J’Accuse! has recently been released into the Film Festival Circuit. In its first 1.5 months, J’Accuse! has already garnered twenty six international awards.
The government of Lithuania has done all it is able to suppress the voices of the children in J’Accuse! They have sanitized, distorted and inverted the facts of the Holocaust. They have boycotted every invitation to view the documentary and enter into discussion. This cannot continue. The civilized world must rise alongside the children in J’Accuse! and object. Truth is a prerequisite for healing. Truth is a prerequisite for the eventual reconciliation that must take place between Lithuania and Jews.
Truth about past genocides is also a prerequisite to prevent future genocides.
The Consulate of Latvia in Los Angeles has taken the opposite track from Lithuania. They will show the documentary Baltic Truth on February 4, 2023 and address outstanding issues of the Holocaust in a forthright manner.
We hear from the victims in their own voice.
THE SLAUGHTER OF JEWS IN RIEŠĖ
Reported by Khyene Fridberg, born in Greater Riešė on October 5, 1917. Her maiden name was Mindes. She graduated elementary school. She is a bookkeeper by trade. Her father’s name was Avrom, and her mother Khaye-sore.
- Greater Riešė is located fourteen kilometers from Vilnius on the highway between Vilnius and Pabershe in Vilnius county. It is a small town. Two Jewish families lived there, working in agriculture and trade.
- Little Riešė, three kilometers from Greater Riešė, on the highway between Vilnius and Maishogala. One Jewish family lived there, consisting of Yankl Burshteyn, his wife Matle and four little children. The family worked in agriculture.
3. Fabritshne-Riešė, about six or seven kilometers away on the road to Green Lake near Vilnius. Three Jewish families lived there. There was a large paper factory, where some of the local Jews worked as well. The Jews also worked in agriculture.
The Germans entered Greater Riešė on Wednesday, June 25, 1941.
Immediately after the Germans arrived, the new mayor of the town was appointed-the Pole Petr Szwarcewitz, a farmer who had been mayor from 1939-1941.
The Jews in these three localities remained in their own houses after the Germans arrived, and continued at their work. There were no particular persecutions against the Jews in the three places, and in general they were only slightly aware of the situation of the Jews in the surrounding towns.
On Saturday, September 20 the Lithuanian partisans brought the Jews from the three places to the Wilianowa compound, where they brought the Jews from the surrounding towns the same day. The Jews from the three places were shot with all the Jews at that compound on September 23 and 24, 1941.
On Saturday, September 20 the Jew Berl Likhtzon, a merchant aged 40, escaped from Greater Riešė. He hid in the countryside for a short time. He was caught in the village of Zhveralishki and taken to Vilnius prison, where he died.
He hid with the Kruks brothers in the village of Zhveralishki. Peasants later said that the two brothers had argued, and one of them had betrayed the other.
In the compound of Bukishki, six kilometers from Greater Riešė, there were no Jews before the war. There was a police station there, however. The chief of the police station, Zashtzerinsky, a Lithuanian from deep inside Lithuania, was a terrible anti-Semite. He killed many Jews in the villages and forests. He shot them himself immediately.
Thus, for example, he caught a Jew from Vilnius named Leyzer Volk in the village of Klinuwka, two kilometers from Little Riešė, at the home of the peasant Juzef Subotkowsky. The peasant betrayed Leyzer, along with a Jew from the White Russian town of Oshmene. Zashtzerinsky shot both Jews on the spot.
In the same village of Klinuwka, in a nearby forest, two bunkers had been set up and occupied by Jews from Vilnius who had escaped from the ghetto in September 1943. A Russian peasant found out about the bunkers, and told the murderer Zashtzerinsky about them. The latter came to the forest with four more well-armed Lithuanians, and they surrounded the bunkers. The Jews didn’t know that they had been betrayed, and stayed in the bunkers. Zashtzerinsky threw hand grenades into the bunkers. Eleven Jews were killed. Three were captured alive and taken to the Gestapo in Vilnius.
The eleven Jews who died on November 9, 1943 were:
1-2. David Leybinsky and his wife Gite.
3-4. Khasye Verblin and a child named Khanele.
