Chapter 6


The Memorial Book (Yizkor Book)
for the Jewish Community of
Yurburg, Lithuania
(Jurbarkas, name in Lithuanian)

Translations Compiled by Joel Alpert

Significant contributions for this material were made by members of the Krelitz, Ellis and Beiles families from the United States and Canada, whose families came from Yurburg.
All contributors and translators are indicated at the beginning of each article.

This book was written by former Jewish residents and survivors of Yurburg to help preserve the memory and knowledge of their beloved destroyed community. It was published in 1991 in Israel by the Organization of Former Residents of Yurburg, chairman: Shimon Shimonov (Shderot David Ha'Melech 1, Tel Aviv, Israel; cost was $30 in 1993). The book is mostly in Hebrew, with a five page English summary. Consequently, until now most of the contents have not been available to the English speaking community. Here we are attempting to provide translations to the public. Translated pages are reproduced here with permission from the Organization of Former Residents of Yurburg. Those of us who lost relatives from the town of Yurburg never knew what happened to them; now fifty years later, we learn the horrible truth in "Yurburg Destroyed" (The Story of Hannah Magidovitz) and the following entries.

For additional material on Yurburg (Jurbarkas), see the ShtetLinks Page for Yurburg.

This material is made available by JewishGen, Inc. and the Yizkor Book Special Interest Group (SIG) for the purpose of fulfilling our mission of disseminating information about the Holocaust and destroyed Jewish communities. Persons obtaining this material may not duplicate or create multiple copies except for non-commercial use. In no event may copies of this material be sold or bartered. Rights may be reserved by the copyright holder

JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material for verification.

This is a translation of Sefer ha-zikaron le-kehilat Yurburg-Lita (Memorial book for the community of Yurburg, Lithuania), Editor: Zevulun Poran, Jerusalem, Society of Yurburg Emigrants in Israel, 1991 (Hebrew and Yiddish, 524 pages).

We are grateful to the Society of Yurburg Emigrants in Israel for allowing us to publish this material on the JewishGen web site.

Chapter 6 Contents

All hypertext entries below are translated and contained herein.

All pictures of Chapter 6 are now included.

All non-hypertext entries are not translated. If you are interested in this material and would like to sponsor its translation, please see the section on how to help .





The Book of Tears - Z. Poran - (Hebrew image of the Poem)


The Shoah (Holocaust) in the Second World War - Z. Poran


Yurburg Destroyed (The Story of Hannah Magidovitz) - as recorded by Zebulun Poran


Additional details on the Annihilation of the Jews of Yurburg - The Testimony of Hanah Magidovitz - Translated from the Yiddish by Paz


Family in Dire Straits - Bella Bernstein - Mering's Testamony


Yurburg in the First Days of the Shoah - (from the book "Lita")


The Destruction of Yurburg - Tzvi Levit - Yiddish - nearly the same as above article (not yet translated)


Yurburg in the Days of Its Destruction - Rabbi Ephraim Ashri - Yiddish


Cases of the Killing of Women and Children by Shooting - The Auls Trial, Tilsit - Joseph Son of Matatyahu Valk of blessed memory


The Deadly Foes: Levickas and Kaminskas - Shimon Shimonov


The Jews of Shaudine were the First to be Executed - Avraham Levyush -


The Last Days in Yurburg and the Surrounding Area - Abba Val's story - recorded by Paz


The Group of "People of Yurburg" in the Forest from words of the Partisian Yehuda Tarshish - rewritten by Z. Poran


The Daring Escape to the Partisians in the Forest - Mordekhai Berkover


A Letter from the Jail in Yurburg - Mika Lyubin


At the 7 km Marker from Yurburg to Schaleninken - Leib (Arie) Elyashev - (Yiddish )


I Dreamt a Dream (song) - Y. Katznelson


The Homeland's Flowers Grow on the Communal Grave - Zahava (Zlata) Polarevitz-Ben Yehuda


The Bitter End of the Community of Yurburg - Paz


Chapter 6


The Sun Shines, the System (?) Blossoms and the Slaughter Slaughters.


Better translation needed

Chaim Nachum Bialik


Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv




The words come straight from the heart

They were written in great pain

Each word

Is drenched in blood

The blood of man

The blood of a people.

A book of tears

To be remembered for generations to come.

A tear - for the bereaved parents

A tear - for the sister and brothers that were orphaned

A tear - for the old grandfather and grandmother

A tear for a sacred community.

A tear - for the murder of a little baby

Who fell victim to the evil of the devil's sons

A small heart that was torn

And whispers its last breath.


Death outside

A vessel full of tears.

Voices cried to heaven - "Help us!"

Lips murmured prayers - "Save us!"

But no one heard, no one listened

No one removes the decree;

No one raises an eyebrow,

No one stretches out a hand. . .

The heavens are closed

They do not hear the cries of those who remain

The world is blacker than black

Not a ray of light is to be seen.

There is much killing

Not a family is spared

The whole town is a Holocaust

The community of Yurburg is destroyed.


The sun went down

A cat howled -

Nothing is left

Only bereavement.

And at night -

In the darkness of night, only a memorial candle will shed its light

On the martyrs of the town.

Zevulun Poran







Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv


The word Holocaust, which means destruction, liquidation, annihilation refers to the destruction of the Jews of Europe in World War II (1939-1945). The Jewish people numbered 16 million when the War broke out and over 6 million of them were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators. Jewish communities in Europe were destroyed in twenty one countries that were conquered by the Nazis.

Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, he was a brutal, blood-thirsty man who hated Jews. In 1939 Hitler started war with the aim of conquering the countries of Europe. The war went on for about six years, and it drowned the world in a sea of blood. Almost all the countries of Europe were conquered by the Nazi army. Millions of people were killed. Many towns were ruined. Millions were uprooted from their homes. However, the greatest tragedy of all befell the Jews. The Nazis decided to destroy the Jewish people. Every Jew was destined to be killed.

On 20 January 1942 Hitler convened the heads of the Nazi regime in the Berlin quarter Wannessee am Grossen in order to discuss the subject of the final solution of the Jewish question. At this "historical" conference the head of the security police and S.D., Ober Gruppenfuhrer Heidrich, submitted a detailed plan to liquidate 11 million Jews in Europe. For 90 minutes the participants discussed in cold blood the preferred method of murder, the organization, transport problems etc. The plan was approved in all its details in order to be executed in stages. Indeed, the major part of the plan was carried out.

The following is a list of the countries in which the destruction of the Jews was carried out in Europe (in %):

Poland (85.7);

Soviet Union (42);

Romania (50);

Hungary (50.4);

France (33.3);

Czechoslovakia (84.6);

Germany (81);

Austria (66.6);

Luxembourg (83.4);

Lithuania (90);

Latvia (89.5);

Holland (73.3);

Belgium (50);

Yugoslavia (75);

Greece (80);

Italy (26.3);

Bulgaria (14);

Denmark (7.1);

Norway (50),

Estonia (90).


Now, let's describe the route of suffering the Jews of Europe passed during the course of the War:

The Jews of Germany were the first to be destroyed, then came the Jews of Poland, the largest Jewish settlement in Europe, which numbered 3.5 million Jews prior to World War II. To facilitate the destruction the Nazis gathered together all the Jews in the large cities into ghettoes of Warsaw, Lodz, Bialistock, Riga, Vilna and Kovna and Shavli ( a relatively small ghetto) etc.

At the ghettoes the Jews were employed in forced labor, such as: industrial enterprises, paving of roads, building of bridges etc. The conditions of living and nourishment were poor.

In addition to torture at the ghetto, the Nazis set up the death camps at Auschwitz, Maidanek, Birkenwald, Treblinka, Halmano, Belsen etc. At these camps gas chambers were installed and furnaces that accelerated the destruction process of millions.

Immediately after the Nazi occupation of the Baltic states -- Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Soviet Russia as well, the Nazis and their local collaborators carried out brutal killings. Entire communities were destroyed.

In Lithuania the majority of the Jews were already killed in the first days of the Nazi invasion (1941). The Jews of the little villages in Lithuania were the first to be killed. The Jews of Yurburg shared the fate of those in the other villages of Lithuania. Only in the large cities ghettoes were set up, where the Jews were kept, like in Vilna (60.000), Kovna (20-30,000) and Shavli, a relatively small ghetto, about 3000 people. The destruction at the ghettoes was in stages. Those who were not fit were executed -- from Vilna they were sent to Ponar and from Kovna to Port 9 and 7 near Kovna and there they died. Those who remained were employed in forced labor until they were liquidated. Near the end of the War the Nazis took those Jews who were still able to work to Germany, where they were employed in forced labor. Many of them were saved when the Germans were defeated in the War, among them were some survivors from Yurburg who were at the Kovna ghetto.

In Yurburg all the Jews were destroyed, as mentioned above, in the first months of the Nazi invasion. In these months (June- September) Yurburg was a kind of ghetto, where noone could enter or leave. Here too everything happened in stages. Groups of Jews were taken to the woods, one after the other, on the way to Samalnikan, at the cemetery and other places where the elderly, women and children were brutally murdered. In Yurburg it was impossible to set up a resistance movement. The foreign surroundings alienated the Jews. And the Lithuanian "friends" -- if there were any -- were afraid to help.

However, in spite of everything, a few -- oh so few -- managed to organize into a group of Partisans and they went to the woods around Yurburg. They were joined by people from the Kovna ghetto and together they numbered 70. (See the article "People from Yurburg in the Forest" in the Book of Remembrance). Some of those from Yurburg in the forest were extremely brave and courageous; one of them even turned out to be a leader and daring warrior. This group carried out a number of daring actions, fighting as Partisans against German military units. The group of "people from Yurburg" in the forest became known as a brave group which intimidated the Lithuanian villages in the area. The villages had to supply to the Yurburg Partisans everything they required and even shelter women and children in their homes. Unfortunately, at the end of the War the "Yurburg" group was defeated. However, with their daring fighting, they survived for a long time and saved Jewish honor. Some youngsters from Yurburg at the Kovna ghetto joined the Kovna Partisans in the woods (see the article"Daring escape of the Partisans in the forest" ).

A few of the youngsters, who were outside Yurburg when the War broke out, enlisted in the Lithuanian division, in the framework of the Red Army in Russia. The majority of the Lithuanian division were in fact Jewish youngsters. The youngsters from Yurburg played their part in the War as best they could and had the good fortune to return with the division to Lithuania and liberate it. In Jewish Yurburg the Jews did not live to see the day of liberation. They were no longer there. Only dust and ashes remained of the Jews of Yurburg . . .

(Z. Poran)





"A memorial authority is hereby established -- YAD VASHEM -- to commemorate the six million Jews who were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators; the families of the House of Jacob who were killed and destroyed by the oppressor, the communities, synagogues, movements and organizations, military, cultural, educational, religious and charity institutions that were destroyed by evil action, to protest and cry out to heaven on behalf of the People of Israel and its culture, the courage of sacred Jews who gave their life for their people; the courage of Jewish soldiers in the armies and underground fighters in settlements and forests, who found their death in the battles against the Nazi oppressor; the courageous deeds of the survivors of the ghettoes and their fighters; who rose up and started the revolt to save their people's honor; the glorious and persistent fight when countless Jewish homes were about to be lost with their humane outlook and Jewish culture; the daring efforts of the Christians, that never ceased, and the devotion and heroism of brothers who strived to save those who survived and liberated them, and the righteous gentiles, who gave their lives to save Jews."





The Story of Hannah Magidovitz as recorded by Zebulun Poran
Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
These Translations Commissioned by members of the American branch of the Krelitz Family.


We are sitting in the home of Hannah Magidovitz, in the center of Rehovot. The apartment is spacious, furnished with taste and spotlessly clean. Around the table are also her husband, Shlomo Goldman, Manager of the town's Post Office branch and her two charming daughters - one a teacher at the Ashkelon state school, the other - a nurse at the "Kaplan" hospital. The family extends a warm welcome to the guests. There is a festive atmosphere in the house. It is not everyday that two such welcome guests appear. . . one has come from Tel Aviv and the other from Jerusalem - both are true Yurburgers - Shimon Shimonov and Zebulun Poran.

There are refreshments on the table and a pleasant conversation is taking place in a friendly and warm atmosphere of old friends. However, the clock does not stop ticking, and we hint at the purpose of our visit, the hosts are fully aware of it. It is getting late and everyone understands time has come to bring back the memories of those terrible days, in which the tragic history of Jewish Yurburg ends.

The husband and daughters leave the room, and we, the three Yurburgers, remain alone with our sorrow about the bitter fate of our Yurburg.

A moment of silence passes, and another one of heavy thoughts . . . Hannah's face is getting pale and red in turn. There are tears in her eyes and she finds it hard to swallow.

.... To speak about Yurburg, the tragedy ... it is impossible. Impossible! Those who were not there will not believe what I am saying . . .

Hannah is struggling with herself, overcomes her reluctance and starts to tell her story. Words in Hebrew and Yiddish, a medley of tongues, sounding like lamentation, sad.

The wailing of Hannah, the Jewish mother, daughter of the town of Yurburg, who calls to heaven: "Why, Oh God, why?" She speaks out against the cruel and indifferent world which brought destruction on Yurburg. For a moment we remember Hannah as a young girl, full of joy, and it is hard to imagine that this is the same Hannah, speaking in anger, avenging the women and children, young and old. An entire Jewish community was wiped out and is no longer - and only she, Hannah, the only witness, remains in order to tell the terrible story.


. . . It started one summer morning. The dawn disperses the misty watches of the night, a slight breeze, drops of dew, the pleasant odors of field and garden are in the air. The birds twitter, singing happily towards the start of a new day. Yes, a new day, 22 June 1941. Yurburg is slumbering at this hour, sleeping as usual. Everything is restful and pleasant -until suddenly a terrible sound rips the silence -

"Jews, war, w-a-r. . . "

The sound ripped through the house, startled the whole family and made them get up from their beds. When we went outside we already saw many others; windows were opened nearby and far away, Jews looked out in surprise and awe - "What is going on?" Here and there those standing outside noticed airplanes raging through the sky, approaching Yurburg with a terrible noise, dropping bombs and destroying the surroundings of the town. Luckily most bombs fell into the Neiman and did not damage houses or people.

We spent hours waiting anxiously, tensely whispering "Hoi, what will happen?" Thus, without knowing what would happen to them, the helpless Jews stood around in small groups, whispering, their faces full of gloom.

Eight o'clock in the morning. The first rows of motor vehicles appeared in the streets and behind them the German "Wehrmacht" and behind the "Wehrmacht" rows of marching soldiers, facing West, on the road to Kovna. The Jews shivered and watched in terror how the German army took over the town, without any resistance from the Lithuanian army units which formed part of the Russian army.

After the "commandos" passed, the "Wehrmacht" infantry spread out onto all the roads, took over the government institutions and started to look for Russian and communist soldiers. Tumult broke out in town. Lithuanians and Jews, who were connected with the government institutions started to hide, and those who could flee-fled. Only a few managed to escape on the first steamship which left in the morning along the Neiman to Kovna. There was a situation of uncertainty in town. Jewish families started to gather together in order to ease the fear. Children cried and wailed and it is hard to describe what went on among the Jewish population on the morning of that cursed day. Many burst out and vented their feelings of frustration. When one of the neighbors shouted: "Jews - let's protect ourselves - let's hide in the public bath" they all got up and without a thought ran to the public bath, a large, strong building.

It seemed to many that its strong and thick walls would protect those inside. Fear is the Devil's Advocate. They thought that together they might be able to protect themselves. The public bath was full to the brim, a multitude of people pressed into this dubious shelter. And as the popular saying goes - a drowning man grasps at a straw, when he wants to save himself. Food was brought to the public bath for the little children and later also for the grownups, to strengthen their bodies and souls, enabling them to face the enemy when the time would come. These were difficult hours for those who had deliberately imprisoned themselves in this gray and depressing building on this first day, there are no words to describe their gloomy spirit

At 4 p.m. the German soldiers discovered the hiding place. Four soldiers broke open the door and one of them entered and shouted the order: " Come out immediately!" - in order to convince the people not to huddle there, he added: "it is more dangerous here, if the air force sees a large building standing out in the area - it may decide to bomb it!" However, no one agreed to leave the building, a discussion started with the soldiers, women and men implored and begged to be allowed to stay, but the soldiers had no mercy. At this stage the "Wehrmacht" soldiers did not yet show their true face. They started to calm the desperate Jews and assured them nothing bad would happen to them. The soldiers also told the agitated crowd that the Russians had attacked their country and that they had no choice but to defend Germany, their fatherland. One German soldier even boasted: " Never mind, in two weeks we will be in Moscow." He said this in an arrogant, self-assured manner as if this was wonderful news to the Jews as well.. . . However, there was one soldier who stood aside and secretly whispered to the Jew standing next to him - "Yes, in two weeks we will be in Moscow, and in two years the Russians will be in Berlin. . ." This was apparently an unusual German soldier . . . in fact, they all received orders and carried them out ruthlessly.

We must admit that the German soldiers, who were very aggressive, were courteous in their first meeting with the Jews, and even tried from time to time to calm the frustrated crowd. Having no choice, the Jews started to leave the public bath. Sad and perplexed they returned, stumbling, to the homes they had abandoned. The unfortunate Jews had no inkling yet of the German policy of misleading.

The Jews of Yurburg passed the first night in great fear. No one removed his clothes or took off his shoes. No eye was closed. They had no appetite, were depressed and confused by so much fear of what lay ahead.

The next day, Monday, no one left his home. Jewish Yurburg was paralyzed. Business came to a complete standstill. There was no hunger yet. Jews sold part of their belongings to Lithuanians and bought food. All the neighbors and relatives gathered together in one house, it was very crowded, but the situation was still bearable. Jews said "Soll nur nischt sein erger" (things should not be worse). Nevertheless, we felt that the Lithuanians, the former Shaulists (now they called themselves partisans or activists), started to make themselves available to the Germans, enthusiastically assisting them, taking over the street. The attitude of these Shaulists towards the Jews was hostile and brutal. Their influence on the other Lithuanians grew by the day. Already on the second day the Lithuanians carried out severe beatings. The new rulers ordered all the Jewish boys, without exception, to assemble on Raisen street (Rasaino Gatva) on Mordechai (Mottel) Labayosh' plot, a place later known as "Arbeits-Lager" (i.e. labor camp). From here Jews were sent for service in town such as : cleaning the streets, working in vegetable gardens and any assistance required by the Lithuanians. A Jew was appointed manager of the "Arbeits-Lager" and he was asked to carry out the authorities' orders.

Everyday another bad thing happened to us. The Lithuanians started to show their rudeness and tyranny. On the third day of the War an order was published that the Jews had to wear a yellow patch on their clothes. Where to find yellow cloth? Here we got the idea to use the cloth of the Lithuanian flag, one of whose colors is of course yellow. We therefore tore up the Lithuanian flag, without any pangs of conscience, and sewed the patches for our clothes. Thus "adorned" with the yellow patches we were ordered to march along the pavement of the street. These and others were the orders we received every morning. The more the Lithuanians' atrocities increased, the more depressed we became, yet we tried to stand firm, as far as we could.

One day the Jews were ordered to destroy the synagogue, break up its walls and everything inside, and distribute it all to the Lithuanians. It is impossible to describe how this order affected the town's Jews. The synagogue was the pride of the Yurburg Jews. It was not only a house of prayer, but a valuable cultural attribute of art. It was said that its construction was completed in the seventeenth century by the best Jewish artists of the time. The sacred ark was made of wood, carved by hand, with beautiful engravings of animals, plants, leafs, turtles, lions and birds. Then there was the beautiful chair of Eliyahu, used for brit-mila. The old building was gray, but full of splendor and inspiration. The synagogue was "a little temple" not only for the Jews of Yurburg, but also for all the Jews of Lithuania, who came from far to see the Temple.

The building was famous beyond the borders of Lithuania as well. Then here comes the oppressor and orders: "get up and destroy the synagogue", the "Holy of Holies" of Yurburg's Jews! But the order was given and the Jews had to implement it and those who did not observe it were beaten and forced to carry it out. The knees failed and the hands were shaking, but who could oppose these beasts? With tears in their eyes and broken hearts the Jews had to carry out this shameful job. Many Lithuanians came to watch the terrible deed, but only a few dared to take the loot.

