2. The slaughter of Jews in Jubarkas
The slaughter of Jews in the Lithuanian town Jubarkas – continued:
Three Hundred Women Deceived and Shot
Around five or six weeks before Rosh Hashanah 1941, on a Tuesday, the Lithuanian police announced to the Women in the work camp (at Levyash’s compound), as well as those at work, that when they went home for lunch they should tell all the women who had neither husbands nor small children, that they should report precisely at six in the evening. According to the order all the women whose husbands had been among the 550 men taken away also had to report. Other women as well, widows without small children, had to report.
At six in the evening, about a hundred women had already reported for roll call to the work camp at Mr Levyash’s compound. The Lithuanian policeman from town Mikas Levickis gave a speech to the women. He declared that the women shouldn’t sell their household possessions, nor should they trade them, “Because you will still have to live.” He assured the women that their men would come back. Meanwhile the women would be paid for their husband’s work; they would be given food and drink, and so forth. The women didn’t know how to thank the murderer for his promises. After roll call he announced the women could return home, but they had to report for roll call at six p.m. the next day.
The next day, Wednesday evening, two hundred women reported for roll call. This time as well the murderers promised the women everything, and advised them not to sell everything they had in their houses: “Because you will still have to live,” the murderers assured them. The mood of the Jewish population improved, and everyone believed that no further evil would befall the Jews. Some people began to believe wholeheartedly that the 550 men who had been taken away were living and working somewhere.
On the third day, Thursday, in the middle of the day, the partisans drove peasant wagons up to all the Jewish houses, and according to a list, they took out all of the elderly, weak, sick or blind women. The murderers promised to take all of the sick people to a hospital. On Thursday evening about three hundred women, including the sick and the elderly, appeared for roll call at the work camp. After roll call, the women were not permitted to go home. The men and women who were working finished their day’s work and went home, where they found the women missing.
The next day, Friday morning, when the able-bodied men and women got ready for work, they were not permitted to leave their houses. Policemen and armed Lithuanian civilians marched through the streets, making sure that the Jews did not leave their houses to go to work. The murderers declared ironically: “There’s shooting, the Russians are coming back, they’re not far from the city!” The Jews didn’t understand why they weren’t permitted to go to work.
At 8:00 the murderers announced that everyone could leave their houses, and that they had to go to work. When everyone arrived at the work camp, the women were already gone. In the courtyard and in the house shoes, clothing, earrings torn off along with bits of ear, and the bloodied canes of the sick, were all scattered around. In the midst of everything, people found hidden money. On the second floor, in a drainpipe, the women found hidden gold and money. One girl, Yokhke Kusilevitsh, found her mother’s handkerchief in an outhouse.
Everyone understood then that the roughly three hundred women had been deceived and taken out to their deaths at night. Lithuanians reported, and others corroborated the report, that all the women had been taken by night to the forest of Kalneniu, five kilometers from town in the direction of Smalininken, where everyone had been shot on Friday morning.
With tears in their eyes, the women begged the policeman Budvinskis to tell them honestly where the women had been taken. The murderer calmly and smilingly insisted that all the women had been dressed in the uniforms of Red Army prisoners, and taken to do agricultural work in the countryside. The murderer forced the women to clean up the yard and rooms, removing the dreadful evidence, the things left behind by the women who had been taken away. On Friday evening after work, the Jews found out more exactly that the women had indeed been shot in the forest. In the middle of the night other Jews heard the women being taken past their homes. The women wept and moaned bitterly. The sick and elderly had been taken in wagons belonging to the Jew Grinberg (taken to Russia with his family before the war).
But from time to time there were rumors that the women who had been taken away were doing agricultural work somewhere, and living quite well. For instance, there was a rumor that Mrs Pulovin (aged seventy) had personally sent a letter, explaining exactly how she was doing and where she was working. But no one saw the letter.
After the 300 women were taken away, the able-bodied men and women still had to go to work, just as if nothing had happened.
Old and Sick Men Shot
Executions During the Slaughter of Women and Children
A few weeks after the action against the women, before Rosh Hashanah 1941, police and armed partisans began going through the Jewish houses, driving out all the elderly and sick Jewish men, placing them into wagons and taking them to the work camp. One Jew named Hirshl Koblovsky had to help place his neighbor Moyshe Kaplan (over 65 years old) onto a wagon, and take him to the camp at Motl Levyash’s compound. When he returned Hirshl told everyone that Moyshe Kaplan had died on the wagon on the way. Hirshl was not permitted into the camp. The next day, when women got ready for work at the camp, they did not see the old and elderly men any longer. Nor were there any traces of the men.
It was said at the time that the elderly and sick Jewish men had been taken away to Raseiniai in wagons. It was impossible to obtain any more details about their slaughter at the time.
