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Grant Arthur Gochin

The slaughter of the Jews of Ignalina

Ignalina-Google-Maps
Ignalina-Google-Maps

THE SLAUGHTER OF THE JEWS OF IGNALINA

The testimony of Tevye Solomyak, born February 1, 1900 in Ignalina. For his entire life until the war broke out on June 22, 1941, and later during the time of the German occupation until the Jewish community was liquidated, he lived in the town of Ignalina. He graduated elementary school there. He was a merchant by trade. His father’s name was Yakov, and his mother was Khava, born Rin in a village called Paringi.

Ignalina is located 25 kilometers north of Švenčionys and 28 kilometers south of the town of Dūkštas in Švenčionys County. A railroad line linking Vilnius and Dvinsk goes through the town. The station is located in town. About half a kilometer from town are lakes Baltis and Shekstis. The town and the surrounding villages were occupied by Lithuanians.

Cultural and Economic Life of the Jews

Until the war broke out 800 Jews lived in Ignalina. Most of them were retail merchants, lumber merchants, grain dealers and artisans. Most of the Jews in town were poor.

Until 1940 there was an elementary school in town with instruction in Yiddish, as well as a Hebrew elementary school, a Yiddish-Hebrew library, a drama club, three study houses and a synagogue.

Most of the young people belonged to Zionist movements, and a smaller number were Bundists.

The attitude of the surrounding Lithuanian population toward the Jews was good, and even friendly. This can be explained by the fact that the Lithuanians in that region were a minority in Poland until the Polish state collapsed in the year 1939. In that same year the region was assigned to Lithuania by the Soviets.

In the summer of 1940, when the Red army marched into the Baltic states, the attitude of the Lithuanians worsened in part. However, this could not be detected in public. Nevertheless they impatiently waited for the moment when they could get rid of the Soviets and settle accounts with the Jews, who had become equal citizens when the Soviets arrived. They were very happy when they heard the news that war had broken out between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.

The War Breaks Out; The Civil Administration

On Monday, June 23, 1941 the Soviet government employees, Party officials and Red militia fled town.

Tuesday morning the Jews quickly packed and fled in wagons and on foot to the surrounding villages to hide until the front passed on. The Jews were afraid they might suffer if the railroad station in town was bombed. Very few of the town’s youth fled together with the Soviet officials. These were people who took active part in the Communist Party and youth, or who had worked at responsible positions. Most of the Jews in town had no reason to be afraid, and they didn’t even think about leaving their homes and evacuating to the Soviet Union. Not one of them foresaw what lay in store for them at the hands of the Germans.

From Monday evening, June 23, until the arrival of the Germans, there was no civil authority in town. At the end of the week scattered units of the Soviet army marched through town in the direction of White Russia.

On the evening of Tuesday, July 1, there was a small conflict between Germans and Red Army soldiers in town. On Wednesday, July 2, 1941 in the morning, the German army entered the town. Almost all of the Jews had returned from the countryside, because peasants in the villages hadn’t taken the Jews in before the Germans appeared in the region. The Jews had to leave the countryside and return to town even before the Germans marched in.

Between Monday, June 23 and the time the Germans arrived in town, the town was ruled by armed Lithuanians who called themselves partisans. On Thursday, June 26, six days before the German army arrived, the partisans arrested ten Red soldiers who had no weapons. A Jewish girl was with them. The murderers shot all ten Red soldiers. They brought the girl back to town. No one saw her again.

Immediately after the Germans arrived in town all of the able bodied men began to have to go to work at various tasks, repairing the damaged roads, serving the Germans and partisans, and so forth. One group of Jews had to clear fallen trees off the roads. The Germans forced the Jews to drag trees which still had their branches on, and to run back and forth. Any Jew who didn’t do what they told him to was murderously beaten and tortured. Tevye is a tall, healthy man.  The Germans made a point of beating the stronger and healthier men. The Germans did not stay in town, however. After they had been there for a short time they continued toward the front.

The Lithuanians immediately set up the civilian administration in town, and began openly lording it over the lives and possessions of the Jews.

The new mayor was a Lithuanian named Zhidor, a farmer from the village of Rashketoni, ten kilometers from town. The new Seniunas in town was the Lithuanian Viktories Tzeponis. His three sons were terrible murderers and robbers. All three were partisans. The chief of police in town was a Lithuanian from the interior of Lithuania named Zhilenas. The commander of the partisans in town was Albert.

After the civil administration was set up in town the Lithuanians began issuing their infamous anti-Jewish decrees. They threatened to take revenge for any German or Lithuanian found dead by shooting one hundred Jews. The Jews felt helpless, disappointed, deceived and mocked by their Lithuanian neighbors, amongst whom they had lived for generations.

A few weeks after the civilian administration was set up, the Lithuanians set up a Jewish committee and personally appointed its members. The committee’s task was to serve as an intermediary between the Jews on one hand, and the police and partisans on the other. The members of the committee were: David Soloveytzik, a forest broker; Ele Gilinsky, a merchant; Gershon Kideshman, a merchant; Ruven Kagan and others. The committee had to recruit the specified number of workers on time, and see that they reported to their worksites.

100 Innocent Jewish Men Arrested; 26 Shot

On the evening of Friday, July 11, 1941 at about 6:00 p.m., police and partisans attacked the Jewish houses and drove out all of the men who had occupied any kind of position during the year of Soviet rule, or whom they simply suspected of being Communist sympathizers. Then they began seizing men in the street. Tevye was in the street with a child of his at that time. The partisans drove the child away and arrested Tevye. That evening they arrested a total of one hundred men and drove them into a cellar at the partisan headquarters. Everyone who was arrested was taken away separately and released that same evening. Twenty-six men were detained and locked up in the cellar.

The next day, Saturday, July 12, the men were taken to work and met the rest of the workers from town. At midnight on Saturday all 26 men were taken to a small forest a half kilometer from town on the road to Dūkštas, near the railroad line. There they were shot together with fourteen Red Army prisoners.

Among the 26 who were shot Tevye remembers:

  1. Zalmen Katz, the former chairman of the Yiddish elementary school, owner of a hardware store, and his sixteen-year-old son.
  2. Khayem Perlmuter, a baker, and his son, aged fourteen or fifteen.
  3. Naum Zaydman, a watchmaker.
  4. Yisroel Gilinsky, a worker, aged 25 or 26.
  5. Borukh Saroke, a wigmaker.
  6. Fishl Oron, a retail merchant. His son, a Communist, had escaped to the Soviet Union. The father was shot in retaliation.
  7. Khone-Yitzkhok Suntup, a furrier. He had been released from the cellar on Friday. The partisans had taken a watch from him, and he went to them to get it back. He was arrested and thrown into the cellar.
  8. Shapiro.
  9. Yankl Levin, a smith.
  10. Mikhl Shnayderovitz, a Communist, aged 15.

Among the 26 who were shot were refugees from Poland, who had arrived in town in the year 1939.

Among the partisans and police who arrested the hundred men and then shot the twenty-six, Tevye remembers the following:

  1. Boisys, a farmer from town.
  2. Grinevitzius, a worker from town.
  3. Panava, two men from town, one a guard at the town administration.
  4. Viktorius Tzepanis, the Seniunas (mayor) in town, and his three murderous sons.
  5. Geidshiunas, a worker in town.
  6. Voickus, two brothers from the village of Stirgilishkis, a kilometer from town.
  7. Voickus, from the village of Stirgilishkis, a kilometer from town.
  8. Zhilen, from the village of Vishniunai, seven kilometers from town.
  9. Blashys, from the village of Vishniunai, seven kilometers from town.
  10. Zidor, the virshaitis in town during the occupation.
  11. Bilkis, two brothers from the village of Polushi, three kilometers from town.
  12. Albert, a farmer from the village of Mirani, four kilometers from town.
  13. Paukshtis, from town.
  14. Burtimas and his brother, both from town.
  15. Matzulis, from the village of Girmini, two kilometers from town.
  16. A Lithuanian nicknamed “Velnias,” from the village of Mirani, four kilometers from town.

For a long time the unfortunate families of the twenty-six men who had been shot did not know about the tragic fate of their beloved sons and fathers. The police and partisans solemnly swore that they had been taken to work. There were “good friends” among the population in town and in the countryside, who insisted that they had personally seen the 26 men working, and asked to be given clothing, food and money to bring to them. The families of the 26 men allowed themselves to be fooled, and sent packages and money for their arrested sons and fathers. About six weeks later the Jews in town learned the tragic truth.

About ten days after the arrest and shooting of the 26 men, the Lithuanians arrested a Jew named Hirsh-Leyb Gilinsky. His brother had escaped to the Soviet Union, and Leyb had hidden at the home of a Jew named Yisroel-Noyekh Aron at a settlement in the village of Paringe, half a kilometer from town. A group of partisans arrested him there, and shot him near the railroad station that same day.