Not far from the synagogue stood the "shechita stiebel", a small building, used for poultry slaughtering. This building too had to be destroyed. There were many feathers there, which were dispersed over the area; these feathers stuck to the Jews and they were so dirty it was hard to recognize them. Thereforethe Shaulists -Lithuanians who were overseeing the crime, ordered them to go down to the Neiman river and wash in its water. During the destruction and also at the river the Shaulists tortured them, kicked them and pushed them into the water. . . an offensive and degrading sight.

The German soldiers stood next to the Lithuanians all the time and took pictures of the "action" carried out faithfully by their Lithuanian helpers. The Germans, for whom and at whose behest the Lithuanians gladly carried out these actions, cynically asked the Jews "why do the Lithuanians hate the Jews so much?"

Another thing which degraded and angered the Jews took place the next day. One of the religious ministrants in town was Cantor Alperowitz. An old man, tall and distinguished looking. On religious holidays he would appear with his chorus at the synagogue or the great seminar and pray and sing the melodies he himself composed. He was a learned man, very popular and venerated by the worshippers. The sons of the devil turned to him as well. They took him to the center of town, many Lithuanians thronging about; they attached a brick to his white beard and ordered him to march through the streets of the town. The Jews were called upon to watch the painful sight; some Jews pleaded for mercy and volunteered to take the old cantor's place on the shameful march, but they were refused. Thus the cantor had to go on his shameful walk, accompanied by the enemies' shouts of joy and the wailing of the Jews of Yurburg who were forced to watch this terrible ceremony, the likes of which had not been created by the devil yet.. .

Time passed, and there was no end to the malicious acts. One day the Jews were assembled and ordered to carry Stalin's statue in a parade through the streets of the town, to sing and dance, while the Lithuanians, the German soldiers at their side, marched along and tormented them, beat them and kicked them from one side to the other. Finally the parade reached Zarda, a broad square near the Neiman river. A high heap was made of Jewish books and writings and Stalin's statue was set in the middle. When the paper burned the Lithuanian's joy knew no end and they tortured the Jews. Children, women and men were ordered to sing and dance.

The Jews were forced to sing until the flame went out; they sang psalms and the well-known folk song "Arom der feir mir singen lieder. . . (around the fire we sing songs), a Jewish revolt song, in front of their oppressors.


The acts of the Germans and the Lithuanians undermined our morale and we slowly became ever more indifferent to our fate. Nevertheless, when disaster struck our home and hit our family- says Hannah Magidovitz - we completely broke down. One day the Lithuanians, at the orders of their German masters, came to the Jewish homes looking for workers, they said. They took my father and younger brother somewhere. In this action 350 Jews were taken away. They were all ordered to bring along a shovel for digging. Thus our dear ones left on a silent road from which they never returned. A long, dreadful night fell over our home and over many homes in town, from where the men were taken forcefully, never to return . . . only the next day did we learn of the terrible disaster. A Lithuanian, a farmer, was witness to the horror. After they were led into the forest they were at first ordered to dig pits, according to the witness, as deep as possible, and then to kill each other with the shovels in their hands.

Thus the earth swallowed them forever, without a sign or a mark on the large common grave. One day short letters were received from the "enlisted men" sent, as it were, to work. In their letters they wrote us that they were working on the floating of tree barges (traftim) and that there was no cause for concern.. . After the horrors we had gone through, we had no illusions that our beloved ones were still alive.

A few days later another calamity took place. One evening another count took place, this time under the pretense of concern for the sick and elderly. They promised to take the sick and weak to hospital where they would receive proper treatment. Another deception which no one believed. We knew they were led to their death; women cried and pleaded for mercy, but there was no mercy.

Thus the sick and elderly were led on the road to Raseinai at a distance of 18 kilometers. from Yurburg. The Lithuanians did not bother the sick and elderly with digging pits. The graves were already waiting to receive the dead. From this "action" no one returned either and no one was left alive. Again, according to the testimony of Lithuanian villagers, they were all brutally killed. Most of them were buried alive. The next day, when we were called to the "Arbeits -Lager" ("labor camp"), we found remnants of clothes and jewelry, removed from the dead.

Hundreds of Jewish men were led to the cemetery where they were brutally killed. 520 people, among them the leaders of the community, including Rabbi Rubinstein, revolted, shouted, shook their fists and fought to the bitter end. There were no illusions left. We knew our days were counted. Only women and children remained in the Jewish homes. However, the cruel fate did not spare them either. German planning and deception were constantly active. One day the women were called to headquarters, while the children had to remain at home. When we heard this, says Hannah, we hid mother on the attic, and we presented ourselves in her place. The women were told to stand together in the yard of "Talmud Torah", the large elementary school of the town. Hundreds of women were brutally taken to the headquarters, babies crying in their arms. We remained at CTalmud Torah" from morning to night, says Hannah, without any food or drink. The Lithuanians behaved like cruel animals.

Towards evening Shaulists-Lithuanians arrived with automatic weapons and ordered us to line up, two in a row; they kicked and beat us to make us hurry. The wailing of the mothers and the cries of the babies went up to heaven, but the hearts of the murderers remained cold as stone. The Germans, masters of the land, stood at a distance with their cameras, as usual, watching their Lithuanian servants-helpers' actions with much interest and satisfaction.

There was much confusion, as the crowd of Shaulists-Lithuanians surrounded the poor women, hitting them brutally with the buds of their rifles. They particularly hit those who walked too slowly, children and they threw them onto the ground, to induce them to carry on. Late at night we reached the end of the road. We were in the thick Schwentshani forest, frightened to death by the shadows of the trees. In the darkness we saw a deep pit, dug that day. Tumult broke out, and a terrible panic took hold of the women. The murderers fired into the air and shouted in frightening voices "Throw the children into the pits", they ordered the women to take off their clothes and leave them behind. It is hard to bring back to memory those awful moments at the place of murder. Mothers jumped with their children into the pits, some of them were shot, others still breathed. At those crucial moments in a person's life -as strange as this may seem - the life instinct is extremely strong. My entire being started to throb with the instinct to live and a voice from deep down in my soul cried out :"Live, live!" says Hannah Magidovitz.

Among the Lithuanians I met near here was a young man, a shopkeeper from the Kalyani village, and he whispered to me - "Escape Hannah, escape!" The plan to escape had already come into my mind along the way. I told myself - I must return to save mother and my little sisters, who still remained hidden at home. Therefore I quickly took the decision to escape at all costs! - and thus at a certain moment, when confusion took over and the women started to cry and flee to the forest, and the Shaulists -Lithuanians ran after them and fired at them, bewildered and without thinking what I was doing, as if a spirit of madness had taken hold of me, I jumped behind a bush, a jump and another one and here I am behind a tree, and another tree and a third one, my legs carrying me in a mad race, further and further away into the darkness of the thick forest towards an unknown place. Shots? -they no longer frighten me: the quest for life throbs in me, hope, revenge! Thus I finally fell down on the cold earth, exhausted. The Lithuanians did not manage to harm me. They were drunk from alcohol as well as from victory. The lust to murder and the smell of blood prodded them to carry out these bestial acts.

When I recovered and my energy returned, I started to walk towards Yurburg, but I lost my way, and almost ran into a German (patrol) guard who called to me from afar "Wer ist hier?" (who is there?). I went back from where I had come and at dawn I arrived at my home in Yurburg. At first I said nothing to my mother and sisters Zelda and Judith, who were still alive. Yet I was bothered by the idea - "I must tell" Those who remained had to know what the Lithuanians, the helpers of the Nazi Germans, had done to us-and then I told them the bitter truth and I said -"we must escape immediately, find a place with the Lithuanians, otherwise we will be destroyed. Don't be deceived!"

We tried to look for a hiding place with Lithuanian gentiles, but we soon found out that all the gentiles had betrayed us. They regretted the murder and were afraid for their own lives. Perhaps they were afraid of denunciation. That is how we were stuck between hammer and anvil, all we could do was to pray for mercy.

Only three days passed and the sword hit us again. In the morning all those who were left, without exception, had to gather in the notorious yard of Mordecai (Mottel) Labayosh, where the "Arbeits-Lager" (labor camp) was.

All day long Lithuanian soldiers, accompanied by the Germans, passed through all the Jewish homes to check whether anyone was left there. Indeed, no one was left. The few who were still alive knew their fate - death! However, a day of brutality and torture still lay ahead of us - intimidations, blows and humiliations. Towards evening we were ordered to leave the "labor camp" and go on a journey - the last journey of the last survivors of Yurburg.

When the last one left, Yurburg remained empty of its Jews, who had lived there for hundreds of years, built and cultivated it, borne children and raised generations faithful to their nation and the land of Lithuania, reliable partners for obtaining its independence. Now - the end had come! There is no Jewish Yurburg any longer! But no, there are still some survivors, and they are marching on their tragic march of death, straight towards the Shwentshani forest, to the deep pits, opening their mouths to swallow up the murder victims. This time the survivors knew very well where the road was leading. No, they did not accept the judgment: they revolted, shouted, pleaded with the murderers - "what did we do wrong" - why kill human beings born in the image of God , but in response there were only impudent answers and severe beatings. Mothers told their older children to run away, not to surrender, to beat the murderers, save their lives. But what power do weak women and small children have in the face of the sophisticated Nazi machine ? In a terrible battle of unequal forces they arrived at the end of the journey. Everything was prepared in advance, the murderers well trained, and the victims offered for slaughtering are pathetic and have no energy, they are pure and just in their soft existence and desperate struggle. No, this time they do not give up easily. Women attack the murderers, bite, hit, shout. But the murderers close in on their victims. Shots are fired, the automatic rifles do not stop, shooting from every corner at anyone trying to escape, and they are many. The murderers run after them . . . there is panic and chaos and a struggle for life and death accompanied by shouts that tear apart the walls of the earth. . . .

I, the young girl, already experienced in this fateful test, am standing among the girls of my family, my mother crying bitterly, my little sisters holding on to me with all their might. I feel the throb of life in them and at the same time a shot is fired, mother is shocked - she throws me her scarf (patshele) - and shouts "Run away my daughter - Hannale, flee! remember - Revenge mein Tochter (my daughter), revenge!" - -

And I, I don't know how I dared throw myself into the turmoil this time, into the thick bushes. I jump behind the Germans and Lithuanians and flee, flee, while the murderers are running after me, steadily firing at me, but the bullets don't hit me. The murderers hit trees and bushes, and I manage to escape from their murderous hands. I have no energy left in me, but I continue to crawl and go away as far as possible from the valley of death. I did not look back, I knew that behind me was death, destruction . . . and I have to go on living. My mother had placed an important task on my shoulders. To avenge my family and the Jews of Yurburg . . . This time - I knew - I was not going to Yurburg, there was no longer any Yurburg for me. When the last group of Yurburg Jews died - my Yurburg died too.

At that time I did not know whether I was the only one who had been saved or if other women too had managed to stay alive. I went into the direction of the town of Arzovilki, where I had Jewish acquaintances. I hoped to find a few survivors there. I walked through fields and forests, slept awhile under the open sky, was hungry, and towards morning I arrived, exhausted, on the second day of my wandering, at the entrance of Arzovilki. I was very thirsty. I went up to a farmer and asked for water, but he chased me away. I drank water from a puddle I found, and continued to knock on farmers' doors. Finally, one farm woman agreed to let me stay in the cowshed, near the pigsty, although she knew I was Jewish. She told me that only yesterday an "action" had taken place of the Arzovilki Jews, and that they had all been brutally murdered, and buried in a mass grave, close to the town.

I met but a few "good" Lithuanians, but even the most humane among them were not inclined to take in a Jew. Finally I found shelter for a while in the home of an intelligent man, broadminded. He told me that two Jewish boys, who had been saved from the "actions," were hiding in the town and that they came from Yurburg.

With the assistance of my landlord a meeting took place with them and to my joy I knew them well, they were: Zvi (Hirshka Abramovitz) and Klein (I forgot his first name). They looked sad and thin. They smoked a lot and told me they had managed to escape, after their families were murdered. Now they intended to return to Yurburg, not in order to live there, but to set it on fire. They talked of their plan with burning eyes. I said good-by to them and did not see them again. Later I was told that Yurburg was set on fire and burnt. I don't know if the two really managed to take revenge on the murderers of the Yurburg Jews, but it is true that a large part of the town center burned and went up in flames. Revenge? - maybe, but even if they did take revenge, it is small compared to the terrible, horrendous crime perpetrated against the Jews of Yurburg by beasts. This awful shame, the mean and planned murder to destroy the Jewish communities will not be wiped from our memories, it will cry out forever, and as long as we are alive we will not forget or forgive!


After a long wandering, dangers lurking everywhere, I reached the Kovna Ghetto, in order to tell the Jews there the bitter truth about the destruction of the Jews of Yurburg. In those days the Jews in the Kovna Ghetto did not yet know what lay ahead of them. Jews still had false hopes, inside the ghetto, and I felt sorry to disappoint them and disperse their illusions.


When the survivors of Yurburg left the graves of their families and relatives behind, they embarked on a difficult journey to Eretz Israel, it was their yearning and the yearning of the martyrs of Lithuania who did not have the good fortune to arrive hither.

Among the immigrants, the survivors of Yurburg, was also Hannah Magidovitz.

The few survivors of the holocaust, will continue to spin the thread of continuation forever, here in the independent State of Israel, they, their sons and the sons of their sons after them, as revenge on the murderous gentiles, and for the establishment of a secure shelter for the people of Israel in centuries to come.

Signed Zebulun Poran



The Testimony of Hannah Magidovitz

Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
These Translations Commissioned by members of the American branch of the Krelitz Family.


At the end of World War II, when Hannah Magidovitz was in Germany, she was asked to testify in person about the destruction of the Jewish community of Yurburg. Her testimony was written down by L. Koniochovsky, at the municipal hospital of Munich, the MUNCHEN KRANKENHAUS, in Germany, on 30 April 1947, and signed by Hannah Magidovitz and Dr. Paiskovitsh, the Chief Physician (Chef Artz) of the hospital.

(The testimony is kept at the "Yad Vashem" archives in Jerusalem)

On June 22, 1941, German soldiers were already marching through the streets of Yurburg at 6 o'clock in the morning,. Only very few people managed to escape and save their lifes. Hannah, her father Shalom and her three sisters hid in the farmer Greenberg's cellar, behind the Jewish cemetery. The German soldiers burst into the cellar and checked whether there were any Russian soldiers there. They sent the Jews back to their home in Yurburg. The German army units continued for a number of days to march on to the town of Kovno and pursued the retreating Russian army from there.

Jews belonging to the communist party, among them Hannah's brother Hashel, went to Russia.

The moment the Russian army entered, the Lithuanians gathered their courage and organized into active gangs - active Shaulists - put a green ribbon on their arms and became the town's rulers. The commander (Kommandant) of the town belonged to the German army and the student Mikas was the Chief of Police - his assistant was a policeman from the period of presidency of Samtona -Kilikovitshus. Shukatis was the leader of the Lithuanian gangs. A German, a citizen of the town, was appointed mayor. During the time of the communists he was the manager of the public kitchen and he supported the communists. His surname was Gefner. Hannah still remembers a few active Lithuanian gang members, among them: two brothers, from the Gymnasia, Waksaliai, the kiosk owner Tzalkis and the nationalist Mimi Samtona - Blatvinskis and others.

One of the murderers' first evil "actions" was to gather many Jews next to the synagogue - take a purification board, put the barber (Peruk-macher) Yitzhak Kopilovitz and Bibles on the board - and take them to the Neiman river. Here the Jews were ordered to "drown" the barber Kopilovitz and also drown each other. The barber saved himself by swimming. The Germans ordered Hannah's younger brother, the 13-year old Wolpeke, to drown the manly Jew Tatka Levinson. Levinson too saved himself, and Wolvele returned home, started to cry and told his family the terrible story.

One day the Jews were ordered to destroy the old synagogue and house of learning. They removed the Torah scrolls from the house of worship, the hooligans unrolled them and danced on them. The Jews were also ordered to bring their prayer shawls, prayer books and mezuzot from their homes, putting them all into one big pile. The Jews of Yurburg were very upset by this demeaning and cruel act and even the non-believers among them cried bitterly. The Lithuanian mob shouted "Bravo" and was full of joy and merriment. The next day the Jews were ordered to destroy the old synagogue and the coachmen were ordered to gather the boards and panels and bring them to the yards of the Lithuanians. Only the bare walls remained of the house of worship which was built of stone. The Jews were forced to transfer all the holy books to Zarda (an empty lot near the Neiman river) and put them in one big pile. The women were ordered to clean the destroyed places of prayer on the Sabbath. The hooligans put Mrs. Barzanar on a wheelbarrow (a Tatschka) and a 12-year old boy was ordered to take her to the Neiman river. On the way Mrs. Barzanar saw a German officer. She jumped from the wheelbarrow, ran to the officer and begged him to shoot her. The officer replied he could not do so, as the Lithuanians now were the rulers. The hooligans continued to torture her and hit her. Everybody was ordered to enter the Neiman and "bathe" with their clothes on, Hannah Magidovitz was among them. The men were ordered to "bathe" fully clothed every day after work.

Each day, at 6 o'clock in the morning, men and women were ordered to present themselves at Labayosh's yard, in order to go to work. The women were under the command of the Jew Friedman, the former owner of the "Versailles" hotel. He was close to the Lithuanians, for he had belonged to the "Shaulists" In the end, he too was led to his death in the last "action", just like the others. He was tortured and it is said he was even hung from a tree.. .

On July 10, the men were ordered to bring digging tools (shovels, spades etc.) and go to work. The order was particularly tough this time.The Lithuanian overseers carried rifles and there were a few Germans among them as well. It was a secret "action".

In the evening, when the women returned from work, they did not find their husbands. Hannah, too returned from work, and did not find her father -Shalom - or her brother Wolvele. The next day it was rumored the men had been shot at the cemetery.

The woman Deborah Lem went to the cemetery to find signs of graves, but found nothing, the large grave was well hidden . . . most women could not imagine that their husbands had been shot, although the Lithuanians living next to the cemetery knew, and told the story about the sadistic acts that had taken place there.

It was said, for example, that the men were ordered to dig the graves and kill each other with the spades they held. Fathers were ordered to kill their sons and sons their fathers ... a truly terrible sight . . . 550 Jews were shot. Among the dead were the physicians Dr. Karlinsky, Dr. Gershovitz (from Ponivez), Dr. Reichman, the pharmacist Bargovsky, the dentist Dr. Simonov and the dentist Dr. Koplov, the lawyer Segal, the cantor Alperovitz, the ritual slaughterer Aharon (Arteshik) Shlomovitsch, Rabbi Rubinstein, businessman Labayosh, Shalom Magidovitz, Hannah's father, and her brother Welvele; textile merchant Hirsch Porvah and his brother in law Mendel Forman and his 16-year old son Moshe, Reuven Naividel - a businessman and owner of an iron shop; Haim Rodensky and his father in-law Levinberg, the owner of the steamships and Karabelnik, his partner in the boats and barges business, etc. One Lithuanian brought Mrs. Vilonsky her picture which he found in the pocket of K. Levin's clothes. Torture and problems were a daily occurrence, but the tragedy of the cemetery was never forgotten.

Immediately after the "men's action", Hannah Magidovitz's mother, Feige-Mirel, arrived in Yurburg from Kovno, as well as Hannah's sister Judith, with her husband Hirschel Zalik and their two children - the 2-year old Gershon -Yudele and the 1 1/2-year old Tzadikel. Those were the days of the humiliation of men and women. On Sunday morning women and childrenwere ordered to organize in rows in the streets and walk to the Zarda, the area near the Neiman river. They had to sing and dance on the way. However, this was merely a "rehearsal". The "performance" only started at 12 o'clock, when the worshippers at the Catholic house of worship went out into the street and saw the humiliating parade of the Jews. Four men, Alter Stern, Natal Mendelovitz, VelVel Portnoi and another person (?) "had the honor" of carrying a few boards tied together (a Trage-nasilka) with pictures on them of the Soviet leaders - Stalin, Lenin, Molotov and others. In the middle, among the pictures, was Stalin's statue. The entire parade arrived at the Zarda, close to the Neiman river, and here the women were ordered to form a circle around the pictures, the men behind them.

They all had to sing Soviet and Jewish songs, and dance around the fire in which the pictures of the Soviet leaders were burnt. In the course of the "procession" the men were ordered to throw stones at Stalin's statue and in the end - to kneel and kiss the Lithuanian earth. . . Hannah and her sisters Zelda and Zisa also "took part" in the humiliating performance.

