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).
THE GRUESOME SLAUGHTER OF THE JEWS OF KĖDAINIAI, SHETA AND ZHEIME
- The eyewitness testimony of Moyshe Krost,
Moyshe born in Kėdainiai on March 18, 1900. Moyshe finished elementary school there. He was a master confectioner by trade. Moyshe lived in Kėdainiai until 1925, and then moved to Taurage. His father’s name was Mikhal and his mother’s name was Khaye-Etl. After he moved to Taurage, Moyshe often came to visit his hometown of Kėdainiai, where his mother and his three brothers Berl, Nisn and Dovid all lived with their families.
Location; The Population and Their Occupations
Kėdainiai is a county seat and a stop on the railroad line between Jonava and Ravilishkis. It is on the Kaunas-Panevezys highway, fifty kilometers north of Kaunas. Through the town flows the Nevezhis River. Not far from Kėdainiai flows the small river Smilga, which empties into the Nevezhis at the edge of town.
More than 6,000 people lived in Kėdainiai. More than half of them were Jewish. Most of the Jews of Kėdainiai were occupied in trade, artisanry, gardening and orchard leasing. Among the larger Jewish enterprises were:
- A steam sawmill owned by the three brothers Gel.
- A mill in the church compound of Švyliai, not far from Kedainiai, also belonging to the brothers Gel.
- A lumber mill belonging to the Sisyansky brothers, at the Viliainiai compound.
- A sawmill owned by the partners Bloch and Frayman, in Jotkishkis, a kilometer and a half from town.
- A cake factory owned by Hillel Krost.
- A leather factory owned by Avrom Podlas, formerly owned by Kahan.
- A brickworks and a tannery owned by the brothers Dovid and Elye Bavilsky.
There were large tanneries in Kėdainiai which belonged to Jews. A large number of Jews had their own gardens, and some of their land was leased. They earned a living from their gardens, and they didn’t live badly. Quite a few Jews leased orchards. A number were also occupied in artisanry. There were large textile stores in Kėdainiai, including the one owned by Yosl Volpert, as well as hardware stores.
Thanks to the fact that Kėdainiai is located not far from Kaunas, it possessed a railroad station and good means of transportation, the Jews earned a decent living. Nevertheless a fair number needed the support of their relatives overseas, especially from South Africa. During the last years prior to the war, the economic situation of the Jews of Kėdainiai grew worse because of phenomenon which affected not only Kėdainiai, but all of Lithuania. There began to be immigration from the countryside to the cities, and along with it came bitter competition from the Lithuanians, who were supported by the government. Thus the Verslas Co-operative competed with the Jews in every aspect of economic life. The members employed anti-Semitic slogans and called on the Lithuanians to buy only from “their own.” The members of Verslas also caused the Jewish artisans considerable trouble. It was never possible for Jews to get government positions in Lithuania.
The Jewish youth in town began to sense that their future was hopeless, and those who could emigrated either to Palestine or to South Africa.
Cultural and Economic Life;
Coexistence with the Lithuanian Population
The Jewish community of Kėdainiai was one of the oldest in Lithuania. The evidence for this was the existence of two cemeteries, next to each other on the right side of the Smilga River, containing old gravestones, half-sunken, whose inscriptions were difficult to read.
The old cemetery was filled with graves, and the new one was almost full as well. It was said in Kėdainiai that the community had been in existence for over four hundred years. Kėdainiai also possessed one of the oldest and most beautiful synagogues in Lithuania. People in Kėdainiai believed that the old brick synagogue had been standing for precisely five hundred years. There was no ceiling in the synagogue. The roof was round, and decorated with frescoes on the inside. From floor to roof stood a high wooden Torah ark, decorated with wonderful carvings, which was considered a remarkable work of art.
In addition to the old synagogue Kėdainiai also had a municipal study house, a large prayer room and two more study houses. On the other side of the Nevezhis there was another synagogue. The rabbi in Kėdainiai was named Zilberg, and there was a rabbinical judge named Rabbi Altmuner. Rabbi Lis, who was the spiritual leader of the local yeshiva, was very popular.