At the same time the partisans Voickus and Tzepanis shot the Jew Joseph Gaydiger outside of town, near the Jewish cemetery. The two murderers demanded money from Joseph. He refused to give them anything. Joseph had come from Lodz in 1939 and stayed in town.

After these two above-mentioned Jews were shot, the situation of the Jews in town began to stabilize. Every day the able bodied Jews went to work, including some of the women. The Jewish council was responsible for seeing to it that the workers went to their tasks, and the Council tried to carry out precisely all the demands of the police and partisans.

The Committee also used other ways and means to try to please those who had control over Jewish lives, and constantly gave them “presents.”

A female Lithuanian teacher by the name of Paukstyte lived in town. She did everything she could to propagandize against the Jews, and demanded that a ghetto be established. The Committee managed with the help of “gifts,” however, to have the establishment of the ghetto delayed until a certain time.

The Ghetto; News about the Total Slaughter in Nearby Towns

News began to arrive about the total slaughter of Jews in nearby Lithuanian towns. There even began to appear in town solitary refugees, who had escaped from being shot and told everything that had happened. The Jews in town tried to comfort themselves by saying that such a thing wouldn’t happen to them, because in any case they had no way to escape the terrible situation. The Committee increased their bribes to anyone they could after they found out about the slaughter of the Jews in the surrounding areas. But this did not help.

Early Friday morning, September 5, police surrounded all the Jewish houses and ordered the Jews to move into a ghetto. They went in groups to rob the Jews of their more valuable possessions. The Jews were not allowed to bring along furniture. When they robbed the Jews they also beat them. They murderously beat the town rabbi, Rabbi Moyshe-Aron Khayat, and they also stole his gold watch. He lay in bed in the ghetto after the beatings.

In the neighborhood of Gawikeny Street where the town’s Jews had to resettle there were already some Jews. There was an inspection of the homes of the Jews in the neighborhood, and all of their better things were taken. Later all the Jews in town were herded together.

That same Friday the Jew Yisroel-Noyekh Aron hung himself in a settlement outside of town. He was a wealthy Jew whose property had been nationalized by the Soviets before the war, following which he had moved onto the settlement.

The ghetto was set up on Gawikeny Street. There was no fence around it. Nor was a guard posted. One hour a day the Jews were permitted to leave the neighborhood. A few days after they settled into the ghetto everyone had their cattle taken. The cattle were distributed to peasants. Every morning the able-bodied men, along with some of the women, gathered in one spot in the ghetto. Members of the committee would take them from that spot to their assigned workplaces. Most of the work at that time consisted of building a new railroad line. The Jews did not receive food or even a little bit of pay for their hard work. Like black pieces of tar, monotonous, filled with sorrow and offering very little hope of survival, the days stretched out and became weeks. But the Jews didn’t even have the fortune to continue living under the inhumane conditions in the ghetto for many weeks longer.

The news about the slaughter of the Jews in the towns of Dūkštas, Ligmainai, Utenas, and other places began to arrive in all of their horror, with all of their awful details. Lithuanians from the countryside and from town began to come more and more frequently to suggest that the Jews in the ghetto “hand over” their more valuable possessions for safekeeping “until after the war.” A Russian woman threw a letter on the porch of Moyshe Gurvitz’s house, describing the slaughter of the Jews of Utenas. The mood of panic in town constantly increased.

On Saturday, September 20 a Lithuanian partisan officer came from Švenčionys to Ignalina. He went to the Jewish wigmaker Yeshayohu Dubinsky, who had permission to work at his wig-maker’s shop in town, for a shave. The officer confided to the Jewish council that he already had many murders of Jews on his conscience, that this troubled him and so he wanted to do the Jews of Ignalina a big favor. He confided some information in the Jewish council. Some time later, after the Ignalina ghetto was liquidated, Dubinsky met Tevye and told him that the officer had told the Committee something. The members of the Committee kept the information to themselves for the time being, however, in order to avoid causing panic among the Jews, they told Dubinsky that the officer had advised the Jews to work as hard as possible and to be productive.

Several days after this incident the police ordered the committee to produce a list of how much money was owned by every Jew in the ghetto.

On Friday, September 26, the day before the Sabbath between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Jews saw rifles being brought to the police headquarters and distributed to the partisans in town, who lately had very little to do with the situation in the ghetto. Optimists explained this by saying that the partisans were getting ready to go to the front. That same evening police demanded that the committee hand over to them the list showing how much money each Jew had. A total of 21,000 rubles was handed over to the police at that time. At that point the Jews Shmuel Gawenda and Avrom Gurvitz, the specialists in offering bribes to the police and partisans, tried to find out what the situation of the Jews in the ghetto was, and why peasants had been ordered to come in with their wagons on the following Sabbath morning. They were reassured with the statement that the carts had been ordered to carry stones.

That same Friday evening the Jews noticed armed partisans walking around the ghetto. The Jews clearly understood what was going to happen to them either in the next few hours or the next day. During the day on Friday many people fled. Almost everyone tried to escape on Friday night.

Groups of partisans went to the Jewish houses, robbing, beating and forcing the Jews to take their clothes off and lie in bed, so that they wouldn’t be able to flee.

A number of Jews actually did escape that Friday, both during the day and at night. The Jews in the houses, however, didn’t go to sleep. They did everything they could to get out of the ghetto and escape. But armed partisans were patrolling outside, making sure that the Jews wouldn’t go to sleep. The Jews didn’t sleep. Tears poured from everyone’s eyes. With piercing, tearful looks wives and husbands took their leave of each other. The innocent, sleeping children were drenched in their parents’ tears. In deathly fear, uneasy and desperate, everyone waited for the day.

Jews from Ignalina and Surrounding Towns Taken to the Compound

Early in the morning that Saturday, the partisans began taking all the Jews out of their houses. The dark early morning resounded with the shrieking and weeping of women and children, as they said goodbye to their homes, where they had been born and grown up. The partisans beat the Jews with murderous, bestial cruelty, and hurried them along to leave their houses. All the Jew were packed into the waiting wagons with some of their possessions, and they were taken away to the military compound a kilometers from Švenčionėliai under heavy guard. On the way the partisans continued selecting some of the better things and taking them for themselves. They also beat the Jews on the way. Later it was said that the rabbi of Ignalina, Moyshe-Aron Khayat, had left his house still sick because of the blows he had suffered when his gold watch was taken away before he had moved into the ghetto, and that he died en route.

All the Jews from the following towns were taken to the compound that day:

  1. Ignalina.
  2. Daugėliškis.
  3. Old Daugėliškis.
  4. Malagenai.
  5. Tveritziai.
  6. Tzeikiniai.
  7. Padbrade.
  8. Kaltinenai.
  9. Švenčionys.
  10. Švenčionėliai.
  11. Stajatzishkis.
  12. Adutiškis.

Those Who Died After the General Slaughter

Concerning the further fate of the Jews who had been herded into the compound, and about the terrible slaughter of all of the men, women and children, see the testimony about the slaughter of the Jews of Švenčionys.

On the night of Friday, September 26, as well as during the day, more than eighty Jews escaped from Ignalina. Most of them safely arrived at various White Russian towns, where there hadn’t been any slaughter of Jews at that time. In addition a number of Jews escaped from the compound.

Tevye remembers the following cases:

  1. When the Jews reached the gate of the compound it was already dark. Mrs Dvoyre Kuritzky took advantage of an opportunity to run away. She hid in White Russia and survived. After the war she married the eyewitness Tevye Solomyak.
  2. Leyzer Levitan and four others Jews escaped from Ignalina on Friday. They wanted to make their way to White Russia. In the town of Maleganai they were arrested by partisans, and they were taken to the compound together with the Jews of Maleganai. At night partisans murderously beat all five Jews. Leyze Levitan decided that he had nothing left to lose, and he escaped through a window of the barrack. Partisans shot at him, but didn’t hit him. Leyzer safely arrived in White Russia.
  3. Leyzer and his brother Shloyme Kuritzky were arrested by partisans near the town of New Daugėliškis, on the Vidz Road. Shloyme escaped and arrived at Vidz. At the same time Moyshe Gurvitz from Švenčionėliai, his wife Esther and their two daughters were caught. This family, along with Leyzer Kuritzky, were not taken to the compound, but instead were brought to Daugėliškis, where they were kept for several days before being shot in the orchard near the city council.

Shloyme Kuritzky was in Vidz for some time, and later in a camp in Padbrade and Dūkštas, and finally in the Švenčionys ghetto. When some of the Jews were taken from the Švenčionys ghetto to the Kaunas ghetto, the entire group was taken off the train at Ponari near Vilnius, and there everyone was shot. Among those who died then was Shloyme Kuritzky.

