Letter to Ruth Green, Cape Town
My dearly loved Cousins ,
I kiss you and hold you. I feel as though I can see you. I cry. I cry for our suffering and joy. Believe me, until I came to Italy I did not cry, not even when I was in Lithuania four months ago. I went all over and I did not cry and now I can't hold back my tears. They are pouring from my eyes. Don't be cross with me at what I am going to write to
you, crying as you can see. They are tears of joy - soft tears.
My dears, I lived in order to get that first letter from you telling me that my dears are well. I have read your letter hundreds of times. I cried, suffered and suffered and re-suffered my dear ones. So much suffering that it is no wonder that I became ill. It is a wonder, a miracle that I managed to arrive in May in Ponedel [Pandelys], my birth town.
I came to your house. The house still stands just the same as it was before - the little yatka, the butchery, is there, the stable is there, the garden is there, the brunem well where you got the water from is there. But my dearly beloved father Joseph, my mother Freda, Chaya and Rachmiel, my sister and brother-in-law and their small children - all,
all are gone! It is a miracle that my heart did not collapse. Then I felt happy to think that my dear ones were safe in South Africa. Ruth, even the colour you and I painted on the floor before you left for South Africa is still there. Then I got hardened and started to investigate the facts about the Lithuanian bandits, about everything and everybody and I
am going to write briefly about what happened.
When the War started nobody realized that Germany would soon overrun the country of Lithuania. They thought that they had time to get out - first the children, young women and old parents. But it was not to be that way. The Red Army was good for nothing - they too ran like the devil himself. The Lithuanian Catholic Christians started against the
Russian "Savetsky Vlest" but they could not fight the Russians, so they started instead with the Jews.
All roads were blocked and only a few Jews managed to escape. My father, and Rachmiel with his two horses and the family and all the Jews from Ponedel drove to the border of Sevenishick [Suvainiskis] but the Lithuanian Roman Catholics had closed the road. They robbed and beat the Jews so they had to go back to their houses in
After a few weeks in their homes instructions were issued that all Jews were to gather at the big market place. The Lithuanian Bandits shot the Rabbi, Berka, the son of Moses, and Rufka, the son of Ichick. Once all the Jews were together they were pushed into a big stone house belonging to Simcha Shmuel Shies. They were locked in for days. After this
they were driven on foot to Rakeshik [Rokiskis] 28 kilometres from Ponedel. About 13,000 Jews were driven from Rakeshik to Melumel, 3
km from Rakeshik, to the big forest there. There the young Jewish men had to dig a big hole. They dug not knowing why. Then the Lithuanian Bandits started shooting. They shouted "Kind und Kerk
The last to be shot was Jankel Shreiberg. The bullet hit him on the shoulder. He fell on top of them. He was not dead. The Lithuanians covered them with just four inches of soil. The cries from the grave were enough to kill. Jankel soon pushed away some soil so that he could breathe and waited until dark set in. Then he pushed away enough soil so that
he could get out. He knew Rakeshik and had a friend who had a bicycle. He went to the house where the bicycle stood at the back of the house and off he went riding to the border at Dvinsk. The Russians still held the town. He rode at night, ate
grass, and hid in the forest during the day time. It happened about the 13th October. He escaped deep into Russia.
Our house is still there but almost the whole town has been burned down, from Mr. Meliz up to our house has been burned down. From our house to the end of Birz street
remains. The other side of the street from the Shammas's house down to the end of Simcha Shmuel Shies's house is also still there.
Now I will write about whom from my family remained alive. My brother Iserke is alive and well and has a wife and child. He was a great general in the Russian army and lives in
Klaipeda near Memel. He is a Director, but would love to get out - it is difficult with a small baby. His sister Chaya was a good child and ran away with him to Russia at the
beginning of the war. After the war they came to Lodz in Poland where she met a young man, Meyer Shumaker, and got married. Eliyahu walked to Czechoslovakia and Austria, and over the mountains of Austria to Italy until he came to Milan where he was so ill that the authorities sent him to a good place to get well, a sanatorium run by the organization, the
I am sick with lung trouble. I am honestly sick. All the tragedies I went through, and the sufferings in the Russian Army broke my health completely. I have been here for two months - who knows how much longer I will have to be here. The doctors and the sisters are very nice to me. They want me to get fatter. I must eat more but I have no appetite and
the food does not always taste nice.
I thank you Ruth for the two pounds you sent me. I bought something that I like. I cannot always manage to eat. Don't get cross with me. The doctors and sisters beg me to eat. I promised I will eat. Oh! I want to get well, I so want to see you all. My dear ones, this letter is the first one to you all. Please you must all write to me. My dear, I
cannot write any longer although I have a lot to tell. I will write again later. Regards to all those who are from Ponedel. The Sister will not allow me to write any more as I am bleeding and I must lie flat.
Your cousin,Abras Smidt,
Merano Sanatorium ATDC, Italy.