Prior to the Holocaust, Jews comprised almost a third of the population of the city of Vilnius. Jews were industrious and formed the backbone of the city’s intelligentsia. It is likely that the majority of assets held in Lithuania’s capita city was held by Jews.
Today, murdered Jews are monetized by Vilnius through tourism promotion. It is the most deceptive extinction tourism in the world. Vilnius heavily promotes the remnants of Jewish life, claiming regret that it is a city almost entirely devoid of living Jews. Absent from tourism promotion are details of exactly how the Jews were eliminated, and that their murderers are honored as heroes throughout the city.
For Lithuania, honoring Jewish victims is motivated by profit, while honoring the murderers has come at deep moral cost. It is incompatible to honor murderers and victims simultaneously. To do this, Lithuania has had to rewrite their history into a fraudulent narrative, and deceive unknowing tourists. The feigned sincerity of sophisticated marketing messages has convinced many who do not know what to look for, and are unaware of factual realities.
We Jews are so anxious that people claim to love us, regret our persecution, and have reformed, that we are willing to be deceived by beguiling messages. Lithuania has constructed these messages with charm, charisma, and help from Jews desperate to feel loved. The victims speak:
THE SLAUGHTER OF JEWS IN THE FOLLOWING LITHUANIAN TOWNS IN THE VILNIUS REGION
Eyewitness testimony of Khyene Katsev, born Izrailsky in the town of Pabershe on April 5, 1920. She lived in Pabershe her entire life, until the war broke out on June 22, 1941. She graduated elementary school in the year 1935. A seamstress by trade. Her father’s name was Yosef Izrailsky. Her mother’s name was Bashe, born Oguz in Pabershe.
All six towns listed above belonged to Vilnius county, Poland in 1939. After Poland fell that year, the six towns were assigned to the Vilnius region of Lithuania, together with the entire area around Vilnius.
Pabershe is located 28 kilometers to the north of Vilnius. A highway leading from Vilnius to Giedraitziai goes through the town. Until war broke out between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, about seventy families lived in town, along with a smaller number of Poles.
The mill in town belonged to a Jew named Moyshe Gendler. The majority of the Jewish population were employed in trade and artisanry. A small number were engaged in agriculture.
The town had a small Hebrew-Yiddish library, a study house, and a free loan society. The Jewish youth mostly studied at the Hebrew and Yiddish gymnasiums in Vilnius. Most of the Jewish youth belonged to Zionist organizations until the Red Army entered Lithuania in the summer of 1940.
The villages around the town were occupied by Poles. After the town was assigned to Lithuania, Lithuanian officials from deep inside Lithuania arrived in town.
The attitude of the townspeople and local country people toward the Jews in town was not bad. The arrival of the Red Army in town and the announcement that the Jews were citizens with equal rights aroused considerable hostility on the part of Christian neighbors in town and in the country. The majority of the Poles concurred with the anti-Jewish sentiments of the new Lithuanian rulers in town. This hostility toward the Jews was closely tied to their refusal to tolerate the Soviets and the new system. Both Poles and Lithuanians were overjoyed when war broke out between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941.
War Breaks Out; The Civilian Administration
On the morning of Tuesday, June 24 the townspeople realized that the Germans were already close to town. Almost all the Jews left their homes and rushed to stay with peasants in the countryside. The Germans arrived in town at 4:00 on Tuesday afternoon. There was no battle for control of the town. The town was left entirely intact.
On the evening of Tuesday, June 24 the Jews began to return from the countryside to their homes. When the Jews returned they found their houses and all of their possessions in proper order. There had been no robberies.
The civilian administration in town was assembled by Lithuanians from town, along with the recent arrivals from the Lithuanian interior. Some of the Poles from town joined with them.
The first mayor in town was the Pole Rimsenewitz. The chief of police in town was a Lithuanian who hadn’t been in town before the war. Four or five of the police were those who had been in the Red militia during the year of Soviet rule. They were all Lithuanians who had come from Lithuania during the Soviet period. The boss of the Jewish mill after it was nationalized under the Soviets, was a Lithuanian from the Lithuanian interior. After the Germans arrived in town he became the partisan commander. Khyene does not remember his last name.