  1. Yisroel-Yitzkhok Leybshteyn escaped in the direction of Vidz. Three kilometers from Daugėliškis in the village of Michalow he was murdered with an axe. His two sons Yoysef and Yerakhmiel escaped separately and arrived in Vidz. There they told about the tragic death of their father. Yoysef and his brother stayed together in Vidz for a few months, and then went in the direction of Švenčionys. One kilometer from Tveritzius he was captured and killed by partisans who stuffed a beam into his mouth. His brother Yerakhmiel left Vidz for Pastoviai, where he died when the Jews in the ghetto there were slaughtered. This happened on November 21, 1942.
  2. Mrs Beyle Zaydman and her child were seized on the way to Maleganai in the village of Bitzuni. At that same time and place Mrs Rokhl Permuter, her child, her sister and her mother were also caught. This group was taken to the militia in Ignalina, and from there to the mass, grave of the 26 murdered men, where they were shot. This took place on Monday, September 29, 1941. The husbands of Beyle Zaydman and Rokhl Perlmuter had been among the group of 26 who were shot.
  3. Hirsh-Aron Brumberg and his child escaped from Ignalina on Friday evening, to a peasant in the countryside. Brumberg’s wife was supposed to join them there. He couldn’t stand to wait for her, so he went to town with his child to find out what had happened to her. Partisans seized him and shot him and the child near the railroad line. This happened on Friday, September 26.
  4. Mrs Mirl Ring and her fourteen-year-old son escaped on Friday evening and lay hiding in bushes half a kilometer from town. Mirl saw all the Jews in town being taken away. Saturday evening she went to the village of Petrowa, two kilometers from town, to a peasant named Mudin. She hid in a barn without telling the peasant. The next morning, Sunday, the peasant spotted her and ordered her to leave in the evening.

She walked all night with her son, until they arrived at Vidz. When they had been there for a week they went to Pastoviai, where she had sent her sixteen or seventeen year old daughter from Ignalina a week earlier. But she couldn’t stay there either, because all of the refugees had to register. There were incidents where refugees in Pastoviai were betrayed, and some of them had been shot. Mirl and her son and daughter left Pastoviai and arrived at Kazan. In the winter of 1941-1942 almost all of the Jews in Kazan were taken to the Gluboki ghetto. Only a few “useful” Jews were left in Kazan and quartered in a few houses in the ghetto. Mirl left the Kazan ghetto for the Pastoviai ghetto, where she and her two children died together with the Jews of Pastoviai on November 21, 1942.

  1. Leybe-Khayem Halpern, his wife Perl and their three children were not in the Ignalina ghetto. The entire family lived a kilometer outside of town, at a settlement called Wasiwky, where he leased the fields. On Friday evening a peasant woman told them that the next day all the Jews of Ignalina were going to be shot at the compound near Švenčionėliai. The family was brought to the White Russian town of Vidz in a cart, and then to Opshe. They were there until the ghetto was liquidated in 1942. All the Jews of that town were taken to the ghetto in the town of Braslaw.

Leybe-Khayem Halpern, his wife and their child Matele left the ghetto and went to stay with peasant friends near Ignalina. Leybe-Khayem stayed with one peasant, while his wife and child stayed with another peasant. The peasant did not want to keep mother and child any longer, however, and they went to Vidz. This was in the summer of 1942. The mother was taken to the Švenčionys ghetto with the rest of the Jews in Vidz in the fall of 1942.

When the Jews in the Švenčionys ghetto were taken to the Kaunas ghetto, Perl and her child went along, and they died at Ponari near Vilnius.

Leybe-Khayem hid for some time at the home of a peasant named Michael Kapustin in the village of Bitzuni, as well as with other peasants whom he knew. Eventually he went to stay with a peasant woman named Albina and her husband Kasys Baizhys at his own former settlement. He had hidden his entire fortune with them. The peasants received Leybe-Khayem warmly, as if welcoming their boss. However, Albina’s son was a partisan, and more than once he warned his mother not to keep the Jews at her home. Khayem left the place several times, but without having any place else to go he returned to stay with the peasant woman. In the spring of 1943 Leybe-Khayem was found hanging. The peasant woman later insisted that she had warned Leybe-Khayem to go away several times. He would declare that if he had to leave her he would hang himself, and eventually he carried out his “threat.” But neighbors insisted that Leybe-Khayem had been hung by the peasant Kasys Bausys and his son, so that they could inherit all his possessions.

Leybe-Khayem’s children, Khone, aged 20 and Tito, aged 16, died in the Braslaw ghetto.

  1. Mrs Dina Levin and her two children escaped from Ignalina on Friday evening, September 26, and hid for a week in the village of Bitzuni at the home of the peasant Michal Kapustin. She couldn’t stay. Partisans caught her and took her to the town of Daugėliškis, where they shot her. This happened roughly a week after the Jews of Ignalina were taken to the compound. Tevye’s friend Leyzer Levitan was also staying with the peasant Kapustin. Later he met Tevye and told him about this incident.
  2. Lova Beksteyn, his wife Hene and their child, aged five, escaped from Ignalina on Friday. They made it to the town of Svir in a wagon, and they stayed there for some time until they moved on to Lentupis. The wife and child died in Lentupis. Lava was taken to a work camp near Vilnius, and survived.
  3. On the evening of that tragic Friday, Moyshe Gilinsky, his daughter, son-in-law and one-year-old grandson, along with Moyshe’s wife Gitl, aged 70, all came to Tevye’s house. They all agreed to escape from town, and actually left their house. However, there was a great commotion in town, and groups of partisans were patrolling back and forth. They couldn’t go into their house, and they went to Tevye’s. Gitl didn’t let herself be stopped by the commotion in the street, and she escaped. In the countryside she successfully pretended to be a peasant woman, and she safely reached the town of Vidz. She was brought to Švenčionys together with the Jews in the Vidz ghetto. There Gitl had an extremely difficult time, living in strained circumstances and begging for food. Tevye spoke to her more than once. Her only desire was to survive and write a letter about all of her suffering to Yeshayohu, who had emigrated to Columbia. She was taken toward the Kaunas ghetto with the Švenčionys Jews. On the way, however, the transport was stopped at Ponari, where all the Jews were slaughtered. Moyshe Gilinsky and his daughter, son-in-law and grandson couldn’t escape from Ignalina, and they were taken to the compound, where they died.
  4. Avrom Yisroelevitz and his wife Menukhe escaped from Ignalina on Friday to stay with peasants in a village near the town of Tzeikiniai, where they stayed until the summer of 1942. It was hard for the peasant to support both of them, and Menukhe went to join a sister in Vidz. Before the Jews of Vidz were taken to the Švenčionys ghetto, Menukhe escaped to rejoin her husband, where they lived in terror and need until the winter of 1943. The peasant was extremely poor and didn’t have anything to feed them. But the Jews didn’t want to leave the place, and they suffered from hunger. For 18 days and nights they went without any food or water. Avrom couldn’t stand it, and died of starvation. Menukhe buried her husband and went to hide with peasants near Tzeikiniai until the liberation. After the liberation she exhumed Avrom’s body and buried him at the Jewish cemetery in Ignalina.
  5. On Friday the peasant from town Jelinewsky went to the Jewish wigmaker for a shave. The peasant entrusted to the boy Yeshayohu Dubinsky the secret that police and partisans had ordered peasants from town and from the countryside to bring wagons the next day, Saturday, in order to take the Jews away. The wigmaker Dubinsky immediately told the Jews in the ghetto about this, and he himself escaped from town that Friday during the day. He went to the White Russian town of Jod. The Jews of Jod were slaughtered before New Year’s Day 1942. Dubinsky managed to escape from there on time. He went to Vidz and from there to Pastoviai, where he stayed until the spring of 1942. Then he went back to Vidz. When Jews were sent from Vidz to the Padbrade camp, Dubinsky was one of the six from Ignalina. Then the camp was transferred from Padbrade to Dūkštas. Before the Švenčionys ghetto was liquidated, the inhabitants of the camp were brought to the Švenčionys ghetto.

Together with other Jews from the ghetto, Dubinsky was brought to the Vilnius ghetto. When he had been in the Vilnius ghetto for some time, he was brought to a camp near Panevezhys with a group of Jews. He escaped from there together with another young man from the Lithuanian interior. Both of them dressed as peasants and made it to Ignalina by train. A half kilometer from town in a settlement called Zalesi they went to the home of a peasant to ask for food. The peasant told both of them to hide in the barn until he could get them some food, and meanwhile he went to town to tell the police about them. The police surrounded the barn, caught the two young men and shot them. Both of them were buried at a spot near the barn. After the liberation the surviving Jews Tevye, Zelik Gilinsky, Shmuel Gilinsky, Leyzer Levitan and the brothers [???] and Dovid Ritvol dug up the grave and brought the two bodies for burial at the Jewish cemetery in Ignalina.

  1. After a conversation between members of the Jewish Committee and the Lithuanian officer, they apparently didn’t tell the Jews in the ghetto the truth. They said that the officer had advised them to work well and diligently, and try to be as productive as possible. That same Friday during the day, when rifles were brought to the police headquarters in town and distributed to the partisans, all the members of the Jewish Council sent their families to White Russia. They themselves stayed until morning, and they provided the list and the demanded sum of money to the police.

