The Jews of Krakes
(For the 50th anniversary
of the their tragic fate)
This data was collected by teachers from Krakes between 1982 and 1989:
Comparative Table of the Krakes Shtetl
Prewar Trade Shops
Iron & Small Trade Shops - 58
In total 79. Almost all of their owners were Jewish.
The district ethnographer Alfonses Kuprys remembered and registered the following:
The man who registered Jews cannot remember other names but of course there was more Jewish people.
The Jew named Faiba, he had a small goods shop and lived in Vilnius Street. Now the house is pulled down. It belonged to Mrs Rudzianskiene and was by the bus stop. He was trading together with his wife. The shop was big, there were many various goods. He invited everyone to come. Mr. Faiba was a very pleasant, handsome Jew. He was taking goods from the cities Kedainiai and Kaunas. He took coachmen. If a client had no money he gave goods without payment.
The Jew Mr. Polutinskas lived in the centre of Krakes, where now a trading centre stands. He took goods from Kaunas and other cities. Goods were brought by horses. Other Jewish people helped him. He gave goods without money to those who returned debts in time.
The Jew Mr. Pompelis had a small goods shop too in Basanavicius Street. The goods were displayed very neatly. They were taken from Kedainiai by horses also. He also gave goods without money. He believed in people.
Next small shop. It was owned by the Jew Mr. Oselis. He lived in a detached house. This small house still stands now. It is in the centre of Krakes. It was a tidy shop.
Two Jews, Mr. Merkelis and Mr. Hockis had small goods shops in Vilnius Street. They almost looked the same. Barrels with herrings stood in the corners. They were covered with paper. They were sold according to their size, e.g. for 1 litas you could buy 9, 10, 16 herrings. Sugar and grain were held in special boxes and there was a wide choice of tobacco. Buyers wanted Russian tobacco; they said it was the best. There was coffee, cocoa, peppers, thread, buttons, etc.
The Jew Mr. Bramke has his own house. He was trading with bread and cookies. The house is gone now and instead of it stands a monument to book-distributors. Goods were taken from cities, but bread and cookies were baked at home. The owner traded himself but other workers baked it. They say the bread was very delicious.
The Jew, Mr. Gubornatouies had a small goods shop and butchers shop. A corridor in the house separated the two shops. In the door was a small window and the owner saw clients through it. He was very pleasant too. He took goods from the cities where there were factories. They both were very neatly dressed and with a smile they met their clients and wanted them to come more often. Husband and wife were trading together.
The Jew Mrs. Alijosiene lived in Vilnius Street. She had her own house and a butchers shop. She was very pleasant. Goods were not expensive. When clients were going out, she always wished good luck to them.
One Jew had a shop of caps. Now the main office of the farm stands there. He sewed caps for children and men. If a client was his acquaintance or poor, he had to pay less. He always tried caps on. He wanted caps that suited the clients.
The Jew Mr. Irsa had a house in Vilnius Street. He was baking matzoh for Easter. He got flour from the shops. They were oval with small holes. They were white and dry. They were baked in not hot oven. He was trading himself. Most matzoh were baked before Jewish festivals.
The Jew Sandaras had a shop and was selling apples and pears. He took them from the farmers. He managed to keep fruit for winter and was selling them in the villages. His daughter was trading at home. The shop was small, neat and cozy.
In Vilnius Street Mr. Leiba had the shop of sewing machines. He ordered them from the USA. They cost 700 litas. Their trademarks were Singers. He gave his clients 7 years for them to pay. He didnt write any documents. Only marked the price, the number of the car, address in his notebook. Or if people had money, they might pay at once.
The Jew Mr. Juoselis had the shop of stockings. Now the house is gone and a bath stands instead of it. They knitted coloured stockings themselves. They were not expensive and they advertised them in the shop window.
The Jewish woman Veiveliene had her own house. She was trading herself with her teenage daughter.
The Jewish woman Polatinskiene was trading with materials (English, Polish, Lithuanian). She chose materials herself, fitted colours according to a woman's age.
The Jew Karpovas was trading with household goods and kerosene. The shop was open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., but if you wanted you might come in later, even at night. His wife was very pleasant.
The Jew Gordonas was trading with iron.
The Jew Jankelis was trading with small goods and bread. The bread was fresh and delicious every day.
Miss Judelsonaite was trading with woollen materials, silk and cotton.
The Jew Shliomskis lived in Basanavicius Street. He was trading with food, sugar etc.
The Jew Jankelis had a butchers shop with lots of different kinds of meat except pork.
