The slaughter of the Jews of Luoke

(Courtesy of author)
(Courtesy of author)

What Dvoyre Zif witnessed:

Lithuania has an entire government department dedicated to falsifying the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania, exonerating Lithuanian Holocaust perpetrators, and shifting blame elsewhere.

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). Either these Survivors were delusional or mendacious, or the government of Lithuania is lying.

Michael Kretzmer, an English-Litvak documentarian, made a harrowing film called “J’Accuse! A cry from the killing pits of Lithuania”, which will receive its World Premiere at the Jewish International Film Festival in Australia next month.

Many governments, organizations and individuals have voiced their staunch disapproval of Lithuania’s Holocaust deceptions, including – the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, the US State Department, the US Congress, Lithuania’s own Presidential Commission, Simon Wiesenthal Center, American Jewish Congress, the Lithuanian Jewish Community, the European Jewish Community, the World Jewish Congress and many more. Lithuania stands exposed in front of the world as Holocaust revisionists.

When Lithuania looks us in the eye and misrepresents, they are insulting us and treating us with contempt. More importantly, when Lithuania covers up the crime of genocide and avoids culpability, it shows current and future mass murderers that they too can get away with murder. It has worked for Lithuania, and it will work for others. This places our future generations at risk. We are not just addressing this for our ancestors, we are doing this to protect our children.

Holocaust revisionism is antisemitism. Lithuania defining the murderers of Jews as national heroes is insulting the victims and insulting to every one of us. Rewriting history to declare the murderers as innocent or heroic is dehumanizing to every Jew.

The government of Lithuania tells us that 220,000 Jews were “lost”. Please read Dvoyre’s testimony and see if you are able to find any clues as to where these “lost” Jews might be:

Dvoyre Zif was born May 25, 1927 in Luoke. She finished the Hebrew elementary school there. From 1939 until 1941 Dvoyre studied in the Lithuanian gymnasium in Telzh, completing three grades. After the war Dvoyre completed gymnasium in Munich. Her father’s name was Khayem, and her mother’s name was Beyle Grad. Until the outbreak of the war, Dvoyre lived in Luoke, where she survived the slaughter of the Jews of her town.

Luoke is located 23 kilometers from Telzh and 30 kilometers from Shavl. Two kilometers from town flows the small river Virvyte. Until the outbreak of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, some 500 Jews lived in Luoke. The Jews were mostly occupied in commerce. A small number were artisans, and only a few did agricultural work.

Among the larger enterprises must be mentioned a mill, along with a sawmill and a wool-combing workshop belonging to the brothers Berl, Yankl and Moyshe Lesem. Luoke had a Jewish national bank until the summer of 1940; a Hebrew elementary school; a library and a new synagogue.

Most of the Jewish youth were Zionists. After the Red Army entered Lithuania in 1940, Jewish young people threw themselves wholeheartedly into the life of the political organizations. The Jews were given government positions, which was impossible under President Smetona’s regime.

After the war broke out on June 22, 1941, some 25 Jewish families, mostly young people, evacuated with the Red Army to the Soviet Union. Almost all of the Jews in town escaped from town to the countryside, in order to avoid a possible battle for control of the town.

In the evening of Thursday, June 26, 1941, the Germans were already in town. Bit by bit the Jews began to return to town from the surrounding villages. They found their homes looted and vandalized by the Lithuanian inhabitants of the town, who had not escaped.

On the morning of Saturday, June 28, 1941, several Germans and partisans (armed Lithuanian murderers) arrested the town rabbi, Rabbi Kravitsky, and took him to a forest near the town in a car. There they tormented the rabbi dreadfully, and demanded that the rabbi show them where Red Army soldiers lay in hiding. Some time later they brought him back home, barely alive. They forced the rabbi’s wife to carry a huge mattress, and beat her while she was doing so. The partisans began taking the able-bodied Jews off to do various kinds of work, and tormenting them.

As soon as the Germans arrived in town, a complete civilian administration emerged from underground.

