“Contact information obtained from official sources led us to Feiga – a Jewish survivor who spent almost three years in the Kaunas ghetto. Her remarkable interview provides a deep insight into life on the other side of the fence. The witness told us that the persecution of the Jews began before the creation of the ghetto. Lithuanians used to come to Jewish houses and accuse them of shooting through their windows. By a stroke of good luck, Feiga’s family escaped punishment for those false accusations, but according to the witness, many Jews perished in this way.
Feiga, born in 1926, went through all the burdens and misery of life in the ghetto: the numerous “aktions” and permanent atmosphere of death, prohibitions of using sidewalks and making contact with city residents, desperate attempts to exchange belongings for food and smuggle it to the ghetto, as well as forced labor. But the latter became her chance to survive. One day while working at the airfield, she escaped and found shelter at the farm of a villager who knew her father. According to Feiga, everybody who left the ghetto for work could escape quite easily, but the problem was that most of the Jews had nowhere to go, as opposed to her case".
During this research trip, the Yahad-In Unum team interviewed 41 witnesses and identified 16 mass graves. Most of the interviews provided a closer look at the different steps of mass shootings, and also at Jewish life before the war.
Region: Kaunas County
Cities and Towns Investigated:
Raseiniai, Gabšiai, Norgėlai, Šarkiai, Biliūnai, Anulynas, Sukuriškiai, Paklaniai, Kalnujai, Palendriai, Lyduvėnai, Naudvaris, Ribukai, Žalpiai, Girkalnis, Betygala, Nemakščiai, Pužai, Gaidėnai, Ariogala, Gėluva, Uždubysys, Budriškė, Jučiai, Lesčiai, Algimantai, Žąsinai, Padargupiai, Negirva, Lenčiai, Plembergas, Didžiuliai, Noliečiai, Pagojys, Paturkšlys, Požėčiai, Molupiai, Paliūnė, Šlapučiai, Plikiai, Veliuona, Raudonė, Seredžius, Vilkija, Jaučakiai, Kėdainiai, Vilainiai, Apytalaukis, Dotnuva, Akademija, Keleriškiai, Pelėdnagiai, Paobelys, Medekšiai, Liogailiškiai, Zabieliškis, Šventoniškis, Klamputė, Tubiai, Kėboniai, Ruminiai, Bogušiškiai, Kropilai, Bartkūniškiai, Pasmilgys, Janušava, Krakės, Stakiai, Babtai, Kaunas, Giraitė.
According to Lithuanian historian Arūnas Bubnys, Kaunas County virtually occupies the central role in the history of the Holocaust in Lithuania because it was the administrative and political center of the country during the Nazi occupation. Before the war, almost all of the country’s district centers were populated by Jewish communities. Jews were mostly involved in trading and crafts, and participated in cultural, sports and other public organizations.
The persecution of the Jews began on the first days of the German occupation, and sometimes even days before. One of the first and most infamous incidents happened in “Lietūkis” garage in Kaunas on June 27, 1941, when dozens of Jewish men were publicly tortured and beaten to death. In the beginning, Jews were often persecuted for political reasons, i.e. for supporting the Soviet regime. Several weeks later, a full-scale genocide began. By October 1941, there were no Jews left in Kaunas County.
The following characteristics emerged from this research:
– Mass shooting caught on camera
Witnesses also mentioned the presence of German photographers during the mass executions in the region.
– Forced labor before the execution
During the German occupation, the Jews from Kėdainiai and the surrounding areas were also subjected to forced labor. They were imprisoned in a barn at a property near the airfield and were forced to work at the airfield, which was heavily damaged at the beginning of the war. According to Vaclavas, who was born in 1923 and was requisitioned to work with them, the Jews wore stars on their clothing. The work was directed by a German officer.
– Massacres that were nearly forgotten
Memorials are extremely rare at the sites of isolated or small scale executions. Yahad’s mission is crucial for identifying those sites and preserving the memory of the atrocities committed there.
– Life behind the fence
Contact information obtained from official sources led us to Feiga – a Jewish survivor who spent almost three years in the Kaunas ghetto. Her remarkable interview provides a deep insight into life on the other side of the fence.