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First Martyrs in Our Village of Telsiai 1914-1918, The

A first-hand account of the German invasion of Telsiai in 1914 as narrarated by Velvel (Zev) Noy (1908-1993) who was born in Telsiai.
By Velvel (Zev) Noy, May 2000

The following is a first-hand account of the German invasion of Telsiai in 1914, as narrated by Velvel (Zev) Noy (1908 - 1993) who was born in Telsiai, Lithuania.

His first-hand account of the German invasion of Lithuania in 1914, originally published in Yiddish and Hebrew in 1987, was subsequently translated by his daughter, Rachel Noy Merzel, of Los Angeles, and his son, Shabtai Noy, of Jerusalem, in January 1994. This translation was included in the Noyek family history written by Davida Noyek Handler in 1994.

At the time of the German invasion, after the outbreak of World War I, Telsiai (Telzhe) was surrounded by foreign troops. By July 1915, everyone in the town was starving, including Zev, who was then seven years old.

"As the First World War was in progress, the Germans entered Lithuania. I was a young boy when the bitter picture of the Telsiai (Telzhe) martyrs was etched in my mind, to accompany me for the rest of my entire life.

 Shabsse Noyk 1914

There were two ~ my father, Shabsse Noyk, and Leiba Leshem (Leiba Der Milner), may their names rest in peace ~ who went out because of the hunger in our city to Tryskiai (Tresik) to try to obtain some flour. {Editor’s note: Possibly they had gone there because Zev’s father owned a mill that ground flour, and he knew whom to try to contact.} On the way back they were captured by a group of "Cossacks" who had broken through the front lines at Mazeikai, Akmene, and Siauliai (Shavel), in an area situated about eight kilometers from Telsiai.

According to the testimony later given by some Lithuanians, these soldiers accused the two Jews of spying for the Germans, consequently killing them with live fire. My mother sent a messenger to look for them ~ or any trace of them... A week later their bodies were found strewn in the forest.

On July 24, 1915, when the bodies were brought back, Telsiai’s entire community went forward to receive our city’s first victims. The day was black, bleak, and gloomy as the bodies arrived at the Beit Hamidrash, the Bible and Talmud study room adjacent to the synagogue. I will always remember the first "Kaddish" that I said for my father, may his name rest in peace, which will linger in my memory FOREVER.

During the winter of 1918, our little shtetl was again shaken to the core by additional fallen victims as civil war erupted in Lithuania. The Kolchaks, who came from the Baltic aristocracy, accompanied and strengthened by various groups from Lithuania, fought the Bolsheviks who had arrived from Russia. The Bolsheviks controlled Telsiai for three consecutive weeks even as they were conducting battles with the Kolchaks between the cities of Plunge and Telsiai.

During the last battle the Bolsheviks were forced to retreat. While withdrawing, they captured nine Jews from the area. Amongst them were five people from Telsiai. One by one, near Navernai, these nine captives were executed - shot by bullets. The last one to be shot was Velva Shaul, who absorbed the bullets in his left arm. He fell into the white snow, making his tormentors think that he had died. While the murderers went looking for local peasants to bury the dead, Velva, somehow regained consciousness, and in an extremely weakened state, began running while his blood was oozing out. He found shelter with a Lithuanian farmer.

When the killers came back, they discovered that one of the nine victims was missing. They followed the bloody footsteps that Velva had made in the snow, leading up to the farmer’s home. The good farmer who had in the meantime dressed Velva’s wounds and sent him toward Telsiai, now directed the perpetrators in the opposite direction. When the murderers then returned, they mutilated the corpses. However, Velva, our neighbor, succeeded in returning to Telsiai.

A doctor from the main command, who was posted in our house, saved Velva’s life by immediately treating his wounds. Although Velva was in shock for a long period of time, he himself related his story regarding the events just described, to me, and what had happened to the rest of the group. Upon his arrival, the Rabbi from Navernai, may his name rest in peace, blessed Velva with Tchiat HaMetim, the blessing of resurrection."

about the author
Velvel (Zev) Noy

Zev Noy, who gave this historical witness, was educated in Telsiai, and served in the Lithuanian Army from 1929 until 1930. He made Aliyah to Israel in 1935, where he helped to build Kibbutz Givat Brenner. His mother, who remained in Telsiai, was murdered by the Nazis on July 15, 1941.

Zev died on February 8, 1993, in Ramat Gan, Israel, following a heart attack. An intense Zionist, he was active in politics until the time of his death. His funeral was one of the largest ever seen in Tel Aviv. Among those present were both the current and past mayors of Jerusalem, as well as a large number of young political activists who had come to pay him tribute. His widow and son live in Israel, and his daughter lives in California.