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 Lithuanian, recorded by Leyb Koniuchowsky, in Displaced Persons’ Camps (1946-48).
My speech at the Cape Town Holocaust and Genocide Center on October 27, 2022 is here:
Lithuania did not punish a single Holocaust perpetrator, instead, the government of Lithuania deem many of the murderers as their national heroes.
THE SLAUGHTER OF JEWS IN THE SMALL LITHUANIAN TOWN KOLTINAN (KALTINENAI)
Related by Sender Linkimer, born in Shkud (Skuodas) on September 7, 1905. Father’s name; Mikhl. Mother’s name; Gitl, nee Karpul, from Shkud. Lived in Shkud and in Shadeve (Sheduva) until 1936. Lived in Koltinan from 1936 until the outbreak of the war.
Koltinan is in Tawrik County, 30 kilometers from Tawrik, about 40 kilometers from Shavl. A new highway between Kovno and Palangen (Falanga) runs through the town.
Some three hundred families lived in the town. (There were about a hundred Jewish families LK). The majority of the Jewish population was occupied in commerce. A very small percentage were occupied in agriculture.
Among the smaller enterprises the following should be mentioned:
- A tannery and leather processing plant owned by the Jew Sender Linkimer, the narrator of this testimony.
- A wool spinning workshop owned by the town kosher slaughterer.
The larger businesses were:
- A manufacturing concern owned by Yisroel Klas;
- A manufacturing concern owned by David Aron;
- A manufacturing concern owned by Khonon Feygus.
- An iron business owned by Yoshe-Itshe Elkon.
The economic life of the Jews in town was good. All of the Jewish inhabitants had adequate livelihoods. There was an elementary school in Koltinan, a large new synagogue built in 1937, and a small library. Some of the Jewish young people studied in the nearby larger cities, Tawrik and Shavl. The majority of the young people were organized in Zionist movements. A smaller number were members of the Communist party, which was illegal at that time.
The attitude toward the Jews on the part of the Lithuanians living in the town and surrounding countryside was good until the beginning of the war.
The Outbreak of War
On Sunday, June 22, 1941, the Jews of Koltinan found out about the war between Fascist Germany and the Soviet Union. That same morning the fires burning in Tawrik could be clearly seen. Some of the Jews from Tawrik who fled to Koltinan talked about the dreadful bombardment of Tawrik.
On Sunday morning the Jews in town began to flee hurriedly to the countryside, taking along their more valuable and necessary possessions.
On Sunday evening German artillery began shooting at the town, and all the remaining Jews fled the town.
On Monday, June 23, at about 3:00 a.m., there was a battle about two kilometers from town. The town, which is situated in a valley, did not suffer in the fighting. Villages surrounding the town were destroyed in the battle. At 6:00 a.m. on Monday the German army entered the town.
On Monday afternoon, the Jews returned from the countryside to their homes. The houses had been completely looted by Lithuanian residents of the town. Even the furniture was gone. The civilian control of the town fell into the hands of partisans, who worked with the Nazis. They immediately set up the civilian administration. The leader of the partisans was a Lithuanian from town named Prashtsys; the chief in town was a Lithuanian farmer.
Several days after the arrival of the Germans, orders and decrees against the Jews appeared. Jews were forbidden altogether to leave their houses and go into the street or to the marketplace. They were even forbidden to look out through their windows. Jews had to wear two yellow Stars of David. At night, Jews had their windowpanes broken. Every morning at 7:00 all able-bodied men had to report to the square near the town hall. From there the Jews were taken off to various jobs: chopping wood, cleaning outhouses, filling up craters made by bombs. Partisans from town whom the Jews knew, kept watch as they worked, and they did not let the Jews rest. After work, the men went back home by themselves.
The day after the Germans arrived in Koltinan, a Jew named Karebelnik drove another Jew to Krozh (Kraziai). When they were several kilometers out of town, both Jews were shot by partisans. The horse and wagon returned to town empty.
Young, Healthy Men Taken to the Heidekrug Camps; Old, Weak and Sick Men Shot
Some five weeks after the arrival of the Germans in town, on Sunday, July 20, 1941, two armed partisans came to Sender and took him away from his work at the tannery. Sender asked where they were taking him. The partisans ordered him to keep silent. Sender saw his wife Hene with their daughter Gitele, aged 12 at the time, and a younger boy named Lybele, aged 8. Sender wanted to speak to his wife. The partisans did not permit him to.
The partisans brought Sender to the synagogue, where all the Jewish men in town had already been herded together. The synagogue was heavily guarded by partisans, who let no one out and no one in.
On Saturday, July 19, 1941, several trucks carrying SS men came to the synagogue. There was a great panic among the men in the synagogue. One day earlier partisans had shot all of the Jewish men in the town of Shilale. The men in Shilale had been herded into the synagogue by partisans. The partisans had thrown grenades through the windows. Many people died on the spot. The Jews began to get out through the windows. Then all of them were shot. This was on Friday, July 18, 1941.
