HOW I SURVIVED THE HOLOCAUST
By Nachum Levy

 

CONTENTS

1. INTRODUCTION: JULY 1940 - JUNE 1941

2. THE FIRST DAYS OF THE WAR

3. LIQUIDATION OF THE BATAKIAI CAMP

4. ESCAPE FROM THE CAMP

5. MY ARREST AND SUBSEQUENT ESCAPE

6. HIDING ON ROZALIKE'S

7. A FEELING OF FREEDOM

8. SEARCHING FOR MY BROTHER

9. APPENDICES

             

  INTRODUCTION: JULY 1940 - JUNE 1941

It is difficult to write about the past, especially the past of some 50 years ago; all the more so, considering the realities of today. The main difficulty is the relative weakening of one's memory that comes with advanced age. What seemed clear and simple twenty years ago, is much less clear today. There are many doubts regarding dates, the names of people and description of events. I have decided, therefore, that there is no better way to preserve my memories than to put them down on paper. I also hoped that more details would come back to me in the process. I am indebted to my elder brother, Azriel, who some five years ago published his own memoirs from this period and urged me to do likewise.

In order to give a broader perspective to the picture I choose to begin with the period in which we left the family township of Skaudvile and went to live in the capital Kaunas. If only more survivors wrote down their reminiscences of this period, the children of this generation and, more importantly, the generations to come would be able to better grasp the importance of the Jewish state, which must be the center accumulating all Jewish brains, brawn and finance in order to protect and nurture this people.

My late father was a man of great energy and incredible enterprise; he would stop at nothing until he reached his goal. In Skaudvile he established with a partner a large wholesale business dealing in grocery, food and haberdashery, which eventually became very successful and supplied the whole area. After a while he decided that it was better for the family as a whole and especially for the children's education to move to the capital city Kaunas. To make the move more convenient he sold his share of the business and bought a third of the ' "Fortuna" factory in Slobodka, a suburb of Kaunas. My father had no qualms about switching over from merchandising to manufacturing, though within the family a few doubts were raised as to the ability of the other two partners.

I recall even as a 12-year-old that there were many risks involved, but regardless of them my father wanted to promote his children's education, and he was certain that this move from a small town to a big city would benefit the family.

My brother Azriel entered the "Gymnasia", a Hebrew high school, whilst I myself enrolled at "Yavne", a religious secondary school. I do not recall being taught much Judaism, though the language of teaching was Hebrew. That was excellent. I joined the local "Beitar" group, which held its gatherings at a place only some 200 metres from my home. There we were also required to speak Hebrew only.  

The Hebrew and the uncompromising Zionist stance taken at "Beitar" and "Yavne" tempered my young soul and instilled within me the fundamentals of the nationalist philosophy. The quintessence of it was there is only on place on earth for the Jewish nation, and it is "Eretz Israel" (then also known as Palestine).

For a youth that I was then the Kaunas period was most interesting. The Jewish tradition flourished, there were Jewish schools, youth movements, plays in Yiddish and winter skating rinks, which I dearly loved.

Things changed notably, when the Russians put up bases in Lithuania as a result of the agreement signed by the German Foreign Minister Ribbentrop and his Soviet counterpart Molotov. The Lithuanian government had no choice but to comply with it with "understanding". The Russian invasion of Lithuania was, therefore, a "fait accompli". Officially the Lithuanians were "happy" with the agreement and joined in the worshipping of the "Sun of the People". Later,  it became a different story.  

The period of expropriation, confiscation of private property, began this was executed by Lithuanian socialists under the tutelage of Soviet experts. Thus we saw the beginning of the end of free thought and speech.

In the wake of this new wave the "Fortuna" factory was also confiscated. The owners were deprived of all rights and not allowed even to carry on working as simple workers. The Soviet "paradise" was felt by everyone.

