THE SLAUGHTER OF THE JEWS OF LENTUPIS
Eyewitness testimony of Moyshe Gilinsky, born in Lentupis on May 13, 1912. Until the war broke out and at the time the war broke out on June 22, 1941, he lived in Lentupis. His father’s name was Dovid-Shloyme Gilinsky. His mother was Khane, born Gordon. He completed three grades of elementary school. He was a retail merchant by trade.
Geographic, Cultural and Political Life of the Jews
Lentupis is located southeast of Švenčionys. It is twelve kilometers from Švenčionys and ninety kilometers from Vilnius. Through the town runs a wide-gauge railroad line linking Vilnius and Pastoviai, as well as a narrow-gauge railroad to Švenčionys. Gravel roads connect the town with the surrounding area. Until Poland collapsed in 1939 the town belonged to the Švenčionys region. After Poland collapsed the town was assigned to the White Russian Soviet Republic. In March 1942 the town was assigned to Lithuania.
More than 3,000 people lived in the town, including about three hundred Jews. Most of the Jews in town were occupied in trade, along with a small number of artisans. The Christian population consisted of White Russians and a few Poles. The villages around the town were occupied by White Russians and a few Poles.
Among the more substantial businesses in town were a distillery and sawmill belonging to the Polish nobleman Bischewsky.
The town had prominent Jewish lumber merchants. Until the war broke out on June 22, 1941, the attitude of the Christian population toward the Jews was good. The Jews did not live badly. Lentupis had an elementary school with instruction in Yiddish, a Yiddish-Hebrew library, a free loan society, and a study house. The majority of the Jewish youth belonged to Zionist movements.
The War Breaks out June 22, 1941
After the war broke out a few dozen Jews evacuated to the Soviet Union with the Red Army. Most of them were young people who had occupied positions in the Soviet institutions. Several Jewish families escaped. They were caught by the Germans, however. Some of them returned. Some of them remained as refugees in various White Russian towns.
About ten days after the war broke out, Germans entered the town without a battle. The townspeople joyfully welcomed the German army. Immediately after the Germans arrived the civil administration was established.
- The new mayor was a Pole from town name ??.
- The voit in town was the same mayor, ??.
- The chief of police was the Pole ??.
The police were recruited among the townspeople and the residents of the surrounding villages. Most of them were Poles. Christians accompanied by Germans began robbing Jewish homes. The able-bodied Jewish men and women immediately began to be taken to do various jobs at the distillery and the saw mill; cleaning the streets and toilets, and the civil and military offices. While the Jews worked they were guarded by Germans and police, who beat the Jews brutally. The Jews kept living in their own homes.
At the end of the first month of the war various anti-Jewish directives were issued. According to German regulations, Jews were forbidden to walk on the sidewalk, to talk or do business with Christians, to leave the town, and so forth. Jews were also forbidden to appear in the streets, except for those who were under guard and on their way to work. Jews had to put on two stars of David.
Every morning at 7:00 a.m. the Jewish workers had to go to the yard of the police headquarters in town, and from there they were taken to do various tasks under guard.
The Jews Yudl Mauker and his brother Moyshe had occupied minor posts under the Soviets. Police arrested both of them and accused them of being Communists. The two Jews were taken to prison in Old Vilejki. They were tormented in the prison for a week, and then they were shot. This happened around the time of the High Holidays in 1941. They were the first Jewish victims in Lentupis.
The Ghetto in Lentupis
Until the end of 1941 the Lentupis Jews lived at home. Nothing particularly dramatic happened. Around the time of the High Holidays Jewish survivors of the slaughters in Lithuanian towns, including Švenčionys, began to arrive. The Jews of Lentupis learned from these refugees about the slaughter of the Jews.
The murders of the Jews at the compound near Švenčionėliai on October 8 and 9 made a terrible impression on the Jews of Lentupis. Not all the Jews believed that these terrible reports were accurate. Later Jews who had been at the pits and survived arrived in Lentupis and corroborated everything.
Shortly before New Year’s 1942 a German came from Pastoviai and ordered the mayor to take the Jews to the Pastoviai ghetto.
The town had a committee of the following Jews: Khayem Katzkovitz; Max Rakovsky and Bashe Rudnitzky. The committee served as a “requisition bureau” for the Germans and the police in town. The committee gathered money from the town Jews and gave “gifts” to the Germans and police.
When the committee received an order to announce to the Jews that they had to get ready to go to Pastoviai, they promised the German who gave them the order a fine “gift” and asked him to allow them to enter a ghetto in Lentupis itself, because it was terribly cold at that time.
