* 1885 – 1971
* Recognized in 2005
Kelmė Cemetery, Lithuania
About the rescuer and the rescue story
Testimony of Shmuel Chalozin about the Meškauskas family
Place of residence during the war. I didn't have one: I survived by moving from place to place in the Kelmė area, hiding in the forests with the help of Lithuanian neighbours, sleeping in peasants' houses, stables, barns, cemeteries etc.
I, Shmuel Chalozin, was born in Lithuania, in the village of Šimaičiai, on the farm of my father Jakov Chalozin's brother Shimon.
Our family comes from Kelmė, where they lived for 200 years until the end of the Second World War.
From 1930 to 1937 we lived near Kelmė, about a kilometre from the town, on the Mažeikinė farm.
In 1937 we moved to a new farm which my father bought in Licenava, about 5 km from Kelmė.
Our family farmed wheat, barley, rye and flax. We kept cows and sheep. There was a peat bog on our land, so we dug and dried peat and sold it in the town for fuel. My father also took part in state tenders for thinning forests, cutting down trees and selling them for building and fuel.
After the war broke out and the town burned down in 1941, when the front was passing by, over a hundred Jews of the town were gathered in our one-acre farm, some of whom were killed in the first action on July 29, 1941, and the rest in the second action on August 22. On that day, part of our family was doing field work and did not fall into the hands of guards, who surrounded the homestead, while others managed to hide. From then on, we went into hiding. Our farm in Licenava was given to a German family who used it until the end of the war. This family left with the German army in August 1944.
After the massacre of 22 August 1941, we became homeless, poor and persecuted refugees. My parents Jakov and Sara Reizl, my brothers Hirsch, Aharon and Yitzchak, my sisters Chaviva and Sima and I needed all the help we could get from some of our peasant neighbours who lived in the vicinity, and then more Lithuanian peasants, acquaintances and friends came to help us. Unfortunately, only four of our family escaped - my sisters Chaviva and Sima, my brother Yitzchak and myself. My parents and my brothers Hirsch and Aharon were snitched on and killed while in hiding.
Our friends could be divided into three groups.
The first group. "Take all the food you need, but we can't accommodate you."
The second group. The help came from individual family members, say, the owner of the farm helped us, but he was afraid of his brother or the mercenaries and so on.
Third group. This was the most precious and the most important, because the whole family or individual people (mainly priests or their mistresses) helped us in unison - with food, clothes, medicines, hiding, warning about whistleblowers, about the actions of the police etc.
The whole Meškauskas family was like this: the head of the family Pranas Meškauskas, his wife Ona, daughter Stefa, sons Antanas, Teodoras, Petras and Petras' wife Zosia. A whole bunch of people who were undoubtedly in the closest - the third circle.
A few examples:
1. We left some of our belongings with one of our neighbours, Viktoras Damanskas, when we fled. We trusted him. But Antanas Meškauskas became aware that he was betraying Jews. We didn't want to believe it. To make sure, we asked the Meškauskas to escort Damanskas when he visited them, and we would hide at a bend in the road and listen to their conversation about the Jews. What was our disappointment when Damanskas asked the Meškauskas to help him to betray the Jews, because he knew that Meškauskas had a connection with them.
2. In the autumn of 1943, a severely handicapped woman from Tauragė who had escaped from the Šiauliai ghetto, Shoshana Most, whom I knew and who was hiding in a village near Kražiai, asked me, who was always travelling from place to place and who knew the country well, for help. I took her to Dr Dolnickis, who was hiding nearby with the farmer Šalkauskas. When we returned, we met a villager on the way, Zacharias (I don't know if that was his first or last name), whom I did not know personally, but I knew that he was betraying Jews, and it was clear that after this meeting he would soon report to the police. We took a different route and went to the Meškauskas. I told Petras Meškauskas what had happened, and he first sent his younger brother Teodoras outside to keep watch. His wife Zosia (Karpaitė-Meškauskienė) gave us food, and Petras took off Zosia's wedding ring, put it on Shoshana's finger, put the horse in the carriage and drove with Shoshana towards Kražiai, where she lived. He was stopped by a police checkpoint on the way, but he convinced the police that Shoshana was his wife and they let them pass. This is how Petras Meškauskas brought her back to her hiding place near Kražiai. I turned the other way and escaped alone.
3. Throughout the war, the Meškauskas' house was open to Jews who were in need of food and had to find a place to sleep. The Meškauskas family helped in any way they could. Hirsch Chalozin, Yakov Zak, Sima Chalozin, Chaviva Chalozin and I, Shmuel Chalozin, visited and stayed in their house regularly. It was not just one member of the family who helped, as in other families, but the whole family: father, mother, brothers, sisters and sister-in-law, Zosia. Helping the Jews was the father's attitude, which was accepted by all.
It was based on: the brotherhood of farmers, love of neighbour, opposition to the killings - because he could not accept that the Lithuanian police would kill Lithuanian citizens - Jews.
The Meškauskas family did not receive any payment from anyone for this help. They were threatened with death and confiscation of their property. I am therefore convinced that this family has earned the title of the Righteous Among the Nations. In my eyes, they have been the Righteous Among the Nations since 1941.
That is my testimony.
Rescued persons (Yad Vashem web page):