During the second week of the war partisans in the village of Kazhmirove caught a Jewish boy named Khayem Nementshinsky. He had been involved in politics under the Soviets, and thus he was afraid to come to town. A partisan acquaintance of Khayem’s shot him on the spot. The murderer buried Khayem there in the country, near a stream. All three partisans were Poles from Pabershe. Their first and last names are: Henrik Jancsek; Kazhuk Balenda; and Juzef Sumbar. Before the war these three had been friendly with the Jewish youth of the town. Juzef Sumbar had been a member of the militia under the Soviets. Henrik Jancsek had been a member of the Communist youth.
The Polish photographer from town Kadelsky and the farmer Drozd from a settlement near the Gerviat compound had been arrested and imprisoned under the Soviets. The photographer had been caught with pictures of the Polish leaders, and the peasant Drozd had been caught hiding a rifle. Young people from town took part in the inspections. After the war broke out the two men escaped from prison in Vilnius and came to Pabershe. They both sought opportunities to take revenge against Jews. They went to the Gestapo in Vilnius and libeled the Jews from town, saying they were all Communists.
Robberies and Arrests: 36 Jewish Men Shot
On the morning of Friday, July 11 several automobiles carrying high-ranking Gestapo officials and a truck carrying Gestapo men arrived from Vilnius. They all pulled in at the marketplace near the restaurant belonging to the Pole Rauba. There they got drunk. From there they spread out in groups to the Jewish houses. The first Jew they encountered in the street was Khyene’s cousin Yankl Oguz, a cattle dealer. The Gestapo men murderously beat him and arrested him. At the same time they arrested a Jew named Lipe Pastor, owner of a restaurant. They murderously beat him as well. They forced both Jews to accompany them and show them where Jews lived. Together with the police and partisans in town, they went to all the Jewish houses, taking money, gold, silver, gold rings and earrings, watches and other valuables. In each Jewish house they carried out a thorough investigation, taking everything they wanted. They took all the Jewish men above the age of fourteen or fifteen out of their houses.
They took all the men to the church in town. There the Jewish men had to stand with their hands up and their faces to the wall. At the same time the police and partisans took shovels out of the Jewish houses, and they took these to the church as well.
The photographer Kadelsky from town was an active participant in everything. He showed them where Jews lived, helped them rob and helped gather the necessary number of shovels. He spent a long time helping a Gestapo officer to rob and search for Jewish men in hiding. Next to the church the Gestapo men, helped by police and partisans, gathered 38 Jewish men.
The youngster Henokh Tsikhok, aged thirteen, was allowed to go back home. All of the other 37 were forced to climb into a truck. The necessary number of shovels were also placed in the truck. The Jewish men were taken out of town in the direction of Giedraitziai, on the highway.
Before the men were taken out of town, the Gestapo told them they were all being taken away to work in Lithuania. They were taken off to a small woods near the Trokiai compound, located two or three kilometers from town. In the forest the Jews were forced to dig a pit. Then they were all shot. The mass grave is located less than a kilometer from the Trokiai compound. 36 men lie murdered in the mass grave. The 37th was released from the area of the pit. The Jew who was released was Khayem Yofe. When Khayem came from the area of the pit to town he related that several young people had wanted to jump out of the truck and run away.
Rabbi Khayem Kaplan from town convinced them all not to do this, and recited the final confession before death with everyone. He also related that he had been released from the forest near the pit. At that time it was impossible to learn any details from him. He was very depressed and apathetic. He reported that a peasant acquaintance whom he had hidden from the Soviets had saved him.
However, everyone in town had always had a low opinion of this Khayem. The relatives of those who had been murdered suspected him of having betrayed several Jews. A short time after the 36 men were shot, his son Aba, at that time aged 21, was appointed foreman of the Jewish workers by the partisans in town.
