Meyshke Preys (Misha Preis/Preisas)
Interviewed by Dovid Katz
Translation by Jordan Kutzik
Meyshke: The Germans hadn’t yet arrived in Kaunas. We lived in a very large courtyard. There were very many Jews who lived there. On Monday, yes, Monday morning they were all led out of our homes and lined up and shot. We were saved by a friend who…
Dovid: What was his name?
Dovid: Albinas. And what was his last name?
Meyshke: I don’t know his last name.
Meyshke: His father was the custodian [for the residences of that yard]. And on that day, Monday …
Dovid: Monday the 23rd?
Dovid: He saved you. In what way did he save you or help?
Meyshke: The woman [Albinas’s mother] came and sat down on the veranda and she was peeling potatoes. When the Lithuanians came — — she had another son. The other son — he had the white armband. The white armband. So when they came and asked if any Jews live there, the son said “No, no, this is my mother, there are no Jews here.”
Dovid: So he said that no Jews lived here?
Meyshke: Yes, that there were no Jews.
Dovid: And who did live there? Your whole family?
Meyshke: Yes, we all lived there. My whole family, my mother with my three sisters.
Dovid: And your father?
Meyshke: My brother-in-law. And yes, my father.
[Camera pans to a black and white photograph showing a family posing.]
Dovid: Who are we looking at?
Meyshke [pointing]: My father.
Dovid: What was his name?
Dovid: Your father was Hirshl?
Dovid: Your mother?
Meyshke: (Pointing) Rokhl.
Dovid: Rokhl. And your three sisters?
Meyshke: (Pointing to each individually): Rive, Berta, and Dore. And that’s me.
Dovid: And who was married?
Dovid: And what was her husband’s name?
Dovid: And none of them survived the war?
Dovid: And what would have happened to Albinas if one of the white-armbanders had caught him lying?
Dovid: What would have happened to Albinas if one of them had caught him lying?
Meyshke: He would have been shot.
Dovid: Right on the spot?
Meyshke: All the Jews in the courtyard were gathered together and shot, and that was the end of it.
Meyshke: In the same courtyard.
Dovid: And those who were doing the shooting all had white armbands?
Meyshke: They all had white armbands. “Partisan patriots.”
Meyshke Preys (Misha Preis/Preisas) of Kovno (Kaunas), born 27 Feb 1930, remembers Monday morning 23 June 1941, when white-armbanded Lithuanian ‘partisan patriots’ came into his courtyard, pulled all the Jewish residents into the yard and shot them dead (several days before the arrival of any Germans). But he also remembers that he and his family were saved by his incredibly brave Lithuanian friend, Albinas, a boy roughly his age, son of the caretaker, who told the ‘partisan patriots’ that there were no more Jews to be found, having set up his own mother to sit on the Jewish family’s veranda and peel potatoes as cover. Meyshke’s parents, Hirshl and Rokhl, his three sisters Ríve, Berta and Dora (Dvéyre), and Dora’s husband Meyshe all perished later on in the Lithuanian Holocaust.
Meyshke Preys himself, after surviving the Kovno Ghetto, was deported to Shutthof, then Auschwitz, and then Dachau, where he was liberated by the Americans on 2 May 1945. He recalls GIs begging him not to return, but he was determined to find at least one living relative, and returned (and found nobody). After the war, he tried unsuccessfully to find the young man who saved him (and on the day, his entire family). Albinas was one of the two sons of the caretaker of the residences at Ugniagesių 13 in Kaunas in 1941. Meyshke asks if maybe there is a way even now to check the list of residents and the official caretaker, as of 23 June 1941.
Interviewed in Svintsyán (Švenčionys), 7 July 2011.