Most of the Jews of Kėdainiai were religious, except for some of .the young people. But even they went to pray on the Sabbath, the holidays and particularly on the High Holy Days.
Kedainiai had a Jewish community bank and a Jewish commercial bank, which gave short-term and long-term loans. The two banks played an important role in the economic and social life of the Jews of Kėdainiai.
The local Hebrew gymnasium played an important role in the education of the young people in town. In addition to academic subjects, the gymnasium also trained the young people to be committed to the renaissance of the Jewish people, and the Hebrew language and literature.
The wealthier families sent their children to study at the Kaunas University. Some of them also studied overseas. Some of them brought their enthusiasm for the renaissance of the Jewish people to the various countries to which they emigrated.
There were two elementary schools in Kedainiai: in one the language of instruction was Hebrew, and in the other it was Yiddish. Among those loyal to the Yiddish elementary school were the few local “Yiddishists” who promoted the principle of “working where we are,” along with a few artisans. But they were a minority in Kėdainiai. By far the largest number of Jews in Kedainiai, including the youth, were organized in Zionist movements.
An important role in the education of the Jewish youth was played by the library, the majority of whose books were in Hebrew and Yiddish. Kėdainiai often received delegates from Palestine, to whom the young people of Kėdainiai paid fascinated attention.
The relations between the Jews and their Lithuanian neighbors grew tense during the several years leading up to the war. The Jews sensed an increase in anti-Semitism. The entry of the Red Army into Lithuania in the spring of 1940 changed every aspect of the lifestyle of the Jews of Kėdainiai, who had no choice but to swallow the bitter pill and give up the ways of life they had followed for generations.
The larger enterprises, stores and houses were nationalized. The Hebrew gymnasium and elementary school had to give up their customary nationalistic education, and had to adopt a curriculum which didn’t suit them.
But there were also young people who looked forward to the new Soviet system, and who saw it as providing them with new opportunities in every area. Some of the Jewish young people received official positions and took active part in political and social life, just like their Lithuanian neighbors. Indeed, this aroused the hostility of the Lithuanians, both toward the Jews and toward the new system. They impatiently awaited their “redeemers,” the brown-shirted Nazi Fascists, who would bring them the opportunity to get rid of the Jews who had had the “nerve” to think they had the same rights as Lithuanians.
The Outbreak of War
When the war between Hitler Germany and the Soviet Union broke out on June 22, 1941, the Krost family was in Taurage. Together with hundreds more Jews, they fled the bombed and burning city in panic. On the way Krost lost his wife and children, and therefore he could not escape to the Soviet Union.
With great difficulty, he managed to find his older son Yisroel and his second son Beynish. Moyshe could not find his wife Ite (nee Zalmanovits in Kėdainiai) nor his youngest son Avrom, and he went to his hometown of Kėdainiai, where he hoped that his wife and youngest son would be staying with his mother and brothers.
Moyshe and his two eldest sons survived a dangerous journey. A few dozen times they were detained by armed Lithuanian bandits who called themselves “partisans,” and who appeared as suddenly as mushrooms after rain. They disrupted the retreat of the Red Army, and also shot at the Jews who flooded all the roads in the area.
Thanks to the fact that Moyshe was carrying his army reserve booklet, proving that he had volunteered for the Lithuanian army during the struggle for independence, he was liberated after he was detained. However, the partisans robbed all of the better valuables he still had in his possession.
Moyshe and His Children in Kėdainiai
On July 5, 1941 Moyshe, together with his two children and other Jews, arrived in his hometown of Kėdainiai. At the station he saw Jews working in gardens which had been nationalized by the Soviets and granted to the Sodyba cooperatives. The Jews were all depressed and hopeless. All of them wore yellow ribbons on their left sleeves. Partisans guarded them while they worked. The Jews recognized Moyshe, but were afraid to speak to him.
When they came closer to the barracks, Moyshe spotted his two brothers Nisn and Dovid. They were repairing automobiles together with other Jews. Germans from the Wehrmacht were guarding them. The brothers were afraid to speak to Moyshe, and gave him a signal not to go through town.
Making his way through fields and side roads, Moyshe reached the synagogue yard where his brothers and his mother lived. At the synagogue yard Moyshe saw torn religious books and a trampled Torah scroll. A military patrol stood in the yard.
