Story of the Rescue of Sisters Khaya and Estera from Darbėnai

Story of the Rescue of Sisters Khaya and Estera from Darbėnai

The Chaim family from Darbėniai. Front row from left: Khaya, Yehoshua, Tsipora and Estera, back: Rokha and Reuben. 1932, from the Chaim family archive.

Another example of heroism and sacrifice by the people of Žemaitija. The December 21, 1965, issue of the Vakarinės naujienos newspaper published in Vilnius and the June 4, 1966, issue of the newspaper Mūsų žodis published in the Skuodas region of Lithuania carried a story which had been long forgotten, the heroes of the story having passed on, and their resistance activities during the brutal time of the Nazi occupation still hasn’t been fully appreciated.

The Chaim family who lived before the war at Palangos street no. 15 in Darbėnai, Lithuania, were much like the other families around them, dreaming of a better life for their children and a bright future for Lithuania.

This family, along with many of the 600 Jews who lived in Darbėniai before the war, were merchants and had their own store. The photo above from 1932 preserved by their offspring immortalize the parents, Yehoshua and Tsipora and their children, the eldest Rokha and Reuben, the slightly older Khaya and the youngest Estera.

The head of the family died in 1936 of a lung infection before the trials and tribulations of the Nazis were visited upon the remaining family members in 1941. When the German-Soviet war arrived on June 22, 1941, the Kretinga district of Lithuania was located right next to border with Nazi Germany, and Jews had little chance to escape. The entire district was occupied by the Nazis on the first day of the war. The terror against the Jews began almost immediately.

The Nazis ordered the Jews to sew yellow patches on their clothes and forced them to do various jobs such as sweeping the streets and cleaning public toilets. They tried to humiliate the slave workers, beating them with clubs and rifle butts. On June 27 when the Nazis put the Raizman family home to the torch and the fire spread, the Jews were blamed for burning down the town and were forcibly assembled on the town square.

There Nazi officers singled out from the crowd Mordechai Bloch and shot him. Rabbi Iser Vaisbrod was beaten to death with clubs and rifle butts there.

Full story in Lithuanian here.