The family was actually left without means of subsistence. My late mother, who was an excellent housewife, began to cook meals for family bachelor friends in return for money. The prices were not very high, but the main advantage was that my parents, my three brothers and myself enjoyed the same food. Another source of income was letting a room in our four room apartment. Even previously one room had been let to Mina Gafanovitz and her brother Leibl from Panevezys. They taught Father how to make paper bags. This became a home based industry, which also assisted us in our struggle for survival. Father was the director, production manager, sales executive and so on. The paper would come in reels, and he would cut them with a big kitchen knife according to the different orders. He would then glue one side, wait for it to dry, fold it and glue the other side. This would be followed by a process of folding and packing. Any visitor to the house would be immediately invited to assist with the folding. Suddenly I began to feel more adult, I was helping at home!! Father would explain to me all the production techniques as well as marketing problems and his ideas on how to outstrip our better-equipped competitors. On Sabbath we would go for a walk, and as we passed different shops he would tell me how he planned to offer them our merchandise. We made significant progress, and one day he told me that the next Sabbath we would be able to buy hallot (Sabbath loaves), for up until then we had put up with ordinary black bread.

Under the Soviet regime the blows came quickly, one after another. The latest decree issued by the Lithuanian authorities with not a little help from some Jewish sympathizers was that ' we must abandon our apartment at No. 25 Nemuno Street at short notice. We were offered "alternative accommodation" in other suburbs of the capital, but when we went to inspect the places suggested, we discovered that none was suitable for human residence.

After contacting Hannah, my mother's younger sister, we decided to return to Skaudvile. Berke Aaron arrived with a truck, assisted to load up our belongings and brought us back "home".

Azriel remained for the time being in Kaunas in order to complete his matriculation. He was "permitted" to stay on in the family apartment (in a small room for servants), but he chose to take up the invitation offered by a fellow student's family.

This was the spring of 1941. Unfortunately, I remember nothing of the period between us leaving Kaunas and the outbreak of the war. All our friends and relatives were in the township. Now there was no longer any distinction between rich and poor,  all were poor.

We could not even return to our old apartment, as it had already been let to Dr. Dolnitsky and his family. We were, therefore, compelled to share Aunty Hannah's flat with her family, and this situation continued until June 22, 1941, the outbreak of the war.

THE FIRST DAYS OF THE WAR

Within a few days there was not a trace of the Red Army in the whole area. The German attack and the accompanying bombardment forced us to leave the town and go to my Grandmother's sister's, who lived on a farm. We dug trenches there and stayed put until the bombardment subsided. We were told that it was possible to return to the town, that although the Germans were there, they were too busy fighting to be bothered with the Jews. Such an idyll!! We had already heard from Poland that the Germans treated the Jews badly and even killed them.

One bright summer day, I think it was a Wednesday, the Lithuanian henchmen of the Nazis announced that all the Jewish and Lithuanian males over the age of 14 were to assemble in the horse market. The nationalists were fervent anti-Semites. They wore identifying insignia on their arms and helped the Germans in every way. By the way, the young officer in command had been in the Lithuanian army. From these nationalist gangs the much feared Lithuanian police were formed later.

I remember as if it were today what my father told me prior to leaving for the assembly" at the market place, from which he was never to return. "Today you listen to me, you will not go to the "assembly" even though you are over fourteen!!!" he said.  I hid under the bed in case the Lithuanians came to look for me. In a few minutes Father returned to leave his wallet, watch and documents at home. Before he went out again he said: "I am going to the slaughter!!!"

The moment the men assembled in the square the Lithuanian henchmen appeared as if from nowhere, rifles in their hands. They enclosed the square so that no one could escape and from there escorted the men to some large storage buildings on the outskirts of town of the town I saw my father no more!

The following day the Jews were marched out of the town to a place called Rainiai, a clearing in the forest. There came the tragic end. The SS murderers arrived on motorcycles. They forced the men to dig their own graves, compelled them to kneel over the open trenches and slaughtered each and every one of them.

The Lithuanians did their part of the job guarding the area, whilst the Nazis mowed down the entire male Jewish populations of Skaudvile, Upina and Batakiai with machine guns.

Rumors ran rampant. We did not dare leave the house in order to find out what had happened to our loved ones. A few women did venture to trace down the men's tracks. They found some improvised graves and dried blood, but still found it difficult to believe that such an inhuman act could have been committed, that innocent blood had been shed. Many of us preferred to believe that the men had been transferred to labour camps. Soon news was spread (probably by the Lithuanians) that we would be able to join them.

