|Testimony of witnesses of
THE DESTRUCTION OF THE JEWS OF
statement was recorded in 1948 at a Camp for Political Prisoners
as part of an exercise to gather information as to the destruction of the
Jewish Communities in Eastern Europe.
document, which is at Yad vaShem, is in Yiddish and is hand-written.
I am extremely
grateful to Lillian Dubb, of Cape Town, for the considerable efforts she
made in deciphering and translating the main document, and to Ellen
Kellman, of Brandeis University who translated the Additional Testimony)
are the names of the witnesses:
1. MOTEL DROGIN. Born in
Chweidan in 20 March 1903.
of the Hebrew Folk School.
of father: Berel Shmuel. Name of mother: Feige.
Both of them were born in Chweidan.
2. GERSHON JUNG.
Born in Chweidan 15 October 1923.
of Hebrew Folk School and the Lithuanian Gymnasium in Chweidan.
of father: Chai. Name of Mother: Miriam Katz.
3 BEREL LEVIT. Born
in Chweidan 3 May 1917.
Graduate of Hebrew Folk School.
of father: David. Mother's name: Shaina.
4. CHAIM NADEL. Born 1 May
of Hebrew Folk School.
of father: Shmuel: Name of mother: Zlata Hirshowitz.
5. ROZA RACHMEL.
Born in Chweidan 13 February 1924,
Graduate of the Hebrew Folk School and Gymnasium in Teltz.
From 1937- 1941 studied and trained in the Kovne ORT School in Dressmaking
Name of father: Shmuel Benjamin Rachmel. Mother's Name:
Shaina Gute Meyerowitz.
After the outbreak
of war, the first three were taken by the SS to Auschwitz and Warsaw and
also Dachau. At the outbreak of the war they were in Kovno, later
in the Kovno Ghetto. It was a miracle that they survived.
Chaim Nadel escaped from the Kovno ghetto and
was hidden in a small village. On the arrival of the Red Army he emerged from
hiding and after three months was given a job as chief of military activities
in his own shtetl, Chweidan.
Roza Rachmiel returned to her birth shtetl,
Chweidan, after the Red Army occupation.
The above five people report on the events
of the following neighbouring shtetlach:
The boundary was the River Yura.
THE JEWISH POPULATION
AND THEIR OCCUPATIONS:
Until the outbreak
of war on 22nd June (1941), there lived in Chweidan 65 Jewish families,
i.e. about 290-300 souls altogether. Most of them were involved in
small trading and as artisans and handicrafts and growing vegetables in
their small lots. Most of them had gardens or small plots. They
had their own cows, poultry and horses.
The Chweidaner Jews lived very much like the
peasants. Their main trading was done with Memel, to which they brought
their produce. Some Jews bought goods from the Lithuanian peasants
and traded in Memel. After the war with Germany began, trade with
Memel ceased and the traders relied on help from friends from abroad.
COMMUNAL AND CULTURAL
before the arrival of the Red Army in Lithuania in the summer of 1940,
there was a Hebrew Folk School, a Hebrew Tiferet Yiddish Library, a Tiferet
Bochrim and a Beth Midrash. In the summer of 1940 the Hebrew Folk
School combined with the Hebrew school as most of the children and youth
were involved with the Zionist movement.
A few joined the Communist organisation which
was then illegal. A small number of Jewish youth went to the Teltz Hebrew
Gymnazium and to the Chweian Lithuanian Gymnazium. Other young boys
went to Teltz, Ponevez and Slobodke Yeshivas.
The relationship between the Jews and the Lithuanians
in Chweidan was not a good one. Every year, before Easter and Passover
and Christmas, there were hostile incidents between Jews and non-Jews.
The old blood libel, the belief that Jews needed the blood of a Christian
child for the making of matzo, would rear its ugly head. Consequently every
year at these time, Jews were fearful for their lives. It often
happened, on their way from Church, late at night, that Lithuanians would
attack Jewish homes and people.