Members of the committee announced to the Jews that in order to be allowed to remain in Lentupis every family would have to bring a fur coat and valuables to the police. Moyshe Gilinsky brought five gold rubles. The German from Pastoviai sat in a separate room with Soroka, the secretary of the police. On the table stood two plates. Moyshe placed the five rubles in one of the plates. The secretary wrote his first and last names down on a list. The German drove away.
One week later the Jews had to move to a ghetto consisting of a few dozen old, half-ruined houses near the edge of town. The Christians took over the Jews’ houses and left their old huts to the Jews. The Jews had 24 hours to move. The Jews were allowed to bring everything they wanted with them into the ghetto. Machines, radios, and bicycles had been taken from the Jews immediately after the Germans arrived. Several days before the Jews went into the ghetto all the Jews had taken their cattle and horses to the Lentupis compound.
The day the Lentupis Jews moved into the ghetto, Germans and police came from Pastoviai and arrested the mayor of the town, his secretary and the town rabbi, along with the rabbi’s wife and their ten-year-old child. It was said at the time that the rabbi and the mayor had been arrested for listening to the radio at the mayor’s house. The rabbi and the mayor lived in two attached dwellings under one roof. That same evening everyone was taken to Pastoviai. The committee assembled a “gift” for the Germans in Pastoviai and went to Pastoviai. The rabbi and his wife and child had already been shot.
The rabbi and the mayor were reported by local police and peasants, who were angry that the Jews had been allowed to continue living in Lentupis, instead of them being sent to Pastoviai. For a few weeks the mayor and the secretary were under arrest in the Pastoviai prison, and then they were released. The mayor did not return to his position.
The small ghetto neighborhood was not surrounded. There were no ghetto police. The previous committee remained in place, but now it was called the Jewish Council. The functions of the Jewish Council also remained the same as they had been under the previous committee. The Jewish Council served as the intermediary between the ghetto Jews on one hand, and the Germans and police on the other hand. The Jewish Council in the ghetto also had to fulfill “requisitions” and offer “gifts.”
The able-bodied men and women had regular labor assignments to which they reported every morning. The Jews worked in the distillery, in a pitch-refining plant and at the Romanishky estate. The Jews were not fed or paid for their work. They exchanged their possessions with the Christian population for groceries. There was no guard posted around the ghetto neighborhood.
During the winter of 1941-1942 life in the ghetto was monotonous, without any particular news or surprises. At the beginning of the spring of 1942 the Jews of Lentupis learned that Lentupis and the surrounding villages had been assigned to Lithuania. The news caused distressed confusion in the minds of the Jews, who by then had heard enough about the Lithuanians’ cruelties. Refugees from slaughtered Lithuanian communities left Lentupis in panic and escaped to nearby White Russian towns, mostly to Pastoviai. Some of the Jews of Lentupis left the town as well and settled in White Russia. A number of refugees were arrested by police and Germans while escaping from town, and were shot.
In the spring of 1942 Lithuanians from the interior arrived in town and set up a Lithuanian civil administration. After the Lithuanians arrived the Jews continued living just as they had before.
The Attack on Beck
On May 19, 1942 peasants had to assemble horses for the German army. Beck and two Germans, along with a Polish translator, left Švenčionys for Svir. Three kilometers from the town of Lentupis they were detained by a group of Red partisans led by Markov. The Germans were shot and the automobile was burned. Their secretary-translator Rakowska was released by the Red partisans.
That very morning Moyshe Gilinsky went to town from the Romanishky estate. Four men and twenty women were working at that government owned estate. The four men were Moyshe, his brother Leyzer-Itze, Yosl Rudnitzky and Yisroel Rimer. The men generally slept at the estate.
The women went to the ghetto after work. The estate is three kilometers from the ghetto. On May 19, Moyshe came to town. The twenty women and three men were working at the estate.
The attack took place near the village of Maznadejishkis. At 8:00 a.m. terrified reports were heard in Lentupis about the deaths of three Germans. At 11:00 a.m. Germans and Lithuanian police attacked all of the villages in a radius of five kilometers of the site of the attack. They took prisoner all the men they found, and brought them to the yard of the police in Lentupis. They shot dozens of men and hung them in the villages.
Germans and Lithuanians took the men who had been seized in the countryside away from the police compound. At 9:00 they shot all the peasants in a field near a forest a half kilometer from town.