During the day on Friday, September 26 the following families of Jewish Council members left town:

  1. Gershon Kideshman’s wife Esther-Kril and their young son Leybele, aged 7.
  2. Dovid Soloveytzik’s wife Ele and their young son Shmuelke, aged seven or eight.

At noon on Friday the other members of the Jewish Council escaped from the ghetto, along with their families: Elye Gilinsky, his wife Rokhl and their one and a half year-old child; Elye’s parents Dovid and his mother Khaye, and Elye’s sister Bashe, along with her five or six year-old child, and another sister named Gute; Gershon Kideshman; Dovid Soloveytzik, his brother Fayve and a six year-old child.

All the families of the Jewish Council members were in Vidz for some time; and then they moved to Kazan. There they met Tevye, who openly accused them of betraying the Jews of Ignalina in the ghetto on Friday, September 26. Tevye charged that they had learned from the officer that in a short time the Jews were going to be taken to the compound, but they had kept silent about the information and not shared it with the Jews of Ignalina, who would have known what to do, and many of whom would certainly have escaped before being taken away.

Dovid Solovetzik said in response that the officer hadn’t told them about the fate of the Jews of Ignalina, and he insisted again that he had advised them to work more productively. As evidence that the Jewish Council had not had any more information, he mentioned his two brothers and their families and his sister, who had stayed behind in Ignalina and had been taken to the compound, where they died.

The elderly Dovid Gilinsky told Tevye, however, that the officer had given them incorrect information, telling them that in ten days the Ignalina Jews were going to be taken away, whereas in fact they were taken away seven days later, so that they hadn’t had time to get those close to them out of town in time. Tevye thinks that the members of the Committee and their families managed to escape from town so easily because the partisans had simply released them after they had so faithfully carried out all the rulings and regulations, and also because before they escaped they had provided the list and the large sum of money.

Around the time of Purim 1942, when the ghetto in Kazan was established, all the members of the Ignalina Jewish Council and their families arrived in Pastoviai. They stayed there until the Pastoviai ghetto Jews were slaughtered on November 21, 1942, when they died together with all of the Jews of Pastoviai. Elye Gilinsky ran away from the pit.

  1. Avrom Gilinsky, his son-in-law Yoysef Gawenda, Yoysef’s wife Alte and their child all escaped from Ignalina on Friday. Avrom’s brothers Yisroel with his wife Hinde and their two children; Shmuel, his wife and child; Meir, his wife and three children; and a fourth brother, who was not married, also went. They all arrived safely at Vidz, where they stayed for a short time and then went to the White Russian town of Mjor. When the Jews of Mjor were slaughtered at the beginning of 1943 they all died. Only Meyer managed to survive, and he escaped from Mjor in the direction of Ignalina. He too was killed on the way. Shmuel Gilinsky survived.
  2. Yerakhmiel Korb understood very well the situation of all the Jews where Hitler’s military were in control, and he didn’t believe any of the promises made by their Lithuanian followers. When the Jews were herded into the ghetto in Ignalina, he predicted everything, and didn’t go into the ghetto. Yerakhmiel hid the whole time in the village of Bitzuni at the home of the peasant Pitkewitz. From there he kept sending information about the situation at the front, and also about the slaughter of the Jews in the surrounding Lithuanian towns. Yerakhmiel advised all the Jews in the ghetto, especially his children and his wife, to escape from the ghetto as soon as possible. His two sons Moyshe and Leybl escaped from the ghetto on Friday, September 26, and managed to join their father.

Yerakhmiel’s wife Mirl, her daughter Shprintze and a son were taken to the compound with the rest of the Jews of Ignalina. Before they were taken from town Mirl jumped out of the wagon and hid in a bath house at the edge of town until nightfall. At night she went to join her husband as well. Shprintze and her brother were taken to the compound at Švenčionėliai, where they died. Yerakhmiel, his wife and their two sons couldn’t stay at the home of the peasant Pitkewitz for long, and they went separately in the direction of Vidz. Mirl and both sons arrived safely. Yerakhmiel was arrested by partisans several times. He gave them everything he had. They took off almost all his clothes and let him go. Sick and exhausted, he arrived in Vidz. Together with his wife and two sons, he stayed there for a short time, and then they went to Opshe. Yerakhmiel grew sick as a result of all his terrible sufferings, from terror and from cold. He was taken to the Breslaw hospital, where his leg was amputated. When he was released from the hospital, crippled, Yerakhmiel was afraid to go to his wife and children in the town of Opshe, because as a cripple he was in constant danger of being shot. Instead he went to a peasant friend of his named Adamavitzius in a compound ten kilometers from Opshe, where he stayed for several weeks. From there the peasant took him to a compound in the village of Bitzuni, where he stayed for several weeks until the peasant took him to the Švenčionys ghetto. There he found his wife Mirl and his son Leybe. Yerakhmiel stayed in the Švenčionys ghetto for several months, and managed to receive permission to travel to Ignalina, where he worked as a glazier for the Lithuanian residents. The peasants exploited him as much as they could. When they didn’t need him any longer, they decided that Yerkahmiel must not remain alive as a living witness to everything that had been done to the town’s Jews. The peasants were certain that Yerakhmiel was the only survivor, and they decided to kill him. But Yerakhmiel had some good friends among the townspeople, who warned him about the mortal danger he was in.

Yerakhmiel managed to escape from town to a peasant farm in the village of Paschwagina. The Jew Siderovitz had lived at the farm before the war. Police had taken the Jew from his farm and brought him to the Ignalina ghetto. He was killed at the compound near Švenčionėliai together with all of the Jews.

Siderovitz’s lady friend received Yerakhmiel warmly and hid him. Yerakhmiel’s wife Mirl also came from the Švenčionys ghetto to the peasant woman. They stayed with the peasant woman for half a year. Apparently neighboring peasants found out about them, and Yerakhmiel went away himself to stay with a peasant about five kilometers away.

Yerakhmiel walked on his one leg all night. He experienced fear, hunger and physical difficulty. Yerakhmiel hid at the new place until the liberation, and survived. At the beginning of 1944 the village mayor reported Siderovitz’s lady friend for hiding a Jewish woman. A large number of police surrounded the farm and found Mirl at the house. They arrested her and took her to prison in Švenčionys, where she was shot. This was at the begining of 1944.

Moyshe Korb did not leave Opshe for the Švenčionys ghetto with his brother Leybl. He left Opshe by himself for Vidz, where he stayed for a few months. From there he was one of a group of a hundred Jews who were sent to work at a saw mill in the town of Padbarde. This was before Yom Kippur 1942. They worked there for five weeks, and then they were taken to the town of Dūkštas, where they stayed for five months. On March 28, 1943 the group of Jews were taken to the Švenčionys ghetto. On April 3, 1943 Moyshe and his brother Leybe, along with Tevye and his friend Leyzer Levitan escaped from the Švenčionys ghetto, because preparations were already being made to take the Jews from the Švenčionys ghetto to ghettos in Vilnius and Kaunas.

All four Jews made it to the home of the peasant Kapustin in the village of Bitzuni, where they rested for one day. When they left that peasant’s home, the two brothers went in separate directions. They wandered through forests, fields and villages, suffered every kind of trouble and difficulty, went through the seven circles of hell, but nevertheless made it to the liberation and survived.

  1. Hirsh-Aron’s brother Moyshe-Yitzkhok Brumberg (see Case 6) and his wife Sonya and their four children, Tevye (aged 20), Gite (aged 18), Berl (aged 10) and one more, stayed in Ignalina until the ghetto was set up. Before the Jews in town were herded into a ghetto Sonia and her four children went to Švenčionys to her father. Moyshe-Yitzkhok entered the ghetto.

At the compound near Švenčionėliai their father met his wife and four children. He managed to bribe the partisans, who declared him and his family to be “useful” Jews and brought them back to the newly­ established ghetto. He was there with his family until April 4, 1943, when all the Jews in the Švenčionys ghetto were taken away toward the Vilnius and Kaunas ghettos. Moyshe-Yitzkhok was in one of the two cars containing the members of the Švenčionys Jewish Committee, which were removed from the train at Vilnius. The rest of the Jews were taken away and shot at Ponari. The Jews in the two cars which had stopped at Vilnius were taken to the Vilnius ghetto.

Gite was taken to a concentration camp in Latvia together with other Jews from the Vilnius ghetto. From there they were taken to a concentration camp in Germany, where she survived until the liberation. Tevye stayed in the Vilnius ghetto until shortly before the ghetto was liquidated, and he managed to join the Red partisans, until he was liberated. After the Red Army arrived he was mobilized, fought at the front and survived.

Sonya and the other two children died when the Vilnius ghetto was liquidated. Details about their deaths are unavailable. Moyshe-Yitzkhok escaped before the liquidation of the Vilnius ghetto and made it to the town of Padbarde. There he was caught and shot a couple of kilometers from town, three months before the liberation.