When he reached his house he saw the doors locked and the shutters closed. The Jewish homes stood as if orphaned, wrapped in sorrow.
‘Moyshe couldn’t recognize his town. The happy Jewish youth were nowhere to be seen. In fact there were no Jews at all to be seen.
He knocked. Those inside were afraid to open the door. Moyshe knocked several times, and announced who he was. The door was opened. When he went inside the house, he saw the catastrophe that had befallen his family, and found out about the tragic situation of the Jews of Kėdainiai.
When Moyshe’s sisters-in-law saw him, they burst out weeping. Moyshe’s mother Khaye-Etl had received inaccurate bad news concerning Moyshe. The old woman hadn’t survived the news. She had gotten a heart attack and died. The partisans hadn’t granted permission to bury her. The brothers had to appeal to the German commandant. On the third day after her death, she was buried at the Jewish cemetery. There was no funeral. Everyone was afraid to go out into the street.
He found out that the Lithuanians weren’t selling the Jews any food. In order to avoid starvation, some Jews were forced to risk their lives, and go outside of the city to get food from the Jewish farmers.
Before the Germans arrived, a large number of the Jews of Kėdainiai escaped and hid in the countryside. Some of them hid in cellars in the city. Before the Germans arrived, there was a short battle outside the city between the retreating Red Army and the Germans. After the Germans arrived in Kėdainiai, the Jews returned from the villages to their homes, which they found completely looted. Torn bedding and photographs were scattered in the street.
In the evening his brothers returned from work. They complained that while they worked they were beaten and tortured. Their tormenters were Lithuanians from town and from nearby villages. The Germans in particular beat and tormented the Jewish workers. Every morning the men had to report to their assigned workplaces. Those who didn’t have any assigned workplaces had to work at the local airport. Some of the men worked for the Germans, some worked in the gardens of the Sodyba co-operative. Others did agricultural labor in the surrounding compounds. The worst job was the work at the airport. A large number of men worked there. They were guarded by Lithuanian partisans. In the worst heat the Jews had to toil from morning till evening. The partisans used to pressure the Jews to work ever faster. They weren’t fed. All they had to eat was whatever they took from home. No wonder no one wanted to work at the airport.
After the men left for their regular workplaces, partisans would go from house to house, shouting and screaming, and grab men for work at the airport. That was the reason the Jews closed their doors and shutters. When the partisans found men who were hiding, they murderously beat them and forced them to go to work at the airport. In the evening the men were allowed home. Only then were the doors and shutters opened, and the Jews began to appear on the street.
One evening after work, Pine the porter, a healthy, large-boned Jew, complained to Moyshe that he had been so murderously beaten and tormented that the Jewish doctor Sholom Rifkowitz had been obligated to visit him at home, and ordered him to stay in bed. Then he wondered at the survival of the youngest Gel brother, whom the partisans had beaten even worse than himself. That day the partisans forced the Jewish workers at the airport do somersaults in water and mud. Moyshe heard of several such incidents.
The Bedding Action; Murder of Young Jews
On Tuesday, July 8, 1941, before noon, Germans and partisans grabbed young Jewish boys and girls, brought carts out into the street, and drove past Jewish houses. All of the Jewish women (the men were at work or in hiding) were forced to hand over their better pillows, blankets and linen for the hospital the Germans had set up for their wounded.
On Wednesday morning, July 9, 1941, after the men had already gone to work, Germans and partisans went through the Jewish houses looking for men they could take to work. It so happened that Moyshe‘s brother Dovid had stayed at home that day. Moyshe and his elder son managed to hide in an outhouse in the courtyard. They took Dovid off to the airport. The same happened to other Jewish men.
In the evening the men returned from the airport bringing Dovid’s cap. They explained that Dovid had been murderously beaten and taken to prison. Dovid’s wife went to the prison, and brought him his cap and some food. The partisans confiscated these things, but she was unable to see Dovid again.
