Leyb Koniuchowsky collected 121 testimonies from Holocaust victims, which were made public in: The Lithuanian Slaughter of its Jews: The Testimonies of 121 Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Lithuanian, recorded by Leyb Koniuchowsky, in Displaced Persons’ Camps (1946-48).
The Lithuanian government tells us that the only ones to blame for the Holocaust were the “Nazis and their collaborators”. This stance has been created to focus only on Nazis and to distract away from Lithuanians.
They ignore the fact that Lithuanians began murdering Jews even before the Nazis arrived in Lithuania. What they refuse to acknowledge is simply that there were so very few Nazis in Lithuania. That Nazis gave Lithuanians weapons and Lithuanians joyously, willingly and enthusiastically murdered Jews.
While Lithuanians and Nazis shared the same basic ideology, even in their own barbarity, the Nazis were appalled by the extreme, brutal, predilections and inhumanity of the Lithuanians. Please read these testimonies and understand who the perpetrators were, and what they did, and the Holocaust revisionism perpetuated by the Lithuanian government TODAY.
THE SLAUGHTER OF JEWS IN THE LITHUANIAN TOWN OF KRAZHIAI
The testimony of Elke Flaks, born April 13, 1923 in the town of Krazhiai. Her father’s name was Yosl, and her mother’s name was Gutl. In 1939, she left Krazhiai and studied at the Kaunas gymnasium for adults. Elke’s mother, three sisters, a brother and all of her close relatives continued living in Krazhiai.
The Geographic Setting of the Town; the Economic and Cultural Life of the Jews
Krazhiai is located sixty kilometers from Shavl, fifty kilometers from Taurage, and eighteen kilometers from Kelm. The town is ten kilometers away from the major highway between Kaunas and Klaipeda (Memel), the Zhemaitsiu plantas. A small stream called the Krazhanta flows through the town into the Dubise.
Before the war about 1,500 people lived in the town, including eighty Jewish families, about 550 or 600 Jews. The majority of the Jews were retailers, peddlers, and artisans. A small number rented land and were occupied in agriculture. There were a number of bristle makers in town. The majority of the Jews in the town were poor. None of the Jews in town had an adequate livelihood, and nearly all of them got by on the support of relatives overseas. Advertisement
The town had a Hebrew elementary school; a traditional religious school for young children; a library; two study houses (the old one and the new); and a Jewish national bank. The wooden ark of the Torah in the old study house, which had wonderful wood carvings, drew the interest of artists, who came to see it not only from Lithuanian, but from foreign countries as well.
The majority of the Jewish youth belonged to Zionist movements.
The attitude of the Lithuanian population toward the Jews was friendly until 1934. When Hitler’s Fascism came to power in Germany, open anti-Semites appeared in town. They were organized in the Lithuanian Verslas organization.
At that time Krazhiai was located fifty kilometers from the German border, and the Jews of the town were unable to evacuate to the Soviet Union when the war broke out, on June 22, 1941. Advertisement
The War Between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union
The Germans entered the town on Tuesday, June 24, 1941. During the battles the entire town was burned. All the residents of the town escaped to nearby villages, forests and fields. When the battle for the town was over, all the Jews of the town returned. Only one Jewish house had not been burned. This was the home of the Jewish butcher Ben-Tsion Itsikovits, who had managed to escape to the Soviet Union together with his family. All the Jews from the villages and forests assembled in Ben-Tsion’s house, courtyard and barn. The Lithuanians in town, large and small, used to come tease and threaten the Jews. “You wanted a Commune – now you’ve got it!” – they shouted at the Jews.
