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THE MARTYRS OF MAZEIKIAI   by Barbara Gail Aharoni

 

The following account is from personal testimonies collected for Yad Vashem,  from a trial held during Aug 1958 in Soviet Lithuania, and personal history of my family.

 

Mazeikiai was a district capital in northern Lithuania , adjacent to the Latvian border. It was connnectd to the nearest seaport of Memel by train. 

 

On Wednesday June 25, 1941, The Germans entered the town.  There were approximately one thousand Jews living and working in Mazeikiai.

 

My paternal grandmother, Blumeh Gittel Gordon Aronowitz, was a well known , very successful, businesswoman in Mazeikiai. She was so successful that she loaned monies to the Lithuanian government during the 1930’s to help the faltering economy.  She owned and operated a large warehouse for petroleum, and produce including sugar, salt and herring; as well as several other properties in town.  She was 67 years old then, the widow of Rabbi Yaakov Zalman Aronowitz, and the mother of nine children. Other Gordon relatives, aunts, uncles and cousins lived and worked in Mazeikiai also. By 1941 only one of her children, my Uncle Moshe, remained in Lithuania to help run her business, boardinghouse and other properties.

 

The day before the German entry , a groups of Lithuanian “activists” took over the town and set up a new town governing structure. Seeking a way to resolve the “Jewish problem’ in Mazeikiai and the district, the “activisits” eyed the large granaries near the Vente River These granaries were considered suitable for warehousing the Jews of Mazeikiai and the district.

 

Early July 1941 the authorities ordered all the Jews to leave their homes and gather in the synagogue /school. There were some who publicly refused to obey. They were shot dead . The only Jew that was allowed to return to the town was a physician , Dr. Krongold. .

 

 The synagogue school was only a transfer station.  The Jews were kept there a few days and then transferred to the granaries. In the granaries the men were separated from the women and children. The men over age 15  remained there, while all the others along with the women and children were transferred to a large estate near the town of Tirkshl .

 

During the month of  July the men were forced to do manual labor at the train station, under rough and cruel conditions, sometimes traveling with the cargo to unload the cargo at the destinations.  In such cases, the Jews had to walk back.

 

On Sunday August 3rd 1941 (10th of Av 5701). All the men were taken from the granaries and brought to pits in the ground that had been dug nearby, near the Jewish cemetery. They were brought there in small groups and a company of “activists” murdered them by shooting. 

 

From the pit, rising from the pile of dead, dying and wounded, Mr Kalman Rachmel lifted his head and cried out to the murderers;” Our blood will not remain silent! Revenge will come!”.  A shot silenced him forever.

 

About 2000 men from Mazeikiai and many nearby towns were murdered that day during five hours . The activists were rewarded with the clothing and belongings of their victims. Then they had a festive meal.

 

On Tuesday the fifth of August 1941, all the women and children were returned from Tirkshla to the granaries. On that day Dr, Krongold was also returned from town. Four days they were held in the granaries. On Saturday  Aug 9th they were all brought to the pits where their husbands, fathers, brothers and sons had been murdered.. The women were brought first. After the women , it was the children’s turn. For the children a simpler method was used. They were just thrown in the long pits and shot. Then the murderers brought dirt and lime, filled in the pits and so buried the children, the dead, the wounded, the still living, all together.  Among them was my grandma Blume Gittel Gordon Aronowitz.

 

 When the war was over my father received a very short letter dated Jan .23,1945 from the remaining Mazeikiai town physician Dr Vladas.Burba. “ Dear Mr Aronowitz…. I must give you some sad news. You mother, brother and family Rachmel were killed by the Germans in 1941. The Germans then executed approximately 4000 people in Mazeikiai. The times then were terrible. The city of Mazeikiai suffered much. Your home was completely destroyed. The only thing that was left in Mazeikiai was the hospital and this is in very bad shape.”

 

For reasons we do not know, my Uncle Moshe had escaped the fate of the Martyrs of Mazeikiai during those horrifying days. Through the USA liberation forces,my father later received a document certifying that his brother Moshe ,was held in Dachau Concentration camp from July 15, 1944- until his death on April 23, 1945 He was 41 years old.

 

I was born November 15, 1946 and given the name Blume Gittel, Barbara Gail.

 

And  today, Yom Kippur 5765, I have fulfilled the last words of my dear cousin, Mr. Kalman Rachmel: whose voice rose from the pit and was heard…

 

 “ Our blood will not remain silent!”

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Compiled by Raymond Ravinsky
Updated: March, 2009
Copyright © 2009 Raymond Ravinsky

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