This is an incident that occurred with the
One night - it was just before Pesach
- Roza's little brother burst into tears, crying loudly. At
just that time a peasant woman walked by the house, and heard the crying.
This woman was a known gossip and she spread the rumour that Jews had kidnapped
a Christian child. The Jews prepared themselves against a pogrom.
Although the woman was eventually arrested, the Jews had a very unhappy
Pesach, and sat at their festive tables behind locked doors and shuttered
Another agitator was known as Old`Vaslav. From
time to time he would agitate against trading with Jews. It forced Jews
to close their shops etc. This was after the agreement with Memel and Hitler's
Third Reich. After this the anti-Semitism spread to all the towns right
up to the border. In the mornings graffiti would appear on the walls
saying "Jews go back to Palestine."
After the arrival in Lithuania of the Red Army,
the relationships with the Jews improved somewhat. A small number of
younger Jewish people began to take part in the economy together with the
more left-wing Lithuanians.
THE OUTBREAK OF WAR.
morning 22nd June 1941 the Red Army began to be pushed back by the Germans,
not far from Chweidan. Many Jews began to run from their homes trying
desperately to take possessions with them - their goods and chattels, as
well as their horses and cows. Most of them made their way into the
nearby villages to take refuge with friendly peasants who were known to
them. That same Sunday the Germans were already in Memel. Many peasants
turned the Jews away from their villages. Many Jews left their cattle
and few belongings with villagers and some tried to find hiding places elsewhere.
By Thursday 26th June most of the Jews returned
to the shtetl. However, when they arrived at their homes, they found
that they had been ransacked and pillaged by the shtetl's Lithuanians.
Their acquaintances from long ago were now living unashamedly in their
houses, and what is more the Jews were afraid to protest at these outrages.
A few Jewish homes had also been burned down. And the Jews had
a hard time trying to find refuge, where they could.
When the Germans
arrived in the town, they were greeted by, and received a warm welcome
from the Lithuanians. These Lithuanians were known then as "partisans".
The following persons were the leaders of the
l. PETRUS KAZULIS: a shtetl landowner.
2. FAKOS. A landowner from
the nearby by village
3. LADOS MYLIMOS. An assistant
to the village priest.
4. LYNOS KURSELIS. A
landowner from a village some 3 kms away.
These above mentioned Lithuanians became the
Administrative council of the Shtetl, and in their hands lay the fate of
the Jews of the shtetl.
The first day of the war saw its first casualties:
a 13 year old boy - Leibel Schwartz and another young boy, Rubin Meyer
were found dead, murdered by partisans and in the Jewish Cemetery
The first week under the partisans' control
was taken up by finding special work for the Jews. The first job they were
given was to repair a blown up bridge, so that traffic would flow freely.
The men were taken to work in trucks, and in charge of this ‘labour force'
were to be seen armed Lithuanians on guard. At the end of the day's
work, before dark, the Jewish men were allowed to return to their homes.
On the afternoon of Sunday 29 June armed
groups of partisans went from house to house leading out all males over
13 - 14 years of age. They were not allowed to take anything with
them. The men were assured that after work they would be taken back
home. The men were gathered in the Town Square, where the German SS
groups were already awaiting them under the leadership of well known Dr Schau,
from Heidekreiz, and with Siluse and his adjutant, Fukslos Dembovsky.
These men welcomed the Jews with blows from canes and whips and with their
fists. Many of the men were badly beaten and bloodied.
Women from the nearby houses began to bring
food and succour, but the SS men began to beat the women and drove them
off. One pregnant woman brought a package to her husband and she too
was beaten up. A partisan lieutenant, Lt. Borauskas with a friend
of his, shaved off Rabbi Faival Gavron's beard and showed him off round the
This scene was applauded with glee by the brave
Lithuanian partisans for their heroic deeds. A few older and sickly
men were led apart, separated from the others and taken off the Market Square.