One Tuesday, before Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), all the childless women were ordered to present themselves at Labayosh' yard. The Lithuanian policeman Mikas Lavitzkis addressed the women and advised them not to sell their belongings, as the husbands would soon return and receive wages for their work. They believed him. The next day they were again ordered to present themselves at 6 o'clock in the evening, this time they numbered 200. Again they were advised not to sell anything and to hope "Az man wet noch darfen leben", i.e. "all the belongings will be needed in the future". And again there was an "invitation" to meet on Thursday.

This time there were already 300 women, among them sick women too, who had been taken from their beds by the murderers. Armed Lithuanian guards took up position at Labayosh's yard. A curfew was imposed on those remaining at home, including the men. The men were told that work would start at 8 o'clock Friday morning. When the men came to work at Labayosh' yard, the women were no longer there, and only a few remnants of clothes were left behind. Others also found hidden jewelry and money. One young girl, Yashka Koshilovitz, found her mother's handkerchief in the toilet. Everyone understood the 300 women had been murdered. Lithuanians said the women had been taken to the Kalnianai village during the night, 5 km from Yurburg, in the direction of Somlaninko, and there they had all been shot. Policeman-murderer Botvinskis told the women who came to work that the women had been given clothes and they had been taken to farm work in villages . . . the murderers continued to spread the rumor that all the women were well and that they were working on farms. It was also said that 70-year old Mrs. Polovin wrote a letter that she was working and all was well with her, but no one saw the letter.

Immediately after the "action" of the women, the policemen passed among all the houses of the town and collected the sick and weak. One Jew, Hirschel Kovelkovsky had to bring his 65-year old neighbor, Moshe Kaplan, to the labor camp and the man died on the way. When the women arrived at the labor camp the next day, they no longer found the sick and weak. Lithuanians said they had been sent to Raisen on carriages and had been killed on the way. There were no accurate details in those days.

On September 6, 1941 the hooligan-policemen again burst into the Jewish homes and took away all the children and women who no longer had husbands and led them to "Talmud Torah". Here they were told that a sort of Jewish ghetto would be set up, where mothers and children would be taken care of. Only very few women obeyed and went to the gathering point. Many women fled and hid. On September 8, 1941, the hooligan-policemen searched the homes and gathered all the women who had no husbands to support them. On this day many women who did have providers were also added. Mrs. Polak, for example, who had three daughters working at the labor camp. One of the daughters, Miriam, quickly ran to the leader of the hooligans, Sukatis, and asked him to release her mother. Sukatis demanded 25,000 Rubels as a redemption fee. Miriam and her sisters claimed they only had 15,000 Rubels. Sukatis refused to release their mother who was imprisoned at "Talmud Torah". Miriam then turned to the German Kommandant of the town, and he replied that her efforts were useless. They are all going to work. Having no choice, the three girls went back to labor camp, crying.

On Monday afternoon Hannah was at home with her sister Judith and her two children. Suddenly policeman Kilikovitshus burst into their home with his friend Motzkos and urgently demanded to see their mother. Hannah replied that mother was not at home and that she was ready to come instead. They agreed and asked her to put on a coat. Hannah refused to put on the coat and said "you'll be able to shoot me without a coat too".. . . the hooligans hit Judith on the nose, and she started to cry. At that time her husband Hirschel-Zelig was still working at the labor camp and therefore he was not taken to "Talmud Torah". This time Hannah was spared too.

The next day, September 8, Friedman called Hannah to the labor camp. Friedman promised her no harm would come to her. On the same day the chief of the region (Raisen) arrived with the awful Shokiaitis, and they ordered all the women without husbands to go to work. . . they all burst out in tears. Hannah too bade farewell to her sister Zelda, whose husband was still working at the labor camp. It is believed the order was a reaction to the Polak sisters' denunciation of Shokiaitis and his demands for money. The women were led to "Talmud Torah" and from here they were all taken in the direction of Somlaninko. Farmers with tools joined the hooligans accompanying the women, volunteering to help the policemen. Hannah knew a few farmers from Yurburg and the little town of Skirstamon, from where the Jewish women were also taken.

One of the hooligans from Skirstamon, who knew Hannah, advised her to escape, as the women were led to hard labor . . . Hannah decided not to separate from the women at this stage. After a tiring march of 7 km. on the road, the women were directed towards the town of Tavrig. After another 1/2 km. they arrived at the forest, where they saw large pits that had been dug. It is hard to describe what took place at the forest. The murderers ordered the women to climb on the heaps of earth forthwith. The women panicked. They embraced their children, cried, lamented and swore. The murderers, on their part, started to beat the women with their tools and ordered them to throw the children into the pits. Under the pressure, some women threw their children into the pits and jumped in after them. One woman, Mrs. Perl Badar-Stern, from Yurburg, refused to throw her child into the pit. She went crazy and started to smash the child's head against the tree next to her. All the women screamed and fought the murderers. Then the murderers used their weapons and the battle between the poor women and the inhuman, armed hooligans went on till the bitter end. . . .

During the tumult, a Lithuanian from among the group of murderers, who knew Hannah, went up to her and said: "Run away, you'll catch up with death later". Hannah, who had already considered escaping on the way, immediately decided to run away from the pits of death. It was dark outside already, and it rained now and then. Hannah jumped and disappeared among the trees. They shot at her, but missed their target. . . . Hannah ran away from the place of tragedy and for a long time she heard shots and women's shouts and children's cries. When she grew tired, Hannah sat down on a sawn-off tree trunk to rest. When it grew quiet, and hundreds of women and children had been swallowed up by death - Hannah heard the voicesof the hooligans, quarreling about the loot: watches, rings, jewelry etc. Finally they got drunk and went away. Hannah is convinced that on the part of the Germans, only the Kommandant of the town and one of his assistants, a Wachtmeister, took part in this terrible "action". She does not know who gave the order to fire.

Hannah remained in the forest till early morning, and when she started to walk, she lost her way. When she saw a farm, she went in to ask for a drink of water, but the farmer chased her away. Here the hooligans found and caught her. They decided to kill her, but luckily her Lithuanian acquaintance was among them. He took it upon himself to carry out the murder. The others went away and her Lithuanian acquaintance demanded compensation for saving her life.

He led her to Yurburg as a "prisoner" and took her to her home. In the afternoon the Lithuanian came to fetch his compensation, and Hannah gave him her late father's gold watch.

Hannah returned home, her feet wounded. She needed rest and recovery, but she was unable to find peace. She could not put the terrible sights she had witnessed out of her mind. She told the truth of what had happened to the group of women in the forest to everyone. Not everybody believed her, thinking such barbaric behavior, killing women and children in cold blood, could not be possible. . .

On Thursday September 11,1941 the Lithuanian policemen and their hooligan- helpers again demanded that all the Jews, women and men, present themselves at the labor camp at Labayosh' yard.

On Friday, September 12, 1941, the Lithuanian policemen and their hooligan-helpers searched all the homes and took away all those who were still alive, including the children. The Jews had become indifferent and took the "mobilization" into their stride. The hooligans came to Hannah's home too, and found her mother, Feige-Michal and her sisters. The policeman Walachkos was among the hooligans, he knew Hannah from the previous "action" near the pits in the forest. He wanted to separate Hannah from the others. She refused to go with the policeman, but her family told her to go and, should she remain alive, take revenge on the hooligans. "You must go", her mother told her, even if it means destruction . . . thus her mother and sisters said good-bye to Hannah, with tears in their eyes, following in the path of many others . . . The policeman took Hannah to Labayosh' house and locked her up in a tiny room, on the upper floor of the house. The room contained the clothes of the women who had been taken to the death pits.

Through a small peephole Hannah saw how cruelly the hooligans treated the Jews - men, women and children - the remnants of the Jewish community in Yurburg. The hooligans demanded the Jews hand over money and valuables, such as gold, silver, jewelry etc. The hooligans tortured the poor miserable people, the last Jews in Yurburg. The mob stood outside, close to the place of detention, waiting for the loot .

On Friday September 12, 1941 at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, things came to an end. All the miserable Jews were led on their last journey to the forest, closely guarded by the hooligans. The sobbing children were put on a carriage. Preceded by the carriage, men and women marched in the direction of Somlaninko . . . Hannah saw the dreadful scene from the peephole in the little room where she was imprisoned. She was heartbroken, and on the spot she decided - "To escape! To safe her life!" That same night she forced open the door leading to the roof and climbed down to her freedom. The hooligans were drunk, rejoicing in their victory, and did not pay attention to her.

Hannah roamed through the villages for a number of weeks. Alone, dressed up in farmers' clothes, she decided to go to the Kovno Ghetto. And indeed, on the night of October 27,1941 she reached her goal. In the ghetto she met her sister Chaya Abrahamson, her husband was no longer with her.

The next day - October 28, 1941 - the major "action" took place at the Kovno Ghetto. Hannah was saved and shared the fate of the other Jews of the ghetto. She worked in labor camps and at the time of the evacuation she was sent to Germany, spending time at the Shtutthof and other labor camps. When she was at a camp near Dantzig, Hannah contracted typhus. Many women fell sick here and died. Hannah was lucky, and on March 10, 1945 the Red Army arrived at the camp and took the sick women to the hospital. Hannah recovered and remained in Germany until she went to Israel together with all the other refugees.


Hannah goes to Israel. She leaves the Diaspora. Yurburg is no longer. Hannah left behind many graves in Yurburg of her family, and bitter memories of the last days of the unforgettable Yurburg community.

Testified: Hannah Magidovitz

Translated into Hebrew from Yiddish: Paz


A FAMILY IN DIRE STRAITS - BY Bella Bernstein- Mering

Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
These Translations Commissioned by members of the American branch of the Krelitz Family.


Bella Berstein - Mering, born in Yurburg, testified at the Landesberg camp in Germany to L. Koniochovsky, on 16 January 1947 - describing her fate and the fate of her family during the holocaust.

(From the collection of "Yad Vashem"documents, Jerusalem)

Bella, the daughter of Wolf Bernstein, was born in Yurburg. Her father was a wealthy Jew and her family was well-known in Yurburg. Bella married Lou Mering and lived in Memel (Klaifada) until after the evacuation of the town's Jews by the German Nazis. Bella, her husband and daughter Yetti, moved to Kovno.

When war broke out they were sent, like all the Kovno Jews, to the ghetto on August 7, 1941. On that day Bella and her daughter were already at the ghetto, but her husband remained behind for a day, busy transferring their belongings to the ghetto. He was caught by the Nazis and together with 550 other men they were taken to the Seventh Fort near Kovno. Later it was said they had all been shot.

A short while later Bella's brother, Schmerl Bernstein, arrived at the Kovno Ghetto, together with his wife Chava, born in Kybartai, their daughter Yetta and their son Zeev-Wolf. They had been saved, as will be described hereunder, from the terrible "actions" in Yurburg and arrived at the Kovno Ghetto. Schmerl Bernstein was born and lived in Yurburg until the outbreak of World War II. In Yurburg Schmerl Bernstein was the Manager of the Kommertz Bank. He lived in his private, two-story home, on the German Street (Daitsche Gass). There was a large fruit garden around the house. The moment the Germans entered, the Jews of Yurburg had no time to escape. Yurburg was only 9 km. away from the German border. On Sunday, June 22,1941, the Nazi soldiers arrived in the Kovno streets too. The town was captured without a battle.

When Schmerl Bernstein arrived at the Kovno Ghetto, he told Bella what had happened to him and to the Jews of Yurburg. The Germans had already entered Yurburg in the early morning hours - said Schmerl - and they immediately took over the town. The Germans also came to Schmerl's beautiful home. The German officers thought the house was an elegant place of residence so they confiscated the house and turned it into their home.

The Germans found a visa card (Visit-Karte) in Schmerl's home on which was written : Schmaryahu (Schmerl) Bernstein - Manager of the Kommertz Bank in Yurburg. One of the officers read what was written on the card and commentedcynically: "Jezt wirst du nicht mehr Bankdirektor sein, du wirst bei uns ein Stiefelputzer sein " - i.e. Schmerl would no longer serve as Director, but as a shoe-shiner . . . indeed that is what happened. They turned him into the shoe-shiner of the officers in his own home, where they resided.

In the first week when they took over Yurburg, the Nazis, assisted by the Lithuanian hooligans, arrested the well-known physicians: Dr. Karlinsky, Dr. Gershovitz, the dentist Simonov, the dentist Koplov, and the owner of the pharmacy Bargovsky, as well as other prominent people of the town. The cruel Lithuanians who worked in the service of the Nazis, tortured and humiliated them, and took them to the Jewish cemetery, where they were all shot. The pharmacy owner's wife - Genya Bargovsky - arrived at the Kovno Ghetto a few days after Schmerl Bernstein. Genya said her husband had been forced to leave the pharmacy, dressed in his white coat, preparing drugs for the sick. Genya's pleas and supplications were to no avail. The murderers merely reassured her that her husband would return.

In the course of polishing the German officers' shoes, Schmerl Bernstein became friendly with them. When the Lithuanian murderers arrested the prominent townspeople, they also wanted to arrest Schmerl. But the German officers protected their efficient shoe-shiner, and did not arrest him. Schmerl told all this, as well as other stories, to Bella when he arrived at the Kovno Ghetto. One day the murderers took the women, children and elderly out of their homes and gathered them together at the "Talmud Torah" yard. Here the murderers kept them for several days and nights, hungry and exhausted. Later, they led them a few kilometers along to the Kalnianai village, where they were all cruelly shot .The men were shot one or two months later. No one was left in Yurburg. Bella no longer remembers all the terrible things that happened in those days, but she remembers one detail connected with her brother. During the days when the women, children and elderly were detained at the "Talmud Torah" yard, Schmerl managed, after many efforts, to remove the dentist's wife Mrs. Koplov, born in Goldheim in Mariampol, together with her two daughters. Mrs. Koplov left Yurburg with her two daughters, heading for Kovno. However, they disappeared, and it is not known what happened to them.

Ghetto Kovna (Slobodka) - Valley of Tears of the Jews of Kovno and other places including the escapees from Yurburg - Esther Luria (need to verify the translation)


When the last Jews in the Kovno Ghetto were sent to camps in Germany, at the end of the war, Schmerl Bernstein, his wife and children hid in a "malinah", a kind of cellar in the ghetto. The "malinah" was blown up by the Lithuanian murderers and everyone inside was killed.

Thus quite a few Jewish families and persons who tried to save themselves were killed, betrayed by destiny. They failed to escape from the claws of the Nazi beast and found their death and burial under the ruins of the "malinos" at Salbodka.

In those days there were no Jews left at the ghetto -and Jews no longer walked on the earth of Kovno.

May their souls be bound in the bond of life.

Bella Bernstein -Mering

Translation into Hebrew - Z. Poran



From the Yiddish book "LITA," published in NY in 1951 pages 1849-1854
Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
These Translations Commissioned by members of the American branch of the Krelitz Family.


Yurburg lies in the western part of Lithuania, 10 km. from the German border, at the time of the holocaust about 2,000 Jews were living there. The Germans conquered the town without any resistance, and on July 22,1941 at 8 o'clock in the morning the German warriors were already walking through the streets of the town. The Yurburg residents, Jews and non-Jews alike, were stunned, and many of them, especially those who had connections with Soviet authorities, tried to escape. Some of them managed to flee by boarding the steamship that left that morning.

The regular German army was the first to take over the town. They did not single out the Jews, or treat them badly. The Jews sensed something might happen to them, and huddled together. It is not known where it originated, but a call was heard to go to the bathhouse. It was a large, strong building, with thick walls and the Jews thought they would be safer there. They all went to the bathhouse and crowded there. At first, food was brought only for the babies, but later for the adults too.

The moment they arrived in town, the Germans started to look for possible pockets of resistance, and that is how they noticed the crowd that had gathered at the bathhouse.

Four soldiers broke open the doors of the bathhouse and ordered the Jews to leave.They tried to convince the crowd that it was a very dangerous place, explaining that the building drew attention, due to its size, and a plane might bomb it, causing far more casualties to those inside than outside. They also told the Jews they had nothing to fear, for no harm would come to them. The Jews were impressed by the German soldiers' courtesy and insistence, and they left the bathhouse.

The Lithuanian "activists" already started to get organized in the first days. They put themselves at the disposal of the Germans, and started to take part in the government. Their influence grew by the day, and the Germans gradually transferred handling of the local population to them. A Lithuanian Police was immediately set up, headed by the teacher of the Gymnasia, Lavitzkas. Hoffner was appointed mayor.

Already on the second day of the war an order was issued obliging all the young Jews, without exception, to gather at Mottel Labayosh' yard, on Raisen street. This place became the labor camp. Each day the young men were sent on different kinds of jobs in town. They cleaned the streets, worked in the parks and carried out all sorts of public work.

Each day a new decree was issued: it was forbidden to walk on the sidewalks, a yellow patch had to be worn etc.

One day the Lithuanian soldiers' wrath fell on the synagogue. It was a very special building, dating from the 17th century. Its holy ark, the pulpit and Elyahu's beautiful chair were decorated in splendid woodcuts. This synagogue was the pride of the Yurburg people. Now the Jews were ordered to destroy the synagogue, bring down its walls and distribute everything inside to the local Lithuanians. The Jews carried out the order with tears in their eyes, their knees trembling. The Lithuanian throngs stood around them and looked on, but only a few agreed to take the spoils.

Next to the synagogue stood a small building, used as a poultry slaughterhouse - "a Shechita Stiebel". The Lithuanians ordered its destruction as well. The building was full of feathers, and when the Jews started to destroy the building, the feathers stuck to them and they got very dirty. The Lithuanian "activists", who were overseeing the destruction, ordered the Jews to go down to the Neiman river and wash themselves. During the destruction and near the river they tortured the Jews, beat them, kicked them and chased them into the water.

The Germans stood around and took photographs. Some asked: "Why do the Lithuanians hate the Jews so much ?. . ."

The next day, the torture continued. This time Cantor Alperovitz was the town's victim, an old Jew, tall and distinguished looking. They took the cantor to the center of town, tied a stone to his gray beard and dragged him through the streets of the town.

On June 28, 1941. on the Sabbath morning, all the Jews were ordered to go to work and pull out weeds in the streets. They were also ordered to bring all their books, at 4 o'clock in the afternoon, to the synagogue yard, and the old rabbi - dayan, Rabbi Haim Reuven Rubinstein was forced to bring his books and manuscripts there on a wheelbarrow.

At 5 o'clock the Lithuanians ordered the Jews to remove the Torah scrolls from the synagogues. They were put on the pile of books, and everything was set on fire. The next day all the Jews were ordered to gather next to the town's bookstore, and it was threatened that anyone who refused would be shot. The Jews lined up in rows of three.

Four of the strongest Jews were ordered to remove a statue of Stalin from the store. Pictures of the most important Soviets were placed next to the women. They had to parade through the streets of the town. The teacher Lavitzkas, and the policemen Botvinskis and Kilikovitshus were in charge of the parade. They arrived at the sports grounds near the Neiman. The Lithuanians were already there, "the intelligentsia" up front. They were very happy to welcome the parade. Stalin's statue was placed on a table prepared for the purpose, and all the Jews were ordered to stand around it. One of the house owners was ordered to read a speech from paper handed over to him, containing degrading and nasty words about the Jewish people. After the speech, the statue and pictures were thrown into the fire, and the Jews were forced to dance around the fire and sing. They sang psalms, from the bottom of their heart. The Germans took photographs of the scene.

The Jews used to buy food at the food stores. They were the last in line. Only after the non-Jews bought everything they needed, could the Jews buy something

Yurburg - or as the Germans called it -Georgenburg- is 10 km. from the German border, and it is included in a 25 km. strip for which the Gestapo in Tilsit received an order to exterminate the Jews.

The head of the Gestapo at Tilsit, Bahmah, immediately started to plan the extermination. Thursday July 3 1941 was to be the day. After consultations with mayor Hoffner, the Jewish cemetery was chosen as the place of murder.