That same evening partisans began seizing young Jews at home and arresting them. It was said then that they were arresting those who had been Communists, along with those who had occupied, any position whatsoever under the Soviets. In most cases they simply arrested them and then invented various sins connected with Communism. Moyshe remembers that Pine the porter’s daughter was arrested that evening, along with Moyshe Zelmanovits’ three daughters Bune, Leye and Rokhel (aged 22-26), and his son Ruven, aged 20.
There was a terrible panic in the town. The doors and shutters were tightly shut once again that evening. Everyone hid from their own sorrow and from the tragedy surrounding them.
Later, when he was in the Shavl ghetto, Moyshe found out that all of the young people who were arrested had been taken to prison. From there they were taken to the Borer forest next to the railroad station, where they were all shot.
Moyshe Krost was afraid to remain in Kėdainiai any longer. Together with his two sons and one more Jew, he left Kėdainiai for Shavl the next morning, Thursday, July 10. Their lives were in danger more than once during the journey.
While he was in the Shavl ghetto Moyshe heard that before the Jews of Kėdainiai were shot, they had been confined to a ghetto. He doesn’t know how long they were there or what their lives were like. But he heard people in the Shavl ghetto saying that at the pit, a Jew from Kėdainiai named Yitskhok Shlapobersky had choked a Lithuanian partisan to death. Moyshe does not know the details of how the Jews were slaughtered.
In the Shavl Ghetto
When he arrived in Shavl, Moyshe found his wife and youngest child. Together with all the Jews of Shavl they had entered the ghetto, and they had suffered along with everyone else.
Moyshe Krost lost his son Avremele during the action against children. Moyshe was interned at the Shavl airport with his family at the time. Moyshe, his wife and two sons were taken to Stutthof, Germany, together with the Jews of Shavl, and from there he and his two sons were taken to a concentration camp near Dachau. His sixteen-year-old son Beynish died of hunger at Camp 11. Moyshe had by then been transported to Camp 4 as a “Mussulman” (a Jew who was barely alive). There he was liberated by the American army, together with his eldest son. His wife was liberated at another location by the Red Army. Later she was united with her husband and son.
2 The testimony of Aba Lison
Aba was born in 1905. His father’s name was Leybe. Until 1940 he lived with his parents in Vendzhiogala. From 1940 until the outbreak of the war in the spring of 1941, he lived in Kaunas. As soon as the war broke out, he went to join his parents in Vendzhiogala. Aba Lison spent three days each week in Kėdainiai, where he had partners with whom he did business. His partners were Leyzer Reybshteyn and Moyshe Gurvitz. Kėdainiai was his second home.
The Total Destruction of Men, Women and Children
On the first day of the war many young people in Kėdainiai tried to escape to the Soviet Union. But the very first day of the war the Lithuanian bandits began shooting at the fleeing Jews. Many people died along the roads. The German army caught up with them, and the Jews began to return to their homes. The armed Lithuanian murderers immediately set upon the Jews, passing various regulations and ordinances concerning such things as the wearing of yellow patches, not walking on the sidewalk, not speaking to the Lithuanian population, and so forth.
Every day they began taking groups of Jews off to various tasks in the city, especially to the local airport, where they dismantled bombs left behind by the Red Army. About ten Jews were torn to pieces while doing this work. The Lithuanians stood in the distance watching. A large number of Jews were forced to work at the compounds of Podborok, Pelednoga and Zhergina, a few kilometers from town, all of which had been nationalized under the Soviets.
On July 23, 1941, six German trucks took about 200 Jews off to “work,” and they never returned. Those who carried out this action were Lithuanians and a few Germans. Among the local Lithuanians who took active part were three brothers who lived at the horse market: Vacys, Stepan and Juozas Shultsa, and a carpenter named Vaclovas Leshtsinski, who lived on Jasvoin Street in Kėdainiai.
Among the two hundred Jews who were taken away were Yisroel Kahan and his three sons Zalmen, Fayvl and Ortshik; a merchant named Ortshik Karanovsky; Leyzer Reybshteyn, his son Bine, and his brother Yankl, all butchers; two brothers-in-law, a pharmacist named Kagan and a merchant named Pruzhansky, who had married; two sisters named Lina and Gesa Rabinovitz, both dentists; Moyshe Gurvitz, a farmer, along with his wife, a son and two daughters; Yisroel Tober, a baker, along with his wife and daughter; and Mine Shulkiner, a saleswoman.