When the Gestapo rode into the town, a large number of men hid in the attics of their barns. Others escaped from town to villages, fields and forests. Khyene’s older brother David Izrailsky ran to hide in grain fields at the edge of town. Two Jews named Peretz Lap and Shmuel Vilkinsky came to hide at the same place. They convinced David that the spot wasn’t a good one, and all three left the grain field, trying to hide in the forest. They were attacked by three Poles from town who didn’t have any weapons in their hands except for knives. Peretz Lap and Shmuel Vilkinsky ran away. David was left among the murderers, who threatened him with their long knives.
David ran away. At that moment an automobile carrying Gestapo men was already returning to town after the shooting of the 36 men. They arrested David. David told them that he had been working in his own field when three Poles tried to kill him. The Gestapo men took his golden fountain pen and his watch. They took him along to town in their taxi, and brought him to the church. There David had to stand with his hands up against the wall for an hour and a half. Then he was allowed to go home.
The three Poles caught up with Peretz Lap and stoned him to death. They dug a pit and wanted to bury him in it, but the grave was too short. They chopped his head off with their spade, and covered the grave over. After this murderous act they came to town and boasted to everybody. Khyene herself heard the three murderers boasting to everybody. All three murderers were Poles from town.
The three were:
1) The locksmith Ciranowsky;
2) The mason Marcinkewitz;
3) The worker Schniak, a partisan.
The first two were neither members of the town police nor of the Lithuanian partisan group, but they always helped in the slaughter of the town’s Jews and the robbery of the Jews’ possessions.
Among the 36 Jewish men who were shot on Friday, July 11, 1941 near the Trokiai compound, Khyene remembers the following:
- Aron Izrailsky, aged 17, a student, Khyene’s brother.
- Avrom Bampi, aged forty, a merchant.
- Moyshe Gordon, a tailor.
- Meyer Kagan, a merchant, an elderly man, and his three sons:
- Rafael, a merchant;
- Yankl, a merchant;
- Binyomin, a merchant.
- Shmuel Valtshtok, a merchant.
- Yankl Oguz, a cattle dealer.
- Leybe Oguz, a merchant.
- Yankl Oguz, a cousin of Yankl Oguz the cattle dealer.
- Pine Shpitalnik.
- Heyshl Volovitz, a merchant.
- Iser Viker, a scribe, and his son:
- Leybe Viker, also a scribe.
- Lipe Pastor, owner of a restaurant.
- Zalmen Vilkinsky, a farmer, aged 17, and his uncle
- Leybe Vilkinsky, a yeshiva student.
- Berl Retzky, a farmer, and his brother:
- Moyshe Retzky, a student.
- Shmuel Kagan, a merchant.
- Moyshe Vaynshteyn, a farmer and merchant, and his brother:
- Osher Vaynshteyn, a farmer and merchant.
- Shmuel Vaynshteyn, a student, a nephew of Moyshe and Osher Vaynshteyn.
- The town rabbi, Rabbi Khayem Kaplan.
- Shimon Kagan, a wigmaker.
- Yeshayohu Nementshinsky, a tailor.
Khyene does not remember the first or last names of the rest of the murdered men. Among the men who were shot were yeshiva students and refugees from Poland.
On Friday, July 11 Lithuanian police and partisans took away the Jews’ horses and cows, and distributed them to peasants living in town and in the countryside.
The Ghetto: Decrees and Insults of Jews; Various Hard Tasks
Five or six days later, on July 17 or 18, 1941, police went to all the Jewish houses announcing that everyone had to settle into one neighborhood, in small old houses near the study house. The Christian residents moved into the good Jewish houses, and the Jews moved into the old, dirty houses. The Jews also moved into the women’s section of the synagogue, and into the free loan society building. All the Jews had to move before 6:00 p.m. that same day.
There was no fence around the neighborhood, nor was there a guard posted. At that time as well the familiar anti-Jewish decrees were enforced in town, about wearing two yellow Stars of David, forbidding Jews to walk on the sidewalks, and so forth. A curfew was introduced for Jews. Jews were not allowed to leave their homes between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. They weren’t even allowed to go from one house to the other. During the day the Jews were allowed to leave the neighborhood.