A few Germans remained in town. All of the power and authority was in the hands of the Lithuanians. The carpenter Kaminskas immediately gave up his trade and became a leader of the bandits. The three brothers Budreikai, who lived a few kilometers from town, also appeared together with several dozen armed bandits, who gave themselves the title of “partisans.” During the year of Soviet rule before the war began, they had already been working clandestinely in an illegal Lithuanian Fascist organization. One of the three brothers was a fellow student of Elke Flaks. One of the main leaders of the Lithuanian armed bandits was a former gymnasium student, who had also been a policeman under President Smetona. He was the local Lithuanian Kacicevitsius. His father was a fisherman. A teacher from the village of Koshciukas, seven kilometers from Krazhiai, and the Lithuanian textile merchant in Krazhiai became the main authorities in the burned village. These Lithuanian bandits were rapidly joined by the former director of the Krazhiai Lithuanian elementary school, Kasys Matulevitsius. He had been arrested and imprisoned in Raseiniai during the Soviet occupation. During the panic and fighting in Raseiniai, he had escaped from prison, and returned to the town of Krazhiai a “hero” and “martyr.” The organized Lithuanian bandits in town gave him a grand welcome.
Several days after the arrival of the German army, the bandits began organizing the life of the town. They arrested all of the Lithuanian peasants who had been given land by the Soviets. Among these was a Jewish family named Aron, the father Yitskhok, his wife Hinde, a son named Berl, and two daughters named Rokhel-Malke and Leye. Yitskhok Aron had rented land from large landowners for years. He had worked it himself, and that was how he earned his living. He had been engaged in that work for more than ten years. When the Soviets distributed the large estates among poor peasants, Yitskhok was given land. The Lithuanian bandits released all of the peasants who were arrested because they were given land. But the Jew Yitskhok and his sixteen-year-old son Berl were hung in the village of Lolai. This was related by the peasants who were later released; they saw it with their own eyes.
The Camp at the Shukshtis Compound
The Jews didn’t stay long at the compound of Ben-Tsion Itsikovitsh. Soon they were all taken to the market place. There the Jews were ordered to surrender their watches, rings, money, gold, silver and other valuables. The armed Lithuanians in town promised in return that they would let the Jews live. They threatened that if the Jews refused, they would shoot everybody. They gathered up all of the Jewish gold, silver and valuables in two large heaps, and took everything to the police station. Then the Jews were lined up in a row and taken to a compound belonging to a man named Shukshtis, located across the bridge, at the edge of town. The date was Tuesday, July 8, 1941. The Jews were taken into cattle stalls. It was terribly crowded. There was very little space even to lie down in the dirt to sleep. The Jews from Krazhiai were kept there for several weeks. Meanwhile all the men, women and older children were taken to work, which consisted of clearing away the rubble from the streets. Armed Lithuanian bandits kept watch while this work was being done. They beat and tormented the Jews. The moral suffering of the Jews as they worked was no less than the physical suffering. The Lithuanian bandits mocked the Jews, especially the older ones. They beat and jeered at them. Once the Lithuanian bandits, together with a few Germans, shaved off the beard of the synagogue attendant Shloyme, and forced him to run through town, dancing and singing religious songs. Meanwhile the Lithuanians in town enjoyed themselves immensely. Similar “performances” were held nearly every day.
The living conditions in the barns were terrible. After a hard day of heavy labor, the tormented Jews had nowhere to rest. The tumult and weeping of the small children was very loud.
The Jews were fed by a military kitchen which the bandits brought into the compound. The food was very bad, and also insufficient. Peasants whom the Jews knew brought the Jews food for high prices. Lithuanian armed murderers kept guard around the compound. In return for bribes, they permitted Lithuanians whom they knew to trade with the Jews. The Jews took off their shoes and clothes, and exchanged these for food.
In these circumstances a woman named Bashe Leyzerin bore a male child. The murderers would not allow her to have any medical assistance. Nor would they permit the woman to be taken out of the stalls into the town. Bashe’s maiden name was Tomor.
The compound was surrounded by the river Krazhanta on three sides. There was a heavy guard. The Jews were not permitted out of the barn without the permission of the Lithuanian bandits, even to take care of their natural functions. Not only were the Jews cut off from all the surrounding towns; they didn’t even know exactly what was happening in their own town. It was impossible even to think of escaping.
The Jews didn’t know what was in store for them, but everyone complained about the terrible conditions at work and in the stalls. Many of them pleaded for a quick and easy death. But the Jews were not even destined for that.