- Ita Miransky.
- Hirsh Vaynerman.
- Binyomin Itzkovitz.
8-10. Leybe Geler and his sisters Rokhel and Esther.
- Mishke (Moyshe) Zak.
Ita Leybishky and her little brother Avromele, and Abrashe Shavidantz were taken to the Vilnius Gestapo by the murderers.
The murderer Zashtzerinsky also killed a Vilnius Jew named Ring. At the dairy center in the Bukishky compound worked a Lithuanian partisan named Karecky. In a village called Owizhene he arrested a Jew named Hirsh Leybisky, who had escaped from the Vilnius ghetto in the fall of 1943. It is not known where the Lithuanian murderer killed the Jew.
Khyene and her first husband Ruven Vaynerman were at the Riešė peat camp until. July 11, 1943. Together with other Jews they were brought to the Vilnius ghetto, from which they shortly escaped to a village called Prushishki. Ruven went to Jeruzalimka to make arrangements with a Lithuanian to get Aryan papers for him and his wife. When he returned to town from the village a Lithuanian policeman arrested him and shot him on the spot.
Khyene survived at the home of a peasant woman named Lewkowska in the village of Prushisky, four kilometers from Greater Riešė.
About the Small Town of Jeruzalimka
A small town near Vilnius. Most of it was considered a suburb of Vilnius. The smaller part, on the other side of the river, belonged to Riešė township.
On Saturday, September 20, 1941 Lithuanian partisans took all the Jews from that part of Lithuania belonging to Riešė township, and took them to the Wilianowa compound, where they were killed.
The Jews from the part of Jeruzalimka belonging to Vilnius were taken to the Vilnius ghetto a few weeks earlier.
- THE SLAUGHTER OF JEWS IN MAISHIOGALA
Eyewitness testimony of Moyshe Fridberg, born in Maishiogala on February 4, 1907. He graduated from a Yiddish elementary school in town. He is a merchant by trade. He lived in Maishiogala his whole life. His father’s name was Berl and his mother was Khaye, born Shakhnovitz.
Maishiogala is located on the highway between Vilnius and Ukmerge, 28 kilometers from Vilnius and 21 kilometers from Shirvintas, 15 kilometers from Pabershe, on the former border between Poland and Lithuanian, on the Polish side. Through the town flows the Dukshti River.
Until the war broke out on June 22, 1941 about a thousand residents lived in the town. There were three hundred Jews in about seventy families. The town and the surrounding area were occupied exclusively by Poles.
The Jews in town were occupied in trade and artisanry. There were also a few farmers and forest merchants. The economic situation of the Jews was not bad. After the Red Army arrived, and after Maishiogala was assigned to Lithuania in 1939, the economic situation of the Jews improved, thanks to the connections with the Lithuanian heartland.
The town had an elementary school until 1930; a Yiddish-Hebrew library; a town drama club; a large study house; a Hasidic prayer room; and a free loan society.
The attitude of the population toward the local Jews before 1936 was not bad. In 1938 anti-Jewish acts and boycotts began. The Polish Fascist National Democrats successfully aroused the local population against the Jews. After Lithuania was occupied in the summer of 1940, the anti-semitic demonstrations stopped. The Polish population forgot about the Jews in their hatred of the Lithuanians and especially of the Soviets.
The outbreak of War. Synagogue and Torah Scrolls Vandalized
The Lithuanian Administration. Decrees and Arrests of Jews
After the war broke out between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the townspeople evacuated to the nearby towns in fear of the possibility of aerial attacks by the German air force. A few young people escaped to the Soviet Union. A few of them fell at the front, fighting against the Germans. Several survived.
On Thursday night, June 26, German army units entered the town. They arrived from Vilnius and Shirvintas. That same Friday four German officers vandalized the study house, took the Torah scrolls out of the Ark and threw them on the floor and trod on them with their dirty boots. They did the same thing to the religious books. They were ready to burn the study house down. The peasants living nearby asked them not to do that, because they were afraid the fire would spread. Moyshe Fridberg and Dovid Rudnik straightened up the vandalized study house.
