Native of Rokiskis
is an excerpt from the book Road
to Victory: Jewish Soldiers in the 16th Lithuanian Division,
edited by Dorothy Leivers, published by Avotaynu,
2009. The book contains many first-person accounts by Lithuanian Jews
who fought in the 16th Lithuanian Division of the Red Army, as well as a
memorial section listing 1,215 soldiers who died, giving their name,
father’s given name, year of birth, rank, date and place of death. It
is used with permission of both author and publisher.|
I was a
driver in the fire service in Rokiskis when on the 26th June 1941,
with the Germans stationed close to our small town, a group of friends and I
escaped eastwards in a truck. However
when Lithuanian nationalists were shooting at us and we tried to join the
retreating Russian division, the Russian soldiers refused to let us continue
our escape with them. One Major
shouted at us, “Jews, why are you creating a panic?
Go home. We will soon drive
away the Germans.” Luckily, we
did not heed his advice. We
returned to Rokiskis where a few more Jewish friends joined us on our truck
and we managed to escape to
. [Velikiye Luki is about 193 miles or 311 kilometers east of
I arrived at
the Lithuanian Division in February 1942 and I was sent to 156th
Brigade to an anti-tank unit. Six
months later I was sent to serve as a carter in the transport unit, but I
asked our brigade doctor, Robinson, if he would attach me to him.
Until the war ended I fought within the framework of the medical
company of the 156th Brigade. I
was injured during an air attack and when I left the hospital I returned to my
company. After the war I was
released from the army as handicapped.
pathways of the war I often met friends from my hometown, Rokiskis.
Many of them were killed in the war, including Herzl Sandler and
Nechemia Klug. I can say with a
clear conscience that our Jewish young men from Rokiskis did not bring shame
to their name.
Shmuel Rif, war-disabled Ber-Sheva.
[In looking for
information on the people mentioned in this excerpt, I found a marriage record
for a Nechemia Klug. The son of Tsipe Veich and Mikhel Klug, both from
Rokiskis, he was born in 1913 in Panemunelis. On January 26, 1937
he married Leah Katz, born in 1906 in Vilnius. Nechemia was a shoemaker.
I was unable to locate any information on either Shmuel
Rif or Herzl Sandler in the Rokiskis files owned by the Rokiskis SIG.
They were probably too young to be listed in the 1908 Family List and too old
to be listed in the Rokiskis Rabbinate Birth records. Please let me know
if you have any information about Shmuel Rif, Herzl Sandler, or Nechemia Klug.