On Monday, a few days after the massacre, all the women and children were assembled in the market square and transferred to Batakiai, a small township some 10 km from Skaudvile.

In the camp at Batakiai we stayed for some two months. There were wooden barracks close to the railway lines. The barracks were unfinished, most of them without roofs. The first rains drenched all of us, Mother, Grandmother, my brothers Shimon and Moshele, Aunty Hannah and her two daughters, Aviva and Tsilke, along with the rest of the family.  Most of our belongings, which consisted of bundles of clothing and bedding that we had brought all the way from home, were also soaked. Naturally, there was no sanitary network in the camp, and food was scanty. Since I considered myself now the head of the family, I felt it was my responsibility to procure food for the family members. During the day I would creep out to the neighboring villages and buy food stuffs in exchange for clothing items and personal trinkets. I would set out with a few other boys, and we would barter with the locals. Another possibility was to buy food from the Lithuanian peasants who would bring farming products to the camp in horse wagons and sell them for money. 

During those trips out of the camp I succeeded in making some contacts on the outside. All through the period of imprisonment in the Batakiai camp I remained ignorant of the fate of my father or the other men. We lived off rumours, and these gnawed at our nerves

LIQUIDATION OF THE BATAKIAI CAMP

Eight weeks passed, and rumours began to spread that the camp was to be closed and that we 'were to be sent to camps in Germany. The main thing for us was to be able to see the men again. We, therefore, hoped the rumours might be true, why should they lie to us? Yet deep at heart we could not help the rising apprehensions as to the Nazis' real intentions. We felt as though something horrible was going to happen.

One Sunday morning my mother said that a massacre was being planned and told me to run away. "Why just me, we could all run away", I protested, but she said that alone I had a better chance to survive. Then I would be able to pass on all the dreadful facts to our family in South Africa. Grandmother also joined in imploring me to escape, and Aunt Hannah added that they were hampered by little children, while I was a young, strong and courageous boy with good knowledge of the area, so I might just succeed.

There was little time to waste. I had to make the decision. I had no doubts that danger was imminent, and even for a cunning boy that I was it would not be same Sunday I was ready at the appointed time. Waiting there were Nehama with her baby daughter, Yekherashke, and Erlitske, a girl, adopted by the Mendl family. We separated into two groups. In the first one was Nehama with the two girls along with someone I could not see, who was supposed to escort easy to escape. Where would I hide? How could I manage to escape, and who would assist me? At the end of our conversation Hannah said: "Go and talk to Nehama Mendl". Some kind Lithuanians had informed her what was to happen the following day and prepared an escape route for her.

On hearing this I went straight to Nehama and asked her to take me with her that evening. She said she was not going anywhere and would be unable to take anyone. I continued to insist nevertheless: "But if you go, will you take me with you?" Still she denied having any escape plan. Then I told her that we were all to be killed the following day and I knew that she had an escape planned for nightfall. "I am too young to die, I want to live!" I cried. At this point she gave in and said: "Be here at nine o'clock in the evening, bring nothing, tell no one."                                  

THE ESCAPE

During the day I tried to persuade some friends of mine to join me. The danger was obvious, yet they seemed to refuse to believe it. They said: "What would the world say if they knew that innocent women and children were being massacred?" I told them there was no way the world would know and may be it did not even want to. In the end I saw that my powers of persuasion were inadequate and that they were at one with their fate.

The same Sunday I was ready at the appointed time. Waiting there were Nehama with her baby daughter Yekherashke and Erlitske, a girl adopted by the Mendl family. We separated into two groups. In the first one was Nehama with the two girls along with someone I could not see, who was supposed to escort us out. The second group included an elderly Lithuanian woman and myself The woman carried two bundles of clothing apparently belonging to Nehama. I was without any burden whatsoever.

We set out in the darkness eventually reaching a road, which, as I guess today, must have been the main artery connecting Batakiai and Skaudvile. Then, all of a sudden, two armed Lithuanian nationalists appeared before us in the middle of the night. They aimed their rifles at us and asked us where we were going. I had just one thought that this was the end of our escape plan. I told them that I was looking for food and had met the woman by chance. I cannot say whether they believed my story, yet what happened next was the biggest piece of luck in my life. They let the woman go, and she went away leaving the bundles in the middle of the road. To me they said: "Run, but not back to the camp. It will be a mess of a place tomorrow". As I did not need the two bags and could not carry them either, I told the two guys that they could keep them, thanked them and moved on.