The German military units didn’t stay in town, but instead quickly raced toward the front.
All of the power in town fell into the hands of the Lithuanians who had set up the civilian administration. The mayor in town was a Lithuanian named Astikas, who had previously been mayor in 1939-1940. During the year of Soviet rule he had lost his post. He returned to town from deep in Lithuania together with the Germans. He was mayor for the first two weeks. Then a Pole from town named Franciszek Romejka, a farmer, became mayor.
The chief of police was a Lithuanian from the Lithuanian interior. The commander of the partisans was a Lithuanian from the interior, a former teacher in the nearby village of Rozwi, four kilometers from town. His last name was Shalkauskas. He occupied the position until after the Jews were liquidated.
After the civilian administration was set up, the Lithuanians issued all of the usual anti-Jewish decrees, and forced the Jews to do heavy, dirty work on the highway and in town. Almost every night they woke the Jews up, tormented them, threatened to shoot them and annoy them in other ways.
Ele Bulansky was the first Jew in town to be arrested and sent by the Lithuanians to Vilnius prison, where he was later killed. At that time Ele was just 17 years old. The second arrestee was Yoysef Grudzensky, aged 16. He too was sent to prison in Vilnius, where he later died. At that time 36 men were shot in the nearby town of Pabershe.
Moyshe Fridberg sent a messenger to find out about the incident. It may be that the Christian messenger told someone about this. Moyshe was arrested on a charge of having looked for ways to establish an organization to fight against the Germans. He was released from the hands of the Lithuanians in exchange for a large sum of money.
On Sunday, July 20, 1941 the Lithuanian police and partisans arrested 17 Jewish men and placed them in the town prison near the town hall. The relatives of the arrestees raised a large sum of money, and gave it to the Lithuanians, who promised to liberate the arrestees. However, they summoned Gestapo from Vilnius. All of the arrestees were taken to the Vilnius prison, where they were later killed at Ponar near Vilnius.
The seventeen who were arrested and then taken to the Vilnius prison and killed at Ponar were the following:
1-2. Fayve Rozntal, aged forty, a storekeeper, and his son Zalmen, a student.
3-4. Yakov Katz, aged 45, a storekeeper, and his son Shmuel.
5-7. Hirshl Shadevitz, aged 45, a merchant, and his son Yitzkhok and another son.
- Fayvl Dumsky, aged 40, a lumber merchant.
- Elye Khakim, a smith.
- Khaykl Milkhiker, aged 55, a butcher.
- Shmuel Rozansky, aged over 40, a farmer.
- Avrom Mushnitsky, aged 33, a wigmaker.
- Yankl, nicknamed “Kastrul.”
- Yoysef Bernshteyn, aged about 50, a grain dealer.
- Dovid Bayrak, aged about 50, a farmer.
- Dovid Arariovitz; aged about 50.
All of these Jews were accused of having pro-Soviet sympathies.
Some of them were arrested because their children had fled to the Soviet Union, and the rest “because they were rich Jews,” as the commander Shalkauskas of the Lithuanian partisans explained.
After this incident the murderers arrested the Jew Yoysef Milkhiker, a farmer, and a few other Jews. They too were taken to prison in Vilnius, and from there to Ponar.
The Ghetto in “Yurdzhik.” Bad Living Conditions: Requisitions and Rapes
On July 31 police in town announced that all of the Jews in town had to move that very day to a ghetto in a little street near the edge of town. The neighborhood was called “Yurdzhik.” The little houses where the Jews had to live were old and made of wood. The streets were dirty. The Lithuanian police and partisans immediately moved into the better Jewish houses with their families. Poles who had left the houses in “Yurdzhik” moved into the poorer Jewish houses.
There was no fence or guard around the ghetto. From 5:00 p.m. until 7:00 a.m. the Jews were forbidden to go out onto the street from their homes.
Every day all of the able-bodied men and women were taken to do various tasks. At night the partisans and police took the Jews out of their houses, herding them along, mustering them as if they were soldiers, and tormenting them in various ways. The Jewish men didn’t sleep at home anymore, but hid in the attics at night instead.
