The destruction of the jews of butrimonys as described in a farewell letter from a local jew

Nathan Cohen

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On 9 September 1941, shortly after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, the Jews of Butrimonys, a small town in Lithuania, were massacred by the Einsatzgruppen and Lithuanian collaborators. The murderers, in accordance with their practice at the time, ordered the victims to stand on the edge of a mass grave, and machine-gunned them. What distinguished the slaughter at Butnmonys from hundreds of similar crimes all over the Baltic region, was the survival of a detailed record left by a local Jew who had gone into hiding with his son.They too were eventually caught and murdered, but not before the father, Khone Boyarski, had committed his testimony to writing, in a farewell letter to his relatives abroad. This moving document, written in the simple and unpretentious style of a man with little education, was discovered quite by accident by Nathan Cohen, a graduate student, in the archives of Yad Vashem, as he was searching for source material for a thesis on diaries written in Lithuania during the Nazi occupation. The letter gives a unique account of the fate of the Jews in one small town in the earty stages of the Holocaust. It conveys a sense of the horror of what was happening to the writer's family and friends, and his feeling of utter helplessness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)357-375
Number of pages19
JournalHolocaust and Genocide Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1989
Externally publishedYes


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