Details about the process of preparations and events on the day of the mass murder were heard at the German Court in Ulm, where the members of the Gestapo in Tilsit stood on trial. The record shows the following:

On the morning of July 3, 1941 Bahmah and his helpers arrived in town together with 30-40 Germans from Somlaninko (the border town on the German side). Small groups were formed of the Gestapo, together with Lithuanian assistant-policemen, who were ordered to take the Jewish men from their homes. When the number was insufficient, the teams went back once more to look for Jews and they returned with another 60 men. Three women with their children, who did not want to separate from their husbands, joined the group of men. During the arrest, a Lithuanian doctor asked one of the Gestapo leaders called Karsten, to release the Jewish doctor who was among the detainees. He said the Jewish doctor was a surgeon, and the population needed him badly. When the Lithuanian doctor repeated his request to Bahmah, the latter hit him severely. The arrested Jews numbered over 300.

The detainees were led on foot through the town to the Jewish cemetery. Here they had to hand over all their valuables and take off their clothes. The Jews were ordered to dig more pits, as the existing ones did not suffice for all the detainees. During the digging of the pits, the Germans ordered the Jews to hit each other with the spades, and promised that those who won from their neighbor would be spared.

The victims were led along by the Germans and the Lithuanians under threats, shouts and blows, their cries went up to heaven. They had to stand next to the pits, facing their graves. Some of them were forced to kneel down. The murderers went up to each of them, shot them in the neck and kicked them into the pit. As the victims were brought in at great speed, those who arrived witnessed what happened to the others. The Lithuanians, who resided at the two neighborhoods close to the cemetery, looked on.

Among the victims was a Jewish customs -clearance agent, who during World War I had served in the German army, and received the most distinguished service award, the "Iron Cross" grade 1. He assaulted Bahmah, but was immediately silenced by a murderer's bullet.

Many ran away from the pits. The murderers and guards pursued those who tried to escape. A few Germans and Lithuanians were hurt during the chase.

In this "action" 322 Jews were murdered, among them 5 women and children. Once the murderers had finished their job, a meal was prepared and there was plenty of vodka.

That same day another 80 men, who had been hiding, were caught and arrested. At 10 o'clock in the evening, policeman Botwinskis told them they would be shot at 3 o'clock. According to the report, the Jews were not particularly impressed, noone cried and there even was someone who had an annual Remembrance Day (Jahrzeit). All the detainees ardently prayed "Maariv" (afternoon prayer) in a group of 10 (minyan). The order was not carried out, and they were not shot. Those aged 15-50 who were still alive, were taken to work, and the old men were forced to present themselves at the Police twice a day.

On July 21, 1941 45 old men were arrested when they presented themselves, and were transferred on three carriages of Jewish coachmen to Raisen for a medical check-up - it was claimed. On the way to Raisen, at kilometer 15, they were murdered, together with the Jewish coachmen and the Jews of the small towns in the area. Before they were killed, the old men were forced to write to their families that they were working and did not need anything, and many in the town believed this was true.

On August 1, 1941 all the old women were forced to present themselves for a roll call. They were all put together in the "Talmud Torah" yard. Hundreds of women were cruelly dragged to the roll call, babies crying in their arms. They were held from morning till evening without any food or water.

Towards the evening Lithuanian "activists" arrived and ordered the women to line up in rows, two by two in each row. They were cruelly beaten, in order to urge them to hurry up. The dreadful event started when the women were surrounded by armed Lithuanians who hit them with their rifle butts. They especially tortured those who walked slowly. Children were hit, thrown down and trampled to death. The march went on until they arrived at the dense Schwentshani forest. Through the light of the murderers' torches it was possible to glimpse a deep pit dug that same day. The women panicked. The murderers fired in the air and shouted in frightening voices: "Throw the children into the pits!" They ordered the women to undress and leave their clothes behind. Mothers jumped with their children into the pits, the Lithuanians firing all around. Many were buried alive and some managed to escape amidst all the chaos.

On September 4, 1941 the last women and children of the Yurburg community were taken to the Jewish elementary school. On 7 September they all had to come to Mottel Labayosh' yard, which had been turned into a "labor camp".

All day long groups of Germans and Lithuanians passed along the Jewish homes in order to check noone was left behind. And indeed, not one Jew remained.

When they started to take the last of the flock, everyone understood where they were going, and what awaited them there. The poor women did not remain silent.

They shouted and pleaded with the hangmen, asking why human beings were being put to death. The Lithuanians merely answered by more beatings. The women started to shout to their older children, admonishing them to run, and they themselves attacked the Lithuanian guards with their fists. They bit, hit, shouted and swore. The murderers tightened the circle, shots were fired from all kinds of guns. It was a struggle for life or death between the poor women and the cruel murderers.

In the chaos a few young women managed to escape, and thanks to their testimony we know what happened to the Jewish community of Yurburg in its last moments.

Only 50 men and their families, who worked for the Germans remained in Yurburg for a week and then they were all killed.

At the entrance of the town a sign was then put up, reading: "This place is free of Jews".

In the list of mass graves, published in the book "Mass murders in Lithuania", part 2 - mass graves in Yurburg the following is written:

1. 322 people are buried in the eastern part of the Jewish cemetery. Date of murder - July 3, 1941.

2. Near the Kalnanai village, 7 km. from Yurburg on the left side of the road to Memel, 300m. from the road - 200 people. Time - August 1941.

3. Barantzinas forest, 5 km. from Yurburg, 2 km. from the road - 500 people. Time - September 1941.

4. Shilinas forest - 1 km. to the west of Yurburg - 200 people. Time - September 1941.


Zebulun Poran, according to the story of Hannah Magidovitz -.

Zvi Levit, the Destruction of Yurburg.

World Trial Report, Mass Murder in Lithuania, part 2.

From the Book of Lithuania - LITA 1951, New York



FROM THE BOOK "LITA" (Published in New York in 1951)


Yurburg in the Days of Its Destruction

Rabbi Efraim Asher
Translated from Yiddish by Maurice Tszorf


The town of Yurburg was situated in the region of Raseiniai, ten kilometers from the border to Germany near Samalnikan, resting along the shores of the Niemen river. The Niemen river runs from Grodny, passes Kovno and Yurburg, until it finally spills into Korishi Bay (Kurisches Haff) of the Memel, which the flows into the Baltic Sea. Two thousand Jews lived in Yurburg.

There were two parks in Yurburg. One was called "Tel Aviv" - the other was Lithuanian.

The Jews of Yurburg derived their livelihood from the river. Families like the Levinbergs and the Eizenstatts owned their own steamships or Parachodes, as they were called, and maintained a passenger line from Kovno to Samalnikan. There were also freight ships delivering goods from Memel to Kovno, as well as rafts that would go to Kovno or Memel. The river supplied the main income for the inhabitants of the village, others were merchants, shop owners and craftsmen.

Yurburg was world famous for its old Shul (synagogue), which had been built in 1790. But it wasn't so much the wooden structure that was famous, as was its Holy Ark (Aron Kodesh), with its wood-carving. It was hard to believe how such wonderful birds, animals and flowers could be carved out of wood, climbing from the floor all the way up to the ceiling. Anybody, who laid his eyes on that Holy Ark was enchanted by its beauty and the artwork of its wood-carvings, its meticulous finish. The Holy Ark has been photographed hundreds of times, the images sent and sold in the entire world. Tourists visiting Lithuania would come to Yurburg especially, in order to see the great, wonderful antique piece, the Holy Ark of the Shul of Yurburg.

The men of the village were students and educated people, such as Hirshl Fein, Aba Koplan, Kalman Friedländer, Pinhas Shachnovitz, Israel Levinberg, Shmayahu Feinberg, who was vice mayor of the village, Alter Shimanov, Meir Zusa Levitan, Rickler (Apteiker), Reuven Olshvager, Dr. Karlinski, cantor Alperovitz and the butcher Shmuelovitz.

The Rabbis were: Rabbi Jacob Joseph Harif, of blessed memory (later the Rabbi of the Collel of New York), Rabbi Yeheskel Lifshitz, of blessed memory (later Rabbi in Kalish), Rabbi Abraham Diamant of blessed memory, a great scholar in religious as well as in worldly studies, and the Judge Rabbi Reuven Rubinstein.

Jewish institutions in the village were the Hebrew Gymnasium and a Public School. There were also a Volksbank (Popular Bank), institutions for the Hachnassat Orchim (Hosting Guests), Bikur Holim (Visiting the Sick), two libraries and other institutions.

A curious figure in the village was Leibele Israel-Broches, a Jew who would sit in the study house, the Beth Midrash, all day long and study. His wife earned the means for their livelihood. He would be the first to enter the Beth Midrash in the morning, and the last one to leave at night. He would wait until all the poor people that were around received some food from some housewife someplace, especially Friday nights, when there would be many visitors in the village, so that God forbid they would not remain hungry. He would see to it that the visitors were sent to the patrons. And when a visitor, sent by Leibele Israel-Broches, would come to a patron, he was happily welcomed. It was not a small thing, when Leibele Israel-Broches sent somebody.

His brother Welfke, too, had made it his job to take care of poor people on Shabat. Welfke, who was an old single man, would collect Challot (challas) , fish, meat on Friday and bring them to the homes of the poor for Shabbat.

One of the distinguished anonymous donors was Israel Levinberg. Levinberg would help out patrons, who failed in their businesses, but it all took place away form the eye of the public.


On June 2, 1941, when the Germans attacked Russia, the Jews of Yurburg were immediately involved, as their village was situated right on the German border. The Lithuanian murderers soon demonstrated their murders and robberies. The first victim was Reuben Alshvanger.

On June 28, 1941, the Germans issued a decree, ordering all Jews to assemble in front of the municipal book-store. Anybody disobeying that order and staying home, it said, will be shot. When all the Jews had assembled, the men were forced to carry a bust of Stalin, and the women were had to carry pictures and images of other members of the Soviet leadership. Like this they were marched to the town square. There they were photographed, and Friedman was ordered to read out loud derogatory statements about Jews. Stalin's bust and the pictures were burned, and the Jews were forced to dance around the fire.

It didn't take long. Only a few days later all important patrons of the village, 320 men, together with Rabbi Reuben Rubinstein, were called together. They were taken to the Jewish cemetery and ordered to dig out graves. Everybody was devastated and cried, but Rabbi Rubinstein comforted them: "Jews, let us be proud and brave. After all, we will be buried amongst our brethren, in Kever Israel." When the graves were ready, they were ordered to undress completely, and then were driven into the graves.

They tortured Shimon badly. He was forced to tear down the stones from the bridge, and suffered other tortures. As he was already losing his strength, they laid him down on the Purification (Tahara) board (which the Jews used to purify their dead) and threw him into the Niemen river.

Around September 1941 the women and children were driven into the Jewish public school. For three days they left them there, hungry and suffering. Then they drove them to prepared graves in the forests of Samalnikan.

The annihilation lasted a mere two days. The Christians from the village of Pashvente said that the earth around the graves moved for three days, because the Jews had been buried alive.

The murderers also burnt down the old Shul with its Aron Kodesh, the Holy Ark.

Thus Jewish life of many centuries was erased, and a piece of past Jewish continuity was torn out by its roots.


Rabbi Efraim Asher

New York - Montreal (1951)




Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv

(Ulm Trial, Tilsit)


1. Georgenburg [ Yurburg in German]

(See decision to bring the suspect to trial dated 29.1.1958, page 14, item 19, and

page 24, pages 4148 and 4158).

(1) Findings:

One day in July/August 1941 - again it is impossible to determine the exact day - at least 100 (among them a few old men, one rabbi and the others merely women and children) were shot to death in an exposed place in the forest, at a distance from the Schalleningken - Georgenburg road about 30-80 kms. from the German border and about 9 kms. from the Lithuanian town Georgenburg. The execution was carried out at the general order of the accused Bohme, issued to those under his command in the framework of the Stahlecker order.

The accused Carsten, commander of the border patrol at the border town of Schmalleningken (at a scope of 4:1) had already arrested the Jews earlier by means of the Lithuanian Ordnungspolizei, by virtue of a general power of attorney on behalf of the accused Bohme in the framework of a "cleansing order". While the Jewish men were already shot on July 3, 1941, the Jewish women and children were held under arrest together with some old people by Lithuanian assistant policemen, among them the Lithuanian assistant policeman Urbanas.

The prisoners were led along on a 9 kms. march at night, at the command of the accused Carsten by his Gestapo officers and Lithuanian assistant policemen, to the site of the killing. There were women with little babies among them. Before the start of the march the women were told they were about to join their husbands and that they should take all their valuables along with them. At the site of the killing there was a 5m by 6m.(16 ft by 20 ft.) hole. The victims were forced to hand over the valuables and undress, i.e. - the men to keep on their underpants only and the women their skirts and underpants.

After that the rabbi prayed with his flock and then they were shot, in the early morning hours, by the Lithuanian assistant policemen, who were drunk, at the command of the accused Carsten.

There are no further details as to how the killing was carried out. The accused

Carsten reported the killing and the number of people killed to the Gestapo in Tilsit and from there to the main department of defense of the Reich and Dr. Stahlecker.

There was no particular mention of this incident of killing in the report of the head of security police and security service (SD) submitted in the Russian region.

Next day the accused Carsten traveled together with his close friend, the customs officer Oselies, who appears as witness, from Schmalleningken to Georgenburg. On the way he stopped near this forest clearing and went on foot with witness Oselies to the mass grave. Here he gave him a description of the killing of the day before.

Later on the accused Carsten brought chlorine plaster [lime], which was thrown over the mass grave, as the odor of decay started to be evident.

2) Evaluation of the testimonies:

The accused Carsten denied he had taken part in this killing. In any case, he admitted there was a possibility that he had received the order to kill Jewish women and children, but he claimed he had not carried out this order. He even received information from Lithuanians about two instances of killing Jewish women and children, and reported this to the police department at Tilsit. Furthermore, he claimed, he did not know the place of the killing, although he hid behind the mass graves when he went hunting. It was true he had brought chlorine plaster [lime], but this was only for the graves in the Jewish cemetery.

The jury did not believe Carsten's claim that he had not taken part in the killing. During all these court sessions the accused Carsten did not create a trusting impression.

Carsten was mainly proven guilty by witness Oselies. He delivered a believeable testimony to the effect that already some time before the trip in question with the accused Carsten, the Lithuanian assistant policeman Urbanas who was in charge of guarding the Jewish women and children, together with other assistant policemen, had told him that he earned a lot of money for this, as the Jewish women always offered him money to prolong their lives. A short while later, in July or August 1941, one morning he traveled with the accused Carsten beyond the border. About 3 kms. from the border the accused Carsten stopped in the forest and went on foot with him to a clearing in the woods, about 80 meters from the road.

Here he showed him a mass grave, and said that the day before Jewish women and children had been shot here by the Lithuanians, as well as a few Jewish old men and a rabbi. The Lithuanians had been drunk. The women had been ordered to undress, leaving on their bras and panties and the men their underpants. The rabbi had still managed to speak to the people and pray.

The witness Oselies gave an accurate and clear description of all this, and he added that he was so shocked by the accused Carsten's story that he was speechless and merely looked at him in silence. According to the accused Carsten's overall behavior and on the basis of his detailed description of the killing delivered in a matter of fact way and without any signs of emotion, he was convinced that the accused Carsten had taken part in the killing of the Jewish women and children by the Lithuanians. The jury considers this fact to be proven.

Witness Oselies added that shortly after this trip policeman Urbanas also told him about this incident of killing. According to his story the victims were forced to walk to the site of the killing, about 9 kms. Among them were women who had just given birth. Witness Stanat also testified against the accused Carsten. He served as Evangelian priest in Georgenburg from 1934 - July 3, 1941. He rendered trustworthy testimony according to which during his visit to Georgenburg between the end of 1941 and early 1942 the Mayor, Hoffner, and the Evangelian priest who served in Georgenburg at the time told him that the accused Carsten had played a decisive role in the killing of the Jewish men, women and children. He had ordered the Lithuanians be given rifles and bullets. Before they were brought to the site of the killing the Jewish women were advised to bring along all their valuables as they would be joining their husbands.

Witness Obremski, a former adjutant in the Tilsit police battalion, rendered trustworthy testimony which he had heard from the men in his police unit, that Jewish women and children from Georgenburg were shot by the Lithuanian police at the order of the Gestapo. In his opinion the Gestapo were present at the killing by the Lithuanians, also because the Lithuanian police at that time did not have any weapons of its own. Obremski also testified about an incident that happened to him himself. He said he was traveling to Georgenburg with his commander when he saw a confused Jewish woman with a little child run out of the woods and flee along the road.

They stopped the police car to ask the woman what she was doing. However, the Jewish woman continued to run. In addition, a Gestapo man was seen coming out of the forest, and that is why they let the matter rest.

A short while later a drunken Lithuanian policeman came out of the woods. They asked him what was going on and he answered Jewish women and children had just been shot. Later on they heard in Georgenburg that the Lithuanian police had received alcohol from the Gestapo and had then shot Jewish women and children; many of the Jewish women were pregnant.

In spite of the accused Carsten' denial, the jury is convinced that he gave the order - by virtue of the general order of the accused Bohme - to let the Lithuanians - who had earlier gotten drunk- shoot the Jewish women and children, and that the murder had taken place under his command.

According to the testimony of witness Oselies that little children and even babies had been killed and that the mass grave took up an area of 5 x 6 m. [ 16 ft by 20 ft] the jury determined that at least 100 people had been shot.

The accused Bohme denied he had taken part in this killing of Jewish women and children. He claimed he could not remember this incident. True, he had repeatedly been told that Jewish women and children had been shot by Lithuanians, but his share in this affair was limited to receiving the information and passing the facts about the number of casualties on to the main defense department of the Reich (RSHA) and Dr. Stahlecker.

However, the jury did not believe the accused Bohme's claim that this had been carried out without his participation and knowledge. The jury was convinced that this killing too was only carried out at the general order he had issued to his Gestapo troops. Here we must rely on previous statements and findings submitted in the verdict.

It is impossible to prove that the accused Hersmann took part in the killing. In the decision to put the accused on trial he had been accused of the same number of crimes as the accused Bohme.

Yosef Ben Matityahu Valk - blessed be his memory

Born in Yurburg

Blessed are the Last Ones.....






Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv


Justice has a long arm - and even if many years have passed since our community was destroyed - we did not give up nor will we ever give up the wish to see the murderers punished, wherever they may be.

At the end of 1974 I was asked to come to the American Consulate in East Jerusalem to identify, according to pictures, the criminals Lawitzkas and Kaminskas.

In coordination with the Nazi crimes investigation division of the Israeli police, I appeared at the Consulate, however the pictures of old gentiles that were presented to me made it difficult for me to identify the criminals.

At the end of 1974 I received a request from the Israeli police to submit the names and addresses of former residents of Yurburg who would be able to identify the criminals, and so I did. A number of people were called for interviews and the matter was forgotten again.

In October this year I once again turned to the Nazi crimes investigation division of the Israeli police and asked for a report about the matter.

I was told the file had not been closed. As far as they knew, Kaminskas had been traced, brought to trial and a verdict had been issued to deport him from the United States. However, the execution of the verdict was postponed from year to year due to his poor health.

As far as Lawitzkas is concerned, the investigation department has no information yet.

S. Simonov

[ If anyone has any futher information about these criminals, please communicate with Joel Alpert at so that we can add the information to this web page. Jan. 8, 2000 ]





Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv


To the martyrs of Shaodina - a faithful tear

True, one might say: thousands of towns and villages in the diaspora were destroyed by the Nazi oppressors, so what difference does another tiny town with 16-18 Jewish families make! The answer is: it does, oh yes it does! Both because of its particularly bitter fate and because of some of its Jews, this little town deserves special mention.

Shaodina was one of the first little towns to be slaughtered, even before the ghettoes, before the gas chambers, before Maidanek and Auschwitz.

The Jews of the little town of Shaodina had a "special privilege" : they were the first to be executed. Perhaps this fate was shared by other little towns in Lithuania that were close to Germany (such as Sudarg and others), but the writer of this article received accurate information only about Shaodina. A week after the Nazi invasion, which took place at the end of June 1941, the Nazis rounded up all the adult Jewish men at the little town in order to, as it were, send them to Shaki. On the way there they were all murdered. Two weeks later all the women of Israel in the town and their little children drank [from] "the cup of poison."*

* According to the version of the Igdalski Mashaki brothers (I met them in Munchen, Germany) and also according to the version of Rachel Bandelin, the men were killed near the town of Shaki on the eleventh of Tamuz 5701(June 6, 1941). The women were killed by the Germans and their faithful Lithuanian helpers, who outdid them in cruelty, on 21 Elul 5701 (September 13, 1941).