The two sisters Rive and Sheynele Levin were taken out of their houses by the degenerates for several nights in a row and brought to the town garden, where they were raped. The two sisters had belonged to the Communist youth under the Soviets.
The Jews spent exactly six weeks in the small ghetto. The representative of the Jews in the ghetto was the Jewish lumber merchant from town, Leyzer Kul. During that period several requisitions were demanded of the Jews. The Lithuanian murderers threatened to shoot all the Jews if the sum wasn’t raised on time.
The Jews working on the highway were supervised by a Lithuanian technician named Skinduzis from the Lithuanian interior. One time he confided to the Jews that there was a plan to take everyone out of the town. He assured them that he could keep the Jews working in town longer, but he asked for money to do this.
Moyshe Fridberg and Mikhl Tunkl raised 4,000 rubles. They gave half of the money to the technician, asking him to bring them a document stating that he could keep Jews for work, after which they would give him the rest of the money.
From the Ghetto to the Study House;
Jews Brought to Wilianowa and Totally Annihilated
Three days later all the Jews were taken from “Yurdzhik” into the study house. This was Saturday morning, September 20, 1941, before Rosh Hashanah.
At 7:00 a.m. that Saturday the Jews noticed that armed Lithuanian partisans had surrounded the entire neighborhood of the ghetto. Groups went from house to house, demanding that the Jews hand over their money, gold, silver and valuables. They allowed the Jews to bring along small packages in their hands.
The Jews had to come from the houses to the study house on their own. It appeared that there was no coercion. But some of the Jews suspected that they were going to be slaughtered.
One woman named Libe Katz, aged about fifty, and a man named Dovid Lip tried to escape from town. They hid temporarily in town with peasant friends. Neighbors betrayed them, however. Lithuanian artisans arrested them, and after beating them mercilessly, took them to the study house.
One hour later all the Jews had arrived at the study house from the ghetto. The partisans immediately registered everyone there, and once again demanded that they hand over their gold, silver, money and valuables. Until Sunday morning, the eve of Rosh Hashanah, the Jews were kept there heavily guarded by partisans and police. Then all the Jewish men, women and children were taken to the Wilianowa compound. On the way the Jews were murderously beaten in various ways. Zelda Dunsky, aged forty, Ben Tsiyon Mekler, aged forty, and a few others fainted on the way. The partisans murderously beat them and placed them in wagons. The weak, elderly and sick were taken from the study house in wagons. The rest walked.
Peasants later reported that the Lithuanian murderers had beaten the Jews with sticks studded with nails as they walked.
At the Wilianowa compound the Jews were kept in barns until Monday morning, September 22, 1941.
Jews from the surrounding towns of Jeruzalimka, Pabershe, Riešė and Suderwe had already been brought to the compound.
The Jewish family of Yoysef Anolik, his three daughters and a nephew with two small children were brought from Dukshtas to the Maishiogala study house, and then to the Wilianowa compound together with the rest of the Jews.
The Jews who had been herded together were kept in barns without food or drink.
On Monday morning, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, the partisans called for young men to volunteer for work. Sixty young, healthy men volunteered. The men were immediately taken from the barn and surrounded by a heavy guard. The Jews were immediately warned that anyone who tried to escape would instantly be shot on the spot.
The sixty Jews were taken to a nearby forest and forced to dig a pit. Half of them had to dig, and the other thirty had to sit without talking. Every half hour they changed places.
A few Jews tried to run away from the spot, and were shot. But there was a commotion, and other men began running. Some of them were shot. A few managed to escape from the pit. Among those who escaped while the pits were being dug were Dovid Rudnik, Iser Milkhiker, Elyezer Pager and Hirsh Rozansky, all four of whom were from Maishiogala, and one man from Pabershe, Shmuel Shapiro.
The men who dug the pits on Monday were locked into a cellar in the compound in the evening. On Tuesday, the second day of Rosh Hashanah, they were forced to finish digging the pit, and immediately afterward the Jews were shot.