  1. Avrom Faygl, his wife Grune and their two boys escaped to Pastoviai two days before the Jews of Ignalina were herded into a ghetto. They were there until the Pastoviai ghetto was liquidated on November 21, 1943.
  2. Elye Gilinsky escaped from the slaughter of Jews in Pastoviai and arrived, wounded, at the Švenčionys ghetto. Tevye Solomyak (the eyewitness) spoke with him there. Gilinsky said at that time that the Jews of Pastoviai had been brought to the pit. Germans had been standing near the pit, and they shot every Jew in the back of the head as the Jews were brought up. Gilinsky saw that he had nothing left to lose, and he started running. He was shot and wounded. Yet he managed to escape even with his wound. Throughout terrible, disastrous days and nights he wandered through forests and fields and at the homes of peasants who gave him old, torn clothing to wear, until he was able to rest up a bit and make his way to the Švenčionys ghetto. There he healed his wounds. Tevye suggested more than once that they leave the ghetto together and stay in the forests or with peasants in the villages. Elye Gilinsky was lonely in the Švenčionys ghetto, and he became close to a woman whom he didn’t want to leave. He still hoped to survive and start a new family. But fate determined otherwise. When the Švenčionys ghetto was liquidated, Elye was taken toward the Kaunas ghetto, and he was shot at Ponari near Vilnius. (See Case 14 of this testimony-L.K.)
  3. Some time before the war broke out on June 22, 1941, Jews from Ignalina settled in Švenčionys. When a hundred men in Švenčionys were seized and 96 of them were shot, five Ignalina Jews were included among those shot. The five men from Ignalina were:
  4. Moyshe Soloveytzik, aged 25.
  5. Mendl Reyn, aged 30, a merchant.
  6. Khayem Gilinsky, a former Communist.
  7. Ritvo, a tailor.
  8. Khone Shutan, aged 35, a coachman.

Concerning the shooting of the 96 men, see page seven of the Yiddish original of the testimony of Avrom Taytz.

  1. In the fall of 1943 a group of Jews were taken from the Vilnius ghetto to Estonia by train. Several people escaped from this transport near the train station in the town of Ignalina. Apparently they jumped out of the moving train, because one of them broke his leg and was brought by his comrades to the village of Budri, not far from Ignalina, to the home of the peasant Apetni. The wounded man was Dr Levin from Vilnius. The police in Ignalina found out about this and arrested him. Peasants later reported that the police had not wanted to kill him. They had already caused too much Jewish blood to flow, and the situation at the front had shaken the Lithuanians out of their fantasy a bit. They understood well that the Germans had lost the war and they began to reconsider their bloody deeds and to think about how they would have to answer for the Jewish blood they had spilled. The guard at the Ignalina town administration, the infamous Lithuanian murderer Panawa, accepted a liter of liqueur in exchange for shooting the doctor. Panawa took the wounded Dr Levin out into the yard near the militia station and shot him. He carried the corpse to the Jewish cemetery and buried it with a bit of earth. After the liberation Tevye went to the cemetery. There he found Dr Levin’s corpse lying on the ground, and he buried it properly at the same cemetery in Ignalina. After the liberation the Soviet security forces sentenced the murderer Panawa to twenty years hard labor in far-off, cold Siberia.

Tevye Solomyak Escapes from Ignalina

That tragic Friday evening, September 26, all of the relatives gathered together at the home of Tevye’s uncle. Tevye and his wife Hene were there, along with their two children Yankele, aged five, and Khavele, just fifteen months; Tevye’s mother-in-law Khane Katz and her daughters Sore, Dobe and her daughter, a widow; Leye Liberman and her three sons Leyzerl (aged 11), Leybele (aged 8) and Nokhemele (aged 3); Tevye’s uncle Artzik Katz and his wife Shifre; Tevye’s two cousins Leyzer and Betzalel Levitan and his wife Leye, their two children and Betzalel’s father and mother; and Tevye’s grandmother, a woman of about 90 years.

The night was pitch dark, throughout the entire town. A terrible sorrow and mysterious stillness reigned throughout all the Jewish houses and courtyards. Only the heavy, confident steps of armed partisans could be heard pounding, as they disturbed the cemetery like stillness and sorrow of the sleepy ghetto.

At 8:00 p.m. the door of Tevye’s house opened up, and everyone got ready to run out into the dark street and escape from town. At that moment heart-rending screams shattered the nocturnal stillness of the ghetto, the screams of women and children at the rabbi’s house. The family and close friends of Rabbi Moyshe-Aron Khayet-were the first ones to shout in protest at the distant, black sky against the Lithuanian cannibals, who were going to the Jewish houses in groups, forcing the Jews at gunpoint to hand over the best possessions they still had. They beat everyone and demanded money, gold and valuables. After robbing the Jews, they ordered everyone to take their clothes off and lie down to sleep.

The weeping and screams coming from the rabbi’s house were like a kind of signal. Immediately after, there began to be heard the screams and weeping of women and children, coming out through the windows and doorways of all of the Jewish houses. At 10:00 p.m. a group of partisans came into Tevye’s house, where they found everyone sitting in their clothes, ready to escape. They warned the Jews not to try to escape, and they angrily promised to shoot everyone who ventured outside.

As a sign that they meant business, they murderously beat Betzalel Levitan, and ordered everyone to undress and lie down to sleep. Before they went away they promised that they would come again to make sure everyone was asleep. Of course, the Jews didn’t undress, and they didn’t go to sleep. At midnight the partisans began pounding on the closed doors and windows. No one dared to open up. Everyone in Tevye’s house understood clearly what they would face if the partisans found them still wearing their clothes. The partisans pounded louder on the doors in their mad rage, demanding to be let in. The women in the house began to weep, and so did the sleepy children. There was a terrible panic in the house. The women still believed that only the men were going to be taken away.

The partisans broke the windows and pushed in their rifle barrels. With tears in her eyes, Tevye’s wife Rene became convinced that he had to escape. Tevye slipped through the front door of the house at the very moment when the partisans wanted to come in through the back door. The cool, leaden darkness of the street enveloped Tevye in its arms. Wherever Tevye ran he encountered groups of partisans. With unnatural strength his tall, healthy body began to cut through the surrounding darkness.

He ran out of town with all his strength. On every side shooting could be heard. Like bits of lightning, bright bullets whistled through the darkness in the same direction where Tevye was running. But they missed him. One kilometer outside of town Tevye stopped. Tevye covered his face and his eyes and began to consider his situation, and to think about what he had experienced during the last hour. He saw himself standing in a strange place, in a foreign, murderous world. For the first time in his life he understood that nothing around him was his. His world, his life, his past and future had been left behind in the town, in his house. His wife’s weeping eyes, the gaze of his children, his relatives and friends, who had been left behind in the hands of the murderers, would not let him rest. They pulled him back like magnets, back to his own, back to the only friendly little world he had left. His mouth was dry. He was tormented by a terrible thought, which teased and mocked him: “You ran away by yourself, leaving your wife and two children in the murderous hands of the Lithuanians! Tevye, think it over! Tevye, what have you done?”

This thought bent Tevye’s powerful body lower and lower toward the ground. Moans began to burst forth out of his strong chest, as if from a wounded lion. His eyes became moist. He decided to go back to his past and his future, back to his wife and children. At that moment he forgot about the danger to his own life. When he got closer to town he heard the screaming and weeping of women and children. Tevye stopped. He sensed that his dear ones had been caught in a deadly flood. He found himself on the bank, and his eyes watched as they were pulled further and further away from him in the stream, and he could do nothing to rescue them. His healthy instinct to keep living helped him out. He understood well that if he went to town now, he would not be able to reach his loved ones. A certain death would block the way. The thought that perhaps nothing would happen to them played in his mind and comforted him. With pain in his heart, with his eyes full of tears, Tevye decided to try to save his own life for the time being, and then to try to save his wife and children.

With determined steps Tevye began walking further and further away from his home town. During the night he reached the home of a peasant friend named Pitkewitz in the village of Vilanci. The peasant comforted Tevye, telling him that he had done the right thing to escape. The peasant took Tevye into his barn, and told him to rest in the straw. But Tevye could not be calm, since he wanted to know what had happened to his wife and children. He sent the peasant’s son to find out. When the boy came back he reported that all of the Jews had been taken away from Ignalina.

At noon the peasant came into the barn and asked Tevye to go away. He said that his maid had certainly noticed Tevye coming, and had evidently told the partisans. The peasant told him that his maid’s brothers were among the partisans. In the middle of the day Tevye had to leave the barn. This was how he first encountered the alien world in which he had to try to save himself. All day Tevye walked through forests and fields, trying to avoid being spotted by anyone.

