor) and Metskus beat people to death on the transports to Shavl. Ignats Ogentas, Gudas Leonas, Antanas Birkuskas, Yanas Vilimas, Visatskis and others inflicted atrocious tortures on Jews. They and still others killed approximately 1600 Jews from the beautiful communities of Posvol and approximately 300 dear Jews (many of them shot on the spot) from the surrounding shtetlach mentioned above.

Among the small number of Lithuanians in the region who risked their life and saved Jews is Baniolis. He hid three Jewish girls for three years in a stable and provided them with food. His name should be recited with honor.

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