Some of the Jews even went to the country to buy food.
Immediately after the Germans arrived in town police and partisans took Jews to do various tasks. Every morning all of the able-bodied men and women had to gather near the town police headquarters for roll call. From there they were taken to do various tasks. The Jews worked at fixing up the graves of fallen German soldiers from the First World War, and repairing the roads and highways around the town. Some of the young people did agricultural work at various compounds. While the Jews worked they were guarded by police and partisans, who bullied the Jews, beat them and mocked them. After a hard day’s work, the Jews went home.
The Jews were not paid for their work, nor were they fed. The Jews exchanged their possessions with peasants for a bit of food.
After they had been in the neighborhood for a certain amount of time, the Jews were forbidden from buying food at the market place. They were strictly forbidden to leave town and buy food in the country.
Tragic reports about the total annihilation of Jews began coming from nearby Lithuanian towns. Several Jewish survivors from surrounding towns appeared and corroborated the reports. Most of the Jews in town considered the reports to be impossible and exaggerated. The Jews torn away from all the nearby Jewish communities were consumed with sorrow and despair.
All the Jews Taken to the Wilianowa Compound; The Total Slaughter
On Friday, September 19, 1941 policemen went to the Jewish houses, and warned everyone that the next day, Saturday, they would have to report to the square near the police station. All the Jews, men, women and children, had to report to the square. Some of the young people left the town that Friday evening, and ran away to hide at the homes of peasant friends in the nearby forests and villages.
They took along their better possessions and hid them. The Jews did not guess the intentions of the Lithuanian police and partisans in town.
On Saturday morning almost all of the Jews came to the square near the police station. Only the elderly, the sick and small children remained at home. From eight in the morning Jews waited for further news in great terror and impatience.
At 9:00 a.m. two trucks carrying Lithuanian partisans arrived in town. They were all dressed in their pre-war uniforms. They were all well-armed. When they saw the Jews standing in the square, they began laughing uproariously and rubbing their hands with joy. Some of those remaining in the trucks skipped with glee. The two trucks stopped across from the Jews. The Jews’ mood changed to despair. Some of them said that these murderers were going to shoot all the Jews. Some of them said that they were on their way to the front. Some of the Jews gradually moved away from the square, hiding behind the nearby houses, where they waited with their hearts pounding for the desperate situation to evolve further.
Aba Yofe, the foreman of the Jewish workers, had apparently overheard a conversation between the leaders of the newly-arrived partisans. Aba understood a bit of Lithuanian. He came to the Jews and desperately complained that he didn’t understand what was happening.
When he came a second time he shouted out loud: “Jews, it’s bad! Everybody who can save himself should do so!” The Jews began running away from the square in every direction. Many of them ran out of town into the surrounding forests. Others ran to their houses, grabbed their small children and then ran out of town toward the surrounding forests and villages. Some of them ran from the square toward their homes and hid there. These were the older and weaker Jews.
The partisans immediately surrounded the town. They forced Aba to go to the houses with them and summon the Jews back to the square. The partisans promised the Jews that everyone was being taken away to work, and no one should be afraid. They permitted everyone to bring along their things and gather at the town community center. The Jews in town calmed down a bit, and began packing their better possessions to bring them along. Some of the Jews immediately ran off to join their relatives in nearby forests and villages, and told them to come back to town “because everyone is being taken to work,” as they told their relatives.
The majority of the Jews who had run away returned to town, packed their valuable possessions and went to the community center. More than a hundred Jews ran away from town that morning. Most of them believed the partisans’ assurances, and returned to town. The Jews were allowed to take whatever they wanted out of their houses and bring it to the community center. At noon on Saturday almost all the Jews had arrived at the community center.