The Situation of Jews Under the Civilian Administration

A Lithuanian who had been imprisoned in the Kovno jail during the Soviet period became mayor. At the outbreak of the war he escaped from prison and came to Luoke. The chief was a Lithuanian merchant from the town named Mironas. The commandant of the partisans was a farmer from a nearby village and his wife, was a teacher in the Lithuanian elementary school in town. The name of the commandant was Vincas Venckus.

At the beginning of the second week of the war the partisans demanded a levy of 30,000 rubles from the Jews. In order to make the Jews assemble this amount on time, they took hostages. Among them were the mother of this witness, Beyle. Kalmen Blank, Shloyme Novik and Yehudis Kravitsky. They collected the sum demanded of the Jews and brought it to the commandant of the partisans.

Only a few Germans remained in town at that time. The partisans ordered the Jews around at will. The hostages were freed with the help of a German major in town, even before the demanded sum of money was brought to the partisan’s headquarters.

Every Lithuanian who had a grudge against a Jew seized the opportunity to betray the Jews to the partisans. For the most part they accused the Jews of sympathy for Communism. Thus the partisans arrested Jewish men and women on account of false accusations. Dvoyre remembers among them:

  1. The two Lesem brothers;
  2. Mayerovitz, owner of a restaurant;
  3. Kalmen Blank, a lumber merchant, with his wife and two children; as well as others whose first and last names Dvoyre no longer remembers. All of those arrested were thrown into the cellar in the home of the peasant towns woman Dambrauskiene, in whose home the headquarters of the partisans was also located.

Roughly a week after the German army entered the town, partisans ordered the Jews to leave their homes within half an hour. They permitted the Jews to take along hand-held packages. The partisans locked the houses, and herded the Jews into the marketplace. The partisans threatened to shoot on the spot anyone who remained in his home more than half an hour.

Wagons had been gathered together in the marketplace, and on them the Jews were taken to a compound called Gudishke, one kilometer from Luoke. The compound had been nationalized by the Soviets, and the owner had been taken away to Russia.

That same day the partisans brought all of the arrested women and children from the cellar into the compound. The men remained confined in the cellar under terrible conditions.

Torment and Suffering in the Camp Compound Gudishke;

Women Raped; Men Shot

The partisans herded all the Jews in the compound into a barn on a little bit of straw. The compound was heavily guarded by partisans. In the barn they took the Jews’ valuables. They threatened to shoot anyone who withheld the valuable items which they demanded. The commandant of the camp was an agricultural worker in a compound seven kilometers from town. His last name was Storpirshtis. His employer’s name was Shalkauskas. Under the Soviets he had been arrested and imprisoned in the Telzh jail. Before retreating, the Soviets had taken Shalkauskas and many other arrestees out of the Telzh prison into the Rainiai forest and shot them.

At 4:00 each morning the Jews were forced out of the barn to roll call. While counting the Jews, the partisans would torment and beat them. The camp commandant Storpirshtis was outstanding in his cruelty. After roll call the Jews were taken out to do various tasks in town and in the countryside. Every day the Jews buried Red Army soldiers who had died of their wounds. Dozens of wounded Red Army soldiers who did not receive any medical attention lay in various places at that time.

The Jews in the camp did not receive food. Every night the partisans took young, pretty girls out of the barn and raped them. In the morning they were brought back to the barn. With tears in their eyes, the women related their awful experiences. Dvoyre still remembers the following girls and women who were raped by the Lithuanian degenerates: Hene Lazer, aged 18; Yehudis Kravitsky, aged 22; Ele Milner, aged 17; and Mrs Sandler, aged 30. They used to come into the barn drunk and shine flashlights into the women’s faces. They beat their victims murderously in the barn, and forced them to come along.

A Jew named Leyzer Ziv lived with his wife and children on a farm in the village of Kaunotava, twelve kilometers from Luoke. The partisans brought him and his family to the compound of Gudishke. They took everything from him, and found a pillow with a red cover. They thought up the false accusation that he was getting ready to make a red flag out of the pillow cover, and planning a Communist uprising against the Germans.

