Note: I find no record of Tzeikiniai on Google Maps. From the description of neighboring villages, I have marked the approximate area where it must have been.
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)
I have published many testimonies in Times of Israel. Various points of clarification have been requested by readers. For explanation:
- When the term “partisan” is used by a surviving Jew, it refers to a Lithuanian.
- “Inherited” means the items were plundered from persecuted Jews.
THE SLAUGHTER OF THE JEWS OF TZEIKINIAI
The collective eyewitness testimonies of:
- Zelik Gilinsky, born in Adutiškis October 17, 1905. He graduated elementary school. By trade he was a merchant and goldsmith. In 1909 Zelik’s family settled in Tzeikiniai. Until 1933 Zelik stayed in Tzeikiniai, and then he moved to the nearby town of Ignalina. Very often, however, Zelik came to his home town of Tzeikiniai, to join his mother and brother. His mother’s name was Libe-Khaye Reyn, and his father’s name was Nosn-Dovid.
- Khasye Gilinsky, born Feygl in the town of Tzeikiniai on March 17, 1903. She graduated at elementary school. Her father’s name was Khloime (Lapidus) Feygl. Her mother’s name was Khave, born Birman in Pastoviai. In 1933 she married Zelik and settled in Ignalina.
On Friday, June 19, 1941 the eyewitnesses went to visit at the town of Tzeikiniai, where they stayed until the Jews were taken away to the military compound near Švenčionys.
Geographic and Economic situation of the Town
Tzeikiniai is located on a gravel road twelve kilometers from Maligan, fourteen kilometers from Ignalina and 21 kilometers from Švenčionėliai. When the war broke out on June 22, 1941 47 Jews lived in Tzeikiniai, among a larger number of Christians, almost all of whom were Lithuanians. 90% of the population of the nearby villages was Lithuanian.
The Jews in town were occupied in trade and artisanry. The mill belonged to a Jew named Yoyne Gordon. Every Jewish family had their own house and garden, horses and cattle, and they lived a semi-rural life. The town had an old wooden study house.
In the nearby village of Nevaishan lived the Jewish family of Avrom Tzeikinshky, his wife, their three children and his mother. The family had their own farm, which they worked themselves. In the village of Petshul lived Shmuel-Yankev Tzekinshky with his wife, three children and a brother. This family were farmers as well.
The attitude of the Christian population toward the Jews in town, and in the villages, was not bad until the outbreak of the war.
The War Breaks Out
On Sunday, June 22, 1941 the Jews in town learned about the outbreak of war between the Soviet Union and Germany. None of the Jews in town fled. Only one person, Leybe Reyn, evacuated to the Soviet Union.
On Monday, June 23 retreating Red Army soldiers marched through town. Lithuanians in town and in nearby villages organized and armed themselves. They killed many Red Army soldiers.
At the beginning of the second week of the war German military units marched through town. They were very warmly received by the civilian Christian population. Several days before the Germans arrived armed Lithuanians were already running the town. They called themselves partisans. After the Germans arrived in that region, they only stayed for six days, and then they advanced further. The armed Lithuanians maintained control over the lives of the Jews.
The Civil Administration; Anti-Jewish Decrees; First Jewish Victims
The new mayor was the Lithuanian Antanas Maskalunas, a farmer from town.The chief of police in town was the Lithuanian Tzyzas, from a village near Utenas. He had come to town after the Germans arrived. This Tzyzas had been a policeman in the town of Utenas under President Smetonas.
The chief of the armed partisans was the Lithuanian Jakshiboga, a farmer from the village of Dojni, four kilometers from the town of Tzeikiniai. Under the Soviets he had been the director of the co-operative in Tzeikiniai. He was replaced as leader of the partisans by the Lithuanian Tzitzenas from the village of Paversme, seven or eight kilometers from town.
The Lithuanians forced the Jews to do various jobs in town and on the roads around town. While the Jews worked they were guarded by armed partisans who tormented the Jews in various ways. After work the Jews were allowed to go home.
The partisans issued various regulations and decrees. During the second week of the war the Jews were forced to wear two yellow Stars of David on their chests and on their backs. They were forbidden to leave town, and they were forbidden to have any dealings with Christians.
