Saturday, August 16, 2008

Lithuanian desecration of Jewish mass-grave from Holocaust halted

Nations which participated in the Holocaust and subsequently suppressed that history are having a problem. The bones of their victims keep on turning up unexpectedly in the most inconvenient places.

As you read these reports, keep in mind the following which I reported on this blog recently (read here). According to Dr. Efraim Zuroff, director of the Israeli branch of the Simon Wiesenthal Center:

"To date, Lithuanian governments have not punished a single Lithuanian war criminal. In spite of our considerable efforts and the large amount of information we have given them, they handled three cases with astonishing slowness. Not one of the three served a single day in prison. On the other hand, they're not ashamed to persecute and harass Lithuanian partisans who fought the Nazis. What is common to all these cases is that they're all Jews. Instead of punishing Lithuanian criminals who collaborated with the Nazis and murdered Jews, they're harassing the partisans, Jewish heroes."

from JTA:

Construction plans at the site of a Jewish mass grave in Lithuania have been scrapped. A site near Marijampole where tens of thousands of Jews were killed during the Holocaust recently had been sold to a company that had begun demolishing buildings at the site, disturbing the remains there.

Bones began to appear after concrete pavement at the site was dismantled. Heavy rains sometimes would wash new bones to the surface.

Jewish community leaders asked that the town halt work at the site, and Lithuanian authorities said this week the construction work would cease.

A local newspaper, Lietyvoa Zinios, reported that the remains that had risen to the surface would be buried with the cooperation of Jewish community leaders.

The site is located behind a czarist-era military town near Marijampole. Most of the Jews and other victims of the massacre there were killed by Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators on a single day: Sept. 1, 1941. The site had been marked by a memorial, and the bodies had remained under heavy slabs of concrete and buildings.

more from the Baltic Times:

Authorities of the Lithuanian Jewish community and municipality administration of southern Lithuanian city Marijampole agreed there will be no more digging in the location of mass extermination of Jews. The remains of the killed will be buried, Lietuvos Zinios daily reported.

According to the Marijampole Municipality official in charge Gedeminas Kuncaitis, mass killings of inhabitants on the bend of Sesupe behind a military town built during the reigning of the tsars, took place in 1941.

On September 1st of that year alone, Germans, with the help of some Lithuanians, killed over 5,000 inhabitants here, most of whom were Jews, also killing some Lithuanians and Marijampole's inhabitants of other ethnic origins.

"Approximately some 8,000 people were killed here. The killing site is marked by a memorial, but there are no burial grounds of the victims in the area that is identified in documents as a protected Jewish extermination territory, as they all buried under the buildings of the former military town and its vicinities. This was confirmed by archeological inquiries conducted in 1996", Kuncaitis said.

According to the chief specialist, officers had erected a few military equipment storehouses and an ammo warehouse, and made embankments on the massive killing sites during the Soviet times. After the occupational army left Lithuania following the restoration of its independence, the said buildings were given over to the State Property Fund.

A company owned by Vidas Kalasinskas and Daiva Kalasinskiene bought the buildings this year for demolition. Officials of the Municipality of Marijampole issued a permit for taking down the buildings without prior coordination with specialists of the Department of Cultural Heritage. Human bones were found when tidying up the area and dismantling the concrete pavement. Even though construction works were halted at once and bones lying around on the ground were all gathered, any larger downpour of rain washed new bones afloat to the surface.

According to Kuncaitis, no more demolition works are planned on the burial ground site of massive Jew killings, even though a part of it is still covered in concrete. "It is about a meter thick there, therefore it will be impossible to dismantle it without heavy machinery. It hasn't been decided what to do with embankments made by Russian officers, which also contain the remnants of a large number of people's remains.