An article from the local newspaper written by a schoolgirl some years ago:
"Our teacher was reading an article about the death of innocent 1125 Jewish people. Babies were crying, but the Germans were throwing them on the ground, grabbing them by their feet. Even the ground was crying. Jewish people were peaceful. Our citizens with love remembered a Doctor Volfovicius, a pharmacist Polinskis, a beautiful doctor's daughter. Now they are lying in a grave in Pestinukai and we school children standing by their grave ask ourselves: Why? What were they guilty of?"
The year of the occupation in Krakes
Memories of Anele Luitkute
We heard about the beginning of the war from my sister who lives in Kaunus. She came to us in June and told us there were lots of people in the streets and everybody was talking about the war. Then I heard from our soldiers that there were wounded, so in Krakes primary school and a Red Cross point was organised. The chief of the farm told my father to take our sheep away from the airport. Soon German soldiers marched in Krakes streets. On the loudspeaker they told everybody to stay at home and not to come out into the streets. People were told to make an airport in order. An airport was not very large and was not far from Krakes. Then I heard the Germans bombed a train. A front line went through Krakes, but it was kept safe nowhere fire could be seen. For about three weeks citizens didn't leave their homes, except for church. I don't know what the Germans were doing. I saw them climbing up the roofs of the houses; they were making telephone lines. It was more horrible after the war not during the war in Krakes when they shot Jewish people from 7 regions. It was the most horrible day during the executions.
My neighbours memories by A. Jubauskas
My neighbours were a Jewish family Moisovitch, Pilsuckis, Moselis, Jankelis, Valteris, Karpovicius, Bajus. Best of all I remember my neighbour Gordonas. There were three of them. He had a daughter who married Mr. Karpovicius. They all were very friendly. When I was building my house I bought all my materials from Gordon.
In August 1941, Gordon and his wife were arrested and closed in the ghetto. Sometimes I brought them food and sometimes the Germans let them out so they came to me. I gave them some money; they asked what people think and talk about but at that time nobody knew of the Germans plans. I saw Gordon for the last time on August 26, 1941. He asked me was it true that in Kediniai Jewish people were shot. I didn't dare to tell him the truth, but from his worried face I understood that he felt the coming tragedy. Our people were not allowed to go to the ghetto for German soldiers were very cruel to the Jews. The Jews lived in very bad conditions in the ghetto. Ten people shared one room. There were not beds for everyone and people lay wherever they could. They shared food between themselves, some of them were already weak and it was easier for guards to watch weak people.
I saw Germans taking Gordon's family to the ghetto. Gordon's wife was crying and praying for help. They took some clothes. The Ghetto had a 2.5 metre high fence and it was impossible to escape.
Memories by J. Ambiasiene
In 1940-41 I was working as a housewife at the pharmacy of the Polunskis family. His wife helped him. Germans closed them in the ghetto. They took some food and clothes. Before that they had to stick sexangle yellow stars on the backs. When they were closed in the ghetto I often brought them food, of course only when the guard was away. Once they drove me away from the fence. Their conditions were awful, they had nothing to eat. They were walking in the ghetto and were asking for food. Once Mr. Polunskis and his wife came to me. I boiled a hen and they ate it and brought some to the others. They kept asking about Jews in the Kedainiai ghetto. I couldn't tell anything to them. They were very sad and were asking, "Why do they treat us in such a way, we didn't do anything bad." They felt the coming tragedy and expected the worst.
Memories by Ona Rekstiene
I heard about the war when I went to a Jewish shop on June 21, 1941. A lot of people were buying kerosene and salt. I asked the Jew, "What does it mean ?" He answered, "Dont you know, the war broke out today !" On June 24 German planes appeared about Krakes. They dropped some bombs on the airport and flew away. The Jewish people were killed on the 5th of September. They were shot by a special troop who were dressed in Lithuanian soldiers uniforms. Those Lithuanians were paid with Jewish property. They could take from Jews everything they wanted. After the tragedy there was a meeting in Krakes. One teacher from the primary school made a thanksgiving speech for "cleaning the settlement of Jewish people". The troop was invited to a Krakes restaurant and left singing songs. This teacher used to come to my husband, for my husband was a shoemaker, and used to say, "Our streets isnt clean either". The Jews were killed on the 5th September 1941, but the Doctor Alperovitch, a barber and a rabbi, were arrested and killed earlier. Drunken policeman and a native citizen Stokis among them. They took the arrested Jews behind a mill. Due to them being very drunk they couldn't shoot correctly. They had bullets only for the Doctor Alperovitch and the Barber, so they let the Rabbi go home. He was shot later together with the others.