The partisans took the Jews out in groups and shot them near the pits. The murderers didn’t manage to shoot all the Jews on Tuesday, so they finished up their “job” the next day, Wednesday after Rosh Hashanah, September 24. The Jew Hirsh Rozhansky, who had escaped while digging the pit on Tuesday, related all this. Later this was also described by peasants living nearby and by partisans who had done the shooting.
The Polish population of the town of Maishiogala did not participate in the slaughter of the Jews in town. As soon as the Germans arrived in town they were overjoyed. They were pleased at all the anti-Jewish decrees, and they hoped to inherit the Jews’ possessions. The Lithuanian police and partisans regarded the Jews as their own property, and began robbing the Jews’ possessions and keeping them for themselves as soon as the Germans arrive.
On account of this the Poles came to dislike their foreign masters, the Lithuanians, and helped the Jews as much as they could. Dozens of Lithuanians from surrounding villages and from the Lithuanian interior took part in the slaughter of the Jews. They were recruited from all classes and walks of life. Moyshe only remembers the following individuals:
- The director and teacher in the Maishiogala elementary school, Zhvazglis, who came from a town near Gedraitsiai.
- A policeman under Smetonas in 1939-1940 named Juozas Lapko. After the Red Army arrived in Lithuania he had been fired from his job, and he returned after the Germans entered the town. He was from outside Ukmerge.
- The director of the dairy center in town between 1939-1940. His last name was Kalnenas.
- A postal worker in town between 1939 and 1941 named Girenas.
- A Lithuanian from the interior named Bronuk, overseer on the road.
- The secretary of the town administration.
- A certain peasant who had betrayed the Jew Aranovitz. His name was Wladislaw Koshinsky.
- A black policeman, whose lover was the Polish wife of a Polish policeman.
8a. A Lithuanian from the interior named Shreitas, a forest keeper.
- The first mayor of town, whose last name was Astikas.
- The second mayor of the town, a Pole named Franciszek Romejka.
- The commander of the partisans, a teacher in the nearby village of Koriai named Shalkauskas.
- The town carpenter, Jalinskis.
- The teacher from the elementary school in Maishiogala, Tsesko, from the Lithuanian interior.
Moyshe does not remember any others, because the majority of the murderers had come from the Lithuanian interior.
Moyshe Fridberg had gone to work that Saturday, September 20 at the highway, just like very other day, with his friend Yoysef Lipe-Les. When they left the ghetto they noticed that the entire town was being surrounded by armed partisans. Moyshe ran back to his house and noticed partisans with rifles near his home. The two friends told the rest of the Jewish workers about this. Four of them didn’t go to work. Four did go to work. Moyshe and his brother Gershon went back to town to see what was happening. When they saw all the houses surrounded and the Jews being driven out, both of them left town and went to a peasant friend.
The four who were at work were taken to town in a truck. The four who had left work came to the Joda compound, where four Jews were working. They didn’t find anyone at the compound. All four hid with a peasant acquaintance until the morning of Sunday, September 21. When they found out that all the Jews had been taken from town to the Wilianowa compound, they “voluntarily” went to that compound to be with their relatives, where they later died together with the rest of the Jews at that compound.
Moyshe and his brother hid with the peasant Pratkewitz at a settlement near the town. When they found out that the Jews had been taken to the Wilianowa compound, they also decided to join their relatives.
The good Pole saw how naive the confused Jews were, and convinced them, “You’ll manage yet to hand yourselves over to them. Meanwhile run away and come back to me after a few days, and then we’ll decide what to do!” For five days the brothers wandered through the forests, visiting a few peasant friends, until they returned to Pratkewitz. At the home of the peasant they learned that Dovid Rudnik had escaped while digging the pit at the compound, and that the Jews at the compound were still alive.
The two brothers began thinking of ways to send food to their relatives (that’s how naive the Jews were at the time). On the Saturday between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur the brothers learned from the peasant Ramald in the village of Gadishki that all the Jews in the compound had been shot.
Moyshe Fridberg’s wife Sore Oguz, their little son Leyzerl, aged five; his sister Beyle, her husband Nokhem Gurvitz and their three children; Gershon’s wife Ele Anolik (Moyshe’s sister-in-law) and their two children Khaye-Rivke and Estherl (aged eight and twelve), and other close relatives all died at the.Wilianowa compound.
