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).
Lithuania did not punish a single Holocaust perpetrator, instead, the government of Lithuania deem many of the murderers as their national heroes.
THE SLAUGHTER OF THE JEWS OF NAYSHTOT (NEISHTOT)
The collective testimony of the surviving Jews from Neishtot:
- Henakh Elert, born in Neishtot on September 12, 1922. Completed four classes of Lithuanian gymnasium. By trade, an electrician. Father’s name, Mikhl; mother Peshe Itsikovitz. Until the annexation of the Memel region by Hitler’s Germany, he lived in Heidekrug (Shilute). Until the outbreak of the war on Sunday, June 22, 1941, he lived in Neishtot.
- Azriel Glukh, born in Neishtot on November 10, 1924. Completed Hebrew elementary school and two grade of Lithuanian gymnasium in Nayshtot. Studied locksmithing in the Kovno ORT school for a few years. Father’s name, Tuvye Glukh; mother Feyge-Libe Blekher. He was with his parents in Neishtot when the war broke out.
- Leyzer Gold, born April 22, 1926 in Neishtot. Completed three grades of Lithuanian gymnasium. Father’s name, Nakhman’ mother Leah Katz. Lived in Neishtot until the outbreak of the war on June 22, 1941.
The Town’s Geographical Setting
Neishtot (Žemaičių Naumiestis) is in Tawrik County, 45 kilometers from Tawrik, 10 kilometers from Vainute, two kilometers from the border between Lithuania and the Memel region. The river Shushta flows through the town. Neishtot is 14 kilometers from Heidekrug.
The Jewish Population; Its Employment and Cultural Situation
When the war broke out, approximately 100-110 Jewish families were living in the town. Most of them were retail merchants and artisans, and there were a few farmers as well. The town’s mill and an electric power station were owned by a Jew named Shloyme Rabin.
The Jews Lapin, Goldberg and Epshteyn owned large manufacturing concerns. There was a good deal of trade with Memel, where Jews sold meat and agricultural products. After Memel was annexed by the Third Reich, trade dropped significantly. In general, however, the economic situation of the Jews was not bad. Many Jews received assistance from their relatives overseas.
Neishtot had a library, a Hebrew elementary school (until the summer of 1940), Lipe the Melamed’s heder, a synagogue and a prayer room. The Jewish youth studied in the six-grade Lithuanian elementary school in Neishtot, and, until the annexation, in the Lithuanian gymnasium in Heidekrug. A small proportion of the youth studied in Hebrew gymnasiums in the larger Lithuanian cities.
Relations with the local Lithuanians were not good. The antisemites were very active there. After the Memel region was annexed to East Prussia, there began a brazen, open anti-Jewish agitation in town. During the year of Soviet rule the situation improved. The antisemites stopped their open agitation against the Jews.
The Outbreak of the War
In the early morning of Sunday, June 22, 1941, shots were heard near the border. One hour later, the Germans were in Neishtot. 32 German soldiers fell in battles with the Red Army. Rumors that local civilians had shot the Germans were immediately spread in town.
At about 10 or 11 a.m. of the same Sunday, the Germans drove all of the residents of the town, Christians and Jews, into the Evangelical Church. The women were immediately released.
All of the men were kept in the church under heavy watch until the afternoon of Monday, June 23. A German Wehrmacht major came and announced in Russian and German that the civilian population was suspected of shooting at the Germans. They had already made a decision to shoot every tenth man. An investigation proved that Russian officers had dressed in civilian clothes and shot at the Germans. All of the men were released from the church.
The Civilian Administration. The First Jewish Victims
On Monday, June 23, 1941 at twelve noon, a light automobile carrying SS men, arrived in Neishtot from Heidekrug. The SS men arrested a Jew named Mende Vinik, his son Pesekh, and Mikhe Elert. The three Jews were interned in the Heidekrug prison.
The military commandant of Neishtot at that time was named Hirsch. He assured everyone that three men who had been taken away were in a camp and were working. Later this was ascertained to be true.
From that Monday on, all the Jews had to distinguish themselves by wearing a yellow armband. Mende Vinik’s daughter Yehudis, had also been a young Communist during the year of Soviet rule. After the Germans arrived, Lithuanians established the civil administration in town. A police force and partisan group were formed. Their first action was to arrest Yehudis Vinik and lock her up in a cellar. She was tormented for several days, and then taken to the edge of town. Next to the outhouse not far from Morozow’s house, near the Shvekshne bridge, they shot and buried her. This was during the second week of the war.
At the end of the third week of the war, Germans and Lithuanians arrested five Jewish girls. It is not known where they died and in what circumstances.The five girls were:
- Rivke Lesin.
- Gitke Berelovitz.
- Rokhel Lerman.
- Mine Glaz.
- Mariam Shnayd.
The Bonfire of Holy Books
At the end of the second week of the war, Germans and partisans captured some thirty Jewish men and took them to the synagogue. They had already gotten axes and hammers ready. They forced the thirty Jews to break the lecterns and benches and carry them outside. With tears in their eyes, the Jews had to carry the Torah scrolls and holy books out to the courtyard and stand in a circle. Rabbi Paklibak was forced to ignite the bonfire. It is not known who actually lit the fire. The rabbi, however, categorically refused. The men around the fire had to stir it so that it would burn better.
Jews at Forced Labor; A Ghetto for Jews
On Thursday, June 24, 1941, partisans began driving the Jews to do various tasks on the roads and in the marketplace in town. They forced the women to wash the floors in the barracks. Every morning the men had to report to the courtyard of a building near the bridge. From there they were taken to work at various jobs until the evening, when they were allowed to go home. Lithuanian foremen or partisans kept watch while they worked. They teased and bullied the Jews while they worked.