I knew the area in the vicinity of the camp owing to my daily foraging excursions, so I set out on my own, with no destination and death shadowing each step.

I knew that Father was dead. Tomorrow Mother would be killed along with my brothers, Grandmother, Aunty Hannah and her two daughters Aviva and Tsilke. The same fate awaited Aunty Simha and her two daughters Sarah and Rochel. Her two sons Moshe and Joseph and their father David had already shared the fate of all the other men. Uncle Shmuel, Aviva's and Tsilke's father, was already dead too.  So much for the family. I knew only that Azriel was in Kaunas, but I had heard nothing of his fate. I had received from him just one solitary greeting since the beginning of the war through a Lithuanian who came to Doctor Dolnitsky on a bicycle with a message from the doctor's mother. My parents also made use of the opportunity to send something to Azriel with the messenger.

I set out on my complicated journey fraught with dangers and hampered by lack of knowledge, a journey that was to last for three long years.

When the Lithuanians released me, I did not really know which way to go, what to do or what not to do. Only one thing I was sure about  that I was not returning to the camp. I decided to seek out some of the kind Lithuanians I had met during my expeditions in search of food. Maybe they would help? 

With a two pronged pitchfork they began to prod around and move the bales until they discovered my hideaway. They called me again several times, and when I still did not answer, they let off a single shot into the air. I thought that this was the end: only sixteen-years-old, and my life over. Yet it was not to be so. I emerged from my hiding place. When they saw me, one of the policemen hit me with his fist, but another restrained him immediately. They were about ten in number and on bicycles. They led me to Skaudvile stopping several times on the way to pass me from crossbar to crossbar.

They took me to the building of the local Council and put me in the small jail room there. There was a barred window under the ceiling and a massive wooden door. After the first few moments in my new accommodation I began to look for weak points that might assist me to escape. By way of the window there was no chance. Yet after a couple of days I discovered that one of the panels in the door was held in place by a few nails and not glued as were all the others. There was indeed a chance!!! With a glimmer of hope in my heart and a penknife in my pocket I began to make plans. What kind of unobtrusive "work" would I be able to do in order to rip the panel off.   

Many visitors came to my window in order to see the strange captive.  In June 1942 it was apparently an interesting pastime to look at a locked up Jewish boy, but I was unmoved.

The first person to come and visit me was Rozalike, a lady who had worked for Shmuel Becker prior to his marrying my aunt Hannah. Rozalike brought me food, a towel and a clean shirt. Mother must have given her some clothing before going to the Batakiai camp.

Mrs. Gerkiene also arrived with sandwiches. She was a noble lady indeed.  Petre, who had worked for us as a domestic. servant before our move to Kaunas, came too. Rozalike would come every day, she made sure that I had enough to eat, drink and always a clean change of cloth

I still had no idea what were my captors' plans. The Lithuanians that I spoke with said that I would probably be transferred to one of the big towns, either Siauliai or Kaunas, where the Jews lived in ghettos and were sent to forced labour.

About a week passed. I would do some "engraving" in the evenings carving around the nail heads so that eventually I would be able to just raise the panel. In all probability, a drunken prisoner had once broken the door, and it was afterwards fixed with nails. At the same time I carved into the other panels so that it would not look as if I were paying special attention to a specific spot.

On the eve of my escape my guard noticed my activity and supervised me more closely. My jail room was connected to a small kitchen that had a window looking outside. Most of the evening I spoke with the guard and tried to persuade him to let me go promising to reward him once I was free. I did not succeed, and finally he went to sleep arranging three chairs in a row to lie down on them. When he settled down and began to snore, I called out for water, but he did not answer.