The Lithuanian murderers drove all the Jews, men, women and children, out of their barn into the yards, and lined them up in rows. They placed Leyzer’s family opposite the rest. The camp commandant Storpirshtis gave a “speech” in which he accused all the Jews of preparing a Communist uprising. The partisans whipped Leyzer’s entire family, even his two year old child. Leyzer was taken out of the compound the same day, and no one saw him again.

In the morning of Monday the 19th of Tammuz (July 14th, 1941), the partisans announced that they were going to take all the Jews to the Rainiai compound near Telzh. They gave the Jews four hours to get ready. The Jews loaded everything onto wagons. All the men from the cellar in town were brought to the compound that day.

About five in the afternoon two Germans on motorcycles arrived in the compound, along with a truck filled with drunken Lithuanians armed with automatics and rifles. They drove the women and children back into the barn and closed the gate. One German went in to the women in the barn. He promised that no harm would come to them or their children.

He assured them that his weapon had never been stained with the blood of women and children. The men, he explained, all had to be shot, because they were all Communists. (See the testimony of Yenta Alter-Gershovitz concerning the annihilation of the Jews of Rietavas — L K )

After this “speech” he left the barn and went out to the men in the yard. With mad fury he accused the Jews of responsibility for all the world’s troubles, and then immediately began a dreadful inquisition against the unfortunate Jews. All the men had to run after each other in a circle. The Lithuanians stood around, beating the Jews with whips and poles. The German whistled with a whistle very often. After each whistle, the Jews had to fall and then quickly get up and run again. Anyone who did not get up quickly enough was murderously beaten by the partisans. The Lithuanians called the inquisition the “Demon’s Dance” (Velniu-Shokis). Through the cracks in the walls the women and children saw all the gruesome torment, which lasted for over an hour. Then the men were forced back into the barn. They were all beaten and bloodied. None of them said anything. They all sat with their heads bowed, and maintained a sorrowful silence. Their wives, children and mothers stood near them weeping, caressing and kissing them.

At two o’clock the same night, partisans began calling individual Jews out into their headquarters. The men were summoned until five in the morning, until all of the healthy men capable of work had been taken out of the barn.

On the morning on Tuesday, July 15, the Lithuanian murderers took all the men out to a nearby forest and shot them. The women in the barn heard the cries of the men at the pits, and then shooting, followed by the dying groans of the victims. The women and children remained in the barn roughly a week longer. The sorrow and pain of the women and children cannot be conveyed in words. The partisans “comforted” them by saying that the men had been taken to work.

On Thursday, July 17th the partisans who guarded the barn took the few remaining old, sick men, shot them in the same forest near the compound and threw them into another pit. The second group included roughly ten men, all elderly and invalid.

How Dvoyre and Her Sister Roza Survived

Several days after the second group of men were shot, the women and children were taken to the Vieshvenai compound on wagons. On the way the partisans beat them. At the Vieshvenai compound the women and children were kept for about a week, and then they were taken to the Geruliai compound, together with women and children from other towns around Telzh. (Concerning the life of the women and children in the Vieshvenai and Geruliai compounds, see the testimony of Malke Gilis and Yenta Alter-Gershovitz.)

Dvoyre’s mother and brother Velvele died at the Geruliai compound when all the women and children were shot there, on August 30, 1941. Dvoyre and her sister Roza were among the five hundred women who were brought from the Geruliai compound into the Telzh ghetto. The two were in the ghetto for about three weeks until they were taken away to work in the Degaitziu compound. (Concerning the life of the women in that compound, see the testimony of Mashe Rikhman about the annihilation of the Plunge Jews.)

Late in the autumn of 1941, when there was less work to do at that compound, most of the women were brought back into the ghetto. Dvoyre and her sister continued working in the compound with a few dozen other women. But Dvoyre grew sick, and had to leave for the ghetto with her sister, where they lived for some time under very bad conditions.

Some ten girls had been assigned as policewomen in the ghetto by the partisans. Their task was to keep order as best as possible in the ghetto and to see to it that all the able-bodied women appeared for work assignments on time. They wore white armbands as insignia. They treated the women in the ghetto well. The Lithuanian commandant of the ghetto, an infamous murderer, once babbled to the policewomen when he was drunk, that preparations were being made for the slaughter of all the women in the ghetto. The girls immediately told all the women about this. A terrible panic arose in the ghetto. Everyone sought ways to escape.

