You are here: Home Eastern Europe Lithuania VIRBALIS [Virbaln, Wirballen, Wierzbolowo, Wierzbolow, Berzhbelow, Berbal, Verzhbelova, Virbalin, Virbolin]
VIRBALIS [Virbaln, Wirballen, Wierzbolowo, Wierzbolow, Berzhbelow, Berbal, Verzhbelova, Virbalin, Virbolin] PDF Print E-mail
Coat of arms of Virbalis
    Alternate names: Virbalis [Lith], Virbaln [Yid], Wirballen [Ger], Wierzbołowo [Pol], Wierzbolow, Verzhbelov, Verbal, Verzhbelova, Virbalin, Virbolin. 54°38' N, 22°49' E, 9 miles W of Vilkaviškis, near the modern border with Russian Kaliningrad oblast. it had the first station for stagecoaches and later railway station in the Russian Empire leaving Germany. The German station of the Prussian Eastern Railway on the other side of the frontier was Eydtkuhnen, today Chernyshevskoye. 1900 Jewish population: 1,219. Lite (vol. 1) (New York, 1951). ShtetLink.

    In the inter-war period Virbalis grew larger than Kybartai. In 1939, 150 Jewish families lived Virbalis (about 600 people). The local Jewish bank had 342 members. The Jewish community of Virbalis was quite well educated and active. The ideas of Zionism and the Hebrew language soon became very popular. The local Jews had houses of prayer, various schools, divisions of political parties, a library, different charity organizations, a drama club. ONLINE VIDEO: Virbalis (231KB) -The town had a very pro-Zionist community before WWII. The cemetery, Holocaust memorial and old buildings still remain. [March 2009]

    CEMETERY: Near Virbalis, 1.7 km N of town; 185; pic. # 338 US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad [October 2000] Also see Kybartai. This town on the border of Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia, (formerly East Prussia) has a fenced off Jewish cemetery west and south of the center of town in a residential/farming neighborhood. About 150 gravestones exist of which about half are in good condition. Source: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    Old cemetery: The old cemetery entrance arch says " Nishmat kol Hay." It was being bulldozed while I was there...It contained numerous family mausoleums, which I am sure had been robbed. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    New Cemetery: The "new" one started at the turn of the 20th century. My family owned a farm abutting these cemeteries. The owner of the adjacent farm was my mother's uncle. In the new cemetery, I found just one stone intact. Whether it was due to the fact that the entire inscription was in Hebrew and therefore "uninteresting" to the grave robbers or other reasons, I cannot tell. The vast majority of the graves and stones were desecrated and/or robbed. I had left Virbalis in 1937 and saw some graves of people I had known and who had died between 1937 and 1939. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    MASS GRAVES: The Germans occupied Kybartai and Virbalis on the first day of the war (June 22, 1941). Soon after, municipal institutions of the inter-war Lithuania (district municipality and the police) were reestablished. Local police was profoundly influenced by Gestapo officials, who came from Eitkūnai. On the first days of the occupation in Virbalis an auxiliary police squad was founded. On June 29, Kybartai police had an order from the Gestapo to arrest all the Jewish men of the town and to lock them in Jurgis Giedraitis barn, situated approximately 2 km from Kybartai, not far from a sand pit. Approximately 106 - 116 men were closed in that barn with a few communists. Early in the morning of Monday, June 30, six or seven German soldiers and a Nazi officer said in bad Lithuanian that the arrested were to be shot. The Germans were accompanied by the head of Kybartai police and a few other policemen. The arrested were taken in groups of ten to the sand pit and gunned down by the Germans and a few Lithuanian policemen. After the shooting, the corpses of the victims were buried by the policemen.During the first days of the occupation in Virbaliai, an auxiliary police squad was formed, dressed in military uniforms, and called a self-defense unit. Initially, the soldiers of this unit were to guard the railway and the bridges, but, soon were used for Nazi repressive policies and genocide. The Jews and the communists, arrested at the beginning of the occupation, were locked in the former manor house of Raudondvaris. About July 10, a squad of German officers and soldiers arrived in Virbaliai by bus to massacre the people imprisoned in Raudondvaris in the vast fields about 400 m from the manor called Vigainis by locals. A long anti- tank ditch dug before war was used. 300 Jewish men and 20 Lithuanians kept in the manor were herded to the ditch in two groups - the Lithuanians and the Jews separately. Corpses of the victims were buried by the 12-15 member Virbalis "self-defense" squad, who guarded the arrested in the manor before the shooting began. About July 29, the second massacre action was carried out, shooting Jewish men and Lithuanian communists and one woman. The second aktion also was organized by the Germans by five of who came to Virbalis. They gave orders to the auxiliary local police (white-bands) who mobilized. The new group was herded to the same Raudondvaris facilities from which they were taken to the anti-tank ditch. The Germans said that at that time the Lithuanian policemen had to shoot since the German soldiers were unavailable. The people were brought, undressed, and made to lay down by the ditch on the ground. Later, they were taken to the ditch in small groups and shot at from the side. 100 people were murdered by 15 auxiliary policemen. The corpses were buried by the shooters. Witnesses to the massacre maintained that 28 people were killed. Others say forty to fifty and others about 100. Possibly, Virbaliai had more than two shootings of different size groups. During one shooting, two Lithuanians were granted their life. After that massacre, the German made an "educational" speech and threatened to shoot them in the future if they worked for the communists. After the Jewish men of Virbalis were shot, the Jewish women with children were driven to the Ghetto in Vištyčio and Maironio Streets and kept until the shooting. After the Jewish men were shot, Jewish women, children and the elderly men of Kybartai were herded into the ghetto and in the customs office. In autumn 1941, the policemen herded all the Jews to a few houses of Kybartai. Next day, the head of the district police with some policemen arrived in Kybartai from Vilkaviškis. Some of the older and ailing Jewish women were taken by bus and the remaining herded on foot toward Virbalis. They were locked in the barn of Puniška in Raudondvaris with the Jewish women of Virbalis. The white-bands of Vilkaviškis and Virbalis arrived. In total, 205 women and children were brought over from Kybartai. The shooting took place in the same anti-tank ditch. Before the shooting, the women were undressed near the ditch. Most shooters were from the white bands of Vilkaviškis assisted by a few white bands from Virbalis. Determining the exact number of the Jews of Kybartai and Virbalis killed is confusing. Soviet calculations say over 4,000 Jews, about 40 Communists, and a large number of Soviet prisoners of war were killed in that ditch. Reality may be half that number since before WWII, no more than 2,000 Jews lived in Kybartai and Virbalis. [March 2009]

    Mass Grave: A mass grave in a country lane is not easily accessible by car. While the Russians had apparently built a surreal memorial without a legend, it was a small slat of wood that carried the message in Yiddish: "Here are buried 10,000 (ten thousand) men, women and children and some soldiers-all Jews- who were murdered between July 10,1941 and August 8,1941." Since the Nazi invasion occurred on June 22,1941, clearly, the Germans could not have located and concentrated all the Jews in such a short time from Virbalis and all the little shtetls around without the enthusiastic support of the locals. Source: 11/97; This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 January 2015 20:18
     
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