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The slaughter of Jews in Vendzhiogala and Babtai

Vandžiogala-to-Babtai-Google-Maps
Vandžiogala-to-Babtai-Google-Maps

Two documentaries about the Holocaust in Lithuania are in release.

J’Accuse!

J’Accuse! has begun to launch into film festivals around the world. It has already won awards for Best Documentary of 2022 in Paris, Berlin, Belgrade, India and Singapore, and awaits judging in more.

Source: Michael Kretzmer

Baltic Truth

Baltic Truth premiered in New York, and is entered in film festivals awaiting adjudication. As Baltic Truth confronts still outstanding Holocaust issues in Latvia, the Consulate of Latvia in Los Angeles has taken the brave and dignified stand of showing it themselves. Latvia will address the issues in a forthright and honorable fashion. In contrast, Lithuania has chosen to embargo discussion of these issues. Instead, they threaten criminal charges against those that raise these issues.

Lithuania has never told the truth about the Holocaust. We must therefore hear the truth in the words of their victims. 

THE SLAUGHTER OF THE JEWS IN THE SMALL LITHUANIAN TOWNS OF VENDZHIOGALA AND BABTAI 

Related by Aba Lisen, born in 1905. His father’s name was Leybe. Until 1940 he lived in Vendzhiogala together with his parents. From 1940 until the beginning of the war he lived in Kaunas. As soon as the war began he returned to his parents in Vendzhiogala.

About seventy Jewish families lived in Vendzhiogala. The town is located 25 kilometers from Kaidaniai, the same distance from Kaunas, on the unimproved road between Kaidaniai and Kaunas. The town had a Hebrew elementary school, a library, and a study house. The Jews were primarily occupied in trade and artisanry. The Jews got along well with their Lithuanian neighbors.

On the very first day of the war, June 22, 1941, a number of young people tried to evacuate to the Soviet Union. The armed Lithuanian bandits, however, prevented the evacuation, and shot at the Jews. Many Jews were killed by the murderers at that time, while the rest of those who had tried to escape had to return to town. There were refugees from Kaunas, Jonava and other places.

On Wednesday, June 25, 1941, the Germans entered the town. Immediately after the Germans arrived, armed Lithuanians from town began arresting Jews on the pretext of searching for Communists. Thus, for example, they arrested the brothers Garelik-Hirshl, Nokhem and Moyshe; Moyshe Faynman; Yosef Labunovsky, and others. Several days later they were all liberated, after everything the Jews had was taken from them, including their better shoes and overclothes.

The Jews continued living in their homes. During the first days of the war there was an order that all the Jews had to put on yellow patches, were forbidden to walk on the sidewalk, and so forth. The Lithuanian murderers forced the able-bodied men and women to work at hard labor. The Jews worked in town and at agricultural tasks in the countryside and at compounds. A number of them, for example, worked in the Labunova compound, twelve kilometers from town. Jews had to clean out all of the Lithuanian residents’ outhouses.

A short time later the Lithuanian murderers from town, together with Lithuanian murderers who came from Kaunas, arrested 68 men. The bandits took the men out of their houses and seized them on the street. Among the men were young people aged thirteen and fourteen. Among the arrestees were Jewish men from Kaunas and Jonava. All of the arrestees were taken to prison by the murderers.

From there the innocent men were taken to the forest near the Jewish cemetery in Vendzhiogala. The murderers forced the Jewish men to dig pits and take off their overclothes and shoes. Before the Jews were shot they had to strip totally naked. The murderers then shot all 68 Jews.

Among the Lithuanians from town who took active part in the shooting then were:

  1. Feliksas Kutkevitsius.
  2. Two brothers Labutis, Staschisnkis.
  3. Jurgis, a secretary at the township hall.
  4. Bronislavas Jushevitsius.

There were other Lithuanians from town whose families Aba does not remember any longer.