After the Jews went to the community center, police sealed the Jewish houses. As soon as the Jews had entered the community center, a heavy guard was posted. No one was allowed out. The Jews were allowed to load their possessions onto wagons which had been brought for the purpose. The sick and elderly Jews and the small children were placed in wagons. The rest of the Jews had to line up in a column in rows. All the Jews were taken out onto the highway in the direction of Vilnius under heavy guard. When they had gone fifteen kilometers the Jews were taken off the highway to the left, and brought to the Wilianowa compound, a few kilometers from the highway.
On Saturday evening, September 20, 1941 all of the Jews of Pabershe were brought to the Wilianowa compound. Peasants who took the older Jews in their wagons later related that on the way from town to the compound partisans brutally beat the Jews.
Maishiogala is a small town 28 kilometers from Vilnius. The highway between Vilnius and Ukmerge goes through the town. About seventy Jewish families lived in town. They worked in trade, artisanry and also did a bit of agriculture. The town had a study house. Until 1936 the town belonged to Poland. Then the town was assigned to Lithuania, along with the Vilnius region.
On Sunday, September 21, 1941, partisans brought all of the Jews of Maishiogala to the Wilianowa compound.
Rieshe is a small town north of Vilnius, halfway between Pabershe and Vilnius. Until the war broke out on June 22, 1941, about ten Jewish families lived there, and worked at trade, artisanry and agriculture.
On Saturday, September 20, 1941, the Jews from these places were brought to the Wilianowa compound.
A church compound ten kilometers from the town of Rieshe. Several Jewish families lived there, working at trade and agriculture. There was no study house there. On Saturday, September 20 the Jews were taken to the Wilianowa compound.
A small town not far from Maishiogala. Several Jewish families lived there, working at trade and agriculture. These several Jewish families were also taken to the Wilianowa compound on Saturday, September 20, 1941.
Part of this place belonged to the city of Vilnius, and the smaller part, containing the summer houses across the river, belonged to Rieshe township. It is a small town seven kilometers from Vilnius, on the highway between Vilnius and Pabershe. Until the war about ten Jewish families lived there. They worked at trade, artisanry and agriculture. The town had a study house.
On Saturday, September 20, 1941 partisans drove the Jews out of their houses. A small number of the Jews were taken to Wilianowa, and the rest to the Vilnius ghetto. The Jews from the section belonging to Rieshe township were taken to Wilianowa.
The Wilianowa compound is located five kilometers from the town of Rieshe. Until 1939 the compound belonged to a Polish nobleman named Slizhen. After the Red Army entered Lithuania in the summer of 1940, the compound had been nationalized.
The compound contained agricultural buildings, and a beautiful house belonging to the former nobleman. All the Jews who had been brought from the six towns were herded into the barns by the partisans.
A heavy guard was posted around the barns. The Jews were not allowed to leave the barns. They were given nothing to eat or drink. The Jews clearly understood what was going to happen in the near future. The panic of the women and children is hard to convey.
On the first day of Rosh Hashanah 1941, Monday, September 22, the partisans drove a group of Jews into a small forest half a kilometer from the Wilianowa compound. There the Jews were shot. The same thing happened on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, and on Wednesday, the day after Rosh Hashanah.
In the course of three days all the Jews who had been assembled were shot at one mass grave. Peasants later reported that for some distance the screams of men, women and children could be heard. After the grave was covered with dirt, blood seethed from inside. The surface of the grave slowly heaved up and down. When the mass grave was covered over, many people were buried alive who had been only slightly or badly wounded.
While the Jews were being shot, liquor and beer were available near the pit. The shooters kept drinking and celebrating. In Khyene’s opinion more than seven hundred Jews were shot at that spot (820?)
Hidden Jews Caught and Shot After the Total Annihilation
On Friday, September 19 in the evening, as well as the next day, Saturday the 20th, a large number of Jews escaped from town. Some of them returned to town on Saturday, and went to the community center with their relatives. The rest hid in the forests and with peasants in the countryside. The majority, however, were later caught by the Lithuanian and Polish police, and the Lithuanian partisans.
Khyene remembers the following cases:
- Gershon Zaks and his wife Feyge and two small children hid in the village of Schapeci, two kilometers from the town of Pabershe. On the second day of Rosh Hashanah 1941 the peasant woman with whom they were hiding reported them to the town police. They were kept in the town prison for a few days. From there they were taken to the Vilnius prison. All four were killed.