On Friday, July 4, 1941 armed partisans went to all the Jewish houses looking for men they could seize for work. Zelik Gilinsky was very afraid, so he jumped out of the window and hid in the garden near their house. The partisan Tzitzenas spotted him and cocked his rifle, ready to shoot Zelik. Zelik’s wife Khasye managed to pull the rifle out of his hands, and at the last minute saved her husband from certain death. Tzitzenas was extremely drunk, and he brutally beat Zelik and his wife with his rifle butt.
Zelik’s mother became seriously ill after this terrible fright. She lay in bed a few weeks, and then died. With some difficulty, the family managed to obtain permission to bury her at the Jewish cemetery in Ignalina.
On Sunday, July 6, 1941 partisans arrived in town from elsewhere. The Jew Shmuel Gordon was seized in the street and forced to drag an old motorcycle. Shmuel did not have the physical strength to carry out the order. The partisans took Shmuel out on the road to the village of Tzizishkis, not far from town. He was shot near the edge of the road, in some nearby bushes. He was the first Jewish victim. That same week partisans arrested two Jewish girls, Mary and Gitl Reyn, who were sisters. They were murderously beaten by the partisans. They were released after being held in prison for several days.
The Mass Slaughter
The Jews worked at various jobs for exactly six weeks. Their main worksite was in the village of Rapishkis, eight kilometers from town. Six men worked there. Every day the six Jews were taken there and back on foot. A radio station was being built in that village. The Jews sawed and chopped wood, and served the Germans there.
The Jews received various bits of information about the slaughter of the Jews in the surrounding villages, but the Jews of Tzeikiniai had no place to go to try and save themselves, since the local population was quite hostile to Jews.
Every day these few Jews suffered various frights. The Lithuanians frequently went to the Jewish houses to rob them, taking everything they found worthwhile.
People began to say that all of the Jews in town would be taken to a ghetto in Švenčionėliai. The peasants in town spoke about this. The Jews got ready to move to the ghetto. During the day on Friday, September 26, 1941, police brought the two Jewish families from the villages of Nevoyshan and Petshul to town. The mill owner Yosl Gordon, his brother Azriel, his mother and a cousin of theirs who lived at the edge of town were also brought to town that Friday and settled in the center of town.
It was said at the time that a ghetto was being set up in the town itself. But Zelik didn’t take it calmly. Instead he proposed that the younger people should escape and try to survive wherever they could. He suggested that they should burn the town down at night, and anyone who could should escape. The Jews paid little attention to his proposals, and they accused him of causing a panic.
On Friday evening partisans surrounded the Jewish houses, making sure that no-one escaped from town. On the Sabbath between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, September 27, 1941, at 7:00a.m., the police chief Tzyzas went to the Jewish houses and announced that no-one should take their cattle into the fields. He explained this by saying that the Jews’ livestock needed to be registered. At the same time the Jews noticed that their houses were being guarded by partisans. By this time it was difficult to try to escape. Nevertheless four Jews managed to get out of town.
That same Saturday partisans brought the Jews from the nearby town of Maleganai in wagons. The wagons carrying the Jews stopped in front of the Jewish houses in Tzeikiniai.
The partisans brought in peasants with wagons, and the Jews of Tzeikiniai were placed into them. Older, religious Jews didn’t want to desecrate the Sabbath, and they asked the partisans to let them walk. The religious Jews were murderously beaten. Women were also brutally beaten. Khasye’s mother Khaye, aged eighty, and Khasye’s sister SimeTaybe were severely beaten that day because they didn’t want to tell anyone where Zelik and his wife had escaped to.
During the day that Saturday, the Jews were taken away from Tzeikiniai. The Jews from Maleganai were taken away along with those from Tzeikiniai. On Saturday night the Jews were taken to the military compound near Švenčionėliai.
Concerning the further experiences of the Jews of Tzeikiniai, consult the testimony of Frume Hokhman and the collective testimonies of Dr Binyomin Taraseysky and Yankl Levin.