An excellent thumbnail sketch of the town is provided by the “Marijampole” chapter from Pinkas Hakehillot Lita translated by Yad Vashem and made available online by the Jewish Geneology website. The following is an excerpt dealing with the massacre:

On Sunday, June 22, 1941, German airplanes bombed Marijampole at dawn and destroyed the center of the city. Some 20 civilians, most of them Jews, were killed. Those made homeless in the bombing found shelter with other Jewish families. The German army entered Marijampole on the following day, June 23, 1941, after they had surrounded the city and blocked the roads leading eastward. Most of the Jews who fled the city were forced to return. Many were murdered by Lithuanians who ambushed the returning Jews. Very few did succeed in fleeing to the Soviet Union. Even during the first days of occupation many Jews were arrested on various and sundry charges. All those arrested were subsequently murdered in a forest 4 kilometers from the city in the direction of Vilkovoshok (cf)[Vilkaviskis]. Every morning Jews were required to leave on various work details; the men in clearing bomb damage and the women in farm work and domestic service. The elderly, including the town's rabbi, R. Heller, were occasionally required to sweep the local streets. Some of the Jewish youth who actively opposed the Germans and their Lithuanian helpers were murdered and some were hanged at the market square.

On July 15, 1941, the Lithuanian regional governor issued an order that prohibited Jews from being found on certain streets, at the local bathing areas, city parks, coffee houses and restaurants, libraries, and other public places. They were forbidden from purchasing food from street vendors, markets, or on the road, but were restricted to stores at fixed hours, which were set by the governor. They were not permitted to make use of services offered by non-Jews and they were required to wear yellow stars on both the front and back of their clothing. One day a group of Jews was brought to the courtyard of the synagogues and were forced to remove the Torah scrolls from the arks and all the other sacred texts from the shelves, gather them into a pile, and set them on fire. That same month an order was issued that required the Jews to abandon their homes and gather in the synagogues and some adjacent houses. In this packed area, it was easier for the Germans to rob the Jews, take them for forced labor, and abuse the young women at night. The Germans would occasionally choose strong young men for forced labor and then murder them on the city's outskirts.

In August, the Germans forced the Jewish youth to dig trenches behind the barracks along the Sesupe River. They knew that these trenches were meant for the Jews. When they told their parents, there were strenuous efforts made to prevent [their mass murder] but to no avail. At the end of the month Jewish communal workers were summoned to the Lithuanian governor who informed them that a large ghetto would soon be established in the cavalry barracks and that all the surrounding area was to be turned over to the Jews. To further mislead them, they were told by the Germans that as long as the war continued, they would be permitted to control the economic and social aspects of their lives [in the ghetto]. The Jews packed their belongings and in a long procession made their way in the direction of the barracks. When they arrived, the men were separated from their families and squeezed into the stables. The following days the men were subject to severe mistreatment that the Germans referred to as 'sporting activities.' Jews from Kazlova-Roda (cf) [Kazlu-Ruda], Ludvinova (cf) [Liudvinavas], and other surrounding localities were also brought to the barracks. On August 30 they were joined by the Jews of Kalvarija. On Monday, 9 Elul, 5701 (September 1, 1941), the Jews of Marijampole were among the 7,000 to 8,000 Jews and 1,000 members of other nations who were murdered in the valley next to the Suspe River. They were all buried in the eight trenches previously dug. Each trench was 70 meters long and 3 meters wide. The mass executions continued from 10 o'clock in the morning until 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The majority of the murderers were Lithuanians and among them were many high school and university students. The men, stripped completely naked, were brought to the trenches in groups of between 100 and 200. They were forced to lie in rows and were shot from above by machine guns. When the turn of the women and children came, chaos reigned. The drunken murderers pushed their victims into the pits and smashed the skulls of the children with clubs and spades. Eyewitnesses among the Lithuanian workers who were brought the following day to cover the trenches said that the earth there continued to move for days. Two Jewish families committed suicide -- Dr. David Rosenfeld poisoned himself, his wife and his daughter. Cantor Lansky did likewise with his wife and three children.

The site of the mass graves near the military barracks and the Monument at the site. The inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian says:

"Here blood was spilled of about 8000 Jewish children, women, men and of 1000 people of different nationalities, that the Nazis and their local helpers cruelly murdered in September 1941"

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