- A girl named Dvoyre Viker hid at the home of a peasant in a village near a forest. Lithuanian police caught her at the home of the peasant Karpowits and brought her to the town prison. From there she was taken to prison in Vilnius. Dvoyre Viker was killed.
- Mrs Sore-Etl Retsky and her daughter Esther hid at the home of the peasant Baczul in the village of Rawnopoli, two kilometers from Pabershe. Mrs Retsky had hidden her valuables at this peasant’s home. After the Jews were shot near the Wilianowa compound, the peasant kept the two women for a week and then handed them over to the police in town. The mother and daughter were taken to prison in town, and from there to Vilnius prison. Both were killed.
- Mrs Etl Lap and her three sons Dovid, Yosl and a third little boy hid in the village of Sawky, four kilometers from town, at the home of a peasant. Mrs Khaye Tapuakh and her daughters Leye, aged 18 and Rokhel, aged 16, were also hiding with that peasant. Exactly two weeks after the Jews were taken out of town, a neighbor betrayed them. All seven Jews were arrested by the police and taken to prison in town. From there they were taken to Vilnius prison, where they evidently all died. The neighbor who betrayed them was Juzef Wirbil.
- Dovid Izrailsky, Khyene’s brother, escaped from town on Friday evening, September 19, 1941. He hid at the home of a peasant named Woitkewitz, in a settlement near the village of Borskuni, seven kilometers from the town of Pabershe. Dovid was at the home of the peasant for a week. The peasant gave Dovid food and drink, and then went to the police in town and betrayed Dovid. Policemen arrested Dovid at the peasant’s home. They beat him and tortured him. They demanded that he tell them where his three sisters were hiding.
For a long time Dovid was kept in prison in town, tortured and interrogated. Then they sent him to the Vilnius Gestapo headquarters, where he was kept interned for a week. From there he was taken to Ponary, near Vilnius. Dovid was arrested by police at the peasant’s home in the countryside on December 6, 1941.
- Shimen Vaynshteyn hid until late fall 1941 at the home of a peasant in the Koniuch compound. He was betrayed. Police arrested him and brought him to prison in Pabershe. From there he was taken to prison in Vilnius. Shimen Vaynshteyn died. Khyene does not know any details.
- A cousin of Shimen’s named Leyzer Vaynshteyn hid at the home of a peasant in the village of Burkuli, six or seven kilometers from town, until late in the fall of 1941. Leyzer had hidden his possessions at the home of another peasant. Once when he went to the other peasant to pick up some of his things, the peasant betrayed Leyzer to the police. Leyzer was arrested and taken to prison in town. From there he was taken to Vilnius prison. Later Leyzer was in the Vilnius ghetto and in a camp in Germany, where he died.
- Yisroel Oguz, his wife Mashe and their two small children hid in a village at the home of the peasant Matlak. Yisroel had hidden his things at the home of another peasant named Schimkewitz. Yisroel went to him to ask for some of his things. Schimkewitz asked where he and his family were hiding, and promised to bring him some of the things. Schimkewitz decided instead to inherit Yisroel’s goods, and told the police in Pabershe about the Jews who were in hiding. The Oguz family were arrested. They spent a short time in the town prison. From there they were taken to Vilnius. They were all killed. The good peasant Matlak lived in a village five kilometers from Pabershe.
- Gedalye Shmukler, his wife Miriam and their two small children Bashe and Leybele hid in a village five kilometers from town at the home of a peasant. Another peasant betrayed the family. They were all arrested. They were killed in the Vilnius prison. This was in the winter of 1941.
