David P. Boder Interviews Andrius Suvalkaitis; September 21, 1946; München, Germany

  • David Boder: [In English] Spool 9-143A and 9-143B. Mr. Suvalkaitis and Mrs. Bronė Skudaikienė, respectively. October 7th 1950, Chicago, Boder. 143A in Lithuanian, 143B partly in Lithuanian, partly German.
  • David Boder: Spool 143. Spool 143. Munich, September the 21st 1946 at Lohengrinstrasse, in a camp for displaced Baltics—Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians. The interviewee is Mr. Andrius Suvalkaitis, 41 years old [incorrect], Lithuanian. He will speak German.
  • David Boder: [In German] You are going to speak German, aren't you?
  • David Boder: [In English] Of course it is not his language, but we will do the best we can.
  • David Boder: [In German] So, Mr. Suvalkaitis, would you please tell me your name, where you were born and how old you are?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: I was born in Vilkaviškis, at the beginning of 1915, as the first child.
  • David Boder: In which month?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: On the 1st of April.
  • David Boder: On the 1st of April?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah.
  • David Boder: And where had you been, Mr. Suvalkaitis, when the war began?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: When the war started, I was in Kaunas.
  • David Boder: So, isn't it true that first the Soviets came to you?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: When the Soviets came to us in Lithuania, I was in Kaunas as well. I was on duty in an office—as a clerk.
  • David Boder: So, what was this duty like? What did you do?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: I worked as a—department manager.
  • David Boder: In which kind of office?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: It was for the Lithuanian Army in the Kauno komendantūra.
  • David Boder: You were a soldier?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: I was a sergeant major.
  • David Boder: You were a sergeant major?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah.
  • David Boder: And then the Soviets came. What happened then?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: When the Soviets came, all of our—all our Colonels established a corps, and all the commanders of this corps were sent to Ireland.
  • David Boder: The Russians established a corps?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: The Russians established a corps, as the Lithuanians hadn't been in the Army at all. And our commanders waited in Kaunas for a liquidation committee. In the beginning, I worked for this committee as well—until the 23rd of February.
  • David Boder: So, the 23rd of February? Which year?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: In the year 41.
  • David Boder: And how did you live when the Russians were in Lithuania? Vilnius belonged to Poland, didn't it?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah, it was Polish.
  • David Boder: But I thought that Vilnius . . .
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah, it was a Lithuanian town.
  • David Boder: But before the Russians came, it belonged the Polish, didn't it?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah, first it belonged to the Polish.
  • David Boder: And then the Russians passed Vilnius back to the Lithuanians.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah, that's right.
  • David Boder: And is Vilnius now a part of Lithuania?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah, it is in Lithuania. But all of Lithuania is now a Soviet . . .
  • David Boder: Soviet.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah.
  • David Boder: But the Polish don't have Vilnius.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: No, they don't have.
  • David Boder: So, what happened further?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: That's right. And then the commanders cancelled—at the Army—the committee first arranged everything—and then, on the 25th of February, the first ones were brought to jail—the Bolshevists.
  • David Boder: For what reason?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: For what reason? I have no idea. I didn't do anything. For the commanders I just was a leading office-clerk—nothing more. And then the first ones were arrested—the first ones were sent to Kaunas—the third ones captured in Kaunas—and then, he didn't do anything for me—the court—he did not enough—at all.
  • David Boder: Mr. Suvalkaitis, please speak Lithuanian. Do you speak Lithuanian or Polish?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Lithuanian.
