During World War II and Afterwards
It should be mentioned that Vilbaln Jews provided help to refugees from the Suvalk region at the end of 1939, in spite of the fact that their own situation was continuously deteriorating. In agreement with the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty the Russians occupied the Suvalk region, but after delineation of exact borders between Poland, Russia and Germany the Suvalk region fell into German hands. The retreating Russians allowed anyone who wanted to join them to move into the occupied territory, and indeed many young people left the area together with the Russians. The Germans kicked out the remaining Jews of Suvalk and the vicinity from their homes; they were robbed of their possessions, then directed to the Lithuanian border, and left in dire poverty. The Lithuanians did not allow them to enter Lithuania and the Germans did not allow them to go back. Thus they stayed in this swampy area in cold and rain for several weeks, until Jewish youth from the border villages in Lithuania smuggled them into Lithuania by different routes, with much risk to themselves. Altogether about 2,400 refugees passed through or infiltrated on their own, and were then dispersed in the Vilkavishk and Mariampol districts. In Virbaln alone 100 refugees were accommodated, among them tens of "Chalutzim" in the Jewish farms in the vicinity, who got a warm welcome and loyal assistance for which Lithuanian Jews were famous.
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 Virbalní were nationalized. All the Zionist parties and youth organisations were dismissed, and several of the activists were detained. The "Komsomol" (The Communist Youth Organization) started to mobilize the youth into its lines.
Hebrew educational institutions were closed and towards the 1940/1941 school year, the main language of instruction at the Hebrew School was Yiddish. The supply of goods decreased and, as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, was hit hard, and the standard of living dropped gradually. At the beginning of June seven families, the owners of nationalized factories and shops and Zionist activists were exiled deep into Russia. The others sat "on their suitcases" and awaited their turn.
Rumors added to the tension. It was feared that according to the Molotov-Ribentrop treaty on the division of Poland, Lithuania would be divided as well, and Virbaln and surrounding areas would be handed over to Germany. This area was home to many Germans, who began to depart to Germany, adding to the tense atmosphere.
Before the war there were about 600 Jews in Virbaln.
At 5:30 in the morning on June 22, 1941, the German Army entered Virbaln encountering no resistance. All prisoners, including the prisoners of resistance to Soviet Rule, were immediately freed. These men started to organize local groups to take revenge on the Communists, and the Jews, and to help the Germans gain control and restore public life.
At the beginning the town was ruled by military institutions, and no special measures were taken against the Jews. In a few days civil rule was restored. One of the first orders was to impose restrictions on Jews. They were forbidden to maintain any contacts with non-Jews, forced to wear yellow patches on their garments and had to hand over their radios. In addition, a curfew was imposed from 6 o'clock in the evening until 6 o'clock in the morning.
On the night of July 7, 1941, the Lithuanian activists detained all the Jewish men who were 16 years of age and older, ordering them into a farm north of Virbaln and crowding them into a cellar. Women, children, the aged and the sick remained in their homes.
Between July 7, and July 10, 1941, the men were ordered out of the cellar to the fields, about two kilometers north of the town. During the Soviet rule, anti-tank trenches were dug out aimed to stop German invasion. These trenches were not deep enough, and the men were ordered to dig deeper.
On Thursday, July 10, 1941 (the 15th of Tamuz 5701), the men were lined up in-groups of 15-20 people, with their backs towards the trenches. In this position they were shot. Prior to the shooting they were forced to undress and hand over their money and valuables. Most of the gunmen were Lithuanians.
After the murder of the men, the women, the aged and the children were forced into a Ghetto established on the almost empty streets where the repatriated Germans had once lived. The head of the Ghetto was the only dentist in town, Mrs. Sheine Pauzisky, who used to socialize with Lithuanians who were also her patients. She had connections in state and municipal institutions.
A special food shop was opened in the Ghetto. The shopkeeper was a Lithuanian, an honest man, who made sure supplies for the Ghetto residents lasted.
Women and children from Kibart were brought to the same ghetto. (among them were the mother of the author Joseph Rosin, Chayah, his 16-year-old sister Tchiyah, his aunt Sarah Leibovitz and his 13 years old cousin Tzipora ).
All the young women and children aged 12- 16 would take on different jobs in the town and the vicinity. A quasi-employment bureau was established in the Ghetto where unemployed people would come to look for work, and the peasants of the surrounding areas would select women and teens for work. There were notorious and evil people among these employers who treated women and children very badly. However, there were also brave people who maintained contacts with Jews. There were some who hid 10 Jewish women when the murders began. Of these few Jews, only Bela Mirbuch and her mother from Virbalis survived, hiding at the farm of a Lithuanian teacher for three years, near the town where Bela worked as an agricultural worker. Bela Rosenberg, the young daughter of nearby farm owners also survived, hiding somewhere in the vicinity.
One night, at the end of July or at the beginning of August, all the older women, the sick and the unemployed were taken to the anti-tank trenches where they were shot and buried.
