During World War II and Afterwards
World War II started with the German invasion of Poland September 1, 1939, and its consequences for Lithuanian Jews in general and Alite's Jews in particular were felt several months later.
In agreement with the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty on the division of occupied Poland, the Russians occupied the Suvalk region, but after delineation of exact borders between Russia and Germany the Suvalk region fell into German hands. The retreating Russians allowed anyone who wanted to join them to move into their occupied territory, and indeed many young people left the area together with the Russians. The Germans drove the remaining Jews out of their homes in Suvalk and its vicinity, robbed them of their possessions, then directed them to the Lithuanian border, where they were left in dire poverty. The Lithuanians did not allow them to enter Lithuania and the Germans did not allow them to return. Thus they stayed in this swampy area in cold and rain for several weeks, until Jewish youths from the border villages smuggled them into Lithuania by various routes, with much risk to themselves. Altogether about 2,400 refugees passed through the border or infiltrated on their own, and were then dispersed in the "Suvalkia" region including Alite.
In June 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Following new rules, the majority of the factories and shops belonging to the Jews of Alite were nationalized and commissars were appointed to manage them. All the Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded, several of the activists were detained and Hebrew educational institutions were closed. The Hebrew school changed into a Yiddish one and on the occasion of the October celebrations in 1940 a festive rally for the parents of the students was arranged in the school. A choir and a ballet under the guidance of the teachers Saulitzky and Rabinovitz, a play "For Peace" under the guidance of the teacher Slutzky and poetry recitals under the guidance of the teacher Elperin were organized at the school.
Supply of goods decreased and, as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore most of the brunt, and the standard of living dropped gradually. At the beginning of June several Jewish families whose enterprises were nationalized were exiled deep into Russia.
On Thursday June 19, 1941, it became clear that the war was approaching. Units of the Red Army with many tanks stationed in Alite2 started to move eastwards across the bridge to Alite1 and the Soviet officers sent their families home to Russia.
On June 22, 1941 World War II began. At dawn of that day Alite was bombed by the German air force. The centers of both parts of the town were destroyed and many Jews were killed. The German army entered Alite2 in the evening of the same day. Heavy battles between the attacking Germans and the Red Army who tried to stop the invasion lasted until Tuesday, the 24th of that month, . On that day the Russian resistance collapsed and the Germans moved forward. The airfield in Alite1 was captured by German parachutists prior to the battle. Only a few Jews managed to escape with the retreating Red Army to Russia.
After two Germans were killed near the flour mill of Marshak, 42 Jewish men and also Lithuanians were murdered near their houses, the owner of the mill among them. The murdered Jews were buried in their back yards.
When the battles moved eastward, the Jews who tried to escape, returned to town, but found their houses looted and destroyed. At that time order in town was maintained by the German "Field Gendarmerie", but the Lithuanian nationalists complained to the German Town Major that the "Gendarmerie" doesn't allow them to handle the Communists and the Jews without restrictions. In the memorandum they wrote that they take upon themselves to "cleanse" the area from "undesirable elements" in ten days. Their wish indeed was granted. Several hundreds Jews were taken from their homes, transported to Suvalk and murdered. Several dozen Jews were concentrated in one of the synagogues in town and the building and its inhabitants were set on fire. After the Gestapo arrived in Alite the remaining Jews were crowded in a Ghetto set up on a few streets in the poor district of the town.
Following a German order a "Juden Rat" was appointed: Adv. Halperin, Adv. Salansky and Kopl Nemunaitzky. They were called to the Municipality to be informed on restrictive clauses concerning Jews: the ban included restriction from walking on the sidewalks, and from being on the street after 8 o'clock in the evening. The order was for all Jews, men and women ages 14 to 50 to wear a yellow patch in the front and in the back and to present themselves to the German Kommandantur" or to the Municipality at 7 o'clock every morning. The Jews of the Ghetto tried to organize for the sake of mere survival, but frequent arrests, abuse and murders didn't make the existence of any organization possible.