I decided to act swiftly. In those days I was quick and nimble. I gathered my things together in a small bundle and put on my rubber shoes. Just before dawn, which I set as the deadline, I raised the panel over the nail heads. The penknife had done its job, and it went off easily. I crept through the hole with my bundle and went over to where the guard slept next to his rifle. I raised myself up to the window stepping on one of the chairs with the guard's legs resting upon it. I eased one leg through the "fortke" (Yiddish for a small hinged window pane), then my body and finally the other leg. I was suspended in mid‑air for a few seconds, then let myself go, fell down to the ground and was free. In a moment I was up on my feet again and ran to the outskirts of Skaudvile, then towards the river and headed for Rozalike's house. I saw her come out of the house. "Rozalike", I called, "I have managed to escape. Can I stay at your place?" She answered in the affirmative, but said that I should first try and find an alternative shelter for a few months, because they would probably look for me at her house considering her numerous visits to the jail. She gave me some food and said: "Come back in a few months".

There was a forest nearby, so I climbed to the top of a high tree (I could climb like a cat in those days and also saw well in the darkness) and stayed there till nightfall. Then, skirting the town, I went to some other good folks that I knew from the Batakiai camp. I met them outside. They were shocked to see me, but said that I could stay. They just asked me to linger for a while out in the fields. In the end the mosquitoes had a field day, I did not.

HIDING WITH ROZALIKE  

I wandered from place to place for some two months prior to arriving at Rozalike's for a second time. I stayed there until liberation by the Red Army and Germany's final capitulation.

Rozalike Tverionaite, an unmarried lady, lived together with her elderly mother and niece, Bronike, who grew up in their house. The two of them knew of my presence.  Rozalike's elder brother, who also lived in the house, knew nothing, for they were afraid to, tell him because of his timid nature. I would hide from him either under the bed or in the neighbouring barn. Once he discovered me, but said nothing. Later Rozalike told him that I had left that very evening and that he should not worry. Once again he came across me while looking for something, yet Rozalike told him the same story. Finally, when he saw me for the third time, he told me that I do not need leave. Now all were content sympathizing with me in my plight and supporting me. Needless to say, they were frightened, for they had heard too many times of people paying dearly when caught, hiding Jews.

For the first time since my escape I was staying with a family of good, kind‑hearted people. A Jewish youth, lonely and defenseless the last survivor of my family in that area, I felt safe there. While at Rozalike's I was never hungry. Most of the time I stayed in the attic where food was stored. Smoked meat was hung there to dry, and there were milk chums and black bread the size of a car tyre. Rozalike gave me a knife and told me that if I were hungry when they were away working in the field, I could eat whatever I wanted from the stock in the attic.

In the evenings I would stroll down by the river smelling the flowers, but during the day there was a problem;  the day was long and I had nothing to do. On the war front little was happening. The Germans were still in Russia, and in the West the second front was yet to be opened. Nevertheless, the thought of an allied victory raised my spirits and gave me strength to go on.  Every day they would bring me books and newspapers. I would read them over twice: once the actual words and a second time between the lines to see if there was any sign of a victory on the Russian front.

Another pastime was to try and teach myself Russian. Every day I would make a list to be learnt by heart and checked the following day. I also found a book of poems by P. B. Shelly. The book was a translation from English into Lithuanian and contained the text in both languages. I was interested not so much in the poetry, as in the translation. That was a chance to improve my skills, it was a great pleasure, and by the end I knew the book by heart.

The height of my achievements while trying to busy myself with something was believe it or not  knitting. I watched Bronike knitting and within a few days learnt the craft. Maybe my work was not very proficient, but, nevertheless, it helped to while away the time.

Thus my daily schedule consisted of a few hours of Russian, some translation work and, finally, some knitting. I received a bi ball of green wool, two thick knitting needles and the end product was a sweater for Bronike. It was not a great success though: the eyes were of different size and the texture was uneven. I undid it and started all over again. This time I was more successful, and from then on I would produce all kinds of knitwear in Bronike's name. In the end I had no difficulty doing many different styles and quickly, too. The family was impressed and complimented me on my achievements. "Antaniukas gabus berniukas" (Antaniukas is a gifted boy), they used to say.

For hours I would stay in my room, which could be locked both from the inside and from the outside. Sometime people from the village would come to try on the garments they had ordered. Bronike would receive them in the room next to mine. One day I became 'curious to see one of Bronike's male friends who came to try on a sweater that I had made. I cut a peephole in the wall to see how it fit him. While trying on the sweater he noticed something "glimmering" from behind the wall (which was my eye). Immediately he and his friend burst into my room to see what was happening. I was petrified. Bronike ran in after them and explained everything I need not introduce myself.  In the end it was they who were embarrassed, and they promised that I had nothing to fear ‑ they would tell no one. From time to time, when they came to see Bronike, they would visit me also and bring me reading material.