On Friday, July 18, 1941 the Lithuanians ordered all the Jews to move into a few streets in a neighborhood near the edge of town, on the far side of the Shushta River. The Jews were given one day to carry out the order. They were allowed to take everything along. Because of the shortage of space in the designated ghetto, most of the furniture and other items remained in town, and Lithuanians “inherited” it. Before the war only Jews had lived in the neighborhood where the Jews had to settle in, a ghetto. Partisans took everything remaining out of the Jewish houses into the synagogue, and later sold it to Lithuanians at auction. The empty houses were immediately sealed.
The Slaughter of the Men of Neishtot
On Saturday, July 19, 1941 at 10 a.m., the partisans ordered all the men over the age of 14 to come to the synagogue yard. At 10 o’clock the Jews began to assemble. The synagogue yard was already being guarded by armed partisans, and no one could leave.
All of the sick and elderly men were taken away from their homes on wagons and brought to the synagogue yard. Children up to the age of 12 or 13 were sent home.
A partisan read a list containing the names of all the Jewish men. If anyone was missing, he was searched for at home.
The infamous Dr Schau was at the synagogue yard, together with his adjutants Jaksht and Dembrowsky. The healthier men were lined up in rows, followed by the wagons bearing the elderly and sick. In this fashion the men were driven through the town. Their wives and children stood by their houses, weeping bitterly. The healthier men were driven to the courtyard of the local barracks outside of town, and herded into a horse barn. Some time later SS men arrived and picked out 40 of the healthier, younger men.
They took the rest of the men out of the barn. The elderly and sick who had been brought on wagons were not taken into the barn at all. The SS men forced the men who were less healthy to climb onto a truck. They asked whoever felt sick to tell them so. 15 of the 40 men still in the barn complained of various illnesses. Only 25 men remained in the barn. Partisans kept watch around the barn.
Several hours later they reassured the Jews they knew, and cheerfully announced that all of the elderly and sick on the wagons, as well as the 15 sick men who had been chosen from the barn, had been shot in a forest not far from the village of Shaudvitz.
Late in the evening the 25 men in the barn were placed into a truck and brought to the marketplace in Neishtot. From there SS men and Lithuanians accompanied each man home, so that he could gather some things and a package of food.
That same Saturday night all 25 men were taken to a camp at the Kalvelishkis compound in the town of Heidekrug, where they spent the night.
On Sunday, July 20, 1941 all of the men were taken to a doctor, where they were examined and given injections. Some of the men from Neishtot were taken to a camp called Silven, and others were taken to a camp near Mactubern. About ten men from Neishtot were brought from other towns, together with the local Jews. Thus there were a total of 35 to 37 men from Nayshtot in the camps at Heidekrug.
The men from Vainute were brought to the Heidekrug camps in trucks together with the men from Neishtot. One truck contained the possessions of the men who had been shot. Several of the survivors recognized things belonging to their fathers, brothers and acquaintances.
Among those who were shot in the Shaudvitz forest on July 19, 1941 were the following men of Neishtot:
- Paklibak, the town rabbi.
- Shmuel Lesin, the son of a rabbi in another town.
- Itzik Zakon, an elderly Jew.
- David Shvartz, a flax merchant.
- Yerakhmiel Shvartz, David’s son.
- Beynish Shvartz, David’s son.
- Khatzkl Laski, a furrier.
- Moyshe Burg, owner of a knitting workshop.
- Shloyme Blumberg, a photographer.
- Yankl Leybovitz, a butcher.
- Ruven Yankelevitz.
- Shloyme Katz, a merchant.
- Meir Shnayd, a baker.
- Yeshayohu Mote Davidson, a coachman.
- Lipman Volpert.
- Leyzer Volpert, Lipman’s son.
- Khayem Atshik,owner of an iron business.
- Leyb Lapin,owner of a textile business.
- Shloyme Katz, a butcher.
- Avrom Zaks, a merchant.
- Feyve Rabinson, a merchant.
- Yankl Abramovitz, a merchant.
- Itzik Fayt, a watchmaker.
- Yankl Sher, a coachman.
- Moyshe Sher, a glazier.
- Yizkhok Sher, a glazier.
- Bine Hirshovitz, a coachman.
- Pysakh Birfas, a baker.
- Avrom-Yitskhok Birfas, a student.
- Yitskhok Kopelovitz, a chemist.
- Shimon Leyzerovitz, a pharmacist.
- Fayve Yoselovitz, a farmer.
- Avrom Elert, a retail merchant.
- Mendl Elert, a student.
- Mikhke Elert, a laborer.
- Eliyohu Glat, owner of a restaurant.
- Moyshe Zusmanovitz.
- Shloyme Zusmanovitz.
- Shepe Goldberg, a retail merchant of manufactured goods.
- Mote Blumberg, the father of Shloyme the photographer.
- Avrom Blumberg, Shloyme’s brother.
- Sholem Nosl, a wigmaker.
Two men were selected during the medical examinations by the doctor in Heidekrug. They were not taken to any of the camps, but kept in Heidekrug. The location of their deaths is not known. Their names are:
- Grishe Grosman, a storekeeper.
- Nisn Fish, a refugee from Tawrik in Neishtot.
The men in the camps received little news about the women, children and a few older men who had remained in the ghetto. One man from Neishtot wrote a letter, and sent it by way of a Lithuanian whom he knew. Many of the men received letters by way of the same messenger. In the letters that the women wrote, was the expression: “We are also on the way.” Details concerning their death are lacking.
The surviving men of Neishtot found out from peasants that all of the women and children, and the few surviving men, had been shot in a forest near the village of Shaudvitz (Shaudvitsiai).