After the Jews in the compound were shot, the partisans issued a strict order stating that anyone who hid Jews would be shot along with their entire family.
Those Who Died After the Total Slaughter of the Jews
The following Jews remained after the mass slaughter in the Wilianowa compound, and died later:
- Iser Milkhiker had escaped while digging the pit. He wandered through the countryside for some time and didn’t have any place to go. He went to White Russia, where he died.
- Shmuel Aranovitz worked in the Korwe compound. When the Jews were taken out of town he stayed behind. After wandering through the countryside for some time, he came to a work camp at Riešė where peat was dug. On July 10, 1943 he escaped from the camp, and went to a Polish friend of his in Maishiogala to take some of the possessions he had hidden. The Pole asked him to wait for a while, and meanwhile summoned the Lithuanian police, who arrested him, beat him murderously and shot him at the Jewish cemetery in town. The name of the Polish townsman is Wladiwlaw Koshinsky.
- Avrom Bernshteyn escaped from Maishiogala on September 20. After wandering for some time he arrived at the peat camp at Riešė (for more on this camp, see below). On July 10 he escaped from the camp. During a raid on Red partisans and Jews he was captured not far from the village of Bolkuni, where he was shot and buried on the spot (before Passover 1943).
- A Jew from Vilnius named Yitzkhok Taytz escaped from the peat camp near Riešė, along with his wife and child. They hid for some time in the village of Kontzistawa, ten kilometers from Maishiogala. They hid in a haystack. The peasant Matulanec, a good friend of Yitzkhok’s, betrayed him. Lithuanian police arrested him with his wife and child, and sent them to the Gestapo in Vilnius. There he and his family died.
Moyshe and his brother Gershon wandered through the villages, fields and forests for some time. They learned that there was a labor camp in Riešė occupied by Jews from Vilnius. They got in touch with the camp. The director of the work camp let the brothers come into the camp for a certain sum of money, and gave both of them papers.
The Peat Camp in Riešė
A total of more than four hundred Jewish men and women from Vilnius had been brought to the camp. The Jews lived at the private homes of peasants, whom they had to pay for their room and board. The foreman of the Jews in camp was a Vilnius Jew named Alexander Pishuk. Before the war he had owned his own peat works in the small town of Kene near Vilnius. In 1941, when the Jews from that town were shot, the Vilnius Jews working in the Kene peat bogs were also shot. Alexander was among them. Before the Jews were shot, he was taken to the Riešė peat camp together with his wife and a brother-in-law.
At the Riešė peat camp he and his family lived very well. He behaved very badly toward the Jewish workers at the peat bogs. He always demanded that the Jews work faster. He often extorted money from them, saying it was for the director. He threatened to send to Ponar anyone who didn’t give him the demanded sum. Anyone who displeased him was constantly assigned to the hardest work. He always spoke and cursed in Polish, in the presence of Polish workers.
On one occasion Jewish workers had to be sent to the peat camp in Kene. He sent anyone he was angry with at that point. No one survived from the Kene peat camp.
The Polish director wasn’t bad. He did take money, but he always did favors for the Jewish workers at his camp at Riešė.
There was no guard posted around the peat camp at Riešė. Nor was there a fence. The Jews went to the homes of peasants in the villages after work and traded with them, trading goods for food which they brought to the Vilnius ghetto. Every week a group of Jews was permitted to go to the Vilnius ghetto. The work was very hard, but the average Jew did not live badly there, compared to the conditions in the Vilnius ghetto.
Before Passover 1943 all the Jews had to return to the Vilnius ghetto, because the Jews were forbidden to live at the homes of peasants. Ten days later the Jews were brought back to Riešė. There the Jews found that barracks had been built and surrounded by barbed wire, and a guard consisting of Lithuanian partisans had been posted nearby. In exchange for liquor and money, the partisans would let the Jews out of the camp to trade with peasants. However, the living conditions grew much worse. The Jews had to sleep on hard pallets. The crowding and filth was terrible. It was always noisy. The Jews’ food was cooked in a communal kitchen. But there was very little food, and the Jews had to get food from peasants in the villages.