At night he walked on the road. On the morning of Sunday, September 28 he reached the Jewish village of Stajatzishkis. He had relatives living there. When he knocked on the door, no one answered. In the distance Tevye saw someone approaching him. Tevye ran away from the village and waited until early morning. Outside it began to grow light. Tevye returned to his relatives in the village. He found the door locked. He looked through the window and saw that everything in the house had been turned upside down helter-skelter, as if after a fire. A Christian woman told him that all of the Jews had been taken out of town on Saturday, in the direction of Švenčionėliai.

Tired, hungry and desperate, Tevye continued on, looking for someone he could cling to. He went in the direction of the White Russian town of Kamai, where other relatives of his lived. In the evening he reached the town. He did not find any Jews left there either. A Christian woman told him that his cousin Yankl Gurvitz had been falsely accused of hiding weapons, shortly after the arrival of the Germans. He had been shot. His family had been forced to leave town and settle at an estate two kilometers from town. Tevye sensed that he was searching for help at grave sites, at the cemeteries of Jewish communities and towns, where just a short time before hundreds of Jews had lived and worked.

When he reached the estate Tevye found the Jews there in deathly fear. Some of them were hiding at the estate. No-one knew what awaited them in the near future. Tevye found two of his cousins from Stajatzishkis at the estate. Before the war the estate had belonged to a cousin of Tevye’s named Yankl Gurvits, who had already been shot in town. Tevye was afraid that the Christian workers at the estate would spot him, and he hid in a bath house until the night of Yom Kippur.

Both of his cousins, the Kagan brothers, went away to Pastoviai during that night. But he couldn’t stay there any longer, because there was an order for all the refugees to register. When he had been in Pastoviai for four or five days, Tevye rented a peasant’s wagon and rode to Kazan. A group of women were supposed to ride with him. But Tevye was afraid that there would be too much of a commotion, and instead he hired a wagon just for himself. The women were arrested on the way and brought back to Pastoviai. There they were later shot.

There was a total of fifteen people in the group, including one woman from the town of Ignalina. Tevye disguised himself as a peasant from the country, and safely arrived at the home of the Jew Berl Kagan in Kazan.

Teyye in the White Russian Town of Kazan

During that tragic period, Kazan was unusual in its warmhearted hospitality. Until the war broke out about 250 Jews had lived in town. They provided a precisely equal number of Jews with food and drink. All of the refugees were given places to live. The town administration was made up of White Russians. There was no ghetto in Kazan at that time.

A Jewish Committee was responsible for ordering the life of the Jews in town. There Tevye met his cousin Leyzer Levitan, who had escaped from the compound in Švenčionėliai.

Tevye and his cousin Leyzer registered themselves in the town, and received a place to stay at the home of the town slaughterer. The Jews in town hoped that there wouldn’t be any mass slaughters of Jews in their home country of White Russia as there had been in Lithuania, and they placed a great deal of hope in their White Russian neighbors. All of the refugees and all of the Jews from town had to go off each morning to do various tasks. Tevye and Leyzer worked in a forest, preparing firewood for the Germans. Tevye experienced a great deal of cold, terror and hunger in Kazan in the winter of 1941-1942.

In the middle of the winter Leyzer left Kazan and went to join his sister in Pastoviai. Tevye stayed until the Jews of Kazan were moved into a ghetto in the town of Gluboki. At the same time a ghetto consisting of two houses was set up for the “useful” Jews in Kazan. This was around the time of Purim 1942.

Before the Jews of Kazan were taken to Gluboki, Tevye escaped to Pastoviai. With a great deal of difficulty he managed to find a place to sleep there and a source of food. Every day he had to work hard at a saw mill. Tevye stayed at that town for exactly three months, until after Shavuot 1942.

During that time the slaughter of Jews in White Russia began. Terrible news about the total slaughter of Jews began to come from the surrounding towns of Breslaw, Sarkovtzizne, Danilevitz and Gluboki. There was great panic in Pastoviai. Tevye and Leyzer escaped from Pastoviai. They aimed to reach a local German peasant friend named Pawl in a nearby village. During the day both of them hid in grain fields or in the woods. At night they marched. On the way they had to cross a bridge over the Disna River, where there was a guard. They decided not to go over the bridge. Instead both of them swam across the river at night. They reached the peasant’s home and hid in his bath house. The peasant provided them with food, which he would place near the bath house. The two comrades wandered through forests, fields and villages, but they would return to the bath house to eat. It was terribly hot lying in the grain fields all day. In the forest they were tormented by mosquitos. The peasant showed them an unoccupied settlement in a nearby village. The two men moved in there, and at that moment they felt lucky that they had a roof over their heads, and they no longer had to suffer from the mosquitos and the heat. In the evening they would come to the bath house to get food, which the good peasant would provide for them.

On one occasion the owner of the unoccupied settlement visited the place and found the two men. He actually reassured them and suggested that they stay there. However, Tevye and his comrade were afraid that the peasant might report them, and tensely waited until nightfall, when they left the spot. During that period escaped Red Army soldiers appeared in the region. They hadn’t yet become organized, and they would beg peasants for food. Thus the spot was altogether unsafe, and the two men went to the White Russian town of Vidz.

In the Vidz Ghetto

The town is located 35 kilometers from Ignalina, 28 kilometers from Dūkštas and 50 kilometers from Švenčionys, on the unimproved road between Vilnius and Breslaw. Until Poland collapsed in 1939, the town belonged to Poland. Some 2,000 Jews lived in Vidz. They were engaged in trade and artisanry. In 1939 the town was assigned to White Russia.

When war broke out between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, only a small number of the young people in town fled to the Soviet Union. After the Germans arrived in town the civilian administration was run by White Russians, who had a hostile attitude toward the Jews. Very shortly after the Germans arrived in town they arrested and shot about 100 Jews, most of them suspected of being supporters of the Soviet Union, along with people who had occupied any sort of post under the Soviets.

All of the Jews who managed to survive the slaughter of the Jews in the nearby Lithuanian towns first went to the town of Vidz, which they thought of as the first stop on their way deeper into White Russia. Very few of the refugees stayed in the town, because all of the survivors were afraid to stay lest Lithuanians from nearby towns encounter them and recognize them. Fear of the Lithuanian police and partisans drove the Jews further on into White Russia. In addition all of the refugees had to register, which actually did give them the opportunity to stay in the town. The Germans did this so that the Jews wouldn’t be forced to go and hide in the woods.

Around the time of Passover 1942 a ghetto was set up. Internal affairs were the responsibility of the Jewish Council and the Jewish police. Just like in other White Russian towns, the local Jews believed and hoped that what had happened to the Jews in Lithuania had only been possible because of the murderous attitude of the Lithuanians. They hoped that the White Russians wouldn’t do the same thing.

Yet the goal of the German Fascists was clear to them, as far as the Jewish question was concerned. Nevertheless they placed too much faith in the help they expected from their neighbors.

The Jews who came from Lithuania were warmly received by the Vidz Jews, who helped them to settle in and fed them. But the mass of refugees were the most vulnerable, the first to be sent away to various labor camps and the first to be assigned to the hardest jobs.

The Vidz Jewish Council was a division of the Gluboki Jewish Council, which distributed amongst all of the surrounding White Russian Jewish communities shares of responsibility for producing the requisitions specified by the Germans. When the requisitions were assembled the Vidz Jewish Council would send them to the Gluboki Jewish council, which handed over the assembled money, gold, silver and other valuables to the Germans. The Vidz Jewish Council was responsible for providing the specified number of workers at the proper time.

On two occasions Tevye and Leyzer were forced to escape from the Vidz ghetto. Once Germans came into the ghetto and demanded that all of the Jews gather in an open square. Tevye and Leyzer escaped from the ghetto and hid in the country side for ten days. When they learned that things were quiet in the ghetto, they returned. A second time the Jewish council was supposed to provide workers to be sent to a labor camp near Vilnius. The first to be chosen, of course, were refugees. Leyzer and Tevye again escaped from the ghetto into the country, and waited until the group of workers were sent away from the ghetto.

On a third occasion the Jewish Council was supposed to supply fifteen men for a labor camp in the town of Padbarde. Other towns also had to send a certain number of workers. Six refugees from Ignalina hid in an attic. The Jewish Council refused to give them food. The Jewish police found all of them hiding in an attic and brought them to the ghetto police. There they were given old, patched shoes and a piece of bread, and fifteen men were sent to Padbarde that day. When he arrived in the camp Tevye found Jews there who had been brought from all of the surrounding White Russian towns. A total of one hundred Jews had been brought there, along with a few women. The hundred Jews were brought in from Lentupis, Michalishkis, Švenčionys, Podbarde, Pastoviai, Ignalina and other towns. Among the Jews in the camp were two brothers, survivors from Utenas, and a man named Shmuel Palatz, a survivor from Ukmerge.

The Labor Camp in Padbarde

The day before Yom Kippur 1942 the Jews from the surrounding towns were brought to the town of Padbarde. Bunks had been arranged for them at the edge of town in a former elementary school, and they were given lockers. The camp was not guarded. The Jews were forbidden to leave the camp without permission; if they did, they placed their lives in danger.