Among the Jews who were shot were:

  1. Nokhem Garelik.
  2. Moyshe Garelik.
  3. Hirsh Garelik.
  4. Their mother didn’t want to continue living and see the death of her three sons, and voluntary went to be shot together with them. The sister of the three brothers, and Hirshl’s wife, also voluntarily accompanied them and died with them.
  5. Binyomin Pres.
  6. Osher Pres, Binyomin’s brother.
  7. Binyomin Fridman.
  8. Perets Fridman, Binyomin’s son.
  9. Gershon Fridman, Binyomin’s son.
  10. Hirsh Feynman.
  11. Dovid Feynman, Hirsh’s brother.
  12. Gershon Feynman, Dovid’s son.’
  13. Moyshe Feynman, David’s son.
  14. Yankev-Ber Koren.
  15. Another man named Koren, Yankev-Ber’s brother.
  16. Volf Labunovsky.
  17. Yosef Labunovsky, Volf’s son, aged 22.
  18. Dovid Reybshteyn from Kaunas and others.

After the 68 men were shot, the rest of the Jews in town were herded together into one part of Kaidaniai Street. There was no fence around the area. The Lithuanian murderers robbed everything they wanted to take. The helpless Jews no longer cared about their possessions. They sensed that the final, complete annihilation of the Jews was not far off.

On Saturday, August 16, 1941, when the men from town stood in the study house praying, a girl named Tobe Langman (aged 23) ran up to them and announced that the town was surrounded by armed Lithuanian murderers. The men began running out of the study house in a panic. But armed Lithuanians already stood at the door to the study house, and they didn’t let anyone exit. Other bandits went to all the Jewish houses at the same time, taking out all the men above the age of fourteen, and herding them into the study house as well.

Near the study house wagons stood waiting. The Jews were forced to sit on the wagons, and under heavy guard they were taken to the nearby town of Babtai, ten kilometers from Vendzhiogala. In Babtai Lithuanian bandits drove all of the Jewish men into the study house, and surrounded it with a heavy guard.

Babtai is located on the highway between Kaunas and Klaipeda, thirty kilometers from Kaidaniai. Until the war about twenty Jewish families lived in Babtai, earning their livings in trade and artisanry.

On Saturday, August 16, 1941, when all the men were taken away from Vendzhiogala, all the men in Babtai were also herded into the study house.

The men who had been brought from Vendzhiogala were brought into the Babtai study house. For two weeks the men from the two towns were kept interned in the study house. Every day the men were taken to work at the highway. The men didn’t get anything to eat. The women from Vendzhiogala and Babtai brought the men food at the study house.

Ten days later the Lithuanian murderers demanded a payment of 500 rouble per Jewish man. The Jews of Vendzhiogala chose three representatives, who went to their town to raise the demanded sum. Among the three representatives were Ch. Labunovsky and Jakov Reibshtein. The Lithuanian murderers told the Jewish men that after the Jews raised the required sum, everyone would be released.

Thirteen Jews escaped from Vendzhiogala and hid. When they learned that after the money was handed over the men would be released, they left their hiding places and reported to the police in Vendzhiogala. From there they were taken to join the rest of the men in the study house in Babtai.

Three days after the money was raised the Lithuanian murderers in Vendzhiogala drove all the Jewish women and children out of their houses, and herded them into the marketplace in town. The women were permitted to bring along small packages of food and clothing. The women were allowed to lock the doors of their houses. In the marketplace the bandits took the women’s packages away, and they took everyone away to Babtai.

As soon as the women and children from Vendzhiogala were brought to Babtai, the men were driven out of the synagogue, and under heavy guard they were taken to a forest two kilometers from Babtai, about a half kilometer off to the side from the Babtai-Kaidaniai highway. Pits had already been dug there. The men had to take all their clothes off, and then they were shot. This happened on September 1, 1941, a Sunday.

That same day the Lithuanian degenerates shot all the women and children from Babtai, along with the women and children who had been brought from Vendzhiogala. The women and children were shot by the murderers at the same spot as the men.