From the summer of 1941 until the middle of the summer of 1943 the peat camps around Vilnius were in operation. After the Jews were settled into the fenced-in barracks in Riešė, the Jews were constantly in danger of being surrounded without any chance to escape. Their fear turned out to be justified.
On Friday, July 9, 1943, the Polish director of the peat bogs in Riešė, whose last name was Matuszewitz, announced that all the Jews at the Bezdani peat camp, not far from Vilnius, had been burned alive by Lithuanian partisans and Germans.
It happened like this: The Jews had been herded into the square and a roll call was carried out. The infamous Gestapo murderer Keitel, who later liquidated the ghettos of Vilnius and Kaunas, came from Vilnius. During the roll call at the Bezdani camp Keitel thanked the Jews for their diligent work. When he finished his speech he gave a signal, and from the nearby forest concealed Lithuanian partisans poured forward, herded the Jews into the barracks and threw incendiary bombs inside. All the Jews were burned. All the Jews at the Kene camp were also shot at the same time.
When they received this disastrous news, some of the Jews at the Riešė peat camp ran away. The rest were taken to the Vilnius ghetto on July 11, 1943, and they later died there.
Moyshe Fridberg, his brother Gershon and Leyb Bernshteyn from Maishiogala, the two brothers Gedalye and Zalmen Pastor, and a Mrs Gordon, all from the town of Pabershe, escaped from the camp on the evening of July 9, 1943.
The Jews who escaped from the camp conducted a difficult and bitter struggle to survive. A day here, a night there, they wandered through forests, fields and villages, constantly at risk of being arrested by Lithuanian partisans or Germans.
The two brothers, along with Leyb Bernshteyn, hid for eleven weeks at the home of a peasant named Stanislaw Radsewitz in the village of Bolkuni. From there they went to a Polish acquaintance named Alfons Jaruszewitz, where the two brothers and Bernshteyn stayed for five months, with only brief interruptions, until the liberation on July 10, 1944. That day Red Army units appeared in the village.
After the liberation Mrs Sonya Anolik from Dukshtas converted to Christianity, and also converted her little nephew, Hirsh Antilevitz’s little boy Yitzkhokl, a grandson of the cantor from Miashiogola.
The survivors among the Jews of Maishiogala were: Moyshe Fridberg and his brother Gershon; Dovid Rudnik; Leyb Bernshteyn and his cousin Rivke, who hid with a peasant, converted and married the peasant; Bayrak; Leyb Milkhiker; Shmerl Rozansky; Binyomin Milkhiker (who had lived in Poland for several years previously); Eliezer Pager and his sister Yente; Hirsh Rozansky (Shmerl’s brother); and Borukh Rozansky.
- ADDITIONAL TESTIMONY ABOUT THE SLAUGHTER OF JEWS IN MAISHIOGALA
By Dovid Rudnik, born in the White Russian town of Mednik on October 1, 1906. He graduated from elementary school. He was a butcher by trade. His father’s name was Khatzkel, and his mother was Zelda, born Potashnik.
Dovid was married in Maishiogala and settled there permanently in 1931. When the war broke out he lived in town.
After reading the testimony of Moyshe Fridberg concerning the slaughter of the Jews of Maishiogala, I find that all the information, facts, dates, names of persons and locations are precisely and carefully indicated. Nevertheless I find it necessary to add several facts and details which are not provided in Moyshe Fridberg’s testimony.
- When the Jews were driven out of the study house into the Wilianowa compound, the younger and healthier men and women were taken away in rows of four. The elderly, sick and small children were taken in peasant wagons. On the way the Jews were murderously beaten. Police and partisans banged nails into sticks, and used these to tear the flesh of any Jew who became weak and halted.
Mine Anolik, about 65 years old, became weak on the way. She was murderously beaten and placed in a wagon. The cantor from Maishiogala Antilevitz was also beaten by the Lithuanians and placed into the wagon half unconscious.
