Lives Remembered

Deportations from Lithuania

1. Reminiscences by Ludwik Seidenmann

Translator's note: These two accounts by Poles arrested by the NKVD during the 1941 deportations were recorded by representatives of the London-based Polish government-in-exile. The annotation on Ludwik Seidenmann's report says that he was a Zionist (this is probably why he was arrested). Harvey Sarner's General Anders and the soldiers of the Second Polish Corps (a review of this book will appear in a forthcoming issue of SR) says that Seidenmann (identified as Seideman) was a lawyer and nephew of the Bundist leader Henryk Erlich. After his release from the Soviet jail, Seidenmann served as a legal advisor to the Polish Embassy in Kuibyshev.

The annotation on Jozef Rodziewicz's report says that he was a postal clerk by profession and lived in Kazimierz before World War II. The two were probably released after the Nazi attack on the USSR.

Mass deportations from Lithuania into the USSR took place in the last week before the Soviet-German war broke out. The deportations began during the night of 13-14 June 1941 and lasted until 20 June 1941. According to estimates, during that time some 40,000 people were deported, including 10,000 each from Wilno and Kowno [Kaunas]. People of all social strata and nationality were deported, and it is hard to speculate about the general principle underlying these deportations. The war started on 22 June, and from that day on it was impossible to confirm either the extent of deportations or the names of those deported. The victims were generally those regarded as 'socially harmful or undesirable.' For several months preceding the deportations, the NKVD employees were engaged in composing the lists of people to be deported. Later, it became clear that these lists were composed haphazardly and were based on apparently unconfirmed denunciations. From Wilno, the following people were deported: well-to-do merchants, industrialists, real estate owners, former Polish military men, Polish white collar workers, Roman Catholic priests, monks and nuns, Jewish rabbis and rabbinical school students (so-called yeshibotniks); but also quite a few manual laborers, small traders, persons suspected of speculation, homeless and prostitutes. Those refugees [from Nazi-occupied Poland] who took Lithuanian citizenship and had jobs found themselves deported more often than not, but so did those who did not take the citizenship and did not plan to go further abroad. It is interesting to note that, contrary to rumors, those refugees who registered themselves as intending to leave for the West generally were NOT deported. A few of those were deported, e.g., a former Polish officer.

The deportation process went on as follows. An NKVD truck would approach the house where the target family lived. Two of the three NKVD men who came in the truck entered the house and told the victims to pack up. Some people got twenty minutes to pack, others, an entire day. The manner was rude, the soldiers did not give any consideration to age or illness. There were cases when persons to be deported were carried into the truck on a stretcher. Then the load of deportees was taken to cattle wagons which were already waiting for them on a side track of the railway station. Some trains went from Wilno to Nowa Wilejka, where relatives of victims could search for them, delivering money and food. Others departed straight for the USSR. There were several cases when a person was released owing to some special circumstances. Most of those released were ill and very old. Unconfirmed rumors said that these trains were then unloaded somewhere along the Moodeczno-Minsk-Orsza route, and wagons were requisitioned for the army. Other rumors had it that the majority of trains went to Kazakhstan.
Kujbyszew, 24 October 1941.

2. From Wilejka To Riazan, by Corporal Jozef Rodziewicz

(as recorded by K. Galas)

As a Polish military man, I was arrested by the Soviets when they invaded Poland, and imprisoned in the Wilejka county jail together with some 1,600 others. When the Soviet-German war broke out, all prisoners were led out and ordered to march in the direction of Pleszczenice, Logojsk and Borysow. We were surrounded by NKVD guards. During the march, some dozen people were told to return back to Wilejka, probably to be shot. The march lasted four and a half days virtually without rest, and totally without food or water.

On [Soviet-occupied] Polish territory the guards' behavior was bearable, but as soon as we crossed the border it became worse. The situation was aggravated by the fact that the German army moved on fast, and one could hear the noise of German planes. The guards used both words and bayonets to make the prisoners walk faster. Soon seven NKVD men were killed by German bombs, while only one prisoner was wounded. The second German raid brought similar results. This made the NKVD men mad, especially when they saw the older and weaker people fall down. We all dropped the bundles we had. Those who could not get up by themselves were shot. When we got to the Beresina River, instead of shooting the guards used bayonets to kill those who had fallen. We were hungry but thirst was the worst. Some people bit their lips to get a drop of blood; they also drank their urine.

In Borysow, each of us got four pieces of hard tack and a bit of water, and we were put on trains heading for Riazan by way of Moscow. The journey lasted eight days. During that time, the prisoners received a couple of pieces of hard tack twice, and also four pieces of sugar and some water. The following people died of exhaustion during that journey: Klaudiusz Mirowicz from Wilejka (his corpse lay in the wagon for three days, until in Riazan the NKVD ordered us to take it out and leave it on the platform; Dr. Andrzej Wiercinski; and several others whose names I do not remember. Jozef Jaroszewicz, deputy postmaster in Wilejka, committed suicide as he could no longer bear thirst and pain. In my presence two persons were shot by the NKVD: an attorney from Wilno named Czernikow and Witold Dziergacz, a landowner from Niestaniszki. The following were shot and then 'finished off' with bayonets: Jan Kostrzewski from Swieciany, an employee of the Treasury (he was killed near the village of Chatucicze, some 10-15 km from the Polish border); a merchant from Wilejka named Koblenc; deputy mayor of Wilno Nagorski; a student from Warsaw named Sikorski who was arrested as he tried to cross from Latvia to Poland; an engineer named Wojnowski who was a renter in Czurlony (Wilejka county); a certain other landowner whose name I do not remember and whose estate was a few kilometers away from the town of Swir (Captain Waligorski of Tock knows the details of this); a sergeant in the Polish army named Dangiel; a liquor producer from Lyntupy Edward Tomaszewicz; Stanislaw Romanowski, a farmer from Brasaw county; an agronomist named Muraszko who was director of an agricultural school in Luczaj; a certain Koltanc from Wilejka county; Edward Wierzbicki from Wiszniewo near Swir; a certain Michalowski from Dziesnie county and many, many others, so that of the original 1,600, about 400 did not make it to Riazan. I should like to add that the cruelest of all were the local Riazan police.

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