I found out after the war that one of them, a Mr. Nausedas, had been a policeman or a Nazi collaborator and fled from Lithuania with the Nazis.

Days, weeks and months passed by. There was little to do. Occasionally I would go for a walk by the river with Bronike. The family noticed that I was gradually neglecting my religion and never prayed. Rozalike said that a man needed a religion and that if I was not observing mine, maybe I should take up theirs. She offered to teach me how to genuflect and to say prayers. I told her in no uncertain terms that I preferred my own religion. Afterwards she brought me some "machzorinf' for the holy day prayers. It was better than nothing. I would meditate and pray to the Creator. It could not hurt.

One day before Yom Kippur (I cannot recall the Christian date, but I remember that the women and children were murdered about a week before Rosh Hashanah) I told Rozalike that I wanted to fast on the holy day. According to the custom, I was to eat a good meal on the eve. They offered me a feast including ham. I was doubtful about the latter, especially for that particular meal. Even in my Epicurean view it seemed out of place. Thus I ate bread and drank milk.

I fasted and prayed to the Creator of all good and evil asking him why he had ruled that such evil be inflicted upon us. During the day the pious Rozalike would come occasionally and suggest a small "break" in the fast so that I would not starve! I reassured her that I could fast for one day without any problem.

At the end of the fast Rozalike made me a slap-up meal, which consisted of a six-egg-omelet, milk, ... and just a little bacon. Whilst before the fast I had been doubtful about eating the meat, now I had no qualms. Unfortunately, a six-egg-omelets proved to be too much, it upset my stomach and I had to fast for a few more days.  

The radical change on the Stalingrad front came as a great boost. The Germans were finally stopped and began to retreat. I received the news from the Lithuanian newspapers. Along with all the others yearning for peace I was impatient for the second front to be opened. At last D-Day arrived, and it was clear now that the blows struck by the allied forces were fatal to the Germans.

During the night Russian dive-bombers would drop bombs assisted by parachuted night flares, which fit up the whole sky. I realized now that the front was approaching. It was the summer of 1944, and I thought that now I had to take special care of myself

We dug a bunker under one of the corridors in the house. I laid there for months so cramped that I could not even stretch out my legs. As a result for months after the liberation I could not walk properly.

As the front approached, one-day German soldiers came to the house to make a search, but they found nothing, or maybe they wanted to have a look whether they could use the house for their own purposes.   Now we began to see increased activity also during the day. I was beside myself with joy at the sight of the bombers diving over our house towards the Russian front.  Once Rozalike spotted an air raid and called for us to take cover. We had come so far it would be a pity to die now.

The approach of the front was rapid; there was no time for philosophy.  The only thought was just to take shelter from the massive bombardments. Fortunately the house had once belonged to a Jewish family who used to deal in arms and ammunitions.  According to the local law, these were not allowed to be stored in the town or within the house, so there was outside a reinforced storeroom with a relatively safe cellar.

A FEELING OF FREEDOM

After listening to the delightful symphony of artillery bombardment from the Russian guns for some time we took some provisions and warm clothing and spent the night in the bunker locking the iron door. Suddenly early in the morning the door was burst open by Russian soldiers carrying automatic weapons. "Who are you?" they called out. I rose to my feet and explained to them that I was a Jewish boy who had managed to survive the war and that those were the people who had helped me. We were ordered not to leave the shelter, for there was still shelling outside, and the front could yet change.

From this moment; I was overwhelmed by a feeling of freedom.  No longer would I be persecuted with the purpose to be murdered just because of my religion, as had happened in the camp, in the attic and in the bam. The sound of the shots from the forest was still ringing in my ears even after the years that had elapsed. I cannot describe this feeling of victory and freedom. At last for the first time in several years I felt I was an independent person.