The peasant Vitas Garbatsauskas from Babtai later told Aba that the men and the women and children from Vendzhiogala and Babtai had been shot solely by Lithuanian bandits. After the Jews were shot all of the Lithuanian murderers gathered in the town of Babtai and organized a large ball at the town hall; At that occasion fiery speeches of joy and nationalist enthusiasm were held. The murderers swore to find the escaped Jews who were in hiding.

Among the shooters in Babtai were all the murderers who had slaughtered the 68 men, along with others from Vendzhiogala, Babtai and the surrounding towns and villages. When the women and children were herded into the marketplace in Vendzhiogala, three girls escaped. They were Khaye Labunovsky (now Khayem’s sister-in-law); Ida Labunovsky; and Ade Kaidansky.

Ida and Ada hid for three months. The winter was very cold; they didn’t have anywhere to hide, and came to the Kaunas ghetto. The Lithuanian guards at the fence detained the two girls. They took Ade for a Lithuanian. They arrested Ide, and then she was shot. This was at the end of 1941. Ade Kaidansky survived.

Among the Jews of Vendzhiogala who died was the Jewish pharmacist from town Rozental and his wife, and the town rabbi.

Those who survived from Vendzhiogala were Meir Labunovsky, his wife and the children. They escaped the slaughter in Vendzhiogala and went to the Kaunas ghetto. Later they escaped from the Kaunas ghetto (in 1943), and hid with peasants until they were liberated by the Red Army. Osher Kaidansky and his wife also survived in exactly the same manner as Labunovsky.

Abe Lison was herded into the study house in Vendzhiogala together with his father and brother. His younger brother Yosef lay hidden in the attic of a stall near their house. The police chief in Vendzhiogala was well known to Abe from before the war. He let Abe and his brother out of the study house. On the way to their house they were detained by the Lithuanian murderer from town Stashinskis, who wouldn’t let them go under any circumstances. They pleaded with the murderer at least to go with them to their house to get clothes. Abe entered his room to look for clothes, and escaped through the window.

The murderer ran out to look for Abe, and meanwhile his brother escaped and hid among the potatoes. Stashinski caught Abe’s brother in the potatoes, cut off one of his ears and took him to the study house. Abe hid in the same stall where his younger brother Yosef had already hidden earlier. His older brother and father were taken to Babtai together with all the Jews of Vendzhiogala.

Abe and his younger brother Yosef escaped from the stall at night to a nearby forest, and let their mother and sister know where they were. Their sister used to visit her brothers in the forest, bringing them food and giving them information about their father and brother in the study house. But she could not help her brothers in the forest.

Abe’s mother Blume and his sister Mine (aged 21) were taken away to Babtai together with the Jewish women and children of the town, and shot together with all of the Jews. Abe and his brother Yosef quickly found out about the tragic death of their entire family.

The two brothers began a bitter, difficult struggle for their lives. The struggle wasn’t only against the Lithuanian cannibals who sought after them, but also against nature. The autumn and winter of the year 1941 was terribly cold. There was no place to settle in at the beginning. Both of them had to lie in the forest or in the open fields for weeks.

As they wandered, a day here and a night there, constantly facing terrible dangers, Abe met two surviving Jews from Kaidaniai. The two survivors from Kaidaniai were Khayem Render and Shmuel Smolsky. All four stayed together in their difficult struggle for life, until the Red Army liberated (for more about this, see the report about the slaughter of the Jews of Kaidaniai).

In a forest near the banks of the Nevezhys River, two kilometers from Babtai, about half a kilometer off to the side of the Babtai­ Kaidaniai highway, all the Jewish men, women and children of the two towns of Babtai and Vendzhiogala were shot on September 1, 1941. About four hundred men, women and children were shot in all that day.

