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The slaughter of the Jews of Plunge

(Courtesy of author)
(Courtesy of author)

What Mashe Rikhman witnessed:

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

This is what Mashe Rikhman testified about the slaughter of the Jews in Plunge. When she uses the term “partisans”, it means Lithuanians.

Eyewitness testimony of Mashe Rikhman, born September 8, 1924 in Plunge. Mashe completed elementary school there. She finished the Hebrew gymnasium in Shavl in the year 1939. Her father’s name was Dovid. Her mother’s name was Malke Garb, from Plunge.

Plunge is in Telzh County, 29 kilometers from Telzh and 40 kilometers from Kretingen. The small river Babrungas flows through the town. There is a station at Plunge on the Shavl-Memel railroad line.

Some 5,000 people lived in Plunge, including about two thousand Jews. Most of the Jewish population was occupied in trade and artisanry.

The larger enterprises in town included:

  1. A mill, sawmill and a power station belonging to the two brothers-in-law Khatskl Zaks and Zvulun Khazan.
  2. A mill and a woolen bristle factory belonging to the Jewish owner Yank Karbelnik.
  3. A pig’s hair factory belonging to the partners Yitskhok Metz and Nosen Shor.
  4. A candy and tile factory belonging to Shloyme Bukhbinder and his brother-in-law Tokson.
  5. A lemonade factory belonging to Dovid Rikhman.
  6. A wool-spinning factory belonging to Moyshe Polivnik.
  7. Large tanneries belonging to Yankl Zin and Fayve Kesl.

The economic life of the Jews in town was not good. Most of the population lived on support sent by relatives overseas.

The town possessed two libraries, one Yiddish and one Hebrew-Yiddish; a junior high school called “Tarbut,” consisting of six grades, a Hebrew elementary school; a reading room; a large synagogue; a new study house; and three new small synagogues.

Until the Red Army arrived in Lithuania, there was a Jewish national bank in Plunge. A large proportion of the Jewish youth were grouped around the illegal Communist party during the time of President Antanas Smetonas.

Before the Red Army arrived in Lithuania in 1940, there was open anti-Semitism in Plunge. In the Lithuanian gymnasium the Jewish students suffered greatly at the hands of their anti-Semitic teachers and at the hands of the students. The Lithuanian organization “Verslas” created much bad blood in town, calling on the Lithuanian population not to buy from Jews. In many cases they even agitated against the Jews, inventing various false accusations against them.

Therefore it is no wonder that a large number of the Jewish youth happily greeted the Red Army when it entered town in the summer of 1940.

A large number of the Jewish youth felt like equal, free citizens and took part in the economic and political life of Plunge.

The Outbreak of War between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, June 22, 1941

The next day, Monday, June 23, 1941, all of the Jews and a large number of Christians left town and hid in surrounding villages. Some five hundred Jews managed to evacuate by train, and arrived safely in the Soviet Union. Most of these were young people who had actively taken part in political life or had held positions under the Soviets. But the ordinary Jews did not escape. The majority only temporarily left town in order to avoid the fronts.

Mashe, her father and two brothers, Yankl and Moyshe, traveled on a wagon hoping to be able to escape to the Soviet Union, They and hundreds more Jews arrived at the border on Thursday, June 26, 1941. But the border was closed. At the same time Lithuanian and Latvian partisans were already active, disrupting the retreat of the Red Army and of the Jews. On Sunday, June 29, a group of Jews arrived at the Latvian city of Mitave, where they were chased by the German army and forced to return to Lithuania. They were in Zhagare, and from there they went to Telzh. The Lithuanian partisans detained all the Jews returning to Telzh, and took them to the Rainiai compound near Telzh.

All of the men, women and children of Telzh had already been herded together into that compound. All of the Jews who had been caught while still on the roads, and all those who had returned, were taken by the partisans to the Vieshvenai compound. Some sixty men, women and children from Plunge who had been detained near Telzh while returning, were herded into that compound.