Thus they lie there, till today, in two mass graves, close to each other. Who can describe the terror in the eyes of the poor women when they realized the bitter fate of the men! Thus they were murdered and thus they were thrown into mass graves, the Jews of Shaodina, without a tear of pity, without a funeral, without an eulogy, without the prayer for the dead. They died like impure animals and were buried like donkeys.

Among the women who were killed we should mention the devoted mother who at the time had become a legend because of what she did: her only son contracted dyptheria. He would soon suffocate if he did not receive an injection by a physician, but there was no doctor in Shaodina, only on the other side of the Neiman river in Yurburg. It was in the cold days of winter. The Neiman river had just frozen, but was still covered by a thin layer of ice, and no one dared to walk on this thin ice. What did this mother do? She put her sick son on a small winter carriage, and with the rope in her hands she drew the sled over the thin ice, until it reached the safe shore . . .

And among the murdered men was the great father who planted the love of Israel in the heart of his son. This father gave everything to his son, saved every penny, to send him to Zion, to be educated there. This was before World War I when merely a handful of lucky people went to Eretz Yisrael. There was no greater joy to this father than the letters he received from his son in Eretz Yisrael, he would read them six days of the week, and on the seventh day he would read them together with the week's Bible portion.


A steamship, that had left Kovna to go to Yurburg, was sailing along the Neiman river. A young, enthusiastic passenger stood on deck, his bright eyes looking in the distance. Here, here, the two towers of the new church of Yurburg appeared on the right side of the river. Here come the parks and houses of Yurburg. Opposite these houses, to the left of the river, there is a broad range of forest. There are large stone houses there with many trees. Those are the buildings of the Kidol estate, Shaodina's neighbor on this side. Closer to the onlooker on the boat large wooden houses become visible - the Kimmel estate, Shaodina's neighbor on the other side. Between these two estates, parallel to the river - broad green pastures in between - the little houses with the thatched roofs of Shaodina continue.

About twenty Jewish families lived in Shaodina at this time (before World War I). The Jews here were no intellectuals, but they were not ignorant either. Neither rich nor poor. Made a living here and there on trade and here and there on farming. There was a synagogue (Kloiz), but the town was too small to be able to keep all the "holy vessels." It was thus satisfied to have its own ritual slaughterer, while it shared the rabbi with Sudarg. And - God forbid - a Jew who died was brought to Sudarg for burial, 8 kms. away from Shaodina..

Only the Neiman river, which is not very wide at this spot, separates Shaodina from Yurburg, but the mental distance with the "Polishe" - as the people in Yurburg would call the Jews of Shaodina - was very great indeed. These were two different worlds. The Jews of Yurburg considered their town (only 5000 inhabitants in all) a metropolis, while the Jews of Shaodina were provincial villagers to them. In addition there were geographical and ethnogaphical differences. Here a Subalak, formerly Poland, peasant, there a peasant from Kovna, Russia. Here they say Mauer Sauer, there : Moier Soier. Here they are plain, stubborn Jews who don't mind eating mutton, especially when it is smoked, there they are spoiled towns people, where there is a law and they would never dare serve warm sandwiches for breakfast. When Lithuania gained independence and the Hebrew Gymnasium was established in Yurburg, used also by the children of Shaodina, many differences were set aside.

Only one of the hundred Jews of Shaodina survived. The houses were not burned or destroyed, but "our homes became the homes of strangers" - Lithuanian gentiles occupied them. I don't know what happened to the "Kloiz" (synagogue), but whether it was occupied and used for another purpose or not, " save me from the insult of the one that remains silent, without anyone coming to celebrate."

Hitler may be credited for not distinguishing between one Jew and another. He directed his poisonous rage at all of them. Only very few Jews from Yurburg and Sudarg survived.

Avraham Laibosh




Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv


(The Story of Aba Vals)


The story of my life in the Nazi hell covers a long period. However, it is well-known that it is the nature of man to forget many things and this applies even more so to someone like myself who has reached a very old age. There are, however, chapters of life that leave such a deep impression on the heart that it is impossible to erase them. I shall never forget what happened to me in the evil years of the Nazi occupation in Lithuania.. Those who were not there and did not feel the physical and mental anguish will not believe our story, for it is beyond comprehension.

When I remember those terrible days, dreadful scenes come to mind, torture and killing. I witnessed the death of our relatives and brothers, the Jews of Yurburg, I witnessed the loss of my family . . .

In the last years before the Holocaust I lived in Yurburg. Jews had lived in Yurburg for many generations - they are there no longer. Jewish Yurburg was destroyed and erased from under the sky of Lithuania.

I was born in the little town of Shaodina. The Neiman river, as is known, separated Shaodina from Yurburg. Although Shaodina belonged to the Shaki region, as the entire area beyond the river, we from Shaodina, considered ourselves as belonging to Yurburg. We were all attached in heart and soul to Yurburg, where we studied and spent the years of our youth.

After World War I Shaodina became quite large, but the number of Jewish inhabitants diminished. Many left, especially the young, who did not see a future there for themselves. Of the hundreds of families that had lived there in the past only about twenty were left when World War II broke out.

The majority of the Shaodina residents were farmers and some dealt in the trades. The tradesmen bought fodder from the farmers, cattle, linen, poultry, eggs etc., and they would sell their goods to the Jewish tradesmen in Yurburg, who dealt in the export of goods to Germany and western Europe.

I remember a number of families in town, among them my brother Meir Vals and his family, and my uncles - Nathan and Leiser Vals, my father's brothers, and also Hirshel and Itzik Goldin. I also remember Ortchik and his wife Ilana, Leibe Meigel, Yankel Bendelin, who was a wholesale tradesman and Meir Pesachson. I remember Meir Feldman, whose daughter Hannah joined the "Hahalutz" movement, went on training and on aliyah to Eretz Yisrael and to the kibbutz. There was the Laibosh family there - Moshe Laibosh, whose son Meir is presently in Israel and works as a pharmacist at "Kupat Holim" (Health Fund); The Moshe Laibosh family was also well-known - their son Zalman, a gifted young man, studied at the Yurburg Gymnasium and Kovna University; he joined the "Habimah" studio while he was still a student and emigrated to Israel. Zalman Laibosh became very well known in Israel as an outstanding actor and famous director in Israel and America.

There were many Zionists in the little town of Shaodina and there was a great love for Eretz Yisrael there. The youngsters studied at Hebrew schools and belonged to pioneer youth movements. The town did not have a rabbi. The Shaodina residents used the rabbi of Sudarg, a little town 8-9 kms. (6 miles) away on the German border. The two towns shared a cemetery. We had a religious slaughterer, called "Rabbi Alter mit die sieben Techter," i.e. Alter with the seven daughters . . . . We also had a prayer house in our little town, but there was hardly a real school. Most children studied at the schools and gymnasium of Yurburg. Indeed, what separated us from Yurburg - only the Neiman river on the ferry. Except for the days when the snow melted, the trade, cultural and social link was never cut off between Shaodina and Yurburg. Many Shaodina residents even settled in Yurburg itself, in fact that is what I did; when the Nazis came I had been a Yurburg resident for quite a while.

My forefathers were Shaodina residents. They were peasants. They had fields, cattle, horses. The land did not disappoint them. I inherited the love of land and animals from my parents. We were very close to nature, rooted in simple farm life, just like all the gentile peasants around us. However, in the last generation people left the town, as mentioned above. The young men wanted to acquire an education, they went to study and did not return to the little town; I also left, after I got married, and I settled in Yurburg, although I still continued the farming business. Three children were born to me in Yurburg - Haim Shlomo, Nathan and Zelda. I was happy with my life, I earned enough and was able to take good care of my family. There was no room for any particular concern. In those days I could not imagine that heavy clouds were already hovering over our sky. Soon our entire way of life changed completely. Disaster hit us like a thunderstorm.

On the evening of June 22, 1941 Hitler's hooligans entered Lithuania. Already in the early hours of the morning airplanes appeared in the sky of Yurburg, immediately followed by the army, there was shock and tumult. People tried to escape to all possible directions. I had a horse and carriage and thought they would save us. As I lived at the outskirts of town I said to myself" I'll run, I'll run" . . . The moment the idea occurred to me I urged my wife, Henya, to put all the things that could be taken along on the carriage. We did everything in a great hurry, put our little children on the carriage, and still in the early hours of the morning I left with my wife and children. We went to the east, to Rassain. The road was difficult and full of vehicles; it was a tiring and exhausting trip, while the terrible enemy was behind us and a narrow path of hope in front of us. However, after a short while, when we reached Shimkaitsh, our hope dissipated.

The Nazi soldiers had arrived there before us; they confronted us, rifles drawn, searched us and our belongings, took a photograph of all of us and sent us back to Yurburg. When we returned tired and depressed to Yurburg we found our house had been taken over by the Germans. After we begged and pleaded, they vacated a space in one of the houses for us and thus we passed the first days, under the patronage of "our German neighbors". We lived in fear and were terrified, yet we had no idea of what would happen to us in the coming days.

A couple of days after the Germans invaded Yurburg, the German hooligans passed along the homes of the Jews, together with their Lithuanian helpers, and took some of the Jews away, according to a list. Later on it transpired that this was aimed at the Jews who were educated and influential among the Jewish population of the town. I also joined this respectable group, which consisted of 520 people. There were 20 in the group who were not Jewish, communist leaders, who had ruled Lithuania for over a year. This group of people were led to the Jewish cemetery by the German soldiers and their Lithuanian guides. Here we were told to form into groups and dig deep holes. The work was hard and we were very depressed. It is impossible to describe what went on there. I immediately understood what to expect in this place. I don't know how, but I suddenly got the idea and decided to rebel - "to be saved, to hang on to life." I saw a piece of double land in front of me with a deep decline behind it and a steep slope. I quickly threw myself onto the ground and rolled myself into the deep abyss, which went down to the Neiman river. After a few seconds I saw myself hurt and beaten, but all alone, and far from the place of evil. I gathered my last strength and got up. "Where should I go?" In front of me was the slowly flowing Neiman river, cows in the meadows and fields in the distance. I decided to hide in the corn fields. The moment I started on my way I found a horse-shoe. I took the horse-shoe into my hand and put it next to my heart, perhaps, I said to myself, this is a sign that I shall be able to survive. Our forefathers were superstitious and believed the horse-shoe is a sign of luck and success . . . who knows? - at that moment the horse-shoe lifted my spirits and gave me hope that I would be able to reach my home and see my wife and children. Thus I continued on my way. I climbed mountains and went down valleys until I reached the area where I lived. On the way shepherds and peasants told me what had happened to the group of Jews at the cemetery. Their story came as no surprise to me. I knew their fate would be bitter. I was told that Dr. Karlinksy delivered a speech at the cemetery, before he died, he spoke out against the murderous Nazis, instigating those condemned to death. As far as I know I am the only survivor of this group.

When I approached the garden of my home I saw my wife from afar; I was sure that I had reached my goal. However, this was not the case. All of a sudden two Lithuanian Shaulists blocked my way, grabbed me and ordered me to follow them to the police station. I begged them to let me spend the night at home and promised I would present myself at the police station the next morning. However, I failed. "Anyhow" - one of them said - "you are about to die, so what difference does it make to sleep one more night at home." However, one Shaulist almost granted me my request; I saw that my pleading had aroused his pity, but the other one was as hard as stone. He had murder in his eyes. In short, I was taken to the police. My wife and children remained at home and were certainly waiting for me. We all passed a sleepless night.

Thus, after all the hurdles I had overcome that day I walked/crawled with the last force left in me, while the Shaulists urged me along, swearing and hitting me all the way. The police commander sent me to prison. At the prison I found 46 Jews. I was number forty seven. They say that it is possible to find solace in sharing one's troubles with others. It was no solace to me to find so many Jews at the prison, yet I cheered up somewhat - perhaps I would be lucky this time too. After a while the order was received to take us to the Laibosh courtyard on Rassain street. We were unaware of the reason for this and did not know what to expect. In the evening a German officer came, accompanied by a Lithuanian policeman, and told us to line up in the courtyard. We were divided into two groups: old men on one side and healthy young men on the other side. The old men were allowed to go to sleep at home. They were told unequivocally that if they failed to return next morning all the young men, who remained at the Laibosh courtyard, would be shot. Thus I too remained at the Laibosh home to spend the night there with the young men. We found a place for ourselves somehow in the home and courtyard, where we were guarded. Shmerl Bernstein, who was the manager of the bank in our little town, was put in charge of our group which included about forty people. We passed a terrible night. Everyone tried to guess what would happen to us. We each crouched in our little corner and took stock of our life; the night passed without much sleep until the sun rose at daybreak. The old men returned from their homes, one after another. They looked sad, as if they knew the end was near. After a while the Germans and Lithuanian Shaulists came, counted the old men, making sure none of them was missing. Immediately the order was issued to take the group of old men out of the courtyard and beyond.

We still saw them dragging their feet, we could still hear their sighs and saw them taking a last look at those left behind and at the streets of Yurburg where they had grown up, lived, raised children, grown old - and now the bitter end had come . . .they went on their way, and, as we heard from Lithuanian acquaintances, they were taken to the Shimkaitz forest where they were shot. To this very day their graves are nowhere to be found.

The group of young men that remained in the courtyard was divided into two units. I too was placed with one of these units. We were taken to the Neiman river, where we were ordered to load stones on to steamships, while the policemen and the oppressors stood over us and urged us coarsely and cruelly along. The loading went on for three days. It was hard labor. We received prison fare - but we accepted our verdict. We said to ourselves: " as long as it doesn't get worse". All those days when I was loading the stones I was thinking how to escape and run far away beyond the hills of darkness, in order to disappear from the eyes of the murderers. However, I knew this was an idle dream. One day, already at the end of the stone loading, I went up to the German officer who was guarding us and told him that I was a peasant, a farmer, and that if I did not reap the harvest everyone would go hungry, and that that was more important than the slave labor I was carrying out here. The officer asked a gentile Lithuanian to corroborate my words that I really had a farm. To my joy, the Lithuanian testified in my favor. That is how I received a certificate from the police, at the orders of the German officer, that released me for a month. My joy, of course, knew no bounds. I went home with the passport to salvation in my pocket, free for a month . . . .

The next day, early in the morning, I went to the Neiman river in order to cross the river on the ferry to Shaodina. Near the Neiman river I found a Jew who had been ordered to set up a booth for a guard. He had been given wooden boards, but he did not have a saw or tools. I helped him a little, as far as I could, and I went to my parents' home in Shaodina. And here, imagine how pleasantly surprised I was, I found my mother at home, my sister and all the other members of my family, healthy and well. I can't tell you how happy we were; here I am, sitting at home, my childhood home, among my family, while outside the evil wind of Hitlerism is blowing and the sword is poised. Many Jews of Shaodina had been taken out of their homes and taken in the direction of Shaki. Noone knows what happened to them. There was a great deal of fear. Everyone was counting their last days and hours.

However, let's cross that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime I was enjoying my long "holiday". During the day I did not work at all. "Who cared about the fields?" - a sword was hanging over our heads. I went into the fields, looked for a place to hide from the Germans and Shaulists and in the evening I crossed the Neiman river on the ferry and went to my home and family in Yurburg. Each time I heard terrible news there, which depressed me. After a month I received an extension of another month; "was I an important and useful man?. . ." I deceived them as far as I could, that was my only weapon . . . .

In those days I received the terrible news that the women and children of Yurburg had already been taken out of their homes and led to the forest . . . from the Lithuanians I heard about their bitter end and about the tragic fate of my wife and children. I find it hard to believe the terrible testimony about the crimes committed by the Lithuanians, the Nazis' helpers, how could they . . . how could they murder women and children in cold blood, weeping babies ... and throw them all into a hole . . .I can hear their voices deafening my ears . . . how? . . . how?

I remained alone, the only one of my small family to survive. There was nothing left for me in Yurburg. Yurburg without Jews did not exist for me. My world had fallen apart. However, the urge to live is apparently stronger than man. I recovered from the blows of destiny and the suffering of Job. Now I only felt the instinct of wrath.

One day I was summoned to the police. I understood the end had come. I had to think of a way to save myself this time too. Until now I had managed to outwit them, but what would happen now. Perhaps someone had denounced me? Could that be true? Until now I had been lucky, had my luck run out now?

And then, at the very time when I was deliberating, an idea struck me. I shall not go to the police of Yurburg, what do I have to do with Yurburg, what is it to me? Those who hate me are there, those who murdered my family - I shall run away, I shall not surrender, I want to live. Perhaps I would do well to run to my mother and my relatives who are still in Shaodina. When the Germans find out that I don't have any fields or gardens and that I lied to them all along, they will kill me, for they are murderers. I can still hear the cries of the old men, women and children they murdered and whose skulls they crushed - and now they want to do the same to me. No, I said to myself, they won't be so lucky.

I shall not be a slave to you or fall victim to wild, blood-thirsty animals. I must escape, immediately, but where to? Where shall I go - certainly not to Yurburg, that is clear. Nor will I go to Shaodina. I remembered that nor far away, in this area, I knew a gentile, who was a frequent guest at our house. I knew him and trusted him. I somehow got to him. Yes, he knew me. He did not ignore me, although I saw he was full of fear. At the home of this farmer I hid for seven days. I ate of his bread and drank of his water. I might have remained with my Lithuanian acquaintance longer, but something happened. Close by, almost next door, the Jew called Moshke Yokas was caught. He too had hidden with a Lithuanian farmer. The Germans and Lithuanians arrested him and shot him on the spot, and after that they also shot the gentile who had helped him. This news spread to the entire village and to other villages as well. From now on no one dared harbor a Jew under his roof, it was too risky, and the local population was not too fond of Jews anyhow. Many now found an opportunity, under the German occupation, to take revenge on the Jews whom they had hated for a long time.

When it became known that the Lithuanian farmer had been killed for hiding the Jew, my benefactor said to me "I am very sorry, you must leave, for if they find out they will kill me . . . " Outside it was winter. It had snowed and it was ice cold. "Where shall I go?" - tears welled up in my eyes - "where can I go?" The farmer saw how I felt and understood my tragic position, that I was homeless and was being thrown out of the house like a dog. He took pity, got up and said : "go to my father in law -he is a Lithuanian farmer of German origin, no one will suspect him - go to him, tell him I sent you, and you'll be able to stay with him for a couple of days." That is what I did. However, it did not take long before I saw that he disapproved of me and I was afraid he might hurt me. One day he said to me: " why fall victim to those who want to kill you, why don't you just go through the gate of the yard and take your own life there . . . that is your only choice." I told him : "if I really have to die I shall not die here, and be devoured by the wild animals of the forest, I prefer to go to the Jewish cemetery, dig a hole for myself and be buried on the land of my fathers." As it was night, I asked for permission to sleep on the attic for one more night before I would leave. The gentile showed signs of nervousness and I felt he was planning to kill me. I climbed to the attic, but I could not close my eyes, I was afraid of my hosts' evil schemes. I was already experienced in those days. I knew to distinguish between one person and another.

After I had tossed about for an hour, unable to fall asleep, I made a small hole in the straw that covered the roof, and went outside, leaving the farmer's house far behind. All night long I trampled on the snow, while my legs froze and my head was spinning. I reached Papushok, a scarcely populated village, on the way to Shaki, about ten kms. (6 miles) away from Shaodina. I knew the angel of death was waiting for me. . . . Until today I don't know how I managed to get through those difficult days and arrive here. Till I die I won't know. However, I knew one thing - that I was determined to overcome the difficulties and stay alive and witness the downfall of our people's enemy and my family's murderers. This hope kept up my spirit and helped me overcome the hardship and sufferings.

It was morning. At the home of a farmer I saw that the door of the stable was open. I went in, the farmer saw me and was startled. I knew him and he knew me too. His wife also came to take a look at me. He told me the Jews here were in great danger. And he also told me that Laibosh from Shaodina had been caught and had been killed here in this area. I started to cry. I had no energy left and I did not have the strength to go any further. If I had to die in this stable then let this be my grave . . .

