Truth – Legends / Declarations / Chaim Kulvianski

Résumé

Born in the town of Yanova, near Kovno (Kaunas).

After the German invasion in summer 1941, he was imprisoned, together with his family, in Kovno ghetto.

From the beginning of 1942 an underground began to be organized in this ghetto, which was involved in getting Jews out to the forest and providing them with home-made weapons.

For this purpose, a bunker was set up which included a weapons workshop.  Production was managed by Alter Faitelson and Kulvianski was one of those who worked there. The workshop manufactured cold weapons, compasses, lighters for bombs and other combat accessories.  Weapons obtained in one way or another were also repaired there.

Kulvianski also served as liaison officer when required.

In July 1944 he was sent to the Dachau concentration camp, where he remained until liberation.  (Beit Lohamei Haghetaot Archives)

 

“Jerusalem of Lithuania” No. 1-2 (109-110) January – March 2002:

`RIGHTEOUS AMONG THE NATIONS`

OR A WAR CRIMINAL?

   I would not like to get involved in the heated discussions both in the memoirs and in the press between the former prisoners of Kaunas Ghetto and later partisans Aleksas (Alteris) Faitelsonas, residing in Israel, and Prof. Habil. Dr. Sara Ginaitė-Rubinsonienė, residing in Canada. But I cannot help keeping silent in this particular case when the professor  and co-author Boris Litvak challenge the war crimes committed by col. Jurgis Bobelis who was appointed Kaunas Commandant on 24 June 1941 (before the Nazi came) (`Annals or  Subjective Memoirs` in the daily `Ltovskij kurjer,` No. 5, 2002). They criticize the fundamental work (p. 630) – Memoirs `Those who Refused to Bow. Annals of the Jewish Resistance` (in Russian, Tel Aviv, 2001), and write:

`A. Faitelsonas imposes only his version on the reader by denying the remaining ones,` - states the publication. - ` A vivid example of the said is the Chapter  “Bobelis”. By blaming J. Bobelis <…>, the author gives no valid argument <…>. The only indirect conclusion with regard to this person comes from the fact that in 1947 he worked as an interpreter of the American Army.`

   No valid document? You read and you not believe your eyes: there are plenty of documents of a kind, no matter whether A. Faitelsonas presents them or not. Being a scholar allows to use many other possibilities of getting acquainted with them. It is enough to look through the collection `Lietuvos laikinoji vyriausybė. Posėdžių protokolai` (`provisional Government of Lithuania. Minutes of the Sittings,` compiled by  A. Anušauskas. Vilnius, 2001). The very first meeting of the Lithuanian Government (24 June 1941) arrived at the decision to form the commandment of the Lithuanian Armed Forces by involving J. Bobelis into the so-called `troika`. It took only six days after the first meeting for the Lithuanian Government to hear the report by J. Bobelis and approve the proposal to establish a concentration camp for the Jews, appointing `colonel Bobelis a contact person for this issue.`  On 5 July, the Lithuanian Government approved the draft on the Commandant Office and its formations in Kaunas (those who have doubts about the formations, could read the works by historians A. Bubnys and A. Eidintas). Another two days later, J. Bobelis informed about the setting up of the Ghetto in Vilijampolė. The  colonel did not waste is time in vain. It was not a coincidence that the chief of the German military administration in Kaunas, gen. Robert von Pohl, refused contacts with the Lithuanian Government and agreed to co-operate only with J. Bobelis and burgomaster K.Palčiauskas. On 10 July, these two persons issued a decree (first in Lithuania) on the founding of the Ghetto. On 11 July 1941, archbishop metropolian Prof. Juozapas Skvireckas wrote in is diary: `Today the paper `Į Laisvę` has published a horrifying `Decree by the commandant and burgomaster of Kaunas` against the jews.

   Former prisoner of Kaunas Ghetto and Dachau concentration camp Jeshua  Rozenfeld gave the following evidence to the German police (4-5 June 1956): `instructions that were issued on the initiative of the Lithuanian military administration before the Germans  stepped into the city clearly winessed that the local anti-Semites were not inclined to wait for the directives of the Germans.` In is book `Kaddish to Kaunas. Life and Death in the Lithuanian Ghetto` (published in English, 1988) William W. Michel wrote that the anti-Semitic Lithuanian Army received instructions from the well-known colonel on the radio (23 june), who informed that 100 Jews would be killed for each and every German victim, which clearly instigated pogroms. Somebody (even in the Jewish circles) says that on 25 July, J. Bobelis was dismissed from office allegedly for being `soft`. He was forced to leave after the `local` coup d`etat which highly annoyed Pohl. The latter only thanked J. Bobelis for co-operation (A. Bubnys. `Vokiečių okupuota Lietuva` (`Lithuania under German Occupation), Vilnius, 1998). Later, the colonel was granted a Nazi award for merits.

   The report from the `headquarters of the rebels` in Rumšiškės  (town in the vicinity of Kaunas) appears among the documents worth attention. It says that `on 26 June the Commandant Office of Kaunas received 20 rifles and 20 permits (to act freely round the clock. – S.V.) <…>. Thus, we request an urgent  instruction on what should be done with the detained Jews` (1941 m. birželio sukilimas` (`Revolt of June 1941`), coilected documents compiled by V. Brandišauskas. Vilnius, 2000). The Commandant Office under control of J. Bobelis wasted no time and already on the third day of operations supplied the `rebels` in province with arms and permits to shoot the Jews.

   In 1942, J. Bobelis was appointed Head of the Senior Commission for Accommodation of Population and distributed empty flats formerly owned by Jews. He managed to conceal the `deeds` of his own and those of his subordinates, get into the American military administration, and immigrate to the USA. Is name even appeared among the rescuers of Jews in the book compiled by a Canadian Lithuanian journalist (`A. Gurevičiaus sąrašai` (`Lists by  A. Gurevičius`), Vilnius, 1999). Some of the former subordinates of J. Bobelis also had a  lucky escaped and, instead of appearing as defendants in court, enjoyed the police service in camps for displaced persons in Western Germany (P.Stankeras. `Lietuvių policija 1941 – 1944` (`Lithuanian Police in  1941 – 1944`) Vilnius, 1998). On a number of occasions, S. Ginaitė keeps quoting herself about how J. Bobelis released the fiance of her sister, F. Benjaminovičius, from the 7th Fort. Thanks God. The merits of Vilnius district chief of the Lithuanian Security Police A. Lileikis should not be forgotten in this  respect, as he released a Jewish girl Šifra Grodnik. Should both of them be entitled to Yad Vashem medal?

   Although the article contains some more dubious statements and confusing mixture of memoir and journalistic genres and methods, the mere example of J. Bobelis is enough.


Saliamonas VAINTRAUBAS

P.S. Having completed this article, I received the review by famous writer G. Kanovičius `The second escape` (`Novosti nedeli`, Tel Aviv) where the author highly assessed the  memoirs by A. Faitelsonas. Similar reviews of his work came  from the former Speaker of the Knesset, Shevah Weiss, former French Minister of Culture and Education, S. Weil, German historian, A. Lustiger, author of monographs on the Holocaust and personal biographer of W. Churchill, professor of London and Oxford Universities, Sir M. Gilbert.