DARBENAI: Klaipeda County, Kretinga district Print

Alternate names: Kretinga [Lith], Kretinge [Yid], Kretingen [Rus], Kretynga [Pol], Crottingen [Ger], Krottingen, Krettingen, Myasto Kretinga, Kretingos, Kratinga, Russian: Кретинга / Кретинген. 55°53' N, 21°15' E, 13 miles NNE of Klaipėda (Memel), 23 miles W of Plungė (Plungian). 1900 Jewish population: 1,202. ShtetLink: Jews settled in Darbenai about 1800. 1897 Jewish population was 1129 (about 80%) On the eve of the Shoah, about 800 Jews (40%) lived in Darbenai because during the inter-war period, some emigrated to Canada, the USA, South Africa, and Palestine. During Lithuanian independence, the Jewish community of Darbenai had a synagogue, a Hebrew school, two cheders (religion elementary schools for boys), charities, two libraries, a dramatic club, Macabee sports club and sections of political parties. 2001 population: 1,598. [March 2009]

CEMETERY: To reach the cemetery from the south, enter the town square and turn right at the northern end. The cemetery is down that road on the left .

I visited the Darbenai Jewish Cemetery with guide Regina Kopilevich on August 4, 1997. Darbenai is in the Kretinga district of Lithuania, north of Palanga and a few miles from the Baltic coast. To reach the cemetery, enter the town square from the south and turn right at the northern end. The cemetery is down that road on the left side in a wooded area. A stone wall surrounds it. The entrance is reached by driving down a small dirt road that takes you to the far side of the cemetery. There are more than 70 tombstones, most in excellent condition; and the grass was cut. Of the many cemeteries I visited in Lithuania, the one in Darbenai was in, by far, the best condition. We discovered that a local man, Vladas Audziunas, serves as caretaker although he receives no regular salary and appreciates contributions. His address is Laisves 26, Darbenai, Kretingos rajonas, Lithuania. Local phone number: 56226. Two memorials marking the place where the Nazis killed men and women are in the nearby woods. We spoke with the mayor of Darbenai, Edvardas Stalmokas, about erecting signs that point to the location of the memorials and the cemetery. Source: Eric L. Goldstein, 12 Monroe Place #2, Brooklyn, NY 11201, (718) 625-1058, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

photos. [September 2010]

MASS GRAVES: Pamiškė locality, 100 meters from Darbėnai township.

Baltas Kalnas forest, 1 km from Darbėnai (Forest of Baitas Kalnas (two massacre sites); 114; pic. # 144- 145) and Baltas Kalnas forest and 2.5 km from Darbėnai. Near Darbenai, outskirts of the forest, about 100 m. at the road in direction to Lazdininkai; 113; pic. # 142. Source: US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad.

The German Army occupied Darbenai on the first day of WWII. Jews living in the town including the elderly and children were immediately  forced to clean toilets, sweep streets, and do other dirty, manual labor. Those Jews unable to work were beaten with sticks. On June 24, Germans set the town on fire, blaming the Jews. That day, the German commander of the town ordered all the Jews to wear yellow Mogen David patches on breast and shoulder. Jewish men were arrested and beaten with sticks, whips, and gun butts. On June 25, Mr. Raizmanas, who had escaped, was driven from Skuodas. He was battered on his way to Darbenai and then dragged on a platform and told to shout various Soviet cries. Since Raizmanas was badly beaten, he could not shout so a Gestapo officer put a burning cigarette into his mouth, forced him to drink vinegar, and subsequently dragged him beaten and unconscious to the guardhouse. The following day (June 26), he was shot in the forest behind the Jewish cemetery. On June 28, local white-bands gathered all the Jews living in Darbenai (about 600) for transport to Kretinga. The Germans set fire to Raizmanas' house and ordered the Jews to fight the fire. The white-bands arrested Rabbi Iser Vaisbord and beat him so he would say who had set fire to Raizmanas' house. The rabbi, beaten to unconsciousness, was dragged by his legs to the burning house, already dead. Shortly, three German officers arrived by car and separated Mote Bloch from the crowd and shot him in everyone's presence. Later, they picked another six Jews and took them to the river to dig a trench where Vaisbord and Bloch were buried. Then the Jews of Darbenai were marched to Kretinga. On the way, German soldiers unharnessed horses and harnessed Jews to the cart. Those pulling the cart were beaten with whips and gunstocks. The Jews of Darbenai brought to Kretinga were seated near the Jewish cemetery and photographed and two hours later sent back to Darbenai. On the way back, the column stayed overnight by the roadside. On June 29, the Jews were kept outside all day on the edge of the town without food for a second day. Six German officers arrived, separated Jewish men from women, and took them along Palangos Street, 150 Jewish men and four Soviet war prisoners. The condemned were taken outside the town and executed with automatic rifles on the edge of the forest on the left side of the Darbenai-Lazdininkai road. Jewish women and children were taken to the synagogue that evening (June 29). The women were kept there several weeks and then given to farmers of neighboring villages to work on farms. While the women were kept in the synagogue of Darbenai, local white-bands often abused of them, beating and sometimes starving them for days. Once, a town white-band took four old Jewish women from the synagogue and killed them in the Jewish cemetery. On 15 August, the chief of the Darbenai Police Station informed the chief of the Police of Kretinga District that over 400 Jews were left in the Darbenai synagogue and that he lacked police officers to guard and transport them to work, since auxiliary policemen would not do this without pay.  At the beginning of September, the chief of the local police and two "partisans" arrived at the synagogue and told the Jewish women that this place was too small for them and that some would be sent to another camp. The police chief returned to the synagogue in the evening with seven "partisans". Those listed women were ordered to step out. About 100 women and an unknown number of children did. They were taken down Vaineikių Street to the forest about 1 km away from Darbenai and brutally killed with sticks, forks, and axes and thrown to trenches. Small children were thrown by their legs alive into the trench. The remaining Jewish women and girls were killed in a week. Only R. Šateliene, who had been taken for work by a Lithuania farmer from a village after the first killing of women, and her friend (Asia Šubicaite) escaped this killing. Over 400 Jewish women and children were killed in total. The commission of Kretinga District that investigated crimes of Nazis found that 596 persons, mostly Jews, were killed in Darbenai during Nazi occupation.[March 2009]

Pictures courtesy of Helena Zakmane (helena@808.lv)

 

Last Updated on Monday, 27 September 2010 14:16