They were hauled on to two large trucks, again with blows to their bodies
The same Sunday evening these Chweidaner men
were taken to the courtyard of the Shul and Beth Midrash, where they were
dragged out of the trucks. The windows of the Shul and Beth Midrash
were broken out. The Torah scrolls were taken out and set alight as well
as the other sacred books. The unfortunate Chweidaner men could only stand
around the fire.
Then an order was given for the men to take
off all their valuables, rings watches etc and they were to be thrown into
the nearby grass verges. Lithuanians who were standing by and watching,
began to pick up the valuables, and it appeared as if they were picking
berries in a field. The remainder of the valuables were placed into
After this, the men were ordered into the women's
part of the Shul, upstairs. Down below in the men's part the other
men from the market place were already gathered.
On that same Sunday, before nightfall, the
men who were in the Beth Midrash were taken out and hauled onto the trucks
and driven to the Administration building in Heidzekreiz town. A number
of them were driven into the courtyard of the Admin building. Some
were taken to a yard near Rubenwald. A small group of men remained
in Chweidan for the night because they could not fit into the truck.
Early on Monday morning they were taken in the same truck to Heidekreuz.
A total of about 80 men were taken from Chweidan
and areas round Heidekreuz, and on Monday 30th June in the morning, they
took the men in the same trucks to Heidekreuz. They spent the night
in the house of a Jew, Zose Aaron. In total they brought about
80 men from Chweidan and camps round that area.
On that Monday 30th June the men were taken
to a doctor and they were given injections in the chest. Many
of them developed high temperatures. A few days later the men were
taken to have hot baths followed by cold showers with hosepipes. After
the cold showers Shai Jung caught a lung infection and lay in bed a few
weeks. When he felt a little better he went back to work. But at
the first transport Jung was taken out and shot. This happened on
August lst 1941 - a dreadful day..
TRANSPORT OF JEWS
TO CAMPS ROUND HEIDEKREUZ:
Lithuanian men from the shtetlach and villages took part in the operation
of forcing men out of the houses onto the market place:
1. TYNOS KURSELIS - from the village
Parigande (Payura) 3 klms from the shtetl
2. VINCUS KURSELIS, Ignaz - the brother from
the village Parigande
3. PETROS KORZALIS - a village landowner
4. FARCOS - from village Projsimi
5. VLAOLAS GEOLRIMIS - from the village
6. BARAUSKAS- a landowner from the shtetl
7. VLAOLAS MYLIMAS
8. KOLICIUS - a watchmaker in the shtetl
Motel Drogen was taken to the place by the
Lithuanian, Petros Korzalis: "Motke, you life has now come to an
end!", the murderer Petros taunted Motke.
When the men
were still standing on the market place, a partisan arrested a young girl,
Leah Nodel and sent her over to an SS official. Leah had been a communist
during the Soviet occupation. Leah was taken away to the prison.
At the same time they arrested a man, Chaim Marik, and took him also to
During the Red Army's occupation in Lithuania,
Chaim Nodel became the head of the Chweidaner Military. He heard
about the two arrested people. They had both been sent to the Fort,
where they were badly tortured. Through his influence, they were released
from prison and taken to Shilel where, sadly, Chaim was shot. Leah
was sent back to Chweidan. She had been severely beaten, her face
was swollen, and her eyes hardly visible. Her brother was unable to
find out where she had been sent.
The Chaviadan woman Taube Chasia Meres, her
family name was Meyerowitz, was a military partisan. She was released
on 30th June 1941. It was said that she was shot as she was going
to get some water to drink.
