A Native of Rokiskis

This is an excerpt from the book Road to Victory: Jewish Soldiers in the 16th Lithuanian Division, edited by Dorothy Leivers, published by Avotaynu, 2009.  The book contains many first-person accounts by Lithuanian Jews who fought in the 16th Lithuanian Division of the Red Army, as well as a memorial section listing 1,215 soldiers who died, giving their name, father’s given name, year of birth, rank, date and place of death.  It is used with permission of both author and publisher




by Shmuel Rif

I was a driver in the fire service in Rokiskis when on the 26th June 1941, with the Germans stationed close to our small town, a group of friends and I escaped eastwards in a truck.  However when Lithuanian nationalists were shooting at us and we tried to join the retreating Russian division, the Russian soldiers refused to let us continue our escape with them.  One Major shouted at us, “Jews, why are you creating a panic?  Go home.  We will soon drive away the Germans.”  Luckily, we did not heed his advice.  We returned to Rokiskis where a few more Jewish friends joined us on our truck and we managed to escape to Velikiye Luki . [Velikiye Luki is about 193 miles or 311 kilometers east of Rokiskis.]

I arrived at the Lithuanian Division in February 1942 and I was sent to 156th Brigade to an anti-tank unit.  Six months later I was sent to serve as a carter in the transport unit, but I asked our brigade doctor, Robinson, if he would attach me to him.  Until the war ended I fought within the framework of the medical company of the 156th Brigade.  I was injured during an air attack and when I left the hospital I returned to my company.  After the war I was released from the army as handicapped.

In the pathways of the war I often met friends from my hometown, Rokiskis.  Many of them were killed in the war, including Herzl Sandler and Nechemia Klug.  I can say with a clear conscience that our Jewish young men from Rokiskis did not bring shame to their name.

Shmuel Rif, war-disabled Ber-Sheva.

[In looking for information on the people mentioned in this excerpt, I found a marriage record for a Nechemia Klug.  The son of Tsipe Veich and Mikhel Klug, both from Rokiskis, he was born in 1913 in Panemunelis.  On January  26, 1937 he married Leah Katz, born in 1906 in Vilnius.  Nechemia was a shoemaker.

I was unable to locate any information on either Shmuel Rif or Herzl Sandler in the Rokiskis files owned by the Rokiskis SIG.  They were probably too young to be listed in the 1908 Family List and too old to be listed in the Rokiskis Rabbinate Birth records.  Please let me know if you have any information about Shmuel Rif, Herzl Sandler, or Nechemia Klug.  Your webmaster]

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