When the farmer saw how miserable I was, he took pity. He ordered his wife to bring me some bread and butter to cheer me up. Once I had eaten I no longer had the strength to get up, but the farmer said : "go into the home, never mind what happens. I am not afraid of those who live in my home, they won't tell anyone, for another Jew is hiding in my home." This was a simple, poor peasant, who barely made a living from the plot of land and the animals he had. In winter he would be a shoemaker, would stitch one patch to another, for anyone who asked. That was the source on which he barely made a living , particularly in those difficult days, when everyone was hungry. The German conquerors starved and humiliated the population, for they took the Lithuanian harvest to the front. "My" farmer was unable to understand how so many Lithuanians cooperated with the Germans and helped them.

In short: the farmer with whom I found my home, was my true benefactor. He arranged a place for me on the attic where I spent - who would believe it? - three and a half years. The farmer shared his food with me. Often the members of his family would go hungry and I was one of them. He had one condition. "If you hear my dogs barking, be aware they may search my house. If so, run away, my friend, don't bring disaster on me."

Luckily, there were Germans who needed shoe repairs and used the farmer who was a shoemaker. However, they had no idea that on the attic, in bundles of straw, a Jew was hiding, poor fellow. . . .

My life at the farmer's home was boring, each day resembled the next. The days and nights were very long, endless. It is impossible to convey the thoughts that tortured me and weakened my strength to face the hardship and suffering.

One day I found a cyrstal radio that was equipped with earphones. I barely managed to hear the news from a distance. Each day the Germans would enthrall the Lithuanian population with stories about the German army's heroic victories on all fronts. And here, on that same day, I heard that the German divisions had been beaten in battle and fallen into Russian custody. This was encouraging news, from that moment I felt that Hitler's days were counted and that the murderer would end on the gallows. From that moment I felt some relief in my sorrow.

One day - it is hard to believe - we were free. The enemy had been beaten and dealt a mortal blow. Now I was free to go, could breathe fresh air, enjoy the warmth of the sun - yes, yes, I - the survivor - who had lived through the terrible Holocaust- could leave my place of hiding and . . .go, go, go...

-"Where to go, where shall I go?"

And then, without a minute's hesitation, I took the decision:

"I shall not return to Yurburg or to Shaodina! Those places - without the Jews- mean nothing to me." . . .


I got up and went to look for other survivors . . .I wanted to find my fellow Jews, and I found them - very few in Kovna and many more in Vilna. I decided to settle in Vilna which was now the capital of Lithuania, under the Soviet regime. I also found work which came as a great blessing. From the physical point of view my life was not particularly difficult. It was difficult, though, to forget what our enemies and prosecutors had done to us. The shadow of the terrible Holocaust haunted me and my soul found no rest. That went on for a long time. Then I understood my place was not here among the whispering ashes of my dear ones. I was the only one left of my family and the Jewish community - what was I doing here? . ..

In those days my dreams were taking me to our country, the country of the Jews, Eretz Yisrael, which had come alive again, after two thousand years of exile. I asked the Lithuanian-Soviet authorities to allow me to leave Lithuania, in order to emigrate to Israel but they refused. I asked them again a number of times. I did not give up. Only in 1967 I received permission to leave Lithuania. I went on aliyah and Israel has been my home since.

I am very happy to live among my people with the family I was lucky enough to establish after the years of the terrible Holocaust.

All we need is health, the health to go on living in our beautiful country, the land of our dreams, in revenge on the beastly murderers of our people.





Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv


Eye-witness account by Yehuda Tarshish, a Survivor of the Partisans


At the end of World War II, one of the most cruel wars ever to take place, what was to be expected indeed happened to Nazi Germany. Hitler's army was defeated. Fascism proved to be a total failure. The people of Europe felt relieved, after their desperate battle against German vandalism aiming to destroy them. A period of recuperation and renewal started - the time had come to rebuild and create a world free of fear of persecution and force. Such was the world and thus were all the people of Europe who had known much suffering. However matters were different for the people of Israel, dispersed and exiled all over Europe. They had come out of the horrible battle bruised and wounded. A few were left here and there, one in a village, two in a family. They were unable to rebuild their ruined communities on the soil that was drenched with the blood of their dear ones. As soon as the war was over, therefore, the Holocaust survivors started to move towards Eretz Yisrael, the shelter of those who longed for national salvation and human dignity.

One of those survivors on Lithuanian soil arrived at a safe haven at the end of the war, after he had gone through many difficult experiences at the Kovna ghetto and Yurburg forests. His name was Yehuda (Yudel) Tarshish, who presently lives in Tel Aviv, and he is a survivor of the group that lived in the forests and was called "The Yurburgers". Some of them were a nucleus of Jews from Yurburg (11 men and women under the leadership of Antanas {Moshe}), others were Jews who had come to the forest from various places, among them the Salvodka ghetto, to join small units that fought against the enemy.

Prof. Dov Levin [Hebrew University], the famous Holocaust researcher at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, talked to Yehuda Tarshish, and we found important testimony in his words regarding the fate of the survivors from Yurburg and its surroundings, who went to the forests to fight for their physical safety and take revenge on the enemy who had destroyed their families and community. Furthermore: the Jewish nucleus from Yurburg maintained a connection with the Kovna ghetto, by special envoy, and took tens of imprisoned Jews who were in distress out of the ghetto.

We thought it important to present Yehuda Tarshish's words as an eye- witness account of the courageous survivors from Yurburg and others in the forests surrounding the town. In the end most of them were defeated and fell in the battle in the Yurburg area and their place of burial is unknown. It is a terrible story with a bitter, tragic end.


. . . .At the Kovna ghetto (Salvodka) - says Yehuda Tarshish - I was known as a brave guy, who would come and go through the fence that surrounded the ghetto, without a yellow patch and without a Star of David, i.e. without "Lates". A Haz (rabbit) - they were called. Armed with a gun I would cross the ghetto fence in order to smuggle in food and arms from the outside.

In March 1944, after the children's "Aktia" (Action) acquaintances from the ghetto approached me and asked me to help them get to "Inkaras", a rubber factory 5-6 kms. away from the Salvodka ghetto. They wanted me to lead them there in order to reach the Yurburg forests from there. I agreed at once.

In those days I also transferred little children from the ghetto to the Lithuanian orphanage called "Lafshialis". An old woman worked at this orphanage and she would receive the children from me. She was particularly interested in little girls. Once a baby who I was about to transfer to the orphanage was given an injection to make him fall asleep before I would take him out of the ghetto so that he would not cry when I crossed the fence. I put the baby in a bag at an agreed-upon spot near the back door of the orphanage, and when I came next day and brought another bag of sleeping children, the old women told me the child had died. Apparently he had received an overdose.

Those who approached me regarding their transfer to "Inkaras" were in contact with someone called Feinstein. He was a "Brigadir" at the ghetto, i.e. in charge of those leaving on forced labor outside the ghetto. This Feinstein had two brothers in the forests near Yurburg. The Feinstein brothers were quite familiar with the area for they had been born there. Before the war they owned a sawing workshop [sawmill] (Zagwerk). They spent three years in the forest, armed with Russian sub-machine guns and other weapons; they inspired fear in the Lithuanians who inhabited the villages and received them at their homes.

When they heard that the Russian army was approaching Lithuania and that the war would soon be over, they asked Jews be removed from the Kovna ghetto and be concentrated in the forests until the war was over. In one of the villages a woman lived who was a convert and wanted to reconvert. This woman risked her life to bring a big ship to the Vilya river front near "Inkaras". But - how does one leave the ghetto?- I of course had almost free passage to get out of the ghetto, for I knew the militia (Lithuanian police) whose guard-post was near the Christian cemetery. Here a few policemen stood guard and in return for money they would turn a blind eye, so that one evening I could take about thirty people out of the ghetto. I often bought arms from these policemen, mainly rifles. I would dismantle the rifle butts and smuggle them into the ghetto for self defense and for those who were about to join the "Partisanka" in the forests.

I knew the way to "Inkaras" very well, so that I was able to lead those who went to the forest without a problem. We left in the early evening hours and arrived at the boat at midnight. Here the converted woman was waiting for us and she agreed to let me be one of the sailors, although I was not on the list of those going to the forest.

My mother and two sisters remained at the ghetto, they did not know the secret of my going to the forest. My father was killed in 1941, the moment the Germans entered Lithuania.

All those who went to the forest had money to buy food, and light arms mainly. As far as I remember the Beck brothers were with us (Hirshke and Shlomke), Moshke Levin, Fein, the butcher, and other men who possessed arms. The group comprised 15 men and 12 women, 2 young women among them.

The members of the group crowded on the bottom of the ship. It was a foggy night. We flowed along the stream of the Vilya which joins the Neiman river near "Hashlas", the old fortress of Kovna. We were headed for the Yurburg area. We went down stream at a speed of 10 kilometers per hour. I rowed. It was a quiet night, but all of a sudden - an unpleasant surprise: we ran into a steamship. . . We heard Lithuanian songs and German voices as well. Apparently they were policemen and soldiers. They were heading towards Kovna and we were heading towards Yurburg. We immediately covered all the passengers with canvas, and we tried to get as far away as possible from the boat. The converted woman beckoned to me to go on rowing quickly - and if questions would be asked - only she would answer, for she spoke Lithuanian fluently, like a true gentile. I wore a light peasant coat, so that it was impossible to recognize me as a Jew. It was a fishing boat which had space for forty people. We advanced slowly to our destiny. It was clear to all of us that many surprises lay in stock for us. We had therefore taken along arms to defend ourselves. All those who went to the forest knew they would live the life of "Partisanka" in the forest, under the command of the Feinstein brothers, who were experienced in the life of the forest. We were prepared for this.

The plan was to accommodate the women and children at peasants' homes, while the men and young women would be organized into guard groups. It was explained to us that the Feinstein brothers planned to concentrate 200 to 250 men of army age, armed, in the forest to form a fighting force. They also planned to "absorb" people who had been trained at Haim Yelin (communists) organizations and the Zionist movements. Till now there had been no contact between the Feinstein brothers and these organizations, except for the connection the converted woman maintained with the ghetto once in a couple of months.

After hours of energetic and exhausting rowing all night - we arrived at the Shtaki shore in the morning, not far from Yurburg. A few terrifying surprises awaited us on the way, but the important thing is that we arrived at our destination, although here another unpleasant surprise was waiting for us.

This is what happened. We went down to the beach and hid among bushes growing on the sand dunes, not far from the Neiman river. It had been agreed that a Lithuanian would wait for us on the beach; however, apparently we were mistaken. The converted woman went to look for the Lithuanian, and it took two hours before she finally returned with him. The Lithuanian's name was Kazis. The Feinstein brothers had promised him payment for his efforts and had assured him that once the war was over he would receive a lot of money, as all those who were coming were wealthy people from Kovna who had homes and a lot of property. . .

Kazis led us to the nearby forest and he himself went to look for food. The promise was kept. A couple of hours later he came, bringing along bread, butter and all sorts of porridge on his wagon. We rested and waited for nightfall, getting organized under field conditions. The Feinstein brothers came and issued orders - which we obeyed. The women and children were accommodated at peasants' homes and the men were divided into two groups that would operate in the forest. I was put in charge of one group. In addition to the Feinstein brothers we knew another Jewish commander in the forest, nicknamed Antanas. Antanas' family was killed by the Lithuanians and Germans.

He himself had escaped and roamed the forests, armed from head to toe. I was given the nickname Waladas, for everyone here had a nickname. I was given a F.N. gun, made in Belgium with a Lithuanian emblem. The gun came with thirty 9 mm. bullets.

A couple of days later we were introduced to an officer, a Russian pilot, via Antanas. At a special roll-call we were told that the pilot's plane had been downed over Yurburg, and Antanas had found him in the forest. He was a senior lieutenant who had been decorated. We were sure we would hear details from him about what was going on at the front and we very disappointed when we heard nothing new. About 30-40 armed men took place in this meeting, but the Lithuanians in the area who observed us were convinced we were a military force of hundreds of men. They were afraid of us and even the Lithuanian policemen in the villages avoided entering the forest area.

That evening people were appointed to special functions, such as food supply, guarding the camp and sabotage. In those days we went onto the roads and attacked German vehicles.

Others went on procurement missions, i.e. to obtain food in the Lithuanian villages, particularly from those about whom we knew they cooperated with the enemy. Once we even had to shoot a Lithuanian, who cooperated with the Germans, for refusing to hand over a few cows.

Most actions were planned by Antanas (Moshe), he was a serious, poised man, a well-known war hero and all the Lithuanians were afraid of him. He was familiar with the Yurburg area and spoke Lithuanian like a gentile, although his dark face revealed his origins.

In the Lithuanian War of Independence (1918) he was a "Savanaris" - a volunteer in the Lithuanian army. The Feinsteins also followed his orders without question, and so did the officer, the Russian pilot.

In the summer of 1944 another 15 men arrived from the Kovna ghetto. The ghetto was about to be totally liquidated. When they learned about our group in the forest around Yurburg a few managed to escape from the ghetto and came to us on foot - a 70-80 kms. (a;bout 50 miles) walk - in spite of the hurdles and risks on the way. In those days it was planned to take hundreds of people out of the ghetto, in spite of our limited ability to accommodate them under forest conditions. Unfortunately, the ghetto was liquidated within a week. The soldiers on the Russian-Lithuanian front advanced and arrived at Rassain. The Lithuanian division that took part in the conquest of Zamatias, was already at the front. Most of the soldiers in this division were Jewish and the Russians and Lithuanians formed a minority here. Among them was Wolf Vilensky, the well-known general who earned the title "Hero of the Soviet Union.".

The horror stories of the Kovna ghetto survivors enticed us to take a course of action aimed at preventing the enemy from carrying out his plans and beat him. We were 75 men in total. Half of them had some kind of weapon - rifles, sub-machines, pistols and grenades. We were an independent unit. We came into contact with a Partisan battalion (Atriad) only once. They had come from the Rodniki forest and were advancing towards Yurburg, there were Jews among them. They wanted to strike at the enemy's back. They were armed with heavy Soviet machine guns.

We wanted to join them but they refused, thus we were forced to continue to operate against the German troops on our own, in the area where we were, to hinder their movement and avenge the Jewish people. It is superfluous to point out that the fire of wrath burned in all of us and we were always ready to volunteer for the most dangerous actions.

The security situation in the forest grew worse by the day. Therefore all the people from Yurburg were divided into two groups - one counted 30 people and the other 40. The Feinstein brothers and I were appointed to head one group, while Antanas and the officer-the Russian pilot - led the other group.

Bunkers were dug in the forest for both groups, although this was done without an adequate engineering plan. Each bunker had one entrance and exit and this proved to be a serious pitfall. We equipped the bunkers with water, which we filtered through bed sheets.

One night we encountered two soldiers. We were sure they were Germans, but they spoke Russian and told us they were Latvians who had deserted from the German army. They said that in Latvia they had been forced to enlist and they were now ready to join the Partisans against the German army. We wondered whether to believe them - it was well-known that there were many murderers among the Latvians who cooperated with the Germans. We had a difference of opinion, but in the end we took pity on them. Jews are known for their compassion and therefore the warm Jewish heart is incapable of killing, in spite of the doubts we felt. Some, among them the officer- the Russian pilot- thought that we might learn details about the front from them and about the German movements in the areas near us. In short: after we put them to some sort of test - we accepted them amongst us. One of them was called Volodia and the other Mishka. Antanas ordered they be transferred to my bunker, and that is what I did. After they were interrogated we found out that they had indeed been Latvian "Partisans" in the past and had taken part in the liquidation of Jews in the Riga ghetto, at the order of the Germans. They also spoke about the coming German strategy on the front, about the communication trenches, lighting devices, barbed-wire fences, mine fields etc. Some of us offered the idea of breaking through the German front and joining the Soviet army, others rejected this idea. When we saw that the Germans reinforced their troops and brought a lot of ammunition and stoves for the winter to the forest - we decided to try to break through the front together with the Latvians and cross over to the Soviet fighters.

Both the Russian officer-pilot and the Feinsteins volunteered to be among those who would break through the front. Thus we left, ten of us, to a post opposite the enemy's positions. We saw the change of guard in the German communication trenches. We left the Latvians and the Russian officer behind, for good reason. . . we heard the exchange of fire between the Germans and the Russians. Someone from the communication trench switched on a torch.

All of a sudden the two Latvians jumped up and started to run, shouting, towards the communication trenches, presuming we would all follow. The Germans started to shoot and to shout "Halt!" (Stop). "Halt!" - but we did not run. One of the Latvians (Mishka) was wounded in the foot and we turned back and ran away.

The Germans ran after us, shooting all the while, but they were unable to catch up with us in the dark of night. When we sat down to rest , exhausted, we saw the two Latvians come close, one of them limping and leaning on his friend's shoulder. We tied up the injured man's leg and informed Lantanas about what had happened.

We passed a quiet night. In the morning, at about ten o'clock, a group of military policemen of the German field police suddenly appeared. The armed policemen took up position close to us and aimed their rifles at us. The moment I saw them I shouted at the top of my voice to Feinstein - "Yurgis Pazurak!" - i.e. "Look Yurgis, look!" We immediately understood that we were lost. We opened fire, but they outnumbered us and surrounded us on all sides. We saw them face to face from a 15 meters (50 feet) distance. A doctor or medic stood out among them. They did not enter into battle with us, but allowed us to escape, although they ran after us with their trained dogs. We shot at them and they returned fire. Thus, running and exchanging fire, we ran about 5 kms. from the bunker. We managed to pass from one part of the forest to another. When the shooting died down and there was no sign left of the Germans, we sat down to rest among the bushes - when suddenly we heard the noise of shots and explosions. We knew that our force inside the bunker had grenades, and they probably used them against the Germans. In truth, we were just guessing. Our heart was beating strongly but our force was too weak to help. Only later did we learn about the bitter fate of the bunker from a young woman called Frieda. Without this Frieda those who were in the bunker would have taken their secret with them to the grave. Genia Angel was saved from the second bunker and she too is a witness who survived.

The following is Frieda's story. First of all, it immediately became clear that the two Latvians were part of the German field force. As they managed to fool us and became well acquainted with our bunkers and everything concerning them, they passed this information on to the Germans. The Germans approached the opening, assisted by the Latvians, and one of them issued the order - "Ihr geht mahl raus. Wenn nicht, schmeisse Ich meine Grenaten herein!" (If you don't come out I'll throw the grenades inside) Those inside the bunker did not surrender. They opened fire from within. The exchange of fire went on for a while.

Those inside the bunker had the disadvantage. The Germans came slowly closer to the opening of the bunker and threw the grenades inside. Some were killed instantly, others were mortally wounded - their legs were torn off, hands and other parts of their body. It is impossible to describe the horrendous scene inside the bunker. . . .finally all those who were still alive surrendered.

Outside the Germans lined them up in rows and searched them for money and other valuables. Some Germans even went down into the bunker in order to find loot there.

Frieda too was standing in the row, she asked the German medic to allow her to step aside "for personal needs" due to her illness. The medic consented. When Frieda went a short distance away from the row and started to carry out "her personal needs" the medic turned his face away for a moment, probably out of embarrassment. When Frieda noticed this, she drew forth her courage and quickly started to run away. The medic drew his gun and shot at her. The bullet hit the top of her finger, covering her hand in blood, but Frieda overcame the pain and continued to run as fast as she could, in a kind of amok, until she found a place of hiding in the woods. That is how Frieda was saved - the only one of those who were in the bunker. The others were led, heavily guarded, to Yurburg, where according to testimony by the Lithuanians, they were all cruelly murdered. They took the bitter truth with them to their graves.

At night our group of guards decided to return to the bunker to see what had happened to those who were inside. We walked silently along, in the darkness of night, and approached the bunker - the horror scene became immediately clear - even the devil had not yet thought of this - heads, legs, hands and body parts that were impossible to identify, covered in blood and mire. We were only able to identify the leg of our doctor Mordehai (Mottel) Aharonson by the color of his pants . . . it was terrible . . . awful and terrible. . . .

Shocked we climbed out of the bunker into the open air, depressed and in despair. "What shall we do now?" - How can we go on ?" - One of us got up and said that if everyone was dead there was no sense to our lives any longer: "Let's commit suicide!" - Some were inclined to accept this idea. But I, the youngest of the commanders, said: "If they killed everybody - we have nothing to lose, we will get up and avenge their blood. . ." After a long moment of silence and many deliberations, my proposal was accepted.

However, if at that moment someone would have drawn a gun and shot, everyone would have committed suicide and nothing would have been left of any of us . . . .the fate of the second bunker would have been the same as the fate of our bunker. Those who remained alive there were led to Yurburg where, as mentioned above, they were shot.