In the middle of August 1941 the Soviet war prisoners, who were imprisoned in camps nearby, were ordered to dig big trenches in the Vidzgiris forest. In these trenches Jews from Alite and the neighboring towns were cruelly murdered by armed Lithuanians. After the war a few of these murderers were caught and sentenced. The shocking stories they told their investigators implied a willingness to kill Jews and cruelty.
According to German sources, between the 13th of August and the 9th of September 1941 in the Vidzgiris forest 1,137 Jews, men, women and children were murdered. According to an unconfirmed source Jews from Chechoslovakia were murdered at the same site, as well as tens of thousands of Soviet civilians and war prisoners.
Only two Jewish girls survived, Belkin and Chayah Kaplan, thanks to the help of two Lithuanians who took care of them through the years of the Nazi occupation. There were two more Lithuanians who helped Jews: a woman who was sent to jail for what she had done and a peasant who lost his mind because of the torture he suffered in jail. Their names are preserved in the archives of Yad Vashem.
The list of mass graves in the book "Mass Murders in Lithuania. 1941-1944" part 2, includes three mass graves:
1) The place: Alytus, corner of Leliju and Vilna streets; on June 23, 1941; 42 men murdered.
2) The place: Vidzgiris forest at the south-eastern suburb of the town, on the left bank of the river; between May 1943 and June 1944; 60.000-70.000 men, women and children murdered (most likely Jews brought from the eastern parts of the USSR)
3) The place: the forest of Alytus at the eastern suburbs of the town, near the barracks; between July 1941 until April 1943, 35,000 people murdered (most likely Soviet war prisoners)
After the war the graves were not cared for and at night some people would come to loot the graves looking for "treasures". On the request of Jewish survivors of Alite, authorities built a monument in 1959 where inscriptions in Russian and Lithuanian stated: "Soviet citizens and war prisoners, victims of the Hitlerist murderers are buried here". The monument is still there, but the plaque with the inscription was removed.
Stop and think over, this earth is saturated with blood of innocent people The monument beside the path to the graves with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian
On March 19, 1993 a new metal monument was inaugurated in the Vidzgiris forest in the shape of a broken "Magen-David". The nine big graves in which the bones of the murdered Jews were buried, were covered with a round black cover and on it there is a white pyramid. Near the path that leads to the hill a memorial plaque was erected that tells the story of the massacre in Yiddish and Lithuanian:"Here, in this place, the Nazis and their local helpers, in the years 1941-1944, murdered tens thousands of Jews-children, women, men and old people, most of them from other countries. Let their memory last forever". The architect of the site was Mrs.R.Vasiliauskiene and the sculptor - A.Smilingis
A broken Magen-David stands as a monument on the hill of the remembrance site The graves with black round covers and white pyramids The wall bearing the name of Alite in "The Valley of the Communities" in Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
The Jewish cemetery of Alite2 was destroyed and nothing was left of it. In Alite1 the old Jewish cemetery was fenced in at the beginning of the 1990s and on the two pillars of the entrance gate two plaques were installed with inscriptions in Yiddish: "The Alite Jewish cemetery, sacred is the memory of the dead" and in Lithuanian: Alytus eternal resting place for the Jews, may the remains of the dead rest in peace".
Picture taken and supplied by Sa'adya Bahat The entrance gate to the Jewish cemetery in Alite1, 1997 The inscription on the tablet of the entrance gate in Yiddish The inscription on the tablet of the entrance gate in Lithuanian Picture taken and supplied by Sa'adya Bahat Remaining tombstones at the Jewish cemetery in Alite1, 1997
List of Donors from 1900 for the Settlement of Eretz-Yisrael
Dr. Sh. Rabinovitz
Partial List of Personalities Born in Alite
Prof. Heinrich Otz (1859-?), published a book in German about the research of The Bible, Berlin 1911
Rabbi David Rapoport (1860-1927), from 1926 the first Rabbi of Kefar-Saba in Eretz-Yisrael
Azriel-Mordechai Tcheis (1874-1939), from 1888 in Manchester USA, philanthropist who donated the means for the building of the Hebrew High School (Hareali) in Kovno, granted scholarships to youngsters born in Alyte and vicinity for high education in the Kovno University and abroad.
