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Lithuanian paramilitary fascists murdered sixty-nine Jews by clubbing them with iron bars in an open-air garage before scores of onlookers in Kovno (Kaunas), Lithuania on this date in 1941. The massacre was part of a brutal four-day pogrom that was incited by the Nazi’s Operation Barbarossa and killed some 3,800 Jews in Kovno and 1,200 more in surrounding villages. (Shown in the photo at right, a Lithuanian leader of the massacre known as ”the death dealer of Kovno.”) The Kovno Ghetto was established two months later, with some 30,000 Jewish internees, only to be liquidated in July, 1944. Kovno had been a center of the Jewish Labor Bund, founded in 1897, and was home to the Slobodka Yeshiva, an important institution of learning whose leader, Rav Zalman Osovsk, was beheaded by the fascists. When the Soviet army swept across Lithuania at the beginning of August 1944, it found only ninety Jews in Kovno. An additional 3,000 survived German concentration camps, and some 500 survived as partisans or by hiding with Christian families.
“There were women in the crowd and many of them clambered onto chairs and crates so that they and their children could get a better view of the ‘spectacle’ taking place in the yard below. At first I thought this must be a victory celebration or some type of sporting event because of the cheering, clapping and laughter that kept breaking out. However, when I asked what was happening I was told the ‘death dealer of Kovno’ is at work and he would make sure that all ‘traitors and collaborators’ received a fitting punishment for their ‘treachery.’ When I drew closer I witnessed a display of brutality that was unparalleled by anything I saw in combat during two world wars.” —Colonel L. Von Bischoffshausen