On September 6, 1941, at 10:00 on a Saturday morning, the women at the work camp found out that groups of police and partisans were going through the Jewish houses, ordering all the women with small children who had no husbands to bring along small packs and come to the building of the Talmud Torah, the community religious school. The police explained that a ghetto was being set up at the Talmud Torah for the women and children. The women no longer trusted the promises of the Lithuanian murderers, and only a small number of the women and their children went to the Talmud Torah. The rest began to go into hiding. Their fear and panic was great. Until Monday, September 8, the Lithuanian murderers continued taking all the women and children whose names were on a certain list out of their houses, and taking them to the Talmud Torah. The murderers lost patience, and began to arrest women whose children were at work. Thus, for example, they brought to the Talmud Torah Mrs Polak, whose three daughters were at the work camp at the time. Her daughter Miriam and her two sisters ran weeping to the head of the armed partisans, Shukaitis. The bandit asked the girls for a bribe of 25,000 rubles. Miriam wept and explained that she only had 15,000 rubles, the murderers refused to free their mothers.
Then Miriam ran to the German commandant of the town, and told him about the deal Shukaitis wanted to make, and how much of a bribe he was asking for in exchange for their mother. The German commander assured the girls: “Everyone’s going to do the same job. You won’t be able to help your mother, and your mother won’t be able to help you.” The three girls wept as they returned to the work camp.
After lunch on Monday, Khane came home with her married sister and her two daughters. Khane‘s mother lay hiding in the attic. The policeman Kilikevitsius and his friend Mockus came into the house. They ordered Khane‘s mother to go to the Talmud Torah immediately. Khane announced proudly that her mother was out, and that she would volunteer to go in her mother’s place. The policemen ordered Khane to get dressed. Khane refused to get dressed; she explained that they could just as easily shoot her without a coat on. Khane began to take her leave of her sister Yehudis, who was holding a small child in her arms. The murderers struck Yehudis in her face with their fists. Yehudis pressed her child to her heart, and burst into tears. The policemen consulted among themselves, and left Khane in the house. Yehudis still had her husband Hirshl Zelik, and therefore was not taken.
About four o’clock on the afternoon of Monday, September 8, Fridman summoned Khane to the work camp. He promised Khane that nothing would happen to her. At six in the evening, a partisan announced roll call. The partisan Valetskas carried out the roll call the same as always. At that moment a taxi drove into the camp. The county chief of Raseiniai got out of the taxi, along with the partisan chief, Shukaitis. There was an order: “Women without husbands on one side, they will be taken to work!” The women began weeping and kissing each other as they said goodbye. Khane took her leave of her sister Zelde (Zelde’s husband Hillel Zarkin was still alive). The order had come down in retaliation for the three Polak sisters‘ reporting the attempted bribe to the German commandant.
The women in the camp were lined up in rows of four, and taken to the Talmud Torah building under heavy guard. There they were stopped, while the women and children in the Talmud Torah were taken out. The women were not allowed to bring along their packs. The women were taken in direction of Smalininken in rows of four. On the way, at the first bridge, civilians armed with sticks, poles, whips and the like appeared from under the bridge. The civilian volunteers helped make sure that the Jewish women did not escape. Among the civilian volunteers Khane recognized a number of people from town.
Among the armed Lithuanians there were partisans from the small nearby town of Skirsnemune, six kilometers from Jurbarkas. They had brought some of the Jewish women from Skirsnemune that Monday.
One of the partisans from Skirsnemune knew Khane well from before the war. He advised her to escape, because he told her that this time the women were being taken to do very hard work. Khane didn’t want to separate from all the women, and did not run. When they had gone seven kilometers along the highway, they turned onto the Taurage Road. When they had continued for less than a half kilometers, the women were led into a nearby forest. At the edge of the forest a pit had been dug, to which all the women and children were taken. The partisans ordered the Jews to climb up onto the heaps of excavated dirt and to stand near the pit. These orders were immediately accompanied by blows from whips, poles, pickets and rifle butts. The civilian volunteers helped out with this. All the women began weeping and kissing their small children.
The children shrieked and clung to their mothers. The Lithuanian degenerates constantly beat the women. Then the women were ordered to throw their children into the pit and strip naked. The women kissed their small children and threw them into the pit. Mrs Perl Beder (nee Shtern in Jurbarkas), received a whipping over her head for refusing to throw her child into the pit. She angrily bashed her small child’s head against a tree. Khane saw this precisely, because Khane was standing next to Perl.
The children had already been thrown into the pit alive. The children shouted and wept. The mothers and girls were ordered to strip. The women began to strip.
At that moment Khane’s Lithuanian acquaintance came again and told her to run away. Somehow the murderer took pity on Khane. “Run away, you‘ll still have time to die!” he said to her. Khane began to run.