Among those who were shot were two Jews whom the Germans found working at the Romanishky estate. These two Jews were Leyzer-Itze Gilinsky (Moyshe’s brother) and Yisroel Rimer.
That same morning Leyzer-Itze told his brother Moyshe that he had had a bad dream the previous night. He had dreamed that a dead friend had removed his gold ring.
The next day, May 20, the Germans herded a second group of peasants from nearby villages into a courtyard near the police station. This group was taken away in trucks along the road to Švenčionys. They stopped at a field not far from town. There they were all shot. That same day three White Russian policemen were also arrested, and they were shot on trees in the middle of town. Several White Russians and Poles from town were taken away along with the peasants and shot.
During those two days a total of 450 men were shot near Lentupis. During the night of May 19, the Jews in the ghetto could not sleep.
At 1:00 a.m. the chief of the Lithuanian police arrived with his assistant and told the terrified Jews that nothing would happen to them. He said that he had argued strenuously on behalf of the Jews, and he had averted the annihilation of everyone in the ghetto. At night the Jews gathered valuables and gave them as a “present” to the two Lithuanian policemen. The Jews did not go to work during those two days.
The two murdered Jews were buried separately. After the war Moyshe Gilinsky and a few other survivors exhumed the corpses of his brother and Yisroel Rimer. The two Jews were buried in the mass grave of the slaughtered Lentupis Jews.
At the beginning of September 1942 two Germans came from Vilnius in a passenger automobile. They entered the ghetto together with police. All of the Jews had returned from work. It was already evening. The two Germans lined up all the Jews outside in the ghetto and assembled all of the old, the sick, women and children and Jews who weren’t working anywhere or were occupied at non-essential jobs in town and in the ghetto.
The Christian employers of the Jews came to the ghetto. They gave the Germans lists of the Jewish workers whom they absolutely needed. The Germans refused to recognize the importance of some of the names on the lists, and they assigned these Jews to the non-“useful” category. About five dozen Jews, men, women and children, some of them old and sick, were taken to the Švenčionys ghetto that same evening. (Concerning this, see the slaughter of the Jews of Švenčionys – LK)
Throughout the summer some of the young, able-bodied Jews were taken out of the ghetto to various camps around Švenčionys. A hundred Jews remained behind in the Lentupis ghetto after the non-“useful” Jews were taken to Švenčionys. The Jews who remained in Lentupis had to leave the ghetto neighborhood, and they moved into three houses in the center of town. The ghetto neighborhood was needed by peasants, because they had their sheds and barns there, where they stored the grain and potatoes from their fields.
The Total Destruction of the Ghetto
On December 19, 1942, at 1:00 Friday night, Red partisans attacked the town of Lentupis. Shooting began in the streets. The Jews lay in their houses in terror, not knowing what to do. The Red partisans burned the post office and robbed the offices of the civil”administration. They were in town for about an hour and a half.
On the morning of Saturday, December 23 the Jews noticed that their three houses had been surrounded by armed Lithuanian police. About ten young people managed to escape from the ghetto. The rest couldn’t decide, because of the women and children and other family members.
At 8:00 a.m. several German and Lithuanian police came from Švenčionys. About ten Jews were wounded and shot in their houses. The rest of the Jews, men, women and children, were driven out of their houses in nothing but the clothes they were wearing. They were taken away in wagons under heavy guard in the direction of Mikhalishkis. Not far from the gravel road, half a kilometer from Lentupis, near a forest, not far from the Christian cemetery, all the Jews were shot at 3:00 p.m. that Saturday evening.
Peasants from town threw the murdered Jews in a single mass grave and covered it with dirt.
Moyshe Gilinsky was together with his mother and two married brothers. His mother begged Moyshe to save himself by running away. When they began shooting Jews in the houses Moyshe went up to the attic. There he found Avrom Reyn, Hirsh Kharmatz and two girls named Esther Katzkovitz and a refugee from the town of Kobilnik. While lying in the attic these Jews saw all the Jews being taken from town. This happened at 2:00 p.m. A short time later they heard machine gun fire coming from near the Christian cemetery. The hidden Jews no longer had any doubts that those taken away had been shot.
At 8:00 p.m. that same Saturday the Jews tried to get down from the attic on a rope, because policemen had taken the ladder when they went to search for Jews in the houses after everyone was taken away. Moyshe was the first one to get down by the rope, and he began to run. He was shot at. On Monday, December 22 Moyshe arrived at the Švenčionys ghetto. Several days later the rest of the Jews who had been hiding in the attic arrived there as well.
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)