  1. THE SLAUGHTER OF THE JEWS OF BABTAI

Additional testimony of Mrs Sheyne Nozhikov, born Glik in Babtai on December 28, 1903. Sheyne graduated elementary school in Babtai. She was a business manager by trade. Until the year 1921 Sheyne lived in Babtai, then she married and lived in Kaunas. Her father Rafoel and her mother Khaye, born Kulman, left for America in 1922.

Sheyne was in the Kaunas ghetto with her son Alter and her daughter Khane.

She escaped from Kaunas with her two children, Alter, aged 21 and Khane, aged 13, on December 20, 1943. At that time the Jews began to be transported from the ghetto to concentration camps. Sheyne and her two children hid in villages around Jurbarkas together with Jewish survivors from the town of Erzhvilishkas. (See the testimony about the slaughter of the Jews of Erzhvilishkas – L Koniuchowsky.)

Sheyne and her two children were liberated by the Red Army in that region. After the liberation Sheyne spent some time in her home town of Babtai. She spoke to peasant acquaintances from town, who willingly told her in great detail about the slaughter of the Jews of Babtai.

The town of Babtai is located 24 kilometers north of Kaunas, 12 kilometers from Vendzhiogala, thirty kilometers from Kedainiai. Babtai is in Kaunas County, and lies on the bank of the Nevezhys River.

Until the war broke out about forty Jewish families lived there, along with twice as many Christians. The Jews in town were engaged primarily in trade and peddling, and a few worked in agriculture. Twelve kilometers from Babtai, in the village of Bujonai, there was a mill belonging to the Jew Yisroel Buyaner.

The town had an old synagogue. The Jewish youth studied in Kedainiai or Kaunas, and had leftist tendencies. The attitude of the Lithuanian population toward the Jews until the outbreak of the war on June 22, 1941 was good. After the war broke out a small number of the Jewish youth left the town and tried to evacuate to the Soviet Union. Not one of the Jews in town managed to evacuate. Lithuanian partisans shot at the retreating Red soldiers on all the roads, and also prevented the Jews from fleeing.

On Tuesday, June 24, 1941, the Germans were in Babtai. The Jews in town continued living in their houses. There was no battle for control of the town at that time. Only a few Germans remained in town. The local Lithuanians immediately set up the civilian administration. The mayor of the town was the farmer Antanas Janushewsky, who lived at the edge of town. The chief of police was a farmer named Jan Inc from town. The commander and leader of the partisans in town was a farmer from a settlement a kilometer and a half from town, an antisemite and infamous murderer named Chatkevitsius.

After the civilian administration was set up, acts of revenge immediately began to be taken against Jews in town:

  1. On Wednesday, June 25, 1941 partisans took two brothers named David and Leyzer Kulman out of their house, along with their brother-in­ law Aba Varikansky. They were taken behind the hill, at the bank of the Nevezhys River. There all three innocent Jews were shot. It was said among the Jews at the time that before the war the family had bought a horse from the town priest for a low price. The priest resented this, and he had aroused the partisans against the Jews. The three innocent Jews were shot in the priest’s field.

The partisans also looked for a Jew named Srednitsky and his wife Khaye (born Varikansky in Babtai). Both of them managed to escape from town, and they arrived in Kaunas. Sheyne learned from them about the incident involving the priest.

  1. On Thursday, June 26, 1941 partisans came to the home of Mrs Sore Adler, and took her children Gitl, aged 18, and Yankl, aged 16, out of the house. Both of them were kept for three days and nights in the town prison, without food or a drop of water. Then both were taken to the garden of the town hall and shot. Both were buried there.
  2. On Saturday, June 28, 1941 partisans came to Sore again and took Sore and her small son Moyshe away to the spot where her other two children had been shot, in the garden of the town hall. The mother and child were shot and buried there. Sore’s mother Rashe, who was blind and had been bedridden for years, was buried alive in the synagogue yard.

The entire Adler family was shot because their uncle Yudl Adler had been an employee at the prison in Kaunas during the year of Soviet rule. Yudl managed to escape to the Soviet Union.