A few hours later we returned to the house. I wanted to go back to the town immediately to see who had survived, maybe to meet Pesse, Tserne, the other women of the village. Rozalike did not let me go, she thought it could still be dangerous as there might still be Germans in the town.  She told me to wait for a few days. I stayed just one more day and then headed for Skaudvile.

We assembled in one house settling down in two apartments: Frade, Merke, Hindke and Ella in one of them and Pese, Tserne and myself in the other. I would visit Rozalike every day, I felt at home there.

The relations with the local police were fine, and the Red Army officers visiting the house also treated me nicely. I would travel from Skaudvile to Kaunas and Vilnius with butter and eggs and bring back stones for cigarette lighters, elastic bands and the like that were "imported" by the disabled Lithuanian Jewish soldiers who had served in the Red Army. I did fear a lot, but I knew that the concentration camps had been liberated and I hoped to find Azriel, my elder brother.

SEARCHING FOR MY BROTHER

I told my tale to the Red Army officers and commanders in the NKVD (the Soviet secret police). When the first concentration camp survivors began to arrive, I went immediately to Kaunas to make inquiries about my brother, until one day a young guy about my age told me, "Azriel is alive. He is in a DP camp in St. Ottilian, not far from Munich'.

My decision was swift -- I must be off to Munich to find Azriel and on to Eretz Israel.

A friend of the family who was a major in the Red Army gave me papers to the effect that I was a civilian working for the guards battalion stationed in Berlin and that I had official business in Germany. Some officers found it hard to believe that I was going to search for my brother and asked me to bring them from Berlin different little things which were not to be found in Lithuania. Consequently I changed the tale and told everyone that I wanted to study at the Polytechnic in Vilnius, and they were most impressed by the idea. Actually I had to tell two different stories to two different parties: to the local police that I was going to Vilnius to study, and to the Red Army officers that I was going to Berlin to meet my brother and bring him home to Lithuania.

I assembled quickly my belongings in a wooden valise that I had made myself, packing some bottles of samogon (home‑made vodka) for bargaining purposes. I did not need a suit.

I asked Pese and Tserne to join me, but they refused and I said farewell to them. It was easy to leave Lithuania. Moreover, it did not even cost money. I also bid goodbye to Frade and her family. The previous day I had visited Rozalike to tell her that I was leaving Lithuania. I told her that at.first I would study in Vilnius, but then I would go on to Palestine. I tried to explain to her that if we had been there, all this horror may not have happened. She crossed herself and cried. To the rest of her family I told nothing, so this circle was also closed.

I left Kaunas by train. It was not easy to get to Berlin, yet I managed to arrive there just in a few days. It was a hard and tiring journey, part of which I spent on the engine roof (the engine driver was a Lithuanian).

At one of the underground stations in Berlin I met a Jewish employee who gave me the address of the Jewish community in Berlin and explained how to get there. He told me that from there it was possible to catch an American truck to Munich. There they would, change my identity, but my name would remain the same. I was also advised to tell anyone, if asked, that I was returning to Landsberg (a town near Munich).

From the Jewish community I found my way to a refugee camp in the American zone of Berlin managed by the Jewish Joint Organization. They also changed my history a little bit, for only former residents were given permission to return to Germany. So I had to declare that before the war I had lived in Landsberg, West Germany, and wished to go back home.

In the meantime I went to the Joint every day. It was the Joint that took care of everything at the camp and even distributed food. I had to appear before a committee where I was interrogated by a G. I. Rabbi who asked me questions about my Bar Mitzvah and other questions to make sure I was Jewish. In the end he declared me a "kosher Jewish boy".

From there I went on to Munich and St. Ottilian, where I was informed that Azriel was on his way to Palestine via Italy. I hurried on to Italy, but Azriel had already gone to Eretz Israel.  It was the second week of November 1945.

From here the story continues for another three years prior to my Aliyah, and so ends the tale.

I would not wish a living soul to go through the things that I experienced. Somehow, however, in situations that are beyond our darkest dreams one still finds a way to deal with them.  All that is needed is will power, nerves of steel, a hopeful heart and a determination not to break down.  