  • David Boder: [In English] Okay, go ahead.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: [In Lithuanian] They arrested me on February 25, put me in a prison in Kaunas. I was being kept there, but since they did not have enough evidence, they could not bring me to trial, too little evidence, so they interrogated me for quite a long time—they would take me out for interrogation once in two, three nights. First, the interrogator was Russian, then a Jew, and finally a Lithuanian. But none of them could get anything serious out of me. Since they did not have sufficient testi— . . . evidence, seeing that they would not be able to bring me to court, they took me and sent me away to Vilnius prison on June 3, 1941. And finally, having kept me in Vilnius prison for three days, they sent me to Minsk. Once in Minsk prison, I was expecting, just like every suspect or arrestee, who could not be brought to trial, that a decision would be made in absentia, and I would be sentenced to fifteen, ten, more or less years of servitude and sent to the Siberian taiga. But lucky for me, the war began on June 21, 1941, and on the 24th of June, German airplanes bombed Minsk, and a bomb hit the prison building. Since the bomb fell on a corner of the prison building, huge panic started inside the prison.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Was it a German bomb?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: A German bomb.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: [In Lithuanian] Huge panic started inside the prison. All the guards, overseers, started running around, drove all the inmates out into the courtyard. Those who had been sentenced, and those who had not been tried yet—every prisoner was taken outside. Once outside, we could hear gunfire in the corridors. Everyone who was sentenced to death or to a long term of imprisonment was executed in the courtyard, on the other side of it. We were put face against the wall, with our hands up, and various guards from the NKVD were walking around, shouting. We thought they would execute us in that courtyard as well, but then what we figured from their count, they counted around twelve hundred people—most of us were Lithuanians, but there were also Poles, some Latvians—and we were all herded deep into Russ— . . . to Russia on foot. We walked for three full days, three days and three nights, with little to eat and almost no sleep. We would get to eat only any scraps the NKVD men would throw out of the cars, having eaten themselves. We were being followed by cars with NKVD men, they would do shifts—when some of them got tired, they would get into the cars, others would walk. After a good length of the march, we sort of camped in some forest—I cannot remember its name now. They only allowed us to rest when a lot of people had fallen, unable to go on—when more than one-half would fall, then we would be allowed some rest. Finally, quite a lot of people were executed in that forest, and the rest were pushed on. Then, in the evening of the third day, after we had passed Cherven, (by a forest and a river that looked like the Lithuanian Nevėžis, depth- and stream-wise) we were allowed some sort of rest. And during that break—and two of us—me and a friend of mine—were carrying Colonel Petruitis, and we put our feet into that stream, to regain some . . . to revive the blood, as we were tired, hungry and going mad from the interrogation. My own legs were so beaten up they could hardly fit in my pants. At that time, a second friend who was standing, slapped me on a shoulder and said, "Look, Andrius, behind you." When I looked around, I saw machine-guns set all around. And then the chief of the NKVD men commanded us to stand up and then lie down. After that, the shooting began. The whole lot of us were gunned down, whatever was left of us. Lucky for me, dead bodies fell on me right away. Apparently, that was a lucky moment, destiny—the three of us laid in some trench. We all lay, and lucky for us, dead bodies were falling onto us, that execution continued for around three hours. After three hours, everything fell quiet, the machine-gun fire ceased, we could hear footsteps, Russian swears from the NKVD men, and those who were still alive had their heads skewered with bayonets or cracked open with trowels. Then, after they all had quieted down, when silence had fallen, I started to wriggle because I had some twelve corpses on top of me and was all drenched in blood. Other people's blood was all that surrounded me. Then I moved, moved the first few bodies off my head, raised my head and took a look around—there was nobody around, only an empty field with bodies. At that time, after I raised my head I sat up, started yelling and heard a muffled voice. And then a friend of mine got up, we both got up, started walking around the field of bodies, heard a muffled voice. We ran to it and rescued Colonel Petruitis. Petruitis got up. We (hoping that as we had survived there would be more survivors as well) were yelling and walking around, around this field of corpses. But then three more Lithuanians and two Poles got up at the other end. Of the twelve hundred people, a total of eight survived—six Lithuanians and two Poles. Then we were walking in hopes of find more survivors, but unfortunately, the NKVD men had driven down behind bushes, watching us. Having spotted people walking around, they started up the engine and were coming at us, firing the machine-guns, hoping to get us. But then we . . . when they started shooting, the forest was about two hundred meters away, and on that side—on the left of the road, was a rye field. Under gunfire, we escaped, cutting through the rye to the woods. What would the NKVD men have done—of course, they would have looked for us, but at that time German airplanes came and started firing at their cars.
  • David Boder: [In German] I would like you to tell me, with your own words, what happened to you—personally—when the Germans came to Lithuania.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah, that I come to . . .
  • David Boder: Speak Lithuanian. But you personally—you don't need to tell the whole story—what happened to you? Yeah, speak German.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: German. I can tell you. We came back to my place—I had been arrested. Then I can further tell you—I could tell you how I came back—from imprisonment—and what I did or which job I had—in German.
  • David Boder: Speak Lithuanian.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Okay, I will speak Lithuanian again.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: [In Lithuanian] When we returned to Lithuania from Cherven, I found Germans in Lithuania