- The peasant Woitkewitz, who had betrayed Khyene’s brother Dovid Izrailsky, was visited by the Pabershe Jews Zusl Shapiro and his two sons Shmuel-Khayem and Moyshe, who wanted food. The peasant warmly received the father and his two sons, and gave them food and drink. He suggested that they wait until fresh bread would finish baking, so he could give it to them to take along. He himself went to town and reported the Jews to the police. Before he left he let the Jews into a barn. Police surrounded the barn. Zusl and Shmuel-Khayem managed to escape. Moyshe was caught, tied up and brought first to Pabershe prison and then to the Gestapo in Vilnius. From the Gestapo he was taken to Vilnius ghetto. Later he fled the ghetto and went into hiding in the countryside again, and he survived. He was killed by Polish nationalists after the war.
- Zusl Shapiro and his daughter Bashe, a girl in her twenties, later hid in a small bath house near the village of Olani, twelve kilometers from the town of Pabershe. No-one knew about their presence. In the evening the father and daughter went to the village to get food from the peasants. A forester spied on them, and detained both of them. He tied them up and brought them to the police in Pabershe. From there they were both taken to Vilnius prison. Details about their death in Vilnius are unavailable to Khyene. The father and daughter were arrested by the forester three weeks before the arrival of the Red Army in the region.
The Pabershe Jew Shmuel Shapiro, aged 35 or 36, escaped from the mass grave. Khyene spoke with him after the Liberation. Shmuel told Khyene that a group of Jews from the Wilianowa compound had been forced to dig the mass grave in the forest. He had been one of them. After the mass grave was dug, all the Jews who had worked on it were shot. A number of Jews ran away from the pit at that time. Automatic rifle fire was aimed at the escaping Jews from all sides. Everyone was shot trying to escape. Shmuel Shapiro was the only one who managed to escape from the pit and hide in a forest.
Shmuel Shapiro was murdered by Polish right-wing nationalists after the war.
How Did the Eyewitness Khyene and Her Sister survive?
Among those who escaped from the square in Pabershe on Saturday, September 20, 1941, were Khyene and her sister Reyzl. They went to their own house, quickly gathered together as much as they could and escaped to a peasant in a village two kilometers from town.
Khyene, her mother Bashl and sister Reyzl immediately returned to town to take something out of the house and bring it to the village. In town people began to be reassured, thinking they were being taken to work. Their mother decided to stay in the house, but she sent her two daughters to escape, Bashl asked her two daughters: “I’ve already lived more than half a life. But you should run and survive! God will show you a way, and good people will help you!”
Khyene and Reyzl said goodbye to their mother, and left the town. Partisans arrested the two sisters outside of town, and brought them back into town. Then the two sisters escaped from town in another direction. Khyene’s brother Dovid escaped from town on Friday, September 19. On Saturday morning Freydl left town to see Dovid, in order to warn him not to come to town.
The two sister Khyene and Reyzl escaped from town into a forest where they met their sister Freydl and their brother Dovid.
Khyene’s father Yosl and his little son Moyshe, aged seven, ran away from town in another direction on Saturday. The father and other Jews allowed themselves to be convinced by peasants that the Jews were being taken to work. The father and Moyshe returned to town and went to the community center.
After her two daughters escaped, Bashe took the two small children Khayele and Elinke from a village and took them to town. Then they too went to the community center.
Khyene’s father Yosl, her mother Bashe, her brothers Moyshe and Elinke (aged 2) and her sister Khayele were all annihilated near the Wilianowa compound.
Khyene’s brother Aron Izrailsky was one of the 36 Jews who were shot on July 11, 1941. Khyene’s other brother Dovid Izrailsky was betrayed by a peasant two months after he ran away from town, and was killed (see Case 5 above).
Surviving Pabershe Jews after the slaughter near the Wilianowa compound later died in the ghettos and countryside in White Russia.
The three sisters Freydl, Reyzl and Khyene began a difficult, bitter and desperate struggle to survive. They were facing not only the Lithuanian and Polish partisans, police and the Germans. They also had to fight desperately against the terribly cold winter of 1941. A day here and a night there, they wandered through fields, forests and villages, through an alien world which was murderously prejudiced against the Jewish survivors. Khyene was a seamstress, and she managed to obtain a position with a peasant named Matijas in the village of Borskuni, seven kilometers from Pabershe. At the peasant’s home she sewed and earned money. She was there for six months, and then she went to another peasant named Kazimir Arszewsky, in the same village. She was there for six weeks. In the fall of 1942 Khyene no longer had anyone to work for, and she went to the Vilnius ghetto, where she stayed for ten months, until the fall of 1943.