Raanana, March 1997


 


 

Appendix I
FAMILY MEMBERS AND RELATIVES AND THEIR FATE 

                       Name                                              Relationship                        Birth/Death                                        Fate

Shlomo Leib LEVY

Father

1895 - 21/7/41

Murdered at Poge near Skaudvile

Breine MUSK LEVY

Mother

1902 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

Azriel LEVY

Son

8/6/23

Resides in Israel

Nachum LEVY

Son

8/5/26

Resides in Israel

Shimon LEVY

Son

8/9/29 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

Moshele LEVY

Son

23/1/35 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

Sheine MUSK

Grandmother

1881 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

 

 

 

 

Hannah MUSK BECKER

Aunt

1912 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

Shmuel BECKER

Uncle

???? - 21/7/41

Murdered at Poge

Aviva BECKER

Cousin

1938 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

Tsilla "Tsilke" BECKER

Cousin

1940 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

 

 

 

 

Simcha LEVY GIN

Aunt

1892 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

Abba GIN

Uncle

???? - 21/7/41

Murdered at Poge

Sarah GIN

Cousin

1922 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

Moshe GIN

Cousin

1925 - 21/7/41

Murdered at Poge

Rochel GIN

Cousin

1925 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

Yosef GIN

Cousin

1932 - 15/9/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

 

 

 

 

Pese FRIEDMAN

Grandmother's Sister

1897 - 1978

Hid by the Lithuanians, died in Israel

Tserne FRIEDMAN MARKEVITCH

Pese FRIEDMAN'S Daughter

1919 - 

Hid by the Lithuanians, resides in Israel

 

 

 

 

Dvora NOIK

 

???? - 7/15/41

Murdered in Batakiai Forest

 

 

 

 

Frade AHARON

Relative

 

Hid by the Lithuanians, died in Israel

Nechama AHARON MENDL

Frade AHARON'S Daughter

 

Hid by the Lithuanians, discovered and murdered

Miriam AHARON LIBMAN

Frade AHARON'S Daughter

 

Hid by the Lithuanians, resides in Israel

Hindke AHARON GERB

Frade AHARON'S Daughter

 

Hid by the Lithuanians, died in Israel

Berke AHARON

Frade AHARON'S Son

???? - 21/7/41

Murdered at Poge 

Nathan "Noske" AHARON

Frade AHARON'S Son

???? - 21/7/41

Murdered at Poge 

Ella SHLOMOVITZ

Nathan AHARON'S Friend

 

Hid in the Lithuanians, died in Israel

 

 

 

 

Yacherashke MENDL

 

 

Hid by the Lithuanians, resides in Canada

 

 

 

 

Perelible "Liuba" FRIEDMAN

FRIEDMAN Sister

 

Both were in hiding, they went to the Kovno Ghetto

Freidke "Freda" FRIEDMAN 

FRIEDMAN Sister

 

Liuba resides in Israel and Freda in the USA

 

 

 

 

size=2 width="100%" align=center>

 

Appendix II
NAMES OF LOCALITIES MENTIONED

Skaudvile:   A shtetl where my family lived right up until the war.  About half of the 2,000 inhabitants were Jewish in 1941.

Upina:   A small town close to Skaudvile with a few Jewish families living there.

Nemoksht (Nemaksciai):   A small town 13 kilometers from Skaudvile with about 70 Jewish families living there.

Batok (Batakiai):   A tiny hamlet some 10 kilometers from Skaudvile with about 10 Jewish families living there.

Tavrig (Taurage):   A small city with about 2,000 Jewish residents of a total population of 10,000.

Kovno (Kaunas):   Lithuania's second largest city. A center of Yiddish culture with some 37,000 Jews among a total population of 154,000 people.

Kelme:   A shtetl similar in size to Skaudvile with 2,000 Jews of its 3,700 residents.

 


 

Appendix III


NAMES OF LITHUANIANS WHO PROVIDED ASSISTANCE AND SHELTER   

Miniotas Leonardas

Miniotas Bullius

Kacausjiene Onike

Skimantiene

Milashius

Gerulis Kazimieras

Kacinauskiene

Gerkiene

Tverionaite Rozalike        Both Sheltered me from the summer of 1942 untill the final liberation at the end of 1944.

 


 

Appendix IV
NAMES OF VILLAGES FROM THE SAME PERIOD

Varlaukis

Sidige

Razgaliai


 

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