How Did the Eyewitnesses Survive?
On Friday night at 12:00 Zelik and his wife left their house. The other members of Zelik’s family didn’t want to leave the town.
That Friday evening it was pitch dark, and Zelik and his wife managed to make their way out of town along back streets without being noticed. They went five kilometers out of town to a settlement where the peasant Stempkowsky lived. He was a Polish friend of Zelik’s from before the war. Zelik’s family had hidden two wagon-loads of goods at the home of this peasant.
That same night Khasye went back to town to rescue her sister SimeTaybe and their mother, as well as her brother-in-law Avrom, his wife Dvoyre and a cousin named Brayne Gavende. The family had been joined by two young sisters named Etl and Rokhele from Švenčionėliai. Their father Khayem-Ele had been among the 45 shot. No-one in the family agreed to leave town that night, and they put it off until the next day. Everyone stayed awake all night. Everyone was planning what to do.
The next morning everyone understood that it was too late. No-one doubted any longer that the situation was very grave, especially since the chief of police had made the announcement that they were not to take the cattle out to pasture.
Zelik’s brother Avrom and his wife managed to escape that Saturday morning, and during the night they arrived in Lentupis. Lithuanian partisans from Tzeikiniai recognized Avrom. First they took him to prison in Švenčionys, and from there to the military compound. They left Avrom’s wife in Lentupis, because she had been born there. Later she died with the rest of the Jews of Lentupis.
- Zelik’s cousin Brayne Gavende also escaped from Tzeikiniai on Saturday morning. She stayed in the Vidz ghetto at first. When the Jews were taken from Vidz to the Švenčionys ghetto, she escaped and hid in the countryside. Thirteen months after the Jews were killed at the compound near Švenčionėliai, Brayne met Zelik and his wife. She survived until the liberation.
- Yerakhmiel Tzeikinsky escaped from the middle of the road when the Jews of Tzeikiniai were being taken to the compound. He hid with peasants in the villages until 1943, stayed in ghettos in White Russian towns and then joined Red partisans in the forest, where he distinguished himself. He was killed by his Christian comrades in the partisans.
- On Saturday morning Khasye unwillingly left the house, and went to a Polish friend named Obolewitz, with whom she stayed until the middle of the night. In the middle of the night the peasant woman accompanied Khasye through the forest. That same night Khasye joined her husband, who lay hiding at the home of the peasant Stempkowsky. All day Saturday Zelik lay in the barn, watching Jews from various towns being taken to the compound. They all sat in wagons guarded by Lithuanians. On Friday night, September 26, Khasye’s sister Menukhe Srolevitz, her husband Avrom Yankev and their other sister Mikhle Ritve with her husband Dovid and their young daughter, all happened to meet up with Zelik.
The two families had escaped from Ignalina on Friday night. The two families left on foot for the Vidz ghetto that night. Later they were in the ghettos in White Russian towns, and then they went back to Vidz. When the Jews were taken from the Vidz ghetto to Švenčionys, both families fled into the countryside, and later met Zelik and his wife.
- Menukhe Srolevitz and her husband met Zelik and his wife, hid together, and survived.
- Their other sister Mikhle Ritve and her husband and child hid with another peasant, and survived there. After the war they were all reunited. Zelik couldn’t leave the peasant Stempkowsky, because he was waiting for his wife. Khasye reached the peasant’s house Saturday night, but didn’t find her sisters, because they had already left for Vidz.
- Zelik and his wife hid at the home of the peasant Stempkowsky for six weeks. They hid in a pig sty. They suffered considerable hunger, cold and terror there. The peasant didn’t want to hide the two Jews any longer, precisely because Zelik’s things were hidden at his place.
Zelik and his wife left that place without much hope. It was late autumn already. Peasants were afraid to take in Jews. Some of them even helped the police to find hidden Jews. Terrible days and nights turned into tortuous, tragic weeks for the two Jews. Zelik and his wife hid a night here, and a day there.