Every morning the Jews had to go to work at a large sawmill. The director of the saw mill was a German from Dusseldorf. His last name was Sole. The work supervisor at the saw mill was a Lithuanian from the interior. His last name was Gilutis. This Gilutis was a bitter anti­Semite and a terrible murderer. He would greet every newly arrived group of Jews with blows from sticks and with kicks. At work he never allowed the Jews to rest. The Jews were deathly afraid of him. Groups of Jews were supervised by Jewish foremen, who had to see to it that the work was done well.

There were no set working hours. The Jews worked from dark until dark. Sometimes they worked all day and all night through. There was a kitchen at the saw mill for the Jews. But there was always very little food. The food that was supposed to go to the Jews mostly went to Sole for his own purposes. The Jews had thin soups with various kinds of grass, without any salt or fat. The Jews were thus often forced to leave the worksite to look through garbage cans, looking for leftover food or a piece of bread. Some of them went into town to beg. It cannot be said that the townspeople had any pity on them. The majority drove the Jews out of their houses without giving them a piece of bread.

The Jews had no place to wash themselves properly. Their beds were hard and dirty. They were all half-naked and barefoot.

The young Jewish survivor Shmuel Palatz was once beaten so brutally by Sole that his face could no longer be recognized, and the murderer’s hand was swollen from the force of the blows. All the Jews had to witness this torture. This happened because a Polish worker had reported to Sole that Shmuel supposedly had said that he wasn’t even afraid of Sole. Another Jew was once whipped as well.

Hunger tormented the exhausted Jews. Nothing could stop them from going to the countryside to try to get something to eat. Anyone who was caught going to the country was whipped.

The hundred Jews were kept at that camp for five weeks, and then they were sent to the town of Dūkštas, where the same Sole set up a new sawmill.

The Labor Camp in Dūkštas

The camp was set up at the Hotel Swie in town. When the Jews were brought there, they simply had nowhere to go. The doors and windows were broken. Before the war the hotel had belonged to Jews. After the Jews of Dūkštas were taken away and shot, peasants from the village and from town had vandalized everything. The Jews themselves had to construct bunks for sleeping. The Jews covered themselves with their coats and with various rags. It was always cold. Here as well, there was no limit to the amount of work the Jews had to do. Every day they worked from twelve to eighteen hours, sometimes in two shifts. There was even one occasion when they had to work for two days and two nights in succession. The Jews worked in two sawmills.

The six Jews from Ignalina spent almost the entire time working in the saw mill where the working conditions were worst. As far as food went, things were a bit better. Peasants who used to work bringing the logs from the forest used to throw pieces of bread and some food to the Jews. It was deadly dangerous to sneak out to the countryside. From 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m. the Jews were forbidden to leave the camp, except for when they had to work the night shift. The Jews managed to receive permission to go to the Švenčionys ghetto once a week to get some supplies. One Jew from Breslaw left the camp before 6:00 a.m. once to try to get something to eat from townspeople.

German police caught him and took him to a large room. They herded all of the Jews into the room. They set a huge wolf hound on the Jew from Breslaw, and the dog tore pieces of the man’s flesh. At the same time the police brutally beat the helpless Jew.

Some time later the Jew Matis Kovarsky and his entire family were brought from the Švenčionys ghetto. He was assigned to be the director of the saw mill. More than once this kapo beat his own brothers if he thought they were working badly. He would respond that he had to answer to Sole. Matis himself didn’t need to go to the countryside. He got along well with Sole, and Sole knew that he would illegally sell boards and lumber from the saw mill. In return he would get ham, butter and eggs from peasants. He gave some of this to Sole.

The behavior of this Jewish degenerate toward the depressed, overworked Jews was so inhumane that the Jews developed a plan to murder him and escape into the forest. Tevye and the rest of the Jews of Ignalina did not suffer from hunger for long at that camp. Peasant friends used to bring Tevye and his friends from Ignalina so much food that there was enough to satisfy the hunger of the other Jews as well.

Once, six young men escaped from the Švenčionys ghetto, aiming to make contact with the Red partisans in the nearby White Russian forests. On the way they slept at the Dūkštas camp. In the morning they went away in the direction of Vidz. A few kilometers from Rimshan the German police arrested them and brought them to the police in Dūkštas. From there all six managed to escape. Three of them were caught and shot.

One of them went to a peasant’s house to hide. Police found out about this, surrounding the peasant’s house and captured him there. At the last moment he pulled a knife out of his pocket and killed himself. This young man was a survivor from the town of Turmont. His name was Motke.

(see the testimony about the slaughter of the Jews of Turmont ­ LK).

The other two young men were not caught. This incident had a very bad effect on the lives of the Jews in the camp. When the six Jewish arrestees were being taken out of town in two carts, the Jews in the camp saw them. One Jew from Breslaw exchanged a few words with the arrestees from Breslaw who were in the cart. Police came to the camp, demanding that the Jew who had spoken to the arrestees report himself to them. No one reported himself. The Germans took several Jews out of the line and threatened to shoot them if the “guilty party” didn’t reveal himself. Then the Breslaw Jew came forward. They interrogated him, beat him and released him. They warned the rest of the Jews not to leave the camp without permission.

A Jewish family from Trisvit, consisting of a husband, a wife and a child, were hiding in a village between Dūkštas and Trisvit. The family’s last name was Ring. The wife’s name was Mashe. The husband went to beg for food from peasants in the villages. He was caught, brought to the Jewish cemetery in Dūkštas and shot. Mashe Ring and her child hid with peasants and survived.

The following incident caused a considerable amount of embarrassment and anxiety for everyone in the camp: A Jew from Dvinsk named Schiff and his daughter were in the camp. They had hidden in a White Russian town when the residents were taken to the Padbarde camp. All of the Jews knew that she was sleeping with Sole. The father was ashamed of this, and he used to complain, but there was nothing he could do about it. Once a peasant woman saw the girl sleeping in Sole’s room and reported her. Gestapo came from Kaunas to investigate the matter, and they arrested the girl. However, she managed to escape and made her way to the Dvinsk ghetto. A peasant from Dūkštas spotted her in the Dvinsk ghetto and told the Gestapo, who arrested her and shot her.

When the Dūkštas labor camp was liquidated the Jew Schiff and the young man Shmuel Palatz from Ukmerge escaped to the Dvinsk ghetto. Schiff died there.

The Dūkštas labor camp was liquidated, and all the Jews were taken to the Švenčionys ghetto on March 28, 1943. The Jews suffered in that camp for exactly five months.

The Liquidation of the Švenčionys Ghetto

When the men were taken out of the Dūkštas camp to the Švenčionys ghetto, the Ignalina Jew Shmuel Gilinsky also escaped. All of the rest were brought to the Švenčionys ghetto under guard. The new arrivals found terrible panic in the ghetto. No-one knew what to do or where to go. People were signing up to go to Vilnius or to Kaunas. But the rest of the Jews immediately noticed that it was somehow hard to sign up to go to Vilnius. Most people were signed up to go to the Kaunas ghetto.

The Jews of Ignalina didn’t guess exactly what was being prepared for the Jews, but they had enough experience not to believe any promises made by the Germans and Lithuanians. They were more careful in the ghetto by then. Five Ignalina Jews came from the Dūkštas camp. Tevye, Leyzer Levitan, Yeshayohu Dubinsky, Moyshe Korb and Shloyme Kuritzky decided to escape from the ghetto, and proposed to their friends that they do the same thing. None of their friends could decide. Four Ignalina Jews escaped from the ghetto at midnight on April 3, 1943. Before dawn they arrived at the village of Bitzuni, at the home of the peasant Michal Kapustis. When they had been there for a day, the peasant decided he didn’t want to keep them any longer. They tried their luck with other peasants. No-one accepted them. The two Korb brothers left to try their luck on their own.

Tevye and Leyzer had no money or valuables, and they decided to take a dangerous, bold step. Tevye had left valuables at the home of a peasant named Michal Korbowsky in Ignalina. The two comrades went to the peasant’s home in town at night and took a large package of valuables. They returned to the village of Bitzuni, avoiding the town of Ignalina, and went to a peasant friend of Tevye’s named Kazys Mudin in the village of Petrowa, between Dūkštas and Ignalina. The peasant had often come to the Dūkštas camp and spoken with Leyzer. He always advised him to guard his life and be careful. He even told Leyzer that if he was in danger, he should come to the peasant’s house to hide until the end of the war.

When Tevye and his friend arrived, the peasant wouldn’t even let him into his house. Leyzer had hidden some of his goods with the peasant as well. Since the two men found no place to rest their weary bodies, they decided to return to Švenčionėliai, where they believed they would still be able to find the transport of Jews headed for the Kaunas ghetto. As they walked along during the day on April 4 in the direction of Švenčionėliai, they met a peasant in the forest of Rashkitanu. The peasant was interested in the two Jews, who told him about their plan to catch up with the transport. The peasant urgently dissuaded them from doing this, and advised them to hide instead. He gave them liquor and told them to go into the forest until night time.