She was shot at, but she was not hit. Outside it was dark and rainy. While running, Khane arrived at the border, and she saw a red light.
She ran back. A taxi stood on the highway, and not far from the taxi shooting could be heard. Khane ran back into the forest and sat down on a stump. The weeping and shouts of women and children could be clearly heard, followed by another round of automatic fire, and finally single shots. Khane heard a Lithuanian shout; “There are some more here!”
The weeping and shouting of women was heard again, followed by automatic fire and then single shots.
The murderers could be heard shouting: “How many watches do you have? How many do you have?” and so forth. The murderers got what they wanted.
Khane asserts that there were only two Germans in Jurbarkas’ at that time: the commandant, and his sergeant.
While the Jews were being taken out of their houses to the work camp on Saturday, and while the women were being led from the Talmud Torah to the pit, Khane did not see a single German. Khane does not know who gave the order for the shooting.
All night the murderers worked around the murdered women and children. They took off the women’s rings, sorted and distributed the valuables among themselves. They had plenty of liquor, and they got quite drunk after their work was over. When day broke, Khane left the forest and began wandering. She went to the home of a peasant and begged him for a drink of water, and a kerchief, so that she could disguise herself when she went to town. The peasant drove her out of his house. Khane left. She noticed the peasant following after her on a bicycle. Behind him ran two partisans with automatics. They caught up with Khane, and ordered her to stand still with her hands up. The murderers consulted about where to shoot her. At that moment there arrived a third partisan, who recognized Khane. He convinced them to leave Khane in his hands, telling them that he would take her away and shoot her in the forest. The first two went away. The peasant whom Khane knew assured her that everyone had been dressed in Russian uniforms and taken to work. “The shooting was only to frighten the women,” he reassured Khane. “You’re lucky,” he calmed Khane, and told her to run through the forest to town. Khane was afraid. The Lithuanian got a peasant-style kerchief from a peasant, disguised her and took her to town “under arrest.” When they arrived at the bridge, he released Khane. Of course, the partisan didn’t do this for free. Khane promised to give him a gold watch in exchange for saving her life. When they said goodbye at the bridge, he promised to come to Khane’s house at twelve noon. Precisely at noon he appeared at Khane’s, and he received her father’s gold watch from her.
At that time Khane’s mother was at the camp, asking Fridman about Khane.
The three Polak sisters died during the slaughter of the women. Their mother escaped from the Talmud Torah along with a small sister and survived. However, their mother also died during the last action.
Khane told everyone about all of her experiences. But even then there were still Jews who did not believe that such slaughter was possible. Many people doubted. Khane no longer went to work. She could not rest after what she had seen. Every second of the day, she relived once again the entire horror of the execution she had witnessed. Khane knew quite well where the men and women had all been taken, and what their “tasks” had been.
Khane lay in bed, her legs sick and bloodied from wandering through the forests and fields, and did not go anywhere. Jews used to come and ask her whether everything that was related in her name was true. Khane told them everything, but not everyone believed it.
The Last Jews Taken Away to the Slaughter
On Thursday, September 11, 1941, Lithuanian police went through all of the Jewish houses announcing that every remaining Jew; men, women and children, had to report to the work camp that evening (at the compound of the Jew Levyash). But the Jews understood exactly what the murderers intended, and many of them hid. Anyone whom the murderers found in their houses was taken directly to the work camp. At night the Jews were confined in Mr Levyash‘s house, and a guard was posted.
On Friday, September 12, the police in town and the armed partisans began intensively herding the Jews into the work camp. Khane’s entire family was in the compound. Khane warned all the Jews that the last of the Jews were being taken to the slaughter. But the Jews’ capacities were atrophied; they did not react to anything. They were all indifferent to everything.
The policeman Valetskus arrived in the compound and immediately spotted Khane. The murderer had seen Khane at the pit on Monday, September 8. “You know quite well where we’re taking everybody. Come, I’ll hide you!” the murderer proposed to Khane. At first, Khane refused to leave without her mother. Fayge-Mirl ordered Khane to save her life no matter what the cost, even if she had to convert. Her sisters also pleaded with her to go with the murderer and save her life. Her sisters asked her to take revenge for their deaths and the deaths of their children. Khane said goodbye to them and went away. Valetskus hid Khane on the second floor of Levyash’s house in a closet where the possessions of the women who had been shot were kept.
While lying in the closet, Khane heard the murderers driving Jewish men and women into the house, beating them with whips and forcing them to surrender their money, gold, silver and other valuables. The murderers beat everyone thoroughly, and after they had gotten all of their valuables, they searched them once again. At four in the afternoon a wagon rode into the courtyard. The few remaining children were placed in the wagon. Through a window in the closet, Khane saw the children sitting in the wagon. Their legs and arms stuck out through the slats. Behind the wagon the men and women were lined up, and everyone was led away in the direction of Smalininken, to the same forest in which the women had been shot on Monday.