On November 7, 1941 they arrived at the home of a Polish peasant named Voitkewitz, where they stayed for one week. On November 15, 1941 they reached the home of the peasant Jonas Tzitzenas in the village of Shielikishkis, three kilometers from the town of Tzeikiniai. They had hidden goods with this peasant. They stayed at that peasant’s home for five weeks, lying in the barns and warehouses, and even outside in the yard, in the bitter cold. Here, too, they could not stay any longer. The peasant told them to keep moving.
On December 18, 1941, a cold, dark, night, the two arrived at the home of the Lithuanian Karol Kartzonka in a settlement near the village of Lapunishkis. This peasant lived with his wife in a small, old house. It was always cold in the house. Hunger constantly reigned there. But the peasant woman was very kindly, and she sympathized with the Jews. The Jews lay hidden in various burrows, and they suffered cold, filth and hunger.
Zelik often went away to distant villages at night, begging for food from the peasants. More than once the peasant lost patience, and demanded that the Jews leave his house. More than once police and partisans came to the village, and they would visit the peasant at whose home the two Jews were hiding. More than once they were on the verge of falling into the hands of the Lithuanians.
On Passover of 1942 Zelik and his wife learned that Menukhe Srolevitz and her husband Avrom-Yankl, along with their niece Mashele from Vidz, were hiding in a nearby village. Zelik often saw them, helping them to get food, and on several occasions he also helped them find new peasants to stay with.
Avrom-Yankl had a weak heart and asthma. All of the terror, hunger, cold and filth he had suffered ruined his already-delicate health. On April 27, 1944; a Friday, Avrom-Yankl died in a barn belonging to the peasant Petras Garla. Zelik and his wife had come to visit him, and they were present during his tragic death throes. The Jews dug a grave in the field and buried him that same night. Of course, they did everything very carefully, so that no-one would find out.
Menukhe went away and settled with the same peasant Zelik was staying with. Zelik, his wife and his sister-in-law Menukhe stayed with the good peasant Karol Karatzonka until the Red Army arrived in the area. This happened on July 7, 1944.
Zelik’s niece couldn’t stand the terrible conditions in hiding, and returned to the Vidz ghetto. Mashele, her mother Sore-Bashe, her younger sister Khanele and a young brother named Gershon were taken to the Švenčionys ghetto. They were taken from the ghetto and slaughtered along with hundreds of others at Ponari near Vilnius.
Partial List of Those Who Slaughtered the Tzeikiniai Jews
- Tzitzenas, from the village of Paversme, the leader of the partisans.
- Jakshiboga, from the village of Dojni, the former leader of the partisans.
- Tzyzas, from a village near Utenas, the police chief.
- Vytautas Rimshelis, from Neveysiai, four kilometers from Tzeikiniai.
- Rakshtelis, from Neveysiai, four kilometers from Tzeikiniai.
- Vytautas Shaudinas, from Neveysiai.
- Shimkunas, from Shavul, three kilometers from Tzeikiniai.
- Feliksas Gasys, from Shavul.
- Bulkai (two brothers), from Strakshishkis, four kilometers from town.
- Their cousin Bulkis, also from Strakshishkis.
- Kujelis, from the village of Krikeniai, ten kilometers from town.
- Jronimas Shimunas, from town.
- Juze Shimkunaite, from town.
- Luneckis, from the village of Rizunai, eight kilometers from town.
- Burka, from the village of Shavul.
- Blada Juchnevitzius, from the village of Jodishkis, four kilometers from town.
- Bronius Juchnevitzius, from Jodishkis.
- Adolfas Matulauskas, from the village of Mikhalove, five kilometers from town.
- Two brothers named Panavai from Mikhalova.
- Kazys Gudelaitis, from the village of Stanunaj, six kilometers from town.
- Kliukas, from the village of Garniai, five kilometers from town.
- Pundish from the village of Garniai.
- Vlada Kliukas, from the village of Shilejkishkis, two kilometers from town.
- Antanas Klukas, from Shilejkishkis.
- Zigmas Kliukas, from Shilejkishkis.
- Jousas Rimshelis, from Neveyshay.
All of these people helped to torment and rob the Jews in Tzeikiniai, and later took the Jews to the compound, where many of the murderers took active part in the executions at the pits.