The Jews in Koltinan found out on Saturday what had happened in Shilale. While the Jewish men were being herded into the synagogue, everyone thought that the murderers were preparing to do the same thing that had been done in Shilale.
The SS men, commanded by the Sturm-Fuehrer Dr Schau, a resident of Heidekrug, entered the synagogue and ordered the men to remain standing. They asked whether everyone in the synagogue was Jewish. Then they forced the men to do various calisthenics, which they accompanied with blows from their sticks and rifle butts. They forced the rabbi to put on his tallith, and beat him until he bled. After two hours of these “gymnastics,” all of the men were pale and covered with sweat.
They took the rabbi out of the synagogue. Near the synagogue there was a deep pit caused by a bomb. The rabbi had to enter the pit with the Torah scroll in his arms. The murderers tore his beard and burned his sidelocks with lit candles. While the rabbi was still standing in a pit wrapped in his tallith and holding a Torah scroll in his arms, the SS men ignited the Torah scroll. After torturing him, they shot him with a Browning.
The men who had been driven out of the synagogue saw the rabbi lying dead in the pit. One of the murderers shouted to the men: “There’s your rabbi!”
Then the men were lined up in rows of five. The Sturm-Fuehrer, Dr Schau, made the following speech to the men: “Don’t be worried. Nothing will happen to you. You’re going off to work for eight days.” He threatened to shoot anyone who tried to escape.
The elderly and sick were driven back into the synagogue. An SS man or a partisan accompanied each of the young men to their homes, where they were permitted to take their valuables, clothing and food. Sender took his leave of his family.
All of the men were driven back together close to the synagogue. The SS men took the Jews’ money, gold, rings and better things.
Jewish women and children were forbidden to leave their homes. Armed partisans were posted around the town. Lithuanian inhabitants of the town and nearby villages stood nearby and watched with cheerful satisfaction as the Jews were driven out of Koltinan.
Roughly two hundred men were packed into the trucks. Three trucks carrying partisans and SS men rode in back, watching to see that none of the Jews escaped. The trucks stopped in a forest about 12 kilometers outside of town. The Sturm-Fuehrer took out a list and read the last names of three young Jewish men’s who came from a nearby town. All three young men were taken about ten meters away from the road into the forest, and immediately shot for everyone to see. Meanwhile all the Jewish men in the trucks had to sit or kneel; the SS men threatened to shoot anyone who tried to stand up in the trucks.
The three were shot in the Tubiner Forest (Tubinos Mishkas), between Shilale and Koltinan. As they continued, the trucks drove through the towns of Khveidan (Kvedarna), Nayshtot (Naujamiestis) and Laukuva. No Jews were to be seen in these three towns.
On the same day, Sunday, July 20, the trucks carrying the Jewish men came into the German town of Heidekrug (Silute), in Memel County. A camp had already been prepared outside the town, in the compound of the Sturm-Fuehrer Dr Schau. The camp consisted of about ten buildings. It was surrounded by a guard consisting of German SS men and police. Jewish men from various towns around Tawrik had already been herded into the camp.
All of the men who had been rounded up slept on the ground inside the buildings. The next morning, on Monday, July 21, Sturm-Fuehrer Schau drove all the Jews out of the buildings into the courtyard and lined them up in rows. He ordered all of the sick and elderly to get out of line and stand by themselves.
More than three-quarters of the men got out of line. Even healthy men pretended to be sick, because their desire to go home was so great that most of them were easily caught by Dr Schau’s fishing rod.
The murderer assured the elderly and sick that he was taking them to a doctor for a health examination. All of them were taken into a forest the same day and shot. The forest is not far from the village of Schaudvitz. (See the collective testimony concerning the camps in Heidekrug – LK)
On that same day, Monday evening, July 21, 1941, the possessions of the men who had been shot were brought in trucks.
The men remaining in the camp were ordered to choose things for themselves. They were in a terrible panic. The men recognized the possessions of their murdered fathers, brothers and friends. It was clear to everyone that the men who were taken away had been shot. There were cases of sons finding not only the possessions of their fathers, but their documents as well. Everyone grew apathetic toward what happened in the camp later on.
After he had been in the camp for four weeks, Sender found out that all of the women and children had been shot in the Tubiner forest in mid September, 1941. The partisans assured the women that they were being taken away to join their husbands. This was told to Sender Linkimer by peasants from the villages around Koltinan, with whom he was acquainted. (Concerning the further experiences of Sender in the camp near Heidekrug, see the report on the Heidekrug camps- LK)
Sender’s wife and two children died in Koltinan. Sender Linkimer was the only Jew in town who survived.