The relatives who were left behind began running to the leaders of the Lithuanian partisans to find out about the fate of their loved ones. But they couldn’t learn anything. For a large sum of money, the relatives hired a Lithuanian to serve as a special messenger to find out about the fate of the 200 Jews. The Lithuanian quickly returned with a precise answer: that very day, July 23, all 200 had been taken from Kėdainiai to a forest ten kilometers away, near the village of Tavtsunai, where they were shot. The relatives didn’t believe him, but later they realized that this tragedy had indeed occurred.
A short time after this tragedy, the mayor summoned the leading Jews of the town Tsodek Shlapobersky, Khayim Ronder, the textile merchant Blumberg and others. The mayor announced to the Jews that the Jews had 24 hours to leave their homes and settle along Smilgų Street.
On August 20, 1941 all the Jews of Kėdainiai settled on that street. The panic, weeping and suffering of the Jews that day was terrible. In one day the Jews lost everything they had built up with their own hard work over the course of generations. That same day, August 20, 1941, the Lithuanian bandits brought all the Jews from Sheta and Zheime to Smilgų Street. In all there were 1,500 people.
Zheime is twenty kilometers from Kėdainiai. Twenty Jewish families, merchants and artisans, lived there. Sheta is thirty kilometers from Kėdainiai. About 65 Jewish families lived there. Among the 1,500 Jews brought from Sheta and Zheime to Kėdainiai, there were quite a lot of Jews from other towns who had fled during the first days of the war.
The street on which the Jews settled was surrounded by barbed wire. The overcrowding was terrible. As soon as the Jews moved onto that street, the mayor imposed a demand for a large sum of money from the Jews, threatening to annihilate them if they didn’t come up with it in time. The sum was assembled. For three days the Jews were in the ghetto. On August 23, Lithuanian police and members of the Siauliai gun club arrived in the ghetto under the direction of a few Germans, and drove all the men over the age of fourteen out of their houses. The men were lined up in rows of four, and taken to barns at the Zhirgunai compound, at the edge of Kėdainiai. The barn was heavily guarded by Lithuanian bandits who called themselves “partisans.”‘ The Zhirgunai compound had once belonged to the German Todtleben, who had been an army general under the Russian tsars. On the 24th, all of the women and children were driven out of their houses in the ghetto, and they too were brought to the Zhirgunai barns.
That same day, all the women and newborn children were brought from the hospital to the barns. The barns were made of brick. The Jews were not given any food. All they received was black coffee. The Lithuanian bandits came into the barns several times and robbed the Jews’ last possessions.
On Thursday, August 28, 1941 some two hundred Lithuanian railroad workers came to the Zhirgunai compound armed with carbines and hand grenades. The murderers selected all the young, healthy men and took them out of the compound in groups of sixty. The Jews had to keep their arms behind their backs, and were forbidden to speak to each other. They were taken group by group from the compound to the left bank of the Smilga River, about one and a half kilometers from the barn. A long, deep pit had already been dug there over the course of five days by Soviet prisoners. Every group of men was shot at the pit. To prevent the Jews in the barn from finding out about the shootings too soon, the murderers placed huge motors close to the pit. The noise of the motors covered the sound of the machine guns and the screaming of the unfortunate men who were being shot. Many of them fell into the grave only wounded. The Kėdainiai butcher Hirsh Lebjotkin hung himself in the barn.
The town rabbi was among the first group brought to the pit to be shot. He spoke to the Jewish men before they died, advising them not to try to resist, because doing so could have further angered the murderers and led them to shoot the women and children in the barn, who otherwise might have survived.
Among the second group brought to the pit was the Kėdainiai Jew Tsodek Shlapobersky. A German stood near the pit giving orders. Tsodek begged the German not to shoot him. At that the German began beating him. Shlapobersky dragged the German into the pit and began choking him. A Lithuanian bandit jumped into the pit to help the German. Shlapobersky tore out the Lithuanian’s throat. The Lithuanian lay dead. Shlapobersky wasn’t shot, but cut to pieces with knives. The bandit was buried with great ceremony.