On Friday, September 12, 1941, everyone was shot. The clothes of the murdered Jews were brought to Mr Levyash’s house. On Friday evening Khane prepared to escape. Valetskus left the door of the closet open, and he himself went off to get drunk. On Friday night the murderers all got drunk, and they had a party that lasted all night.
Khane was thoroughly exhausted after the last few horrible days, and she fell asleep on the clothes of the murdered women. The next morning Khane woke up late, when Valetskus came to see whether Khane had escaped. He ordered her to sweep the living room. At that moment, however, someone arrived, and Khane hid again.
All day long on Saturday Khane watched peasants from the villages and townspeople whom she knew coming and asking to be given some of the things. Several of the peasants and Lithuanians from town received Jewish goods, and went back home contented.
Khane found her mother’s kerchief, which had been left behind when the Jews were taken out of the camp, and took it into the closet. On Sunday morning Khane tried to leave. But suddenly she saw a Lithuanian partisan standing in the living room guarding a captured Jewish family, Khayem Katsev, his wife Sheyne, a daughter and a son. The family had been caught hiding in their barn. Khane hurried back into the closet, removed the window and slipped out onto the roof. From the roof Khane jumped down, and then she ran from the courtyard in the direction of Taurage. For two days Khane wandered through the forest. She was able to get food from peasants, but they would not let her spend the night. For exactly six weeks Khane went from peasant to peasant, without finding a place to rest her exhausted feet. Khane found out about the Kaunas ghetto and decided to walk to Kaunas. When she arrived in Kalatove near Kaunas, a peasant assured her that the Jews would soon be evacuated from the Kaunas ghetto. But Khane went to Slobodke and went through the fence of the ghetto at night. This was during the night between October 27 and 28, 1941. There Khane met her sister, Khaye Abramson (whose husband had been taken away).
The next day, October 28, 1941, Khane was at Democracy Square, where the “large action” at the Kaunas ghetto had been carried out. This time, too, Khane survived safely. Khane suffered all the sorrow and pain of the Jews in the Kaunas ghetto. She was “interned” in a prisoner of war camp in the fall of 1943. From that camp she was sent to the Ponevezh camp, where she spent six weeks. Here, too, the work was hard, and the situation in the camp was no better than in other camps near Kaunas.
When the Germans evacuated the Shavl ghetto, all the Jews from Ponevezh where brought to Shavl. Together with the Jews from the Shavl ghetto, Khane was evacuated to Stutthof, Germany.
Khane also survived the concentration camp Maskin, where she spent eight months. All the Jews from that place were transferred to a camp twenty kilometers from Danzig, called Chinhof. There all the women contracted typhus. Half of the women died. The rest were liberated by the Red Army. Khane was among those who were liberated. This was on March 10, 1945. When she was liberated, Khane had typhus. All of the sick women were taken to the hospital by the Red Army, and there Khane regained her health.
The family Khane lost in Jurbarkas included her father and mother, three sisters, two brothers-in-law, two nephews and a young brother, Velvel. Her sister in the Kaunas ghetto survived, along with a brother who was in the Soviet Union. Fridman did not treat his fellow Jews badly. During the first action against the women, his relatives went voluntarily. Fridman certainly did not know where the women were going to be taken. While wandering through the countryside, Khane found out that during the last action, Fridman too had been murdered in a terrible fashion. The Lithuanian peasants related that Fridman had been shot and wounded, and then immediately hung.
Together with the 550 men from Jurbarkas, the men from Skirsnemune were also shot at the cemetery the same day. The women from Skirsnemune said that their men had been assembled the same day as the men from Jurbarkas. The women from Skirsnemune said this when they were brought from Skirsnemune to Jurbarkas.
The Lithuanian murderers brought some of the women from Skirsnemune to Jurbarkas one day before the women’s action, when Khane was driven to the pit together with the women. Khane herself spoke to women from Skirsnemune. Khane does not know how many women from Skirsnemune were shot.
Jewish women, children and men from Skirsnemune were also taken to the last action in Jurbarkas. Khane does not know how many.
Yakov Olcman and his mother also survived the slaughter in Jurbarkas. Yakov. Olcman escaped to the Kaunas ghetto, and from there he joined the Red Partisans (in the Rudnicky Forests). He died as a partisan. Khane Goldman does not know who else survived from Jurbarkas.
Part 1: https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/1-the-slaughter-of-jews-in-jubarkas/
Next: THE SLAUGHTER OF JEWS IN THE SMALL LITHUANIAN TOWN VIDUKLE