Neue Zeitung, Thursday April 22 1999 – 3 Iyar 5759
Following up items we have published
“When you seek, you will find” – this statement, in all its different forms, is common in my opinion in every language, because it states the truth. This is also confirmed in the long article “The Massacre in Lietukis Garage” by the writer, recorder of memories and historian-researcher Alex (Alter) Faitelson, published in four issues of Neue Zeitung at the end of 1998 and beginning of 1999.
In 1993 Faitelson published a multi-dimensional book, over 400 pages, called “In Sturm un Gerangl” (In Storm and Struggle), about his experiences during the period of the Nazi occupation of Lithuania, and especially Kovno - the bloody persecution of the Jews at the very beginning of the Nazi invasion of Lithuania in Kovno ghetto, the forced labor, joining the Anti-Fascist Combat Organization (AKO), the failed attempt to reach the Augustov Forest and set up a partisan camp there on instruction from Moscow. On the way there, he and the other ghetto fighters fell into the hands of the Gestapo, who sent him to the Ninth Fort, where the Germans were beginning to eliminate the mass graves of tens of thousands of Jews, both from Kovno and expellees from outside Lithuania. The bodies of those who had been murdered were taken out of their graves and burned… And then came the organization of the escape of the corpse burners, in which Faitelson played a dominant role. Afterwards, the arrival in the partisans’ forest in Rudnicki; and more and more acts of combat filling Faitelson’s book. Before our eyes the road taken by a daring man in the Nazi vise unfolds.
The book immediately proved its worth. It was translated into Hebrew, English, German, and a French version is also in the works – a rare phenomenon for a book written in Yiddish.
In the time between one translation and the next, the author did not sit back and twiddle his thumbs. He continued to search out new and authentic material on the subject – documents, photographs of events, and also of the Nazi hangmen, filling out facts and adding new ones. In this context he proved inaccuracies in the “Encyclopedia of the Holocaust” with regard to Kovno, including the fact that the photograph of the commander of the Gestapo in Kovno is not authentic.
For the purpose of his current search, he contacted the Archives Center in Munich and received information on the place where he could find material on the period, the events and the people in whom he was interested. The place was the Central Legal Archive (Zentrale Stelle der Landesjustizverwaltungen) in the German town of Ludwigsburg.
Faitelson went there and worked in this institution, and his labors were not in vain. He found the name of the man who, together with other Lithuanian criminals, on the night of June 25 1941, the day after the German invasion of Kovno, in a pogrom in the Kovno quarter of Slobodka, murdered over 800 souls. It is a well-known fact that Rabbi Zalman Osovski, who sat wrapped in his prayer shawl studying a book, was beheaded by the killer and his head fell onto the book. The same murderer also slaughtered the family of the Zionist activist Mordechai Jatkunski – his head rolled into one corner of the room, his body in the other corner, his wife lay half naked with her breasts slashed, the children – chopped to pieces. Faitelson discovered the name of the wild beast on two legs who carried out this atrocity with an antique military sword.
The massacre in “Lietukis” Garage took place two days later, in broad daylight. There some 60 Jews were murdered, without a single shot – clubbed to death with iron bars, axes, and heavy hammers. The bodies were piled up into a heap and the conductor of this act of slaughter climbed up onto the heap and began playing the mouth-organ. The participants in the massacre and interested bystanders joined in the chorus, dancing and clapping their hands. The mouth-organ player began the “concert” with the national anthem of Lithuania and all the audience joined in the choir.
The end of the two evil murderers is worth noting – after the liberation of Lithuania from the Nazi plague the two moved to the forest to organize an anti-Soviet terrorist group there. They employed systematic terror against the farmers, who were neutral with regard to the Soviet administration, and murdered representatives of the Soviets and farmers who had saved Jews. The criminals set light to the homes and barns of their victims. When they came up against Soviet forces the “Sword Slayer” was killed. The chief spearman, who had carried out the massacre in the garage, made a “career”: he succeeded in reaching America, where he published a book called “The Partisans”, in which he describes the “acts of heroism” of the anti-Soviet fighters in the forests. Equipped with money, forged papers and a radio broadcasting transmitter he was dropped by parachute into a Lithuanian forest, to a group of anti-Soviet terrorists, in the hope that England and America would fight for Lithuania’s independence and then the forest fighters would be rescued… In one of the battles against the Soviet forces, this man was killed.
These and other details about the Lithuanian Nazis were found by Faitelson and recounted in a series of four articles “The Lietukis Garage Massacre”, for which the Jewish press owes him gratitude and appreciation.
The period discussed by the four articles is very brief – 19 days in all, from the beginning of the war until the Nazi administration established itself in Kovno and the Gestapo took the reins into its hands. But this brief period of time was sufficient for the Lithuanians to murder between seven and eight thousand Jews, after taking away their human rights and giving them the right to exist only in complete isolation from the surroundings, in the ghetto.
Much has been written about this period in journals, memoirs, encyclopedias and history books on the period of the Nazi occupation, and is being written to this day. Faitelson does not make do with what there is. He began an in-depth search, his main and vital interest being in uncovering previously unknown facts and the names of the leaders of the murderers. He was given the impetus to do this by an article in the Lithuanian press denying the massacre in Lietukis Garage, according to which the incident there was that a number of members of the NKVD wanted to seize a vehicle with the help of their weapons and escape to Russia… The newspaper disseminated this nonsense and found many people to believe it. Faitelson saw it as his duty to prove the truth with documentary evidence. He toiled, searched, poked around, and found what he was looking for. And thus he confirms the old saying, “when you seek, you will find”. He revealed historical facts in Jewish history which had lain dormant in the dark of the archives.