Kvedarna

 
 
 
 

 




Testimony of witnesses of

THE DESTRUCTION OF THE JEWS OF CHWEIDAN
 

(This joint 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. 
The original  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)


The following are the names of the witnesses:

 1.  MOTEL DROGIN. Born in Chweidan in 20 March 1903.
        Graduate of the Hebrew Folk School.
        Occupation: Baker.
        Name of  father:  Berel Shmuel.   Name of mother: Feige.   Both of them were born in Chweidan.

 2.  GERSHON JUNG.    Born in Chweidan 15 October  1923.
         Graduate of Hebrew Folk School and the Lithuanian  Gymnasium in Chweidan.
         Name of father: Chai.   Name of Mother:  Miriam Katz.

3   BEREL LEVIT.  Born in Chweidan 3 May 1917.
         Graduate of Hebrew Folk School.
         Name of father: David.  Mother's name: Shaina.

4.  CHAIM NADEL. Born  1 May 1905 1905.
         Graduate of Hebrew Folk School.
         Name 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:
     Chweidan,
     Shilel
     Loykuva
     Riteve
     Payura
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 LIFE:

In Chweidan, 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 Rachmel family:
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 windows.

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.

On  Sunday 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.
 
 

CIVIL ADMINISTRATION

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 partisans:
 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 market place.

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 and heads.

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 a hat.

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:
TESTIMONY OF  I.L.BOROCHOWITZ.

The following 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 Kolnyeiai
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.
 
 

ADDITIONAL INCIDENTS

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 prison.

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 shochet
2.  ABE JAFFE,  his son.
3.   D OVID ISAAC ARON - Business man
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 agriculturist.
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:-
 

       1.  Motel Drugin
       2.  Gershon Jung
       3.  Berel Levit
       4.  Chaim Nadel
       5.  Roza Rachmel.



 

An additional testimony about the destruction of the Jews of Chweidan
 

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
 

Weilheim / 066                      2-VII-1948


Links to other sites:

      An Introduction to the Einsatzgruppen

      The Einsatzgruppen:  Mobile Killing Units


Site map
History
Family Finder
Contemporary Records

  JewishGen Home Page    /   LitvakSIG Home Page   /   
JewishGen Lithuania Database

Copyright 2016 – Alan Nathan

Webpage compiled by  Sam Aaron   February 1999    Last  Revision: Jan 2006

Co-ordinator Alan Nathan