After the incident involving Shlapobersky, the murderers took smaller groups of men to the pit. After they finished shooting all the men, they led the women and children to the pit in groups of forty.
They brought the elderly and sickly women to the pit in automobiles and threw them into the pit alive. Finally the murderers brought out the small children. At the pit, the murderers threw the small children into the air and stabbed them with bayonets.
Lithuanian acquaintances of Aba Lison – Michal Shnorevitsius who lived on Vilnius Street, Petras Gedravitsius who also lived in Kėdainiai, and Feliksas Shultsas from the village of Pelednava, later told Lison that after dirt had been shoveled into the pit, the dirt moved up and down, and blood flowed from the pit. The murderers drove steam rollers over the pit to make the earth settle.
Aba Lison escaped from the slaughter of Jews in Vendzhiogala and hid in a village called Medekšai, Kėdainiai Township, six kilometers from the pit. He clearly heard the shooting, but didn’t imagine the gruesome deed the Lithuanian and German murderers had committed. Aba’s sister Mine visited him the next day and told him about the slaughter of the Jews in Kėdainiai. This was three days before the women and children in Vendzhiogala were taken to Babtai, where they were shot the same day, January 9, 1942.
Those Who Survived the Gruesome Slaughter
Two of the Jews in the Zhirgunai compound were Khayim Ronder from Kėdainiai, born in 1903, and Shmuel Smolski, a refugee from Poland who had been born in Posnan. Shmuel had fled Poland during the war between Germany and Poland in 1939, and he had come to Kėdainiai. When the men were taken to be shot, both of them managed to find hiding places in the barn. After all of the men, women and children were murdered, the murderers brought the Jews’ clothing back to the barn, and set a guard around it. During the night Khayim and Shmuel cut an opening in the roof with a knife and removed their shoes. At midnight they lowered themselves from the roof with a rope. The guard didn’t spot them, and didn’t hear them running away. They hid in the forest for a while.
Then they heard rumors from peasants that units of Red partisans had been created in the forests around Vilnius. They decided to leave the bloody earth of Lithuania and look for Red partisans in the Vilnius region.
After a long and dangerous journey, the two Jews arrived in the Vilnius region. But they didn’t find any partisans, because in the fall of 1941 there still were no organized Red partisan groups. The two returned to Lithuania, and by chance happened to go to the village where Aba Lison was hiding. The name of the village was Puzhaitsiai, and the day they arrived there was December 15, 1941. Aba Lison was hiding at the home of a Polish peasant named Feliks Novik. Aba Lison barely recognized Khayim Ronder, who had been a good friend of his before the war. The two Jews were in bad shape; they were frozen, exhausted and malnourished.
The two men gave Abe precise detail about the slaughter of the Kėdainiai Jews. He also found out that only three Jews from Kėdainiai had survived: Khayim, Shmuel and Ben-Tsion Birger. Aba found himself another hiding place, and the two men from Kėdainiai stayed with the peasant Novik. Khayim was half naked. Aba and Khayim went to a forest warden, from whom they took back Khayim’s fur coat and the coat of Khayim’s brother. From that point on the four Jews stayed in contact until the end of the war. Aba’s brother Yosef had also survived the slaughter of the Jews of Vendzhiogala.
The Four Jews Become Red Partisans
Aba, his brother Yosef and the two Jews from Kėdainiai left for the forests in the spring of 1942. With difficulty they managed to settle into a well-camouflaged bunker, where they lived until August 1942. They would go out into the countryside at night to get food. Meanwhile they acquired a rifle and two hand grenades. They found out that fifty kilometers further, near Sheta in the Lantsunava forest, there was a group of Red partisans made up of escaped Soviet prisoners of war. In the fall of 1942 the four Jews met the partisans. Later they established contact with those in the Rudnitski Pushtshe, and began to live as partisans. The four Jews stayed with the Red partisans until the liberation. They survived many dangers during that time. More than once they saw Death before their eyes.