After this "action" the rulers promised that no more evil would happen to the Jews. The women were told that their husbands were working different jobs in the vicinity. All this time Lithuanians, acquaintances and strangers, would arrive to tell the women that they had seen their husbands who asked to deliver a message to their wives to send them money, valuables and clothes. The women responded positively because they trusted that that these messages were true, refusing to believe the women working outside who told them their men were murdered. Among the Lithuanian population rumors spread that the end of the Jews was close, but no one came to warn the Jews about the destiny awaiting them.
On the night of Thursday, September 11, 1941 (the 19th of Elul 5701) Lithuanians arrived in carts and ordered all the women and children to the anti-tank trenches where they cruelly murdered all.
Of all the Jewish Community of Virbaln only three women hidden by Lithuanian families managed to survive.
Such was the tragic end of the thriving Jewish Community of Virbaln that existed more than 300 years.
In 1970 there were 1,489 people in Virbaln, and not one Jew.
The names of the Lithuanian murderers and a list of the names of the rescuers are saved in the archives of Yad Vashem.
In the 1960s a monument was built on the mass graves.
The monument on the mass graves near Virbalis was established in 1991.
The inscriptions in Lithuanian and Yiddish on the tables says:
"Here was spilled the blood of about 10,000 Jews (Men, Women and Children), Lithuanians, war prisoners of different nationalities, who were cruelly murdered by the Nazi murderers and their helpers in July and August 1941."
Among the victims there were the author's Mother, Sister, Aunt and Cousin.
On the Lithuanian plaque it is written:
"....by the Nazi murderers and their local helpers..."
In May 1987 the monument in memory of the communities of Kibart (Kybartai), Virbaln (Virbalis) and Pilvishok (Pilviskis) was unveiled at the cemetery in Holon.
The inscription (in Hebrew) says: Monument in memory of the martyrs who perished in the Holocaust in Av-Elul 5701, July - August 1941 from the Communities of Pilvishky, Kibart and Virbaln, Lithuania
The Small Lithuanian Encyclopedia, Vilnius 1-1971 (Lithuanian)
The Lithuanians Encyclopedia, Boston 1953-1965 (Lithuanian)
Lite, New-York 19, volume 1 & 2 (Yiddish)
The Jewish Encyclopedia, St. Petersburg 1908-1913, (Russian), Vol. 5, pages 507-8
Yahaduth Lita, (Hebrew) Tel-Aviv, volumes 1-4
Yad-Vashem Archives:. JM / 1825; M-9 / 12(6); M-33 / 987, 995; TR-10 / 1096
Koniuchovsky Collection 0-71, Files 154, 157, 158
Central Zionist Archives -Jerusalem: 55 / 1788; 55 / 1701; 13 / 15 / 131; Z-4 / 2548
JIVO, NY, Collection of the Jewish Communities in Lithuania, Files 387-401; 1587,1665; pages 17,716- 18,740
Oral testimony by Virbaln natives Z.Vladislavovsky and L.Lakovsky
HaMeilitz (St. Petersburg) (Hebrew): 2.9.1879; 23.10.1880; 5.11.1880; 19.7.1881; 20.9.1881; 16.5.1882; 22.3.1883; 2.7.1883; 23.7.1883; 3.8.1883; 20.8.1883; 31.10.1883; 21.4.1884; 20.6.1884; 1.1.1886; 3.5.1886; 11.7.1886; 13.8.1886; 14.7.1886; 4.11.1886; 19.11.1886; 13.6.1887; 20.7.1887; 19.1.1888; 6.2.1888; 23.1.1889; 6.3.1900; 8.5.1900.
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
Dos Vort, Kovno (Yiddish): 10.11.1934
Folksblat, Kovno (Yiddish): 25.4.1939
Di Yiddishe Shtime (The Yiddish Voice) Kovno (Yiddish): 6.7.1922; 19.6.1931
Yaffe Moshe - The Hebrew Pro Gymnasium in Virbalis: Bemisholei haChinuch (In the paths of education) Kovno (Hebrew), 1937
Achsania shel Tora (Report of the Hebrew High-School in Virbaln 1919-1921), (Hebrew) Berlin-Virbaln 1921
Masines Zudynes Lietuvoje (Mass Murder in Lithuania) vol. 1-2, Vilnius 1941-1944 (Lithuanian)
Pinkas haKehiloth. Lita (Encyclopedia of the Jewish Settlements in Lithuania) (Hebrew), Editor: Dov Levin, Yad Vashem. Jerusalem 1996
The Book of Sorrow, Vilnius 1997
List of Donors from Virbaln for the Settlement of Eretz-Israel in 1896
Gordon, Shmuel-Leib (Shala'g)
Lap, Efraim-Dov haKohen , Rabbi
Go to back to the Virbaln Shtetlinks Page
Compiled by Joseph Rosin
Updated by JA June 22, 1999 Copyright © 1999 Joseph Rosin