When we had drunk the cup of poison down to its last drop, we decided to accept the Feinstein's advise and go to Yurburg. Here the Feinstein brothers knew a Lithuanian, an old acquaintance, who lived near Yurburg. We hoped we would find shelter there and would perhaps even manage to pay back the murderers in kind. We gathered food and arms - someone still had a few gold rubles left and we went ahead. We walked the whole night and towards morning we arrived, tired and exhausted at the home of the gentile who lived at the entrance to Yurburg. The Feinsteins knew him well. At first the gentile was alarmed, but when he saw his old friends, the Feinsteins, he started to kiss them . . . it was a rather forced sceme, but that was unavoidable under the circumstances. In short: he received a few golden rubles and became very friendly . . .

We found temporary refuge in the gentile's barn under the bundles of fodder. Once Germans came to the gentile's home and looked into the barn, but this time we were lucky and they did not find us. As time passed, we witnessed exchanges of fire between German soldiers and the Soviets in Yurburg and its surroundings.

One day our patience came to an end. We decided to break out of our quarantine and go to the Russian front. That is what we did. After many risks and hurdles we encountered a Soviet reconnaissance platoon. The Russians asked us: "Who are you?" - and we answered "Partizans." They immediately disarmed us, took off our watches and boots . . .we had nothing left. When we complained they said "Wai Yavarai Pomogli Neimzan"- i.e. "You, Jews, helped the Germans." They intended to blame the Jews for having worked at the forced labor camps of the Germans, thereby strengthening the enemy.

Our attempts to explain that the Jews who had been imprisoned in the ghettoes had been forced to work under threat, failed . . . the Russian soldiers were stubborn and did not listen.

The unexpected disappointment came soon enough. Only when we met a Jewish officer did we get back our boots, thanks to his swift intervention. The watches were no longer to be found and the weapons were no longer needed.

In the end we received certificates (a piece of paper) that we were Partisans and entitled to go to liberated Kovna. The Feinstein brothers decided to remain to receive back their property - while we three - Fein, Konichovsky and I - went to Kovna.

In Kovna we found total chaos. We had trouble finding a Jew who took us into his miserable home. We saw the destruction and ruined life of the few Jews who had survived and been absorbed by the town, most of them had already packed their suitcase in order to leave the valley of death as soon as possible. They all wanted to leave and not remain in the valley of tears. They were looking towards Eretz Yisrael, of course, but how to escape from here? Though I longed to leave Lithuania, I had a strong urge to settle accounts with the murderers of my family and relatives. On my way "there" I joined those who fought against our people's enemy inside Germany, and as a former investigating judge of Nazis I took a great deal of revenge - our revenge on the Germans.

From the murderous land of Germany I arrived after many events in my own country, to build and be built by it.

Edited by Z. Poran

Monument to Remember the Murdered Heroes: " In this place on August 12, 1941 were murdered 28 children, 19 of their mothers and one man by the German fascists and the Lithuanians ....." ------- Standing alongside the monument is Aba Valt and his wife Miriam, who built the monument (???) ------

Better and Complete Translation Needed




Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv





I left Yurburg a long time ago. I have no idea of what is going on there. The news coming out of there is terrifying. Destiny has taken me to Kovna and from there to the Salvodka ghetto. I am not the only one from Yurburg in the ghetto. There are other Jews from Yurburg here who arrived one way or another.

We all share a cruel fate. We live here under crowded conditions, a degenerated life. However, the fear of becoming fewer and fewer is even more terrible. The actions . . . ah yes, the actions!. . . From time to time Jews are being abducted, old men, women and little children are being taken to Fort 9, near Solvodka, from where there is no return. . . those who are able to work are sent to forced labor. Those who can still contribute to the German war machine - stay alive. To stay alive - that is the aim of every Jew in the ghetto, but chances are slim.

Each day there are fewer people left in the ghetto. What to do? Young people get organized into underground groups and go into the woods. I too liked the idea and

became obsessed with it, until one day I implemented it.


This is what happened.

On 11 June 1944 a Gestapo order was issued whereby all the men in the Kovna ghetto had to gather the next morning on the plot between the big blocks, to move to a labor camp. It was clear to us what "leaving the ghetto" meant. Where we were going - this was not explained to us. An order is an order and must be obeyed.

I did not sleep a wink all night, neither did many of my friends. There was a tense quiet at the ghetto . . . In every corner people huddled together and asked each other how to escape the evil. I had decided to run away. But how? Where to? The ghetto was closed off by a tight ring of Gestapo and the German army. I lay there, thinking of a solution but, unfortunately, did not find one.

I got up at dawn, took my rucksack which contained all my belongings and went out to join all those who were going to the plot. People were coming from all corners of the ghetto, those who were still alive after all the selections and deportations. Those who had a family gathered together. I had no one I could join; I was all alone. My brother Yosef had run away when the war broke out with my mother to beyond the borders of Lithuania, hoping to be saved. My brother Eliezer with his wife and my sister Haya with her husband remained in Yurburg, my sister Deborah was at the Kaindi camp during the children's action with her little son. She refused to hand over her son to be killed and decided to die with him. Indeed they were both killed together with the other babies. The other 18 babies were killed too and thrown into transport vans, like slaughtered poultry.

My sister Zipora was at the Vilna ghetto with her husband; my two sisters Hannah and Scheindele, who were at the Kaindi camp, were sent to the Ponivaz camp. The whole family dispersed in the days of the Holocaust as chaff before the wind. I have no idea what happened to my dear ones, I guess I shall never know. . . Thus I was left alone, the only one of my family who remained. I was tormented and did not know what to do. Even today I face the same problem. Then I remembered the bible passage - Book of Psalms - "Look to your right and see here, I know no one, there is no escape, no one cares about me. I called out to you, Almighty God, I said you were my shelter, my part in the land of life.

Hear my lamentation, for I am very miserable, save me from those who persecute me, for they are stronger than I."

Here I stood among many others, a man who had been found guilty and was waiting for his bitter destiny. We waited for an order to be issued. It soon came - "Go!" We left with the heavy feeling that perhaps we would never see our town and our family again. We walked in the direction of the suburb of Kovna -Alkasotas - on the other side of the Neiman river. We saw a look of malicious joy on the faces of the gentiles who lined both sides of the road. Their look was humiliating and repulsive. And then I remembered the lofty words of the prayer - " Almighty God, I am a member of the bond you created . . . . Look down from heaven and see how humiliated we are and mocked by the gentiles, they are leading us like sheep to be slaughtered, to be killed, to be beaten and disgraced." They stood on the sidewalk and we had to walk on the borders of the road. I was deeply grieved. Thus we passed over the bridge and approached the railroad tracks. From far away we saw a series of wagons, and tens of armed S.S. soldiers were waiting for us. Before we even came near the wagons we already heard wild shouting - "Get on to the wagons!" They were cattle wagons. There was an uproar. All the people from the ghetto quickly climbed onto the wagons and tried to find a space. I also climbed onto the wagon with my rucksack and sat down. Some of my acquaintances joined me. The wagon was overcrowded. Everyone was waiting for the journey into the unknown. There was a mood of depression in the wagon. We were closed in like animals. A 60-year old German soldier was positioned next to the door and he had to guard us and make sure we did not escape, God forbid.

After lengthy preparations the train left. The soldier-guard stood up and said to us: "'You'd better know that I shall not hesitate to shoot anyone who tries to escape, so watch out!" It was 11:30 o'clock. The wagon rattled and the soldier-guard fell asleep. Not so the people who were led to slaughter like cattle.

Everyone stood lost in thought, tired and depressed. One of my friends wanted to tell me something but he suddenly fell silent. He was unable to utter a sound. I was very sad, but after an hour or so I pulled myself together. It was already 12:00 o'clock. One of my friends peeped through a crack in the window, recognized the place and whispered in my ear: "we are in the Kazlu-Rodah area". This struck me like a bolt of lighting. I knew that the place was in the area where the Jewish Partisans operated who had escaped from the ghetto. I immediately got the idea to escape, to flee to the forest . . . .

In the meantime I saw that the soldier-guard was drowsy and had perhaps even fallen asleep. I told myself this was the best time to escape. But how to go about it?

All of a sudden I thought of the psalm - "I shall raise my eyes unto the mountains,

my help will come from there. Help from God, who created heaven and earth. God will guard you against all evil and will guard your soul. Gold will look after you wherever you come and go, now and forever." I got up my courage and told my friend that I had decided to jump through the window and escape. Those who wanted to were welcome to join me. They hesitated. One of them started to grumble, if you run away they will kill us .. . at that moment the soldier-guard fell asleep and he fell into deep slumber. Yes, I said to myself, this is the right time. I asked one of the woman passengers called Feige Vislitzky from Kovna to hide me from the sleeping guard's eyes. She kissed me and wished me good luck. I immediately climbed on the boxes standing next to the small window, opened the window carefully, moved my head and part of my body out and when my friends pushed me from behind I found myself outside the wagon. I fell onto the small ramp at the front of the wagon and was about to jump into the passageway when I saw a train approaching on the other track, in the opposite direction. I doubled up for a moment, allowed the train to pass and then jumped down into the bushes lining the road. I got scratched by the bushes and was slightly wounded. It is not too bad, I told myself, I shall overcome - better be injured and free than prey to the Nazi beast.

When I recovered from the daring act, I crawled away from the railway track and lay down to rest in a hidden corner. When I raised my head I saw that three people were coming towards me. They spoke Lithuanian and this encouraged me. They had apparently seen me jump off the train and offered help. I did not want to go with them, for I did not know who they were. However, they suggested I turn to the railway guard who lived in a little house behind the tall tree - they told me he was a good man and he would help me if he could.

They also told me to be very careful for the area was full of German soldiers. I thanked them for their advise, got up and went straight to the house of the railway guard.

I slowly and hesitantly approached the guard's house. I saw a little girl in the yard, about seven years old, who started to call her mother who was in the garden. When the guard's wife approached I said hello to her in Lithuanian. The woman answered me very politely and invited me into her home.

Inside I told her that I was the son of a mixed marriage between a Jewish woman and a gentile and that I had been put into the Kovna ghetto. I went on to say that I had been put into a train wagon, together with many Jews, and that I had jumped off the train, for I was about to be exterminated. That was how all the Jews were treated. I have come to you to ask for help. I have heard that there are Jewish Partisans near here and I want to join them. You will have to ask my husband, she said. In the meantime, until my husband comes, wash yourself and eat something. I did as I was told. I washed myself and she gave me a plate of soup. In the meantime her husband, the railway guard arrived. He heard my story from his wife. He nodded his head and told me my life was in danger if I was seen at their home. Nevertheless, he suggested I go to the estate, 4 kms. away and there I would be told how to achieve my goal. I thanked the guard and his wife and was about to leave. The good people were very kind to me and gave me some food to take along.

Encouraged, I went on my way and turned towards the estate. I stopped at the forest for afternoon prayer and was about to go on when I suddenly remembered the psalm: Please, God, guard me against evil, save me from the evil man, from those who want to divert my steps. I said to God: "You are my God, please, oh Lord, hear my call for mercy." I continued on my way, hoping God would lead me on the right road to my goal. After about an hour I arrived at a large estate. When I entered the yard a dog started to bark. I was immediately welcomed by the estate owner and his two sons. They asked me to come in and sit at their table. I told them my story - who I was and what I wanted to know. The estate owner told me that German soldiers came to his estate each day to buy food and that if they saw me there it would be harmful to him and my life would be in danger. After he had told me this, he suggested I sleep on straw in the barn and at dawn I would have to leave the estate. This I did. I slept soundly on the straw which to me was better than a king's canopy . . . When I went to the estate owner's home to bid him farewell, I found a wonderful breakfast on the table - two eggs with bread and butter, tasty cheese and a can of milk. I did not want to bother him, but he insisted. I ate and satisfied my appetite.

When I left his house the estate owner accompanied me and pointed out the way to me along the forest paths to an estate owner who, he said, would be able to offer more help than he. Thus I took leave of my benefactor, but he did not forget to give me a parcel of food and put 100 Tchironshes, Russian money, into my pocket. I left this estate with a wonderful feeling and with the hope that God would continue to lead me on a successful road.

I went to the second estate owner with a feeling of certainty. When I entered his house, I immediately saw a carpentry workshop, where he, his wife and sons were working. I said hello and they answered me in a friendly manner. They also asked me if I had eaten breakfast and if I was no longer hungry. I told them I had eaten at the home of estate owner Shtankowitz and that he had filled my rucksack with a lot of food. After this initial encounter, I repeated my story and added, of course, that I wanted to know where the Jewish Partisans were. The house owner - carpenter listened attentively to what I said, took paper and pencil and started to draft the lines of a plan. When he was finished he explained the details of the plan to me. This road, he said, leads to the narrow railway tracks that go on for about 25 kms. in the forest area. When you reach the end of the forest you will see an overturned locomotive there. Turn to your right onto an empty lot, here you must be very careful for there are many German soldiers there. From there turn to the nearby woods, on the right, and continue on the straight road which leads to the village marked on the plan. He attached a note to the plan for his cousin in that village. I thanked him from the bottom of my heart. I would have kissed him. Thus I went on my way. I knew the road was difficult and full of mines, but there was no way of return. All the bridges behind me had been burnt as far as I was concerned.

With the plan and the note I walked along with confidence, although from time to time I had my doubts. I sat down to rest along the road. I took out my phylacteries which I had received before the selection from my neighbor Rabbi Mans, who was later executed, together with his family by the Nazis. I look after the phylacteries as if they were the apple of my eyes. This time too I put on the phylacteries and prayed. It was a prayer of thanks to God who till now had helped me along. After the prayer I ate and went on. It was 12:00 o'clock, and all of a sudden I looked up. I saw the locomotive at the side of the road, marked on the sketch of the plan. From here I walked with a lot of hope in my heart. In the distance I saw a man in the forest. I was a little frightened, but when he saw me he ran away. I laughed. Did I look so frightening . . . .

In short, I walked on. It was 19:00 o'clock. Finally I saw a house. I approached the house, knocked on the door and went in. I saw a young man sitting in front of a sewing machine, sewing in the light of an oil lamp. I said hello and he answered me. He was not afraid of the stranger who had come to his house. He immediately asked

where I had come from and where I was going. I told him what I had told the others.

He saw that I was tired. Soon, he said, my wife will return and she will bring food for dinner. I saw that he was not a rich man. I immediately told him that I had enough food for him and his wife too. I only needed a place to sleep and some guidance as to how to reach the Jewish Partisans in the forest. My host told me that he had seen two young men in the morning, apparently the forest people, who had asked about the road to Kovna. I was happy to hear there were signs of the Partisans in the area. In the meantime the woman had returned with a basket full of food. I was asked to dinner. When I told her I had enough food she urged me to at least have a cup of fresh milk. After my meeting with my hosts, I went up to the barn and fell asleep forthwith. I slept soundly, as in my mother's bed when I was born.

Early in the morning my host woke me up. Breakfast was ready on the table. I ate and shook his hand. Before I left I asked him about the village which the carpenter had sketched on the note intended for his cousin - he told me the village was nearby. He indicated the direction, and as far as the man was concerned to whom the note was sent - he told me - he was a cowardly man, not to be relied upon. Although he knew much, he would not tell me anything worthwhile. We separated and I shook his hand once more.

After about an hour's walk, I saw a house in the distance that looked like the one I was looking for. Indeed, someone I met on the way, referred me to the man to whom I was supposed to give the note. When I came near the house, I saw that the door was open and a few people were sitting inside around a radio. I said hello to them and asked about the man to whom I was supposed to give regards from his cousin. The man got up and beckoned me to step outside. He was apparently afraid that someone would hear about his connection with me. I came straight to the point and asked him where the Jewish Partisans were. I saw that he turned pale and started to stammer. I did not understand whether he was afraid or if he did not want to reveal his secret to me. In any case, from what he said I understood that I had to follow the path in the forest for about 8 kms., and from there get to a village called Shtura. Partisans came to this village about every two days.

I left, believing he had told me the truth. However, a gentile I met on the way told me I should go in the opposite direction. I understood the tailor had been right.

What to do? - I turned around and walked a long and tiring way until I reached my destination. I saw a large estate in the village, where I was told to go. I entered a house where I saw a woman speaking to a man in Russian. I stood there for a moment, waiting for the woman to be available. When the man left, I turned to the woman and told her my story and why I had come. She immediately answered that she knew nothing about the people I was looking for. True, various people passed through the village, but she did not know them. She added it would not be a good idea to stay here. If the authorities found me - it would be very bad for me and her.

Disappointed, I left her house and asked myself -"where will I find help . . . .for I had met so much contempt . . . "but I gathered my strength, " for those who believe in God will "find mercy". All sorts of thoughts crossed my mind. While I was deliberating, I saw a wagon with wooden boards enter the yard and a young man was sitting on it. I did not know whether he was Jewish or not. But the young man saw me and jumped off the wagon, came up to me and looked at me as if we had agreed to meet here. He asked me whether I spoke Lithuanian and I replied I did, he grabbed me with both his hands and held on to me as if he was drowning in the sea, God forbid. We were both very moved and just looked at each other. Once we calmed down he told me he and another group of Jews had worked at the labor camp under the command of Nazi Germans. One day the German camp commander told the Jews they were leaving the place. We knew this meant our life was in danger. We got organized immediately and we planned to leave, as we were told, but we bribed the Ukrainian guards - we paid them a lot of money - to allow us to disperse in the forest while we were walking. That is indeed what happened. In the evening we presented ourselves to the camp commander, and after an accurate count, we were led through the forest in the direction of the railway tracks. Those guarding us were . . .the Ukrainians. When we were walking to an unknown destination at midnight we heard a sharp whistle and shots, this was the sign that had been agreed upon with the guards to disperse in the woods. That is what we did. We dispersed in the forest. The Ukrainian guards disappeared and we were left to ourselves. There were about 30 people in the group, families among them. Now we were living together. We set up a temporary camp and wanted to join the permanent camp of the Partisans. Nearly all of us are from Vilna. We do not know Lithuanian. You will be able to help us with the Lithuanian population in the area. The armed young men who were with the young man who owned the wagon, also spoke Lithuanian. I recognized one of them as someone from the Kovna ghetto. Then I knew that "God had heard my lamentations and prayers."

The young man from the Kovna ghetto knew me. He had fled from Port 9. I asked him about my brother in law Yehuda Meister, who came from Yurburg and I received the positive answer that he was in the Partisan camp. My joy knew no bounds. I said to myself - " God be blessed each day and God shall bestow salvation on us -Sela".

With the help of God I have come to this point. The young men suggested I join their unit. I full-heartedly agreed, for this is what I had wanted all along. I helped the young man to buy food for the group and to make contact with the Lithuanians, for I spoke the language fluently. We loaded all the purchases on the wagon. I sat next to the young man who owned the wagon, and the two armed young men who accompanied him set crowded in the back.

When towards evening we arrived at the place where those who had fled with the assistance of the Lithuanians were, there was a lot of joy. They were happy, and so was I. We had found each other. However, I had no one there with whom I could share my experiences of the recent days. However, I adjusted to my situation. We ate the food we had brought with us on the wagon. We were in high spirits. At 23:00 o'clock at night we left. We went to join the Partisans' camp. We were ordered not to utter a word on the way. We walked through the forest all night long. We were tired and exhausted. Towards morning we saw smoke in the distance. The leaders told us we had arrived at our destination. We arrived at the Partisans camp in the morning. The leaders were allowed to enter by the Partisans who carefully guarded the camp. We entered one after another. We presented ourselves to the camp commander. When I entered the commander's tent my heart pounded, I was so excited. The commander asked me all sorts of questions about myself and my family. In the end he told me that a relative of mine, Yehuda Meister from Yurburg, was at the camp, that he was now on guard duty and that I would be able to speak to him the moment he came off duty. I was so moved that I started to cry. I cried for joy that I had reached my destination and also in sorrow that none of my brothers and sisters had had my good fortune to be saved.

Once I had made myself at home at the Partisans camp, I sat down on the mattress and waited for my brother-in-law. Soon my brother-in-law came to me. We fell into each other's arms and started to cry like babies. The first question my brother-in-law Yehuda (Yudel) Meister asked me was what had happened to his wife and little two-year old son.