  1. The Russian woman Tarafes, whose husband was a Communist who had managed to escape to the Soviet Union, was shot along with Sore Adler that day.

There were also robberies of Jewish possessions by the partisans in town.

During the second week of the war the police and partisans herded all the Jewish men into the synagogue. A guard was posted. No-one was allowed in to see them. Every day the men were taken two kilometers away from the synagogue to the Bobtsinai compound, on the other side of the river, to do agricultural work. The women were not taken to work. But there were cases of women working at the same compound as the men.

At the end of July 1941 all the Jews from the town of Vendzhiogala were taken to Babtai, and everyone was interned at the synagogue. The women and children from Babtai remained in their houses.

The Jews were kept in the synagogue for several days after the Vendzhiogala Jews were brought. One morning; Sheyne does not know the date; partisans rode into town on trucks, singing Lithuanian nationalist songs.

That day the Jews from the synagogue were taken to the Bor forest, two kilometers from town. There the men were forced to dig a pit, and later they were shot. After the men were shot the women and children were ordered to pack quickly and prepare to ride to the forest, where their men were waiting to go to a ghetto in the town of Jonava.

The woman and children were permitted to take everything along that they needed. That same day, in the same forest, the murderers shot the women and children. The women, children and men lie buried in a single mass grave in the Bor forest, on the left side of the highway on the way from Kaunas to Kedainiai. The mass grave is in the shape of a square, ten meters by ten.

The partisans and peasants in town reported after the shooting of the Jews that after the grave had been dug, Shloyme Levin had shouted out: “Jews, we are lost! Let’s take revenge at least!” The Jew Yankl Barovsky threw himself at a partisan, but another partisan shot Yankl.

One of Sheyne’s cousins had a daughter named Yentl Burovsky who was expecting a child any day. She and her mother were the first ones shot as soon as the women and children were brought to the pit. Partisans boasted as they told their peasant friends in town about this. The men and later the women and children were taken from town by partisans and police from town and from elsewhere. The Jews were forced to strip naked at the pit before they were shot. The clothing of the murdered Jews fell into the hands of the shooters and the towns people. Townspeople settled in their houses. The families of the shooters got the better houses. The synagogue was turned into a bathhouse.

The following relatives of Sheyne died in Babtai:

  1. Three brothers, David, Leyzer and Mikhl Kulman.
  2. Ruven, Khayen and Tsherne Kulman, cousins.
  3. Shakhne Kulman, an uncle, aged 75.

After the war Sheyne was at the mass grave. She was accompanied by a townsman named Jakubowsky. There was no fence around the mass grave, nor any inscription. Sheyne thinks that more than two hundred Jews from Babtai and Vendzhiogala lie buried in the mass grave.

(See the testimony about the slaughter of the Jews of Vendzhiogala by Abe Lison – L Koniuchowsky.)

About the Author
Grant Arthur Gochin currently serves as the Honorary Consul for the Republic of Togo. He is the Emeritus Special Envoy for Diaspora Affairs for the African Union, which represents the fifty-five African nations, and Emeritus Vice Dean of the Los Angeles Consular Corps, the second largest Consular Corps in the world. Gochin is actively involved in Jewish affairs, focusing on historical justice. He has spent the past twenty five years documenting and restoring signs of Jewish life in Lithuania. He has served as the Chair of the Maceva Project in Lithuania, which mapped / inventoried / documented / restored over fifty abandoned and neglected Jewish cemeteries. Gochin is the author of “Malice, Murder and Manipulation”, published in 2013. His book documents his family history of oppression in Lithuania. He is presently working on a project to expose the current Holocaust revisionism within the Lithuanian government. He is Chief of the Village of Babade in Togo, an honor granted for his philanthropic work. Professionally, Gochin is a Certified Financial Planner and practices as a Wealth Advisor in California, where he lives with his family. Personal site: https://www.grantgochin.com/
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