Evidence of Jewish Escapees from
Kovno On the Burning of the Bodies
(December 26, 1943)
Protocol, Kovno, December 26, 1943
We, the undersigned, a group of prisoners from the Ninth
Fort, who escaped from there during the night from the 25th to the 26th of
December of this year, consisting of: J.L. Vaslenitzki [Vasilenko], A.
Diskant, A. Faitelson, M. Gelbtrunk, P. Krakinowski, M. Daitz, A. Wilenczuk,
T. Pilownik, Gempel, Sh. Idelson, and A. Menaiski have put together this
protocol regarding the following:
1. In the period of the years 1941-42, the area of the
Ninth Fort was used by the German Command to carry out mass shootings.
2. In order to conceal this crime, the German Command,
in the person of the Commander of the Kovno Gestapo, arranged for the
re-opening of all the graves where the victims of the executions had been
buried and set about burning the bodies.
3. In order to carry out this work the Gestapo collected
72 persons at the Ninth Fort at the end of October and beginning of
November of this year. These were 34 Soviet prisoners of war, 14 Jewish
partisans, 3 local Russians, caught while carrying out sabotage, 4 women
– 3 of them Jewish, one Polish – and 17 Jews from the Kovno ghetto.
4. The work was organized in such a fashion that the
surrounding population should not find out anything about it, and in fact
that nobody should know what was being done in the area of the Ninth Fort.
Notices were put up everywhere at a distance of 2 kms. forbidding closer
approach under threat of execution. The working area of 2-3 acres was
surrounded with a canvas (screen). None of the people who carried out the
work was intended ever to leave the Fort alive. This is supported by the
fact that one of the Jews from the ghetto, who was taken ill with
appendicitis, was shot on November 5, and 7 of the prisoners of war –
older men and invalids – were shot on November 13 of this year. There
then remained 64 persons for the work.
5. During the period of the work, i.e., from November 1
until December 25 (the day of the escape), 4½ graves were opened, each of
them 100-120 meters long, 3 meters wide and 1½ meters deep. More than
12,000 bodies were taken out – men, women, children. These bodies were
piled up together, 300 at a time, to be burned. What was left after the
burning (charcoal and bones) was ground down to powder in pits. This powder
was then mixed with earth so that no trace of it should remain.
6. In order to prevent any escapes during work, the
workers were linked together with chains. There were towers for
machine-guns. The guards were armed with submachine-guns and pistols.
7. Among the 12,000 bodies burned there were about 7,000
Jews from Kovno....
8. The position of the bodies was proof that groups of
people were driven into the graves and shot afterwards. The result was that
many were buried when they were only wounded or even had not been wounded
at all by the bullets.
9. On the day of escape there were many graves still
unopened. The Gestapo Commanders had figured that they would finish the
work by April 1, 1944....
Z.A. Brown and D. Levin, Toldoteha shel Mahteret
("History of an Underground"), Jerusalem, 1962, pp. 172-173.