The Jews of Suderve were brought to the Maishiogala study house by Lithuanian police. From.the study house they were taken to the Wilianowa compound together with the Jews of Maishiogala. The boy from Suderve Shmuel Milkhiker had a Torah scroll in his possession. The Lithuanians murderously beat him and forced him to throw the Torah scroll away.
- The single Jewish family living in the village of Jownun, fourteen kilometers from Maishiogala was brought to the Maishiogala study house, and brought to the Wilianowa compound together with the Jews of Maishiogala and of Suderve, where they were killed.
- Together with all the Jews at the Maishiogala study house, David Rudnik was brought to the Wilianowa compound. As soon as the Jews were brought to the compound the Lithuanian police called two or three Jews into a room at a time, and took from them everything they found worthwhile. The Jews who had been brought to the compound were herded into a barn. The rabbi of Maishiogala said prayers with all the Jews one evening. The Jews didn’t understand that they were being taken to be killed. The Lithuanian police and partisans told everyone that the· compound would be a camp, and Jews would live and work there.
- On Monday morning, the first day of Rosh Hashanah 1941, two policemen entered the barn and called for Jews to volunteer for work digging potatoes in the field. David Rudnik was the first to volunteer. About twenty men in that barn volunteered “for work.”
The Jews brought from the town of Pabershe and from other towns were kept in another barn. About forty Jewish men in that barn volunteered for work. The sixty men were lined up in rows of four and taken to a nearby forest. The sixty Jews were guarded by eight armed policemen as they marched. When they reached the edge of the forest, about forty armed policemen and partisans poured out of the bushes and surrounded the Jews.
The sixty Jews were herded deeper into the forest, where they found a truck piled with shovels standing at a parade ground. When they saw the shovels, the three Jews from Pabershe began running away. One of them was shot immediately. The other two were killed with rifle butts.
Two officers among the Lithuanian partisans ordered the Jews to dig a pit 100 meters long by 12 meters wide. The officers forbade the Jews from talking amongst themselves, and told them that the pit was needed for military purposes.
Thirty Jews dug while the other thirty had to lie on their bellies without talking among themselves. At 3:00 p.m. the Lithuanians brought forty more men from the barns.
One Jew from Riešė seized an opportunity and began running. The partisans shot at him without hitting him. David Rudnik was among the group who were digging then. “Run, as many as you can!” David shouted, and began running. Fifteen men dropped their shovels and began running in various directions. Rifle fire rang out at the escaping Jews. Dead and wounded fell. There were moans of the wounded and dying. The Jew Berke Portnoy from Maishiogala and the cantor’s son Hirsh Antilevitz were captured alive by the partisans and killed with rifle butts. Those who succeeded in getting away were Dovid Rudnik, Iser Milkhike, Lozer Pager and two Jews from Pabershe, five in all.
That Monday the Jews didn’t finish digging. In the evening they were locked into a cellar at the Wilianowa compound. The next day, Sunday, the Jews finished digging the pit. On Tuesday evening the diggers spent the night in the cellar again. On Wednesday a box of whiskey was brought to the compound in a wagon. The partisans and police got good and drunk. Young, attractive girls were taken out from the two barns and raped.
An automobile arrived that same day with two high-ranking SS men. First the men from the cellar, then the men from the barns were taken out in groups and brought to the forest near the pit, where they were forced to strip to their underwear, and everyone was shot. After the men were slaughtered they did the same thing to the women and children. Hirsh Rozansky from Maishiogala managed to escape from the pit. He later told Rudnik about the executions at the pit.
The two SS men stood not far from the pit and filmed everything. The clothing of the murdered Jews was loaded on wagons and brought to the town hall in Riešė, where it was sold at auction to peasants.
The partisans later boasted to peasant friends about the terrible executions at the pit. Most of the Jews fell into the pit wounded and were buried alive. The small children had their heads bashed against trees before they were thrown into the pit. Peasants who covered over the pit reported that the sand over the pit heaved up and down for a long time.
Dovid Rudnik survived a bitter struggle for his life. He was in the Riešė peat camp together with Moyshe Fridberg, escaped from the camp and hid with peasant friends in the countryside. In the month of July 1944 Dovid Rudnik was liberated by the Red Army.