All the Men and Women Shot
On Tuesday, July 22, 1941, a truck drove up to the compound where the Jews were interned. It was 5:00 a.m. At six o’clock, all the Jews were driven out of the barns and lined up in rows. One of the Lithuanian murderers called off the first and last names of all the men, women and children from a list which had been prepared earlier. He then promised the Jews that everyone was to be taken to the town of Zhagare to work. There the Jews’ living conditions would be better.
Elke’s mother Gute called happily to Leye Aron: “What difference does it make, as long as we’re finished with this place!” Immediately after checking whether everyone was present, the Lithuanian bandits chose the healthiest and strongest men, and placed them in the truck. They gave the Jews spades and shovels and explained that they were being taken to prepare space in Zhagare for the rest of the Jews. The group of men were taken seven kilometers from town in the direction of Kelm, to the Kuprin forest, two kilometers from the Kelm-Raseiniai road. They took the men a few hundred meters away from the road into the forest, and forced them to dig pits. Then the Lithuanian murderers shot the men.
The peasant Bendiktas, who was driving down the road, heard shooting, followed by the terrible screams of men. He came to the town of Krazhiai and immediately told the Jews in the barn about this. Some of the Jews simply refused to believe him. Those who did believe him could do nothing about it.
The truck drove to the barns and then back to the Kuprin forest, where all the men were shot. That same day the Lithuanian bandits began taking the women as well to the Kuprin forest, and all the women were shot. The clothes of the women who had been shot were brought to the county hall, and the cheaper clothes were distributed among the Lithuanian residents of the town, who had suffered in the fire. The murderers distributed the better things amongst themselves. There were no Germans present when the Jews were shot. Everything was carried out by the Lithuanian bandits. Elke Flaks does not know who gave the order. But Lithuanian peasant women whom the Jews knew assured them that the order to slaughter the Jews came from the German authorities in Raseiniai.
The murderers later passed on details about what had happened when the Jews were shot:
- Ayzik Krom, a Jew from Kruk, around sixty years old, went mad at the pit, and began singing and
- Gavriel Bang was a heroic Jew; the murderers shot him twelve times.
- Mrs Sore Milner had a heart attack at the pit before she was shot.
- Eta Uriashovits tried to escape from the edge of the pit. She reached the road. The murderers shot her. Peasants who were present saw her lying dead.
The Camp for Young Orphans
The bandits left living in the stalls children up to the age of twelve, along with a few between the ages of twelve and fourteen. There was a terrible panic when the mothers were separated from their children. Many of the mothers fainted. The weeping could be heard far from the barns. Many of the mothers tore the hair out of their heads. The murderers beat everyone, assuring them that the children as well would shortly be brought to the town of Zhagare. Some seventy children remained in the barns. The Lithuanian murderers left the town rabbi, Kremerman, to look after them, along with the well-known town merchant Yisroel Zef, and a few attractive young women from town: Frida Zef, Rivke Zef, Tema Shapiro, Bashe Leyzerin (nee Tomor) and her two-week-old child, Leye Aron, Malke Novik, and Dr Shmit with his wife and small boy.
Elke‘s former Lithuanian teacher Miss Petreshevitsiute related that the older children were still taken to work cleaning the streets of the town, after their parents were murdered. The teacher had seen many of the children weeping as they remembered their parents. They were dirty and hungry. The teacher comforted them and gave them something to eat.
Mashe Katsikiene, a convert (born in the resort area Titovenai) related that the children who worked at street cleaning used to go to her house. She would comb their hair, wash their clothes and give them soap so they could bathe at the stream.
The unfortunate children evoked sympathy among a small number of the townspeople, who tried to save the children’s lives by converting all of them. Three Polish sisters named Krukovska, the priest Bombulis from Krazhiai, and several Polish owners of nearby compounds, went to the Lithuanian murderers to request that all the children be converted and given to peasants in the villages. But the armed bandits didn’t want to hear about this. They still kept all of the children in the stalls, and drove the older ones to work. Rabbi Kremerman agitated among the Jewish children to convince them that no one should betray the Jewish religion, and that it would be better to die as martyrs. Among the children there were still a few aged fourteen or fifteen, who understood everything. The town rabbi dissuaded all the children from saving themselves by running to peasants in the countryside. The rabbi declared that anyone who escaped was running away from his people and betraying the Jewish faith.