Dvoyre and her sister ran away from the ghetto to a peasant woman in Telzh whom they knew. A nun named Rupeikaite from the village of Kalnenai, three kilometers from Telzh, rode to the peasant woman’s home. The nun demanded that the two sisters convert, in exchange for which she took the two of them to her home in the village. Roza left and went back into the ghetto. The day the women were taken away to be shot, she escaped the ghetto and joined her sister Dvoyre. For several days the two sisters stayed in a forest, with the nun’s knowledge. The nun took Dvoyre to the peasant Shiaulis in the village of Kalnenai. Dvoyre was there for eight months, and her sister was in the same village at the home of the peasant Godelis for about six months.

Shiaulis took Dvoyre to the Lithuanian wigmaker in the town of Plunge. She lived there with Aryan documents for six months. A peasant from Luoke noticed her there and immediately recognized her. It was dangerous for her to remain any longer, and she returned to the village of Kalnenai to the peasant Rupeika, a worker in the compound owned by the Lithuanian businessman Kazlauskas. She hid there for exactly one year. From there Dvoyre went to a peasant named Kontrimas in a nearby village, where she spent four months.

Constant searches for Red partisans began in that region. A large number of Jews who were in hiding died at that time. Dvoyre left the area and went closer to Alsedzhiai to a peasant in a village where her sister Roza was hiding. She was there for several days, and the good peasant took her close to Alsedzhiai to a village near the holy Lithuanian town of Kalwarye, to the peasant Olesys Vagdarys, a partisan who had taken part in the shooting of the Jewish men in the town of Alsedzhiai. Dvoyre spoke Lithuanian very well, and the murderer did not know that she was Jewish. More than once he boasted how he himself had helped shoot the Jewish men of Alsedzhiai. Dvoyre worked very hard for the peasant as a servant for about a year. She left him and went back to the village of Kalninai to a peasant woman named Kazlauskiene, where she stayed until she was liberated by the Red Army in the fall of 1944.

Dvoyre worked very hard for all of the peasants with whom she stayed. She tried very hard to please her Lithuanian masters, who exploited her greatly.

Fifteen women from Luoke were in the Telzh ghetto before all the women there were slaughtered. But most of them died in various ways:

  1. Mel and two young sons hid until the fall of 1943. Ukrainians caught and shot them during a search.
  2. Three sisters, Taybe, Yehudis and Miriam Kravitsky, were still in hiding in the villages a short time before the liberation. They died. Dvoyre does not know any details concerning their death.
  3. Two cousins, Sore Bril and Khane Lazar, had hidden in the town of Luoke and in the countryside. Dvoyre does not know the details of their death.

The survivors from the town of Luoke were: Roza and Dvoyre Zif; Esther and Musye Blekher; Lesim and her daughter-in-law Reyzl Lesim; Toybe Ziv, from a settlement at the village of Kaunotava. All of them hid in the Lithuanian countryside. Some fifteen families of Jews from Luoke returned from the Soviet Union; most of them settled in Vilna.

The Lithuanian murderers who took active part in slaughtering the Jews of Luoke stemmed from all of the classes and categories of the town and rural population. Dvoyre remembers the following:

  1. Two brothers Vaitkus, one a tailor and the second an agricultural worker, both from town;
  2. A wealthy farmer Bagusha from a village not far from Luoke;
  3. Rimkus, a hooligan from town;
  4. Vincas Wenckus, the commandant of the partisans;
  5. Venekiene, the commandant’s wife, a former teacher;
  6. Vladas Mazheika, a worker from town;
  7. Stankus, a farmer from town.
  8. Griushiai, three brothers, farmers from the village of Jusiu, near the town;
  9. Savickiai, two brothers, owners of a restaurant in Luoke;
  10. Vigdaravicius from the village of Kaunotava, twelve kilometers from town;
  11. Janusha, a laborer from town.
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:
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