I wanted to postpone the subject, but he would not let go of me and I was forced to tell him the bitter truth . . . how they had been cruelly murdered . . . I am not sure my brother-in-law heard all I told him about them, for he was sitting there, crying and tearing out his hair. When my brother-in-law said good-bye to them, his son was a year-old baby. He had not yet had time to get to know him and enjoy his company. After a year he had been abducted by the German murderers in the children's action at the Kovna ghetto, and taken to Fort 9, a place of no return . . . thus we sat and talked for a long time, until we were called to lunch. After the meal we continued to talk. I preferred not to speak about the disasters that had befallen the family, for I knew I would make him sad. I learned from my brother-in-law that Moshe Magidowitz from Yurburg was also at the camp. I was very excited and went to see him - we were overjoyed - three people from Yurburg at the Partisans camp, three Partisans . . . three out of many from Yurburg, who did not have this good fortune. We were the few who had been lucky. . .

Towards evening I was given a rifle with bullets. Within an hour I passed accelerated training in the use of arms. Here I am holding a gun and I am able to defend myself against the enemy. I also received an explanation about the arrangements at the camp and rules imposed on the Partisans. Thus I passed the first day at the Partisans camp.

Towards evening we received the order to carry out a raid on one of the villages in order to equip the camp with food. The farmers knew it was no use to argue with us.

We received what we needed and also a wagon to carry the food. We returned tired and exhausted from this action. After a while we went to the villages to look for gentile infiltrators, who cooperated with the Germans and provided them with information about the Jewish Partisans' whereabouts. When we found them - we liquidated them. Everything was done at the commander's decision and at his orders.

One evening we were told that at midnight a plane would deliver equipment to us. The plane would drop the equipment at our airport with a parachute. Our airport was situated near the camp. It was 2 kms. long and had muddy land. We had to light six bonfires as a signal to the plane. Indeed, at the prescribed time we heard the noise of the approaching plane. There was a great deal of tension. We were afraid the German soldiers would spot the plane and then we would be lost. We were trained before the action. We stood in silence and saw the plane flying overhead when suddenly . . . a huge parcel was thrown out of the plane.

We all hurried to extract the heavy parcel from the mud. We carried it on our shoulders to the wagon that was waiting for us. We loaded the parcel on the wagon together with the parachute. We aimed our rifles and accompanied the wagon until it safely reached the camp. We unloaded the parcel and folded the parachute. There were Russian arms and ammunition in the parcel, cigarettes and even chocolate. The action was successful and we all enjoyed it. In the morning we heard the buzzing sound of a German plane which had apparently spotted us at night, but it did not dare come near us. The Germans were afraid of us and we of them. We were always tense. We would listen to the radio broadcasts about the situation at the front. The news was better recently. We, from Yurburg, would from time to time meet and exchange memories of our dear town Yurburg and our loved ones who had been killed in the first months of the war. We were lonely and we all waited for the day when we would be able to avenge the blood that had been spilled.

The days passed by and almost every day there were actions of some kind or other.

One day we went to look for food, as usual. I was in charge of the action. My brother-in-law, Yehuda Meister, was with me as well as two Russian soldiers who had escaped from a prisoner camp, and others. On our way we arrived at the house of a rich estate owner. We knocked on the door and entered. Two women and a man stood in front of us. I politely bid them good evening and they replied in kind. Before we had even explained our request to the estate owner, he said he knew why we had come. Come, he said, I will give you what you want. While we were still talking, one of the women asked a question in Yiddish. I was taken by surprise. It turned out that she was a Jewish girl from Kovna who had been here for two years, and that here she had found protection against all bad things . . . we were very moved by her story. In the end I got up, told my friends the story and said - here we will not take anything. A gentile who risks his life in order to rescue a Jewish soul - is a friend of ours. The estate owner was surprised by my decision, but thanked me and all the people in the group. From here we went to the next estate owner and took all the food we needed from him. We loaded everything onto the wagon and returned to the flour mill, the meeting point of the other groups in the village.

Here something unexpected happened. All of a sudden automatic fire was opened at us from all sides. We had no choice but to leave the place in a hurry. When we counted, it appeared that two were missing. The commander was furious. In many cases [like this] we went back to a village after a while to repay them in kind. . . this happened this time too.

Immediately after dinner we received the order to go on an important and dangerous mission. Where we did not know. When we were gathered together we were given tin boxes with a lace. We took the boxes with us as well as our personal arms. At the roll- call we were told what the purpose of our nightly mission was. We were led to the flour mill in the village from where the mortal fire had been opened at us. Here we were told to disperse and place the boxes near the wall of the mill after all the laces had been tied together. We were immediately ordered to run the distance of at least a kilometer from the mill and here we waited for the results of our action. All of a sudden we heard a tremendous explosion and saw a sea of fire rise up to the sky. This was the retaliation against the German fascists. We returned to camp where a pleasant surprise was waiting for us. The two young men who had been missing from yesterday's action had returned healthy and well.

Sometimes life at the camp was very meaningful and sometimes it was boring. We were merely interested in one thing - what was going on there in the terrible war? What about the Kovna ghetto - who had survived and who had not? The news we received was very sad. We talked about Yurburg, the cradle of our youth, with love and longing, as if it still existed, as in the past . . . Thus many days passed by. One day the person in charge of reconnaissance, the only gentile at the camp - dressed in the uniform of a Gestapo officer, asked me to join him on a tour. I joined him and we went to a village not far from our camp. It was on July 30, 1944. We entered a house there known to the gentile. We found girls at the house who were sewing clothes and listening to radio broadcasts. And see here, what did we hear - an important and pleasant bit of information - the Russian army battalions had liberated Vilna, Lithuania's capital. Our joy knew no bounds. It was as if we were drunk . . . we hurried back to the Partisans camp through the cornfields, to tell them the good news. When we approached the camp - the gentile said - let's shoot a round of fire in honor of the liberation of our capital. We both enthusiastically fired a few shots. Suddenly we heard shooting at us from the other side of the corn field. The gentile ordered me to run and inform the camp that a group of fascist soldiers from the Lithuanian army was in the area and was shooting. I did as he told me. While I was running I saw a Lithuanian soldier not far away who was operating in the framework of the German army. I shot at him and when he fell to the ground I went up to him and did not check whether he was alive or dead. I took his rifle and ran to our camp, to tell them that Lithuanian soldiers serving in the German army were near us. The commander of our camp immediately ordered the shock troops to go. We went with 25 men, while I was their guide.

We had barely left the forest when we already heard the sound of the attackers' shooting. We were in the line of fire. Our commander issued the order - "Advance!" "Hit them!" The battle was fierce. We pursued the fascist Lithuanian soldiers and killed some of them. Two of our men - the Russian Partisans - were killed. We were very grieved. We did not find consolation in the fact that many enemy soldiers had fallen. Each Partisan was dear to us. When the battle was over we went back with the Lithuanian gentile to one of the estates to drink some water. Suddenly the dog that was tied up there started to bark. The gentile was annoyed at his barking; he was furious at the dog, went up to him and hit him with his rifle butt. Unfortunately a bullet came loose which struck the Lithuanian gentile who fell and was dead. We all stood around him in silence, very sad. We had lost a good reconnaissance soldier and a kind- hearted man. We collected the three casualties and took them to the camp on a wagon. We dug holes and buried three good and dear Partisans, who did not have the good fortune to be with us when we celebrated the victory over the Nazi Germans.

On our return to camp we were immediately informed that the retreating German army would pass near us. In the headquarters' instructions it was stated that we had to hit them till they were destroyed. That is what we did. We waited for them somewhere and when they approached, we opened fire at them from all the weapons we had. Our blow was so heavy that they did not even know where it was coming from. They panicked. We pursued them and hit them. Then they started an unorganized escape and left a lot of booty behind - expensive equipment, food and mainly . . . many casualties in the field. However, we pursued them and hit them till morning came. We were happy to see the Nazi enemy beaten, but it was too little for the murderers of our people. Our joy was mixed with sorrow that they had managed to destroy the communities of Israel in Lithuania.

When the battle was over, we collected our Partisan fighters and returned to camp. Fortunately we had no injured or damage. A lot of booty had fallen into our hands. On the way we captured three wounded German soldiers and the camp commander brought them to justice, a just verdict. . . . when we returned to the camp I met my brother-in-law, Yehuda (Yudel) Meister, and the third man from Yurburg, Moshe Magidowitz. We shook hands and were happy that we would very soon return to Kovna. Although we knew there was no one left for us to meet there. Nevertheless we would be happy to live among free Jews, in spite of the gentiles. Deep in my heart I still believed - perhaps? Perhaps I would find a sister or someone from my family, and I would not be the only survivor of my large family . . . .

Mordechai Berkover

Caption Translation needed

A day passed, it was night now and in the morning we were ordered to get organized towards leaving the camp. A month ago I had not yet believed that I would live to see this day. We had passed four difficult years. The danger of extermination had hung over our head each and every day. Now the great day had come - August 3, 1944 - the day of the great victory.

We leave the Partisans camp, bid farewell to close friends we had known and go with a heavy heart to Kovna, which we had not dreamt of seeing again. We traveled by car and on foot until we reached Kovna. Now we were in Kovna. There were but a few survivors in Kovna, the [most] important Jewish town. Kovna, the Jewish community, the town that had been full of Jews and Jewish life, and that now merely contained Holocaust survivors, few, oh so few survivors. Partisans who found relatives joined them. I and many like me, who had no family, were sent to the police departments in town. My brother-in-law Yehuda (Yudel) Meister, who was a tailor by profession, was sent to work at the prison, to work there as a tailor. I was sent to the police department at Daoukshtas Street number 1. As I had no choice, I agreed to this appointment. I received a large room to live in for myself and my brother-in-law and together we started our gray life all over again. Although I was living in a large city, I felt like a stray lamb in the forest. Yet I started to breathe fresh air in Kovna, like free people, equal to the gentiles who had always ruled over us.We lived under the communist-Lithuanian regime. And then I felt like praising and blessing and saying: God be blessed for helping us to survive and arrive to this time. We shall sing your praise and God will not be silent and I shall thank him forever.


But a few in Kovna were able to tell me about the fate of Yurburg, my town of birth. The story was sad, very sad. There were no Jews at all left in Yurburg. All of them had been exterminated and were no longer. There was nothing left for us to do in this Yurburg, the Yurburg without Jews - it no longer existed for us. However, the Jewish community of Yurburg will go on living in our memory forever.

After a while the story of the exile and its sufferings ended and the story of a new life was born in the State of Israel, our independent State of Israel.

Mordehai Ben Tuvia and Rachel Berkover




Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv

This letter was originally written in Lithuanian by Mika Liobin when she was at the Yurburg prison, to a Lithuanian friend called Genia.

Mika Liobin managed to escape from the murderers (8.9.41) and found shelter at the homes of Lithuanians for a year and a half, until she was caught - apparently she was denounced- and put into the Yurburg prison, where her friend Genia visited her. After the visit at the prison Mika Liobin managed to send a letter in Lithuanian to Genia and no trace was found of Mika ever since. . .

At the end of the war Genia found Haike, the only survivor of the Liobin family and gave her Mika's letter, translated here by S. Simonov and Z.Poran, which tells the story of her bitter personal fate and that of her family which was lost in the war.

March 14, 1943

Dear Genia!

Thank you so much for your visit to the prison. I longed to see you. All the time I was thinking what we would talk about, but when I saw you I was so confused that I couldn't utter a word . . .

Did you ever imagine, Genia, that I would return as a dangerous criminal to the place where I was born and grew up, where I spent the wonderful years of my youth and lived a happy life?! Oh, dear Genia, how hard it is to wait for death and count the last hours in torment and tears. If the thick stone walls of the prison could talk they would tell you about me and my bitter tears and how I tear out my hair and torment myself. Many times I have tried to commit suicide; I am fed up with this life, but I don't have the courage to put an end to it. Therefore, darling, I have to wait for death patiently until my persecutors come and take me away, still so young, to the holes of death in the green Oshanti forest, from where there is no return.

Genia, dear, I am not afraid of death, for you know the saying: " all troubles come to an end in the silence of the grave." And indeed, I had so many troubles, life was not at all kind or interesting to me. I have only seen suffering and sorrow in my life. Try to imagine, Genia, what I felt when I saw with my own eyes how they shot and killed my sister Estherle and many many others.

All night long I heard the sighs coming out of the fresh graves, the groans of children before death, for almost all of them were thrown into the holes while they were still alive. . . oh, what a terrible and awful night that was! Yes, that night I also heard the trees around the holes weeping . . . it was the night of the eighth of August 1941.

After the tragedy, when I managed to survive, from 11 August the outlaw part of my life started with all the troubles inherent in such a miserable life. True, the people where I found shelter helped me, were fond of me, but from the mental point of view I found no rest. Imagine, Genia, it is spring outside, flowers are blooming, and I have to remain locked up inside, hide and close my eyes. All day long I had the feeling I was being pursued and shot at. I am no longer thinking about the past, for it is impossible to turn back the clock, and I can't dream about the uncertain future; I don't want to fool myself, for I know very well what to expect. I would like to be the last victim of the tragedy that has befallen our people. You should know, Genia, that those who think they can obtain victory by trampling on corpses and washing their hands in the blood of innocent people are wrong. The evil people who are capable of carrying out such vile acts should be hung from posts of shame, denounced in front of everyone.

Genia, I can't stand the way people around me look at me. They all think that I am afraid to die and that is why they tell me they will take me to Kovna . . . I know it is hard for you too to tell me the truth and I don't need any pity. I am helpless. I shall die with a clear conscience, for I have never wronged anyone, never hurt or caused pain to anyone on this earth. Yes, I shall die with a clear conscience. . .

I am confident, Genia, that you will not forget me soon. On days when the sun shines again, the fields are green, the forest whispers its mysterious secrets, the birds twitter and sing the hymn of freedom - you will remember me, Genia, very often, think of me and of the days we spent together. I hope your life will be full of sun and light, that you will know no suffering, torment and humiliation, pain and tears . . . .

Thank you so much, Genia, for the clothes. I no longer need them in prison. From the faces of the horrible, almost beastly people around me I know my days are counted. Thank your mother for the food. All the prisoners here are fond of me and help me as much as possible. They give me cigarettes to lighten my pain. Therefore I smoke a lot.

I had no idea how hard the hours of waiting would be . . . finally my life will come to an end. . . it may be tomorrow or the day after, and then my "eternal salvation" will come and everything will fall silent for ever and ever . . . .

Genia, if you find my sister Haike who may still be alive when the terrible war is over, tell her about my family's terrible tragedy, and about me. My father and brother are buried in a mass grave, my mother and Estherle in the forest 6 - 7 kms. from Yurburg. Perhaps there is some sign of a grave there?!. . .

I am going to die without fear. . .


Please give my regards to your family, be healthy and happy.

Embracing you,

your Mika


The following is the last part of the original letter


Tranlation of title needed



At The Seventh Kilometer on the Road from Yurburg to Smaleninken

by Leib (Aryeh) Elyashev

Translated from Yiddish by Yosef Rosin, Haifa, Israel

English is edited by Fania Hilelson Jivotovsky, Montreal, Canada


After the storm of the terrible Hitler period and the horrors of hundreds of European mass murder sites, it was found that the seventh kilometer from Yurburg to Smaleninken was the fatal place of murder of Yurburg Jews.

Here, at the seventh kilometer from Yurburg to Smaleninken, was the site of the mass grave of the murdered Yurburg women and children, killed by Lithuanian Hitlerist Nationalists only because they were Jewish.

The mass grave in the forest was hidden from the surrounding world for seventeen years, with not one single sign or monument to commemorate the victims. Only eye witnesses, who hid in the villages, knew about this sad place, and the memories were engraved deep in their minds.

This is how it was all these years from 1941 until 1958.

In 1958, after significant efforts and demands were exerted, the government finally gave its consent to transfer the bones of murdered Yurburg Jews to the Jewish cemetery of Yurburg.

It was Mikhalovsky and his wife, Meigel and his wife, Zelde Frank, Shalom Rizman, Yehudah Fleisher, Yankl Levin, Leibl Elyashev and other Yurberikers who took part in the sacred work of commemorating the dead, after the bones were exhumed and transferred to the Jewish Cemetery.

During the painful process of exhumation everybody could see the scene how "in life and in death we did not part". In the upper rows of heaps of dead bodies only bones were left. In the lower rows entangled human arms were lying covered with lime. Trying to exhume them hands and feet disintegrated .....

This terrible sight remains before my eyes as I am writing these lines and they will never be erased from my mind. 


Leib (Aryeh) Elyashev


Miriam Mikhalovsky standing by the bones of the martyrs that was exhumed from the mass grave near Smaleninken before they were brought for burying at the cemetry in Yurburg.


Page 456

The bones of the murdered at the seventh kilometer between Yurburg and Smaleninken,were exhumedby the survivors from the death pits and brought to a mass grave at the Jewish cemetry in Yurburg


1960, Yurburg survivors, living in Lithuania, came to associate with the memorial of the martyrs, who were murdered by the Nazis. The monument was established by Yurburg municipality



Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv

I dreamt a dream,

Most terrible:

I have no people, my people

Are no longer.


I woke up with a cry-

Alas, alas!

My dream

Has come true!


"God in heaven!"

I tremble and implore:

Why and what for

Did my people die?


Why and what for

Died in vain?

Not in war,

Not in battle . . .


Young boys, old men,

Women and children too -

They are no longer, no longer

Lament !


I am shrouded by sorrow

Day and night

Why, my Master?

Why, oh Lord?


I. Katzenelson


Yitzhak Katzenelson (1886 -1943), born in Lithuania (see the song "My Lithuania" in the Book of Remembrance page 91). He went from Lithuania to Poland when he was young. He was a well- known educator, author and poet. Many of his poems became folk songs. He took part in the uprising against the Nazis at the Warsaw ghetto. At the Vitel concentration camp in France he wrote the terrible song of lamentation - "The song about the Jewish people that was murdered", one of the most important creations about the Holocaust. He died in Auschwitz.





Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv


Former Lithuanians in our country remember the visit to Israel of the Lithuanian-Christian woman Mrs. Binkiene, wife of the author Binkus. Mrs. Binkiene is a noble lady with a warm heart, one of the righteous gentiles. This noble woman supported the Jews in Kovna in the terrible days of the Holocaust.

Holocaust survivors in Lithuania invited her to visit them in Israel and she accepted. She came to Israel to see her friends in Israel and express the ongoing spiritual relationship that had been created with them.

It was an emotional visit for her and for those she saved.

Before she returned to Lithuania I asked her to take along some soil that I had collected near my home in Givataim and flower seeds and give these to the few Jews, Holocaust survivors, in Yurburg.

Mrs. Binkiana graciously accepted my request, and when she returned the people in Yurburg received the bag of soil and flower seeds of the fatherland. On memorial day they scattered the soil over the mass graves of the victims of destruction. They also scattered the flower seeds there so that flowers from the Hebrew fatherland would grow on their graves in the foreign country.

From now on the flowers of the fatherland will grow on the graves of the martyrs who were killed by evil men and the flowers will glorify the names of our loved ones like memorial candles - they did not have the good fortune to come to the land of the Jews and realize their life's dream - to live there and rebuild the country.


Zehava (Zelta) Polerevitz - Ben Yehuda




Translated by Irene Emodi, Tel Aviv
These Translations Commissioned by members of the American branch of the Krelitz Family.


Oh, that my head were waters

and mine eyes a fountain of tears,

that I might weep day and night

for the slain of the daughter of my people

(Jeremiah 8: 23)

The bitter fate was a terrible disappointment for the Yurburg Jewish community, indeed for all the communities of Israel in Lithuania and Europe.

When the enemy soldiers raised the hatches of destruction, they did not distinguish between man and woman, young and old. All, yes all of them were sent like sheep to slaughter to the pits of death in the Shwentshani forest, the cemetery, on the road to Raseinai and other places.








H. N. Bialik (In the City of Slaughter)

After World War II the few Yurburg survivors in Kovna, Vilna and other places, organized an annual trip to the mass graves of the Yurburg martyrs in the Shwentshani forest. Thanks to the efforts of the Yurburg survivors it was finally possible to transfer the bones of the dead from the mass graves in Shwentshani to the old cemetery in town.

We remember the innocent beings of our loved ones

who were murdered in cold blood

we will remember them always, for

the pain is great and there is no solace. (Paz)

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