Nearly all the Jews of surrounding towns in Telzh County were gathered in that compound. (About the life and death of the Jews in that compound — see the testimony of Yente Alter-Gershovitz, concerning the slaughter of the Jews in Rietavas — L K )

The First “Demon’s Dance”

On Monday, July 14, 1941, partisans and several Germans rode into the compound. They drove all the men out of the stalls into the yard. One of the Germans gave a speech to the unfortunate men, in which he accused the Jews of all kinds of crimes. Then he began to order the Jews around. they had to run one after the other in a circle. With a whistle, he commanded them to fall and get back up. They were forced to keep going by the Lithuanians, who beat them with poles and with their rifle butts. Whoever didn’t get up off the ground quickly enough after falling down was murderously beaten. During the “Demon’s Dance” one of the partisans broke a pole over the shoulder of Mashe’s brother Yankele, who was then fourteen years old. During the course of the “Demon’s Dance” the partisans shot three men: a man from Telzh named Itzikson; a doctor named Traub from a town called Tverai; and the son of the slaughterer from Rietavas (Yakev-Ber Gershovitz — L K ) After the “Demon’s Dance,” as partisans called this torture, they selected a group of younger men and led them off in an unknown direction.

The Second “Demon’s Dance” – Preparations for Death

On Wednesday July 16th trucks carrying armed partisans and a few Germans drove into the yard. First they looted everything in the barns, and then they drove the men out to the yard. Mashe dressed her brother Yankele in short pants. He looked like a child, and did not go out of the barn.

The torture of the men began in the courtyard. The second “Demon’s Dance” was even worse than the first. The women in the barns could not go out into the yard. A German kept watch in one barn and comforted the women. Seeing the torment of the men in the yard, he wept and comforted the women, saying that no harm would come to them. Some of the women thanked him for the words of comfort.

During the torture one elderly Jew lost his strength and could no longer run around. A German took a rifle from a partisan and shot the old Jew.

The second “Demon’s Dance” was a “preparation” for the men’s death. Tortured, weakened and beaten, they were taken out of the yard in groups in the direction of a nearby woods. The women in the barns already understood everything, and dreadful wailing began. The wife of Dr Zaks from Rietavas ran out of the barn with her child in her arms and ran toward the group of men which included her husband. The partisans blocked her way. She shouted at them: “We will take revenge on you yet! You haven’t won yet!” She and her child were shot together with all the men.

Several days later Mashe found out that the group of men who had been selected on Monday, July 14th, among them her brother Moyshe, had been forced to dig the pits in the forest, after which they were all shot. This was on July 16, 1941.

The next day all the men remaining in the compound were shot, including Mashe’s father Dovid; they were buried in the pits which had been prepared. After all the men in the Vieshvenai compound had been shot, the women and children were transported to the Geruliai compound, where the women and children from the Rainiai compound were also brought.

The Geruliai Camp – Women and Children Shot

Women and children from other towns in Telzh County were brought to that compound. (Concerning the life of the women and children in the Geruliai compound and their slaughter, see the testimony of Malke Gilis, Yenta Gershovitz and others — L K )

A total of 150 men and women, some with children, including Mashe and her brother, were taken away from the compound to do agricultural work at the Degaitziai compound, four kilometers from Telzh. During the Soviet period there had been a collective state farm at that compound. The living conditions there were very bad. Everyone was quartered in a barn. When it grew colder, everyone slept in a house on the floor.

The women worked very hard. But they were satisfied, because they avoided the terror and torture of the Geruliai camp. The women continued working at the compound until late in the fall of 1941. They were in the compound while the Geruliai camp was being liquidated and the women and children there were being shot, August 30, 1941.

Mashe’s brother Yankele had been hiding there from the beginning, because according to his age he should have been shot. Mashe kept him hidden in the barn. Lithuanian partisans found out about this, and Yankele began going to work with the women. He was an unusually good child and a good, capable worker. Everyone in the compound liked him. In the autumn, when there was less work to do and most of the women had already been sent to the ghetto, Mashe remained thanks to her brother, whom the supervisor in the compound liked very much.

The last supervisor, Laugandas, was an anti-Semite. Twenty three women remained working in the compound in all, and their situation was not bad. He arranged beds for them to sleep in the house and took good care of them.