The two comrades barely made it until nightfall, and then went to the peasant’s home in the village of Rakutzi, seven kilometers from Ignalina. The peasant who had promised to help them during the day wouldn’t even open the door to them. The two men were in a hopeless situation. They had no place to go, and they had already missed the transport. The two men went to a bath house at a settlement belonging to the peasant Tzekutis. They planned to spend the day there and then continue in the direction of Dūkštas. In the middle of the day the peasant came to the bath house, and when he found the two Jews there, he raised the alarm. Tevye calmed him down, told him who he was and asked him to tell the peasant in the house about him. The daughter of the family knew Tevye. She brought food to the bath house and was “happy” to see the Jews. But after they had stayed for three days, they had to leave at night, and they continued in the direction of Dūkštas. In the village of Belowecky they went to a peasant who lived not far from the railroad tracks, and with whom Tevye had hidden various items of haberdashery. The peasant received them decently, but he was afraid to keep the two Jews in his barn, because Red partisans often attacked the railroad tracks, so there were frequent roundups in that area.

The Jews stayed with him for six days and then went to the village of Pashwagine, to see the woman who ran the Jewish settlement belonging to the Jew Siderevitz. There they met Yerakhmiel Korb and his wife Mirl. They couldn’t stay there, of course, because the peasant women couldn’t support four Jews. They went to a Polish peasant in the same village. The Jews promised to give him everything they owned in exchange for his keeping them for a specified period. The peasant was satisfied with the deal, and agreed to keep them for a certain time. In the middle of the day, however, he demanded that they leave him. The two comrades continued wandering around for some time, having no place to go and hide from death.

When they arrived at the home of the peasant Shtoma in the village of Malwinowa, not far from Dūkštas, he received them very warmly. The good peasant simply wept when he saw the terrible condition the two Jews were in, and he took them to his barn. The Polish peasant did everything he could for the two comrades. He arranged a bath where they could wash, bought them salve in town to heal the scratches on their bodies, and fed them well. They stayed with this good peasant for exactly two weeks. The peasant had a large family, consisting of ten people, and lacked the material resources to support two more people. In addition he was afraid to risk the lives of ten innocent people in his family.

Before he let the Jews go away, he directed them to go to the village of Michalowa, eight kilometers from Dūkštas, to the home of a peasant named Jeronim Taraschewitz, who lived at a crossroads. 

“One of a Very Few”

At 10:00 p.m. the two comrades fearfully knocked at a peasant’s door. He directed them to the owner, who immediately told them to go into a barn. Before daybreak he himself came to see the Jews. They did not know each other. Tevye reminded him who he was. The peasant hesitated, unable to decide whether to accept them. He explained that the peasants brought milk to his house to be handed over to the authorities, and he always had guests. In addition there were roundups of Red partisans in that region, because there was a railroad line nearby.

The two friends explained to the peasant that they had been sent to him. The peasant absolutely demanded to know who had sent them. The Jews wouldn’t tell him. Suddenly the peasant began to weep and kiss the two Jews. After this unexpected response, they told the peasant everything, including who had sent them and that he had kept them for two weeks. “Well, if he supported you for two weeks, I’ll keep you for two weeks as well,” the peasant responded decisively. But he explained as well that he was about to take his son and his sister to a commission in town. If they weren’t drafted into the military, he would keep the two Jews. The peasant paid to have his son and sister released from duty, and arranged a place for the two friends to stay, first in the barn and then in the attic of a stall. The peasant took care of the two Jews as if they were his own children. Two good weeks passed, and the Jews were getting ready to go. The peasant sent his daughter with a message that he was going to keep them for one more week. After the third week the two Jews themselves began begging the peasant to keep them, urgently insisting that he didn’t have to give them so much food. The peasant once again agreed to keep them on. He didn’t say how long he would keep them.

On one occasion he went to the Jews in the attic and told them with satisfaction that he had listened to the Polish radio news from London. The speaker had asked all decent people to do everything they could to rescue those persecuted by the Nazi regime. “What God decides is what will be, either all of us will live or all of us will die,” the peasant declared to the two Jews, and he kissed them.

During the fifth week the peasant brought boards to the attic of the stall and built a false ceiling, which could serve as a hiding place for the Jews in case there was a raid. When the work was finished and straw was spread over it, he called his wife and daughter in and just like an innocent little boy, happily ordered them to find the two Jews. No matter how hard they looked, they couldn’t find the Jews. Then he told the two friends to come out of the hiding place, and he kissed them again as he promised to hide them until the liberation.

Not only the peasant, but his wife and daughter as well, were extremely generous toward the helpless Jews. The peasant woman gave them milk to drink instead of water, and gave them as much food as possible, as if they were children. “You won’t have the strength to get down out of the attic,” she would complain to the two Jews, who were careful not to increase the burden on their rescuers any more than necessary, and who therefore deliberately ate little.

Once the daughter Trotzka was bringing them food, and Germans encountered her. She was so afraid that she went out of her mind and she had to be sent to the hospital in Vilnius.

When the two Jews had been there for half a year, the owner’s sister was taken to Germany. He didn’t buy her way out of it, so that no one would come inspect his house. He temporarily abandoned his sister for the sake of the Jews. That was the kind of man this good Polish peasant was, once he had decided to rescue the two Jews at any price.

It was very dangerous. If the Jews had been found at his home, the peasant would have risked death. There were dangers on every side. His farm was close to the railroad line. Red partisans often blew up parts of the line. There were roundups throughout the surrounding area. More than once Germans and Lithuanian partisans came to his house.

At first he would prepare a bath for the two friends every two weeks. Later this became too dangerous, and he kept them for nine months without letting them down from the attic. He often went up into the attic himself, bringing the growing youths liquor, comforting and encouraging them. He brought them various newspapers and news from the front.

On June 7, 1944 the peasant came up to the attic and told them that the Bolsheviks were advancing, and had already reached Gluboki. He was worried that the front might stop near the farm, in which case his family would have to leave and the two Jews would be left alone. At midday that same day, July 7, 1944, Soviet reconnaissance troops appeared in the village. A short time later they were in the peasant’s yard. Among these advance troops was a Jewish Red Army officer. The peasant brought the two Jews out to the Jewish officer. The peasant, the Jews and the Red officers were overjoyed, and they arranged a big party at the peasant’s house. Dozens of Red Army officers examined the hiding place the good peasant had arranged to keep the Jews safe from the German and Lithuanian cannibals. The officers saw this as a good example of what the Red Army was fighting for, and thanking the peasant for his generosity and the risk he had taken, they called him “the unknown hero of the Soviet Union.”

For some time afterward the good peasant Jeronim Taraschewitz had to hide inside the false ceiling himself, because Lithuanian partisans found out about him and wanted to kill him for having the “nerve” to hide Jews from their demonic, murderous hands.

After the Red Army arrived in Lithuania the former partisans and police began hiding in the forests, terrorizing the surrounding population. More than once they came to Taraschewitz and robbed him. They took a horse and a cow from him, and tried to kill the peasant. Once he barely survived by hiding under the garbage in the stall. About three months after the liberation the good peasant made a party for his peasant neighbors, and also invited representatives of the Soviet security forces. During the party he kissed the two Jewish survivors, calling them his own youngsters. Until the last day the peasant has maintained a correspondence with the two Jews, and their friendship will last forever.

Tevye at the end remembers a number of facts, and asks that they be added to the testimony.

  1. Immediately after the arrival of the Germans in Ignalina, a German went to have one of his teeth examined by the Jewish dentist. After the examination the German asked how much he had to pay. The doctor took two marks for the treatment. For this display of “Jewish nerve” the German drove the dentist out of his house, made him wear a board with an inscription on his chest, and herded him through the streets of the town all day, beating him cruelly.
  2. The intellectual leader of the partisan organization in town was an agronomist named Maldzhius, from the village of Krikjani, fifteen kilometers from Ignalina. His assistant was the teacher Paukshtis from the elementary school in town. Tevye emphasizes that the Lithuanian intelligentsia took active part in slaughtering the Jews of Ignalina, and they always tried to stay in the background, without being noticed.
  3. Tevye clearly remembers that the townspeople used to sign up on lists whenever there was a new decree concerning the Jews. They did this when the Jews were herded into the ghetto, and again when they were taken away to the military compound near Švenčionėliai. In this manner every Lithuanian resident hoped to inherit the goods of the Jews.

Leyb Koniuchowsky collected 121 testimonies from Holocaust victims, which were made public in: The Lithuanian Slaughter of its Jews: The Testimonies of 121 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Lithuania, recorded by Leyb Koniuchowsky, in Displaced Persons’ Camps (1946-48)

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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