A tragedy in Pestinukai from a local newspaper article
1941 September 4 afternoon the chief of Krakes came to Lubauskas house and said, "Take a spade quickly and run to the square." He told the other men the same. Soon there was a group of men in the centre of Krakes. Soon the troop appeared. They arranged the men by fours and took them to Pestinukai. This place was bushy. They were told to dig a pit 2.5 metres long and 2.5 metres deep. They were told not to leave the place till the next morning or they would be shot. The men were working in silence. They were told to sleep on hay in the farmer's stable. In the morning everything became clear. Some men in Lithuanian army's uniform appeared near the pit. They had guns. Soon Jewish people appeared with stars on their backs and chests. Some native citizens were among them. A chief soldier in German uniform began his speech, "I am a German but my mother was a Lithuanian, so I am almost a Lithuanian too. You may believe my words. Nothing wrong will happen to you. We'll shoot only communists and [word that looks like komsomols], the others will be let home. Besides if someone has gold or jewelry, give it to the German government and youll be saved." A Jew Morkelis went ahead and the two killers let him home. The rest had to lie and not to move. By the side of the pit was standing a native citizen J. Aubstikalnis. The chief killer gave a sign and victims began to fall. The killers were real masters because one of them shot 4 Jews at once, saving bullets. A beautiful 18 year old girl with fair hair gives a message to the chief. It says "A priest agrees that I'll become a Christian." A killer says "Lady, it'll be a long ceremony but I'll give you a privilege." A shot -- and a beautiful doctor's daughter falls into the pit with stretched arms.
Then when a guard appears Mr. Morkelis. He hands out a box to a bandit. The killer looks at it, smiles and says, "The German Government is very grateful" and ... a shot. So on September 5, 1941, not far from Krakes, in the village of Pestinukai, 1125 Jewish people were killed. Then the killers had a party in the restaurant. Silent houses, dark windows, people are frightened. They hear drunken peoples voices and ask themselves, "Will revenge come?"
Memories by V. Racichos
5 September 1941 was just a market day. I went to Krakes just at the moment policemen were driving Jewish people to the ghetto. The Jews took clothes and some food, but some of them didnt take anything. While putting them into carts, women and old people were tearing at their hair. Passing by the church they raised their hands up at the sky, praying to God for help. It was horrible. Some native people were following the carts, they were interested in where the Jews were being taken, what would happen to them, perhaps they could help them. When the procession reached the turning to Pestinukai, they understood what was happening. We were not allowed to come nearer. I turned around and went to Krakes. I could hear crying and shouting. Suddenly I heard the sound of guns and the crying stopped. Then I heard shooting again and silence again. I cant forget it even now. I visited the place of tragedy only after two years. It was horrible. No graves, only some marks of the pit. People were afraid to visit this place.
Memories by Valaitis
In August 1941, together with a priest Blucis, we went to Kaunas to see the bishop Brizgys, to discuss some religious problems. He wanted to know how many Jews lived in Krakes. We told him there were a lot of Jews, but they were kept in a ghetto. When he found out that the Jews were not killed yet, he got angry and asked, "Aren't you afraid the Jews may rebel, kill you and bring down Krakes?" I told him that Jews were treated cruelly and he answered, "Dont be sorry for them, they are worthless". When I went back to Krakes, I found out that the Jews were already killed. Some eight days passed after our conversation with the bishop. It might be the priest Blutis who gave the bishops order to shoot the Jews. I know some names of the native killers but they are already dead now.
Memories by K. Gaucas
September 5, 1941 I was at home. 4th September 1941 some people were digging a pit. Next day I saw carts full of people. They were moving towards Pestinukai. Jewish women and children were crying and policemen were pushing them. They took things from Jews, told them to take off their clothes. They put the clothes into trucks, then they drove the Jews by the pit and shot them. Only some photos and bloody clothes were seen here and there.
Memories by Lingiene-Likasaite
In the years of occupation they could do with Jews whatever they wanted because it was the policy of Germans. That day my brother was also told to dig a pit. I went to the police and they told me where my brother was. My husband and I brought him some food and tobacco. Men were not working, they were resting. Germans and uniformed people were driving the Jews. We were not allowed to come near. Then we climbed up on the roof of Gaucas stable and watched what was happening. We heard Mrs. Faiba shouting, "Jesus Christ, help!" Young people were shot first, then women, children and old ones. You cant imagine what sight it was. When shooting children, they behaved as beasts. They were throwing babies to the pit by their feet. The killers did not have many bullets, so they were shooting at random. Some Jews fell in the pit alive, so the next day, one could hear some sighs from the pit. The ground was still pulsing because too little ground was put above the dead bodies. We spent the night at Gaucas place for we were afraid to go home. Then we avoided this place of tragedy.