A few days before the women.in the Telzh ghetto were slaughtered, the partisans announced that the 23 women had to come “for health examinations.” They all understood that preparations were being made to kill them. Laugandas went to Telzh and found out that all the women in the ghetto were to be killed. He told “his” women about this, and advised everyone to escape. He excused himself to the partisans by saying that all the women had escaped at night.

In Latvia, and the Return to Shavl, Lithuania

Some of the women escaped from the compound and began wandering through the countryside with the intention of reaching Latvia. After wandering for some time they arrived in Latvia. But there they discovered that just as in Lithuania, all of the Jews outside the major cities had been slaughtered.

Everyone returned to Lithuania. After a long, hard struggle against bitter cold and deadly risks, after a march of 180 kilometers on foot, Mashe and her brother, together with other women, reached Shavl and entered the ghetto. Mashe and Yankele were in the Shavl ghetto until September 20,1943.

The situation in the Shavl ghetto became dangerous for the Jews, and Mashe and her brother escaped from the ghetto to the village of Degaitzciu Kaimas near Telzh. The supervisor Laugandas placed Mashe with a peasant named Rimgaila in the same village. She did various kinds of work in the fields there for exactly ten weeks. Then Mashe went to a peasant woman named Laurinaitiene in Telzh, where she stayed until the Liberation.

Mashe’s brother Yankele had hidden with a second peasant in the village of Degaitziu. Partisans captured him there and took him to the Shavl ghetto. Together with all the Jews of Shavl, he was evacuated to Germany. He survived the concentration camp, was liberated and still lives.

More Details about the Slaughter of the Jews of Plunge

Mashe stayed in her birthplace Plunge for five months after the Liberation. There Mashe found an uncle of hers, Yankl Garb, who had converted to Christianity. The priest and peasant friends had saved his life during the German occupation. He told Mashe: The Germans entered Plunge on Thursday, June 26, 1941. There was no battle for the town. The Jews returned from the countryside and moved back into their homes. The partisans and former policemen set up the civilian administration. Sadauskas, who had been a policeman in Plunge during President Smetona’s administration, became the chief of police. The commandant of the partisans was the Lithuanian farmer Pabriezha, from town. The partisans began to rule the town.

On the day the Germans entered the town, the partisans spread a rumor that the Jewish doctor and the staff of the pharmacy in town had been poisoning Lithuanians for years.

The partisans arrested the Jewish Dr Levin and his wife, the pharmacist Efroyem Izralovitz and his colleagues Marek and Miss Khaye Shlomovitz.

All of the arrestees were taken out of town by the partisans, under the leadership of Pabriezha, to a forest near the village of Kalnishkiai, where there had formerly been summer houses. They were shot there.

That same Thursday, the partisans assembled all the men, women and children in the synagogue, which had been requisitioned by the Soviets for military uses and was surrounded by a barbed-wire fence. The Jews had to leave their things in their houses, where Lithuanians from town and new arrivals immediately moved in. The heads of the partisans settled into the better houses.

The synagogue was guarded by partisans, who let no one out. The crowding was terrible, and everyone was tormented by hunger. The Jews were driven to various kinds of dirty work, and they were tormented in various murderous ways. Mashe does not know exactly how long the Jews were kept interned in the synagogue until they were shot. She does know that they were not kept long.

A short time before the Jews were shot, a fire broke out in a side street which had been occupied by Jews before the war. The Lithuanians accused the Jews of having set the fire when they went to the street to get water.

Peasants and townspeople whom Mashe knew told her that the Jews had been taken out of the synagogue in family groups, several at a time. All of those who were taken away were brought to the freethinker’s cemetery, some five kilometers from Plunge in the direction of Kretingen. There they were all shot.

The peasant from town Petratis, a tailor, told Mashe that he had had to ride out of town with a few shovels to dig the pits. Kegs of beer and many bottles of liquor were on the cart. The Jews had to dig the pits themselves. Between shooting one group and bringing a second to the pit, the partisans got drunk. They began shooting on a Saturday afternoon, and they finished on Sunday morning. Mashe Rikhman does not remember the dates.

None of the Jews managed to escape, neither from the synagogue nor from the pits. Mashe asserts that the Lithuanians shot roughly 1,200 men, women and children at the freethinker’s cemetery.

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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