Hayim Pekeris (Peker) (1908-), Prof. of Applied Mathematics in the Weitzman Institute, member of the Academies of Science in USA and Israel, laureate of the Rotschild Prize and the Israel Prize in mathematics in 1980.
Yosef Glazman (1912-1943), the last commisioner of "Betar" in Lithuania, commander of the partisans of Ghetto Vilna, fell in battle with the Nazis.
Yisrael Habas (1868-?), from 1907 in Eretz-Yisrael, established and directed the religious weekly "Hayesod, among the buyers of the lands of Benei-Brak.
Beraha Habas (1900-?), daughter of Yisrael, in the years 1935-1953 member of the editorial board of the daily newspaper "Davar", published 30 books on personalities and events of the history of the Jewish settlement in Eretz-Yisrael
David Umru (Latzkovitz), poet, writer and journalist, published his works in the Yiddish press in Lithuania, perished in Vilna in 1941.
Shemuel Matis (1914-1941), published poems, stories and literary articles in the Yiddish press in Lithuania and Argentina, perished at his attempt to flee from Kovno in 1941.
Adv. Mendel Bokshitzky (1899-1941), an active public worker, member of the Municipality Council, chief of the "Volunteer Fire Brigade", active General Zionist. murdered in Ghetto Vilna.
The Small Lithuanian Encyclopedia, Vilnius 1966-1971 (Lithuanian).
The Lithuanians Encyclopedia, Boston 1953-1965 (Lithuanian).
Lite, New-York 1951, Volume 1 (Yiddish).
Yahaduth Lita, (Hebrew) Tel-Aviv, Volumes 1-4
Yad-Vashem Archives: M-1/E-2215/2314; M-11/34; 0-53/21; 0-3/369
Koniuchovsky Collection 0-71, Files 124-127.
Central Zionist Archives: 55/1788; 55/1701; 13/15/131; Z-4/2548.
JIVO, NY, Collection of the Jewish Communities in Lithuania, Files 75,1376, 1509, 1662.
Yitzhak Lifshitz-Lelo Kniah (Without surrender)-through three Ghettos to the Partisan wood, (Hebrew) Jerusalem 1985
HaMeilitz (St. Petersburg) (Hebrew): 10.6.1890, 22.1.1901
Cohen Berl,. Shtet, Shtetlach un Dorfishe Yishuvim in Lite biz 1918 (Towns, Small Towns and Rural Settlements in Lithuania till 1918) (Yiddish) New-York 1992.
From the Beginning to the End - The Book of the History of "HaShomer HaTzair" in Lithuania (Hebrew), Tel-Aviv 1986.
Dos Vort, Kovno (Yiddish): 11.11.1934.
Folksblat, Kovno (Yiddish): 4.6.1935; 19.7.1935; 21.7.1935; 19.11.1940.
Di Yiddishe Shtime (The Yiddish Voice) Kovno (Yiddish): 18.8.1919; 19.6.1931; 25.4.1932; 7.3.1937.
Yiddisher Hantverker (Jewish Artisan) Kovno, (Yiddish): Nr.3, 1938.
Masines Zudynes Lietuvoje (Mass Murder in Lithuania) vol. 1-2, Vilnius 1941-1944 (Lithuanian).
Pinkas haKehiloth. Lita (Encyclopedia of Jewish Settlements in Lithuania) (Hebrew), Editor: Dov Levin, Assistant editor: Yosef Rosin, Yad Vashem. Jerusalem 1996.
The Book of Sorrow, (Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Lithuanian), Vilnius 1997.
Family History Library, Europe Film Area, Lithuania, Alytus Civil Registration, Microfilm Nr. 0747740 Item B, Salt Lake City, Utah
Return to the Alite Shtetlinks Page
- Compiled by Joseph Rosin
- Created on January 28, 2000
- Updated by JA February 5, 2000
- Copyright © 2000 Joseph Rosin