On January 9, 1944 at 4:00 p.m., while sitting in a bunker in the Podborski forest, the two comrades Aba and Khayim were attacked by Lithuanian police armed with machine guns. The bunker was abandoned, half filled with water, and no one lived there. Aba and Khayim only planned to spend the day there and then go further. It was clear to the two comrades that they had been betrayed. They didn’t lose their wits, however. They threw a grenade at the Lithuanian police, and used the ensuing panic to run in different directions. At night the two got back together. They ascertained that they had been betrayed by the peasant Girgeravitsius from the village of Podborupe. Three days later Aba and Khaim, accompanied by a Russian, shot the peasant, his wife and his father. The three comrades hung a warning on the peasant’s house, stating that any Lithuanian who tried to prevent innocent people from staying alive could expect the same fate. The entire surrounding region was terrified. No one dared to enter the house until the police came. The priest was afraid to bury the three corpses at the Christian cemetery. They were buried outside the cemetery fence. The priest was from Labanova.
Nevertheless, the Jews and their comrades, the Red partisans, began to be hunted. They all went to the region of Ukmerge. But in that area there were raids carried out by Lithuanians and Germans against Red partisans. A group of sixteen men, including the four Jews, went back to the Lantsunava forest in the Sheta-Kedainiai region. In that area all the Jews fought and lived together with the rest of the Red partisans until they were liberated by the Red Army.
Interned Jews Escape from the Airport;
Rivkė Levit, Leader of the Ranks at the Airport
A camp was created in Kėdainiai for Jews brought from the Kaunas ghetto. The Jews worked at the airport. After work, the Jews were allowed to go into the countryside to barter their valuables for food. While wandering through the countryside, the Jews met Red partisans, who showed them a letter from Aba written in Yiddish. The Jews in the camp organized themselves and prepared to escape to join the Red partisans in the forest. Their leader was a young woman named Rivke Levit, who was a supervisor over the Jews at the airport in Kėdainiai.
The first group of young people left the camp in March 1944. Six of them were shot while escaping from the camp. Eighteen managed to escape, and reached the Red partisans safely. A hundred young people were supposed to escape the camp that day. But suddenly the guard was reinforced, and no one else managed to escape. Later there was talk of betrayal by a Jewish camp leader.
Rivke Levit’s mother was shot the next day as punishment for the “guilt” of her daughter, who had been the major initiator of the escape. Out of the eighteen who escaped, one Jew named Kirke Solski died later during a conflict with Lithuanian police who were carrying out a raid. The rest survived, and were liberated by the Red Army.
The Death of Kirke Solski.
Eight partisans, of whom Solski was the only Jew, went to the homes of peasants in the village of Ritsunai and seized weapons. At night the eight divided into two groups of four, and without asking the farmer’s permission, one group went to the barn and the other went to a small bath in a hut in a field. The next day the woman farmer found out about her uninvited guests. She immediately reported them to a teacher in the nearby village of Kulve. The teacher reported this by telephone to the Jonava police, who immediately drove up and surrounded the farm. There was a battle which lasted for an hour and a half. One of the partisans was slightly wounded during the battle, and Kirke Solski was killed. The seven surviving partisans managed to escape the encirclement. When the Lithuanian police drove away from the village, the seven men returned and burned all of the farm buildings. They did not find the woman or any of the members of her family at home. The Jews suspected that Kirke Solski had actually been shot by his seven comrades.
Aba Lison testifies that on August 28, 1941, on the left bank of the Smilga River next to the Jewish cemetery in Kėdainiai, some 4,000 Jewish men, women and children from Kėdainiai, Sheta and Zheim were shot.
While Aba was wandering through the countryside in August 1941, he met a sixteen-year-old girl named Khayele Labinovsky from Vendzhiogala who had survived. Aba took Khayele under his protection, and found her a place to stay at the home of a peasant woman named Kustantova in the village of Serbinai, Kėdainiai Township. The peasant woman was poor and lived alone. Aba had to provide food and clothing for both women. He had to bring everything at night. Khayele stayed with the peasant woman for thirteen months. Aba couldn’t find a permanent place for her, but peasants were found with whom she stayed sometimes for a few months, sometimes for a few days. Thus she wandered until she was liberated. After the liberation, Khayele married Yosef Lison, Aba’s brother.