Truth – Legends / Kozlovski’s Provocation
Thursday, September 25,1941. That same day, Shalitan, head of our line, did not manage to distribute the working documents for the night shift to all the workers at the airfield. My cousin Alter Schuster and I had to go on the morrow to Shalitan’s house in order to get the document. On the following day, September 26, the two of us went to look for Shalitan’s house. He lived in the old quarter of Slobodka. We got up late after returning from the night shift. It was already three in the afternoon. We set out from Linkuvos Street, crossing Ariogalo Street, and, passing Mesininku Street past Vidurinio, we came across a crowd running from the inner lanes towards Ariogalo Street, from which we had come. Panic-stricken men, women and children pushed one another and Schuster and I were caught up within the crowd like in a whirlpool and could not get out. On asking what had happened, we could barely evoke an answer, and finally understood that the Germans and the Lithuanian “partisans” had surrounded the ghetto and expelled everyone from their homes. Where to, no one knew. We understood that an action was taking place which had only one end – death.
We finally managed to free ourselves from the crowd and pushed our way past the high and long wooden fence, some twenty meters from Ariogalo Street. I peered through the crevices between the wooden slats and saw a stretch of tall wild grass. I whispered to my cousin that we should climb over the fence and lie quietly in the tall grass at a distance from the fence where we would be hidden from sight. As we lay in our hiding place, we heard the masses of people retreating but we were afraid to raise our heads.
Suddenly we heard the sound of heavy steps and then the sound of breathing, and voices in Lithuanian...I pressed into the ground with my whole body... we heard windows and doors being forced open, the weeping of women and children, the patter of feet, the sound of heavy boots running past us and suddenly silence. We decided to go back and try to find out what had been going on around us.
We entered a large courtyard where remnants of the burnt-out synagogue were still evident. Nearby a high barbed-wire fence surrounded the ghetto, in the section near Krisciukaicio Street and the ghetto gate. The small houses in the courtyard looked orphaned, with their doors and windows unhinged and laundry still hanging on their lines. A deathly silence prevailed. Could it be true that we were alone in the ghetto?
Returning, we again hid in the tall grass. We were wearing light clothes and it was cold lying there on the ground. We trembled from the cold and our teeth chattered ... what were we to do? The night workers were supposed to appear in the morning, if they had not been wiped out. If they appeared, would it be a sign that there were still Jews in the ghetto? But what happened if they did not turn up? We would go to town and stay with some Lithuanian acquaintances and then decide what to do. We could not stay here where we would most likely freeze to death.
We entered the first house we came across. In the cupboard we looked for something warm to wear. There was an alarm clock standing on the table and I set it to ring at six in the morning and kept it under a pillow I found on the bed. At night, the Germans or the Lithuanian “partisans” would not be able to go about stealing. We would leave at dawn and hide until some of the airfield workers appeared. And so, sleeping under the blanket and dressed in warm clothes, we fell asleep, worn out from the past few hours...
It was Saturday, September 27, 1941. The clock under the pillow rang very faintly and we left the house and again hid amidst the grass near the barbed-wire fence. We looked toward the bridge of Slobodka, awaiting the arrival of the night shift. An hour of anticipation and despair passed. Another hour passed and we were still waiting. Finally, the first trickle of airfield workers appeared. Evidently there were still Jews in the ghetto. We replaced the warm clothes and turned to the small gate of the courtyard from Ariogalo Street. The street was empty, with only German guards wandering about. In Linkuvos Street across the way, there were many women awaiting their husbands who should have been returning from the airfield. We agreed that the moment the guards turned their backs on us, we would cross to the other side of the street and mix with the crowd standing in Linkuvos Street.
The women noticed us. The guards turned to the left. My cousin Alter started to run and I heard a woman’s voice: “Do me a favor, close the door of my house.” I stopped for minute without thinking about what I was doing. I turned back, entered the house, closed the door and returned to the wicket gate – and standing there was the German guard moving in my direction. I suddenly returned to my senses and could not forgive the foolish woman [Miriam Fisher] or myself for being so stupid. My nerves were so taut that I had acted almost unconsciously.
The guards were marching between me and the people on the other side of the road who seemed to understand what was happening here. They began to make all kinds of signs and pointed to the guards. The woman who had detained me was chased away. And finally the guards turned their backs on me and marched down Ariogalo Street. I quickly crossed the road and merged with the crowd, with the ruins of the synagogue and the tall wild grass that had served as our haven behind me.
At home, I found my mother standing and gazing at my photograph which had been standing on the chest of drawers, with two candles lit alongside the picture.
Two days before, the guards of the Jewish Council informed us that from the ruins in Krisciukaicio Street near the entrance to the ghetto, shots were fired at the commander of the guards, SS Sergeant Vili Kozlovski. SS Master Sergeant Helmut Rauca arrived and blamed the Jewish Council for the slipshod supervision of the ghetto. Rejecting all the excuses and apologies offered him, he remarked severely, "...if we say that there were shots – there were shots!”
One day later, September 26, the following instructions were issued:
“Order of the S. D. Command, 26. 9. 41.
The inhabitants of Velionos Street must leave their houses immediately and assemble in the Sajungos Square.
Signed: The Jewish Council.”
September 26. I again hid with my cousin Alter in the wild grass surrounding the ruins of the synagogue near the ghetto gate. On this day, the Jews left their homes in Krisciukaicio Street, Velionos Street, Mesininku Street, Ariogalo Street and others, and gathered in Sajungos Square. After sorting them out on the spot, some 1845 Jews were taken to the Ninth Fort and shot to death – among them, 315 men, 712 women and 818 children.