At that time the Lithuanian Jonas Vladitskas, who had been in love with Elke’s cousin Leye Aron since before the war, began coming to the stall. Elke’s sister Malkele began to shy away from her cousin Leye, who, Malke said, was “going around with a Lithuanian and betraying the Jewish people.” Leye Aron could no longer win the trust of her little cousins, whom she was trying to save. All of the little orphans remained true to the martyr’s path of their parents and ancestors.
The children were taken to do various difficult tasks in the city. When they returned, they didn’t have anyone to care for them, to wash them and give them something to eat. In a short time the little children became “big grownups,” who knew and understood everything. The older ones helped their smaller brothers and children. They replaced the parents.
The Orphans and Their Guardians Murdered in a Vicious Manner
Five small children gave fodder to the cattle in the compound where they were staying. The five children were Yosele Yankelevits (aged nine), Avrom-Hirshele Preis (aged twelve), Velfke Leyzerin (aged twelve), Itsele Yankelevits (aged 12), and Itshele Zef (aged fourteen).
One Tuesday during the first week in September, on the slope of a hill some three hundred meters from the compound, near the Majuvka forest, the five children saw a car drive up, and Germans getting out of it. They all had photographic equipment. They consulted as to where and how to dig pits. After the Germans drove away, Lithuanian armed bandits brought young Lithuanian Communist arrestees to the spot, and forced them to dig pits. The five Jewish children clearly heard the Communist youth saying to each other that the pits were being dug for the Jewish children in the compound. All five children decided to run away and hide in the forest. At noon that Tuesday the children were taken away from the compound, and everyone was shot. Lithuanian police and partisans shot the small children. After the children were shot, the same Germans returned to the pit in the same car and photographed everything. The five small children lay in the forest watching everything. The shrieking and weeping of the small children at the pit was dreadful and heart-rending. The peasant men and women who worked in the compound also saw everything. Several residents of the town also gathered together and watched as the small Jewish children were shot.
- The peasants in town related that Bashe Leyzerin went to the grave with her five-week-old child. She pressed her infant son close to her chest, and begged the murderer Kaminskas to let her die together with her child. The murderer tore the child out of its mother’s arms and threw it deeper into the valley, as if it were a rag. Bashe fainted. Kaminskas immediately shot her. One peasant woman couldn’t stand to watch this, and ran to save the child, who lay among the clothes of the murdered children. Kaminskas threatened to shoot the women. He stabbed the child with a long spear, lifted it into the air and threw it into the pit. The following peasant woman from town described to Elke the case of the mother Bashe and her child: Kasperiene; Marcinkiene; Jovarauskiene; and others, who personally saw the children being shot.
- Tema Shapiro, aged 27, escaped together with children, she managed to escape to the Medshiokalnis forest. One of the Lithuanian bandits, the town baker Dimeika, chased her into the forest. He caught her there, raped her and beat her. He brought her back from the forest to the town prison. She was kept there for an entire week. The peasants relate that they brought her food in the prison, and she didn’t take it. She became somewhat mentally unbalanced. She was taken out of prison and shot. None of those who survived was able to ascertain where she was shot, or by whom. Tema Shapiro was very beautiful.
- When they arrived at the pit, Rabbi Kremerman held his youngest child in his arm. In his other hand he held a book, and he recited something for the children. The murderer permitted the rabbi and the children to say their confession before death, and ordered them to undress.
- The town doctor, Osher Shmit, his wife Eta and a two-year-old boy named Benye stayed in their house the entire time. The leader of the bandits, the teacher Matulevitsius, stood up for the Jewish doctor, and the entire family was allowed to remain living in their home, which had not been burned. It was said that Osher Shmit had given the bandit a huge bribe. Several days before the children were shot, the Jewish doctor, his wife and child were arrested and taken to prison. The day the children were shot, Dr Shmit, his wife and child were also taken to the pit and shot.