At that time Jews began to be taken out of the Vilnius ghetto to various camps. Jews were taken from the Vilnius ghetto to Estonia, Latvia and so forth, Khyene escaped from the ghetto in the fall of 1943, three weeks before the Vilnius ghetto was liquidated. Khyene returned to the area near the town of Maishiogala.
Khyene hid in the village of Borskuni at the homes of the peasants Stanislaw Gladkowsky, Juzef Matijas, Juzef Matilanec and several other peasants from the fall of 1943 until the liberation on June 25, 1944.
While she was with the peasants Khyene did everything she could to be useful to her rescuers. She sewed for them, helped with the housework and the like. Khyene didn’t have any money, and she paid the peasants with her diligent, useful work.
Reyzl was fortunate. A peasant from a village near the town of Shirvintas in Lithuania came to visit another peasant in a village. The peasant had six daughters. One of them worked for the Gestapo. The peasant took Reyzl to his village. There she managed to obtain Aryan papers, and she lived openly. But neighbors figured out that she was Jewish. Reyzl left for a village near Ukmerge, and went to work as a maid for Lithuanians who had helped slaughter the Jews of Ukmerge.
There she pretended to be a Polish woman. None of the peasants in the village figured out that she was Jewish. Reyzl heard terrible stories from her masters about the slaughter of the Jews of Ukmerge. The peasants spoke about it with great satisfaction. They all justified the slaughter of the Jews of Lithuania. When Reyzl listened to these stories her heart pounded in her chest. Tears burst from her eyes. But she had to control herself and avoid revealing her identity. With all her strength she tried to please and satisfy her masters, whose hands were drenched in Jewish blood. She was liberated in a village near Ukmerge.
Frida hid the whole time with the same peasants as her sister Khyene. The peasants knew that they were sisters. The two sisters were always separated, and they met very seldom.
The town of Pabershe was totally burned down by the Germans before the Red Army arrived in the summer of 1944. All of the Jewish survivors gathered in town. They visited and paid their respects to the 36 Jews who had been shot, and also went to the mass grave near the Wilianowa compound. Khyene also visited both mass graves.
The Jewish survivors had no place to go in town. They were all exhausted, hungry, barefoot and naked. They had no place to stay. For some time they all slept in a barn belonging to the peasant Franciszek Balkowsky. The Jews began demanding their belonging and their cattle, which their relatives and families had given to peasants after the Germans arrived in the year 1941. Those whose houses were still intact demanded them back from the townspeople who had considered themselves the heirs of the murdered Jews for several years by then.
The peasants in town apparently turned to the right-wing nationalist Poles in the forests for help against the “nervy” Jews.
One Friday evening after the High Holy Days of 1944 nationalist Poles in the village of Pamuszi caught the Jew Moyshe Shapior, tied his hands and feet and threw him into a river.
The next day, Saturday night, nationalist Poles took Mrs. Miriam Shapiro from a peasant’s house and forced her to show them where the surviving Jews from the town were sleeping.
The Polish nationalists took the Jews Yisroel Nementshinsky, Yudl Orzhekhovsky, Shepsl Vilkinsky and Moyshe Shapiro’s uncle Shmuel Shapiro from the homes of peasants.
The Polish nationalists shot Miriam Shapiro and the four Jews in town near the houses where they had slept.
Khyene was in town as well at the time, sewing for a peasant woman. There were other Jews in town at the time. The Polish nationalists looked for them as well, but didn’t find them.
Because of the shortage of space in the burned town of Pabershe, the Red militia had settled into the nearby compound of Glinczyszky, and they didn’t know about the murderous attack by the Polish nationalists against the few Jewish survivors. A total of ten or twelve Jews survived from the entire town.