Monday 30th June 1941. 10 or 11 men were
released from the camp at Heidekruez. But some shtetl and village
partisans forced these men to dig graves on the Jewish cemetry and then they
were shot. The names of these men are as follows:-
1. BEINISH JAFFE , the shtetle
2. ABE JAFFE, his son.
3. D OVID ISAAC ARON - Business
4. Mr BLOCH - A business man
5. SHMUEL CHAIM MENT - a glazie from
Riteve - a refuge in Chaviadan
6. ABRAHAM BEREZNIK - the
pharmacist, shot after his wife and 3 children
7. LAYZER ARON - Business man
8. MEYER KATZ - A horse dealer and landowner
9. DOVID JUNG - A butcher
10. MOISHE FLECKER - business man
11. BERE LEIZER SKOLNIK -son of the rabbi
THE GHETTO IN CHWEIDAN
A short time
after the men were taken away from Chweidan, the partisans collected all
the women and children and placed them in a ghetto in Lyukiva Street.
Their possessions were collected and placed in the Beth Midrash. The
partisans were in charge of this operation.
The women were compelled to work very hard
at various jobs in the shtetl and in the villages. A tragic event
took place, which made the situation even worse. Three partisans,
Yakas, Gedrilis and another, abducted three young Jewish girls - Sarah
Aron, Rivkah Berelowitz and Malka Aug. They were taken to the
empty house of Meyer Aron, their clothes were ripped off and they were brutally
raped. The girls were also injured with burnt cigarettes. The
terrible cries of the helpless girls could be heard in the nearby shtetl,
where the perpetrators later bragged about their nefarious crime.
After the arrival of the Red Army in Lithuanaia,
Lakas became the head of the Military in Loykuva. It became known
that he had taken an active part in the shooting of the men on the cemetery
and in the rape of the three young girls
In 1941, when it was yom-tov time, the partisans
notified the women and children in the ghetto to prepare themselves to
visit their menfolk. They were removed from the ghetto in trucks.
Only after the war, the peasants reluctantly admitted that the women
and children had been taken to the forest Tubiniai, between Loykuva
and Shilel, and shot. The exact date is not known: it is more than
enough to have to report that this event took place. After that,
the exact date is not important.
All the reports
about the destruction of the Jews of Chweidan, all the facts, names of
people and the geographic locations which are set forth in this collective
testimony, were reported by ourselves:-
An additional testimony about the destruction of the Jews
1. Before the war, Sore-Miriam
Hamelan was learning tailoring from the Lithuanian, Pranas Jutkevicius.
Against her parents' wishes, she used to spend time with him and without
their knowledge. Sore-Miriam married this Lithuanian. Before
the war, she gave birth to a child in Kovno, and turned the child over
to a Lithuanian governess. She herself settled in a village with
her husband, where she remained until the Jews in town were forced into
a ghetto after the arrival of the Germans. She came to Chweidan to
see how her near ones were doing. Partisans stopped her and forced
her into the ghetto. Her husband paid a lot of money to have a marriage
certificate made that confirmed that Sore-Miriam was his wife. He
had also persuaded the partisans to take her out of the ghetto, and let him
have her sister Malke as a servant. However, when he came to the ghetto
he found that all the Jews had been taken to the forest Tubiniai, where they
had been shot.
2. The girl
Riva Blekher, eighteen years old, was hidden in the villages for more than
a year. For reasons that are not understood, she came once to Chweidan.
Partisans arrested her right away and shot her. The tailor Jutkeviciuis
from the village of Grindziai told about this case.
3. Before the
war, the Jew Berl Yokhelovitsh, a cattle merchant, used to stay in a village
with peasants. After the destruction of the Jews of Chweidan, he
hid himself in the hoimes of peasant acquaintances in the villages.
A neighbouring peasant denounced him to the Chweidan police, who arrested
him and brought him to the town. After holding him for a certain time
in jail, they shot him. Reyzl was told about this after the war
by the town-dwelling (female) peasant Pupsieni.
I, Reyzel Rachmel, found out about these three
cases and additioinal tersimony after the war, when I was in Chweidan,
and I conveyed it precisely to Engineer Leyb Konyukhovski. I confirm
all these cases with my own signature.
Signed: Reyze Rachmel
Engineer L. Konyukhovski