The priest Bombulis, who lived in the same house as the doctor, ran to the grave and begged the murderers to permit the doctor to live. He argued that the doctor would care for them, because he was the only doctor in town. The murderers proposed to the priest that he stand next to the pit and “take the place” of the doctor. When the doctor was taken from prison with his wife and child, all the children, the young girls and the rabbi already lay dead in the grave.
The five boys who fed the cattle in the compound and then hid in the forest saw their little comrades being shot in the distance. They all ran away from the forest into another thick forest. Berries in the forest served as their nourishment. For three or four days they wandered through the forest. One day it began to rain very hard. The children left the forest and went to the home of a peasant, the Russian Zinkus. He pretended to be friendly, and even fed them. The children heard the peasant saying to his wife that the next morning he would take them to the police in town. The peasant tied the children to the bed like dogs. At night, when the peasant was sleeping in a nearby room, the children untied themselves and ran back into the forest.
- Yitskhok Yankelevitsh had settled in at the home of a peasant as a shepherd. However, the town police were informed about him, and Yitskhok was arrested. The surviving comrades do not know where he died or who betrayed him.
- Yitskhok Zef, aged fourteen, wandered through the forests on his own for several months. As the surviving children later related, he was extremely nervous, and even somewhat mentally unbalanced. A peasant in the countryside detained him and took him to the town police, and then he was taken to prison. Zef was held in prison for several days. One day the murderer Kaminskas took him through the town. The peasants begged that he be released. Kaminskas. answered: “I’m taking him to a good spot, and I’ll plant trees over him”. The murderer took Yitskhok Zef to the Jewish cemetery and shot him.
- Frida Zef, aged seventeen, went to her death’ in a particularly heroic manner. When she and the children were taken to the pit, she turned to the murderers who were driving the Jews, and to the peasants who stood nearby watching, and she said the following; “Don’t think you will annihilate our people! Our people have been and will remain eternal. Our people have survived many murderers like you! We aren’t dying – we’re going off to a new life!”
The local student Kasperavitsius knew Frida well. He had connections with the murderers. He convinced them to let her run away from the pit. Frida had a chance to run away and survive. But she refused, shouting; “I refuse to continue living among those who murdered my parents!” The murderers tore her clothes off. Fridka shouted: “Murderers, shoot me quickly! I can’t look at your degenerate faces anymore!”
The entire scene of the death of this heroic Jewish girl was seen and heard by the peasants and the Lithuanian Communist youth. The latter, who had dug the graves, were forced to watch the Jewish children being annihilated.
a: Malke Novik was with the children for a short time. She escaped from the stalls with a Lithuanian bandit who fell in love with her. She ran away from him, and hid in a village. She married a Lithuanian from one of the villages and converted. She survived in the countryside with her Lithuanian husband. When she escaped from the stalls, Malke was nineteen years old.
b: Taybele Perlman, aged twelve, and her ten-year-old sister Khane-Sorele were brought to the pit with all the children from the barn.
The children began running in all directions. But they were stopped by the murderers. Taybele and her sister Khane-Sorele managed to hide among the potatoes. The murderers looked for them, but could not find them. The peasants, who watched everything, deliberately indicated that the children had run in an entirely different direction.
After the war, Taybele and Khane-Sorele took Elke to the precise spot of the grave, where the children lay. The two children described exactly how they had escaped from the pit together with many other children. The two children showed the bridge over the Krazhanta river across which they had run when they hid among the potatoes.
When they got up from among the potatoes, the two small children hid at the home of Krukovskis. In the evening the two girls left Krukovskis’ home and escaped to a village several kilometers from town, to a peasant woman named Joselaitiene. This woman was a close friend of Rive Perlman, the children’s mother. The woman took both children in and hid them. For some time the good peasant woman hid both children at her home, and then she found separate places for them with peasants whom she knew in the countryside. The children lay in hiding at first.
Later they lived freely and worked. However, the two girls were constantly looked after by the peasant woman Joselaitiene. The two sisters survived, converted after the war and lived in the country. After the war Elke spoke to both of them when they went to church on Sunday and went to visit Leyeke Aron. Elke was staying at Leye’s while she was in town. The two girls told Elke everything, showed her where the children had been shot, and described to her how they had survived. The two sisters knew that they had been born Jewish, but didn’t want to have anything more to do with Jews or Judaism. Their Yiddish was weak, and they didn’t want to speak the language. Elke tried to speak to them, and convince them that they should rejoin the Jews. The two sisters explained to Elke that there would certainly be another war, and the Jews would be shot again. “So why should we suffer again?” was their response. -The two girls were lost to the Jewish people. The peasants, among whom they survived, had taken care of that. They didn’t even like Jews anymore.
c: Before the war Leye Aron had fallen in love with a local Lithuanian named Jonas Vladitska, who was a telephone lineman. Neither her parents nor the Jews in town knew about this. Leye Aron survived the slaughter of the women, and was assigned to care for the children. The murderers let her live meanwhile. Once Jonas Vladitska came to the stall, and proposed that she leave the stall, convert and immediately marry him. Leye didn’t hesitate. The guard knew Jonas Vladitska, and let him out with his lover. Leye Aron converted and immediately got married. The Lithuanian had considerable trouble on account of his Jewish wife. For the first year, he kept her hidden in the countryside. Later she began to live openly. Leye has two children. However, she confided to Elke, who visited her after the liberation, that she was unhappy and would happily run away from her Lithuanian husband, who is a drunkard and does not treat her well. In addition, Leye longed for Jewish life. She had converted and gotten married to save her life. Leye Aron precisely related after the war the slaughter of the Krazhiai Jews. Elke is Leye’s cousin.
d: Avrom-Hirsh Preis, aged fourteen, wandered around and survived various dangers. Once he went to the home of the peasant woman Mareinkiene in Krazhiai. The woman told Preis about the death of Yitskhok Zef, and advised him to get away from town and go to the nearby town of Ushventis, 18 or 19 kilometers from Krazhiai. When he arrived at that town, a Lithuanian policeman arrested him and took him to prison. A converted Jew named Elye Ziv lived in that town. Ziv had connections with the police. He managed to get Preis sent from prison to the Shavl ghetto. Avrom-Hirsh Preis survived. He escaped from the Shavl ghetto shortly before it was evacuated, and hid with peasants in the villages. He was liberated by the Red Army.
- Yosele Yankelevitsh, aged nine, and Velfke Leyzerin, aged eleven, hid with peasants in the countryside the entire time. They didn’t stay in one place the whole time; they were with several peasants in various places. The two children were not together. They fed the cattle and worked for the peasants. They were liberated by the Red Army. All three of the surviving boys have left Lithuania, and are on their way to Israel (at that time still Palestine – L.K.)
Leye Aron and her Lithuanian husband remained in town. Taybele and Khane Perlman converted and live in a village.
The Tragic Reckoning
Elke’s father was with her in Kaunas when the war broke out, on June 22, 1941. Elke and her father ran away from Kaunas into the Soviet Union. Both of them served in the Lithuanian division in the Red Army. They returned to Lithuania together with the Red Army, at the end of 1944. After being released from service, Elke spent some two months in her home town of Krazhiai, where, during the German occupation, her following relatives had been annihilated: Elke’s mother Gutl; her brother Moyshe (aged 16); and three sisters, Malke (aged 12), Khanele (aged 10), and Dvoyrele (aged 8); her grandmother Rokhl-Leye Flaks and her daughter Slove Lipman; Slove’s husband Dovid Lipman, and their three children Brokhele (aged 14), Tsipele (aged 11), and Sore-Gitele (aged one and a half).
In addition to these, a few dozen close relatives of Elke were killed in Krazhiai, such as male and female cousins, uncles, aunts and so forth.
Elke asked precise questions about the slaughter of the Jews in Krazhiai, including her relatives, and got precise information from the surviving Jews and from peasants whom she knew.
Her former Lithuanian neighbors from town, Marcinkiene, Jovarauskiene, Mockiene, and Kaspieriene, told Elke that they often went to see the Jews in the ghetto, and spoke with her mother. Gutl complained to the peasant women that she had no information about her daughter and her husband. Elke Flaks also went to the Jewish cemetery. The gravestones had been overturned, and some of them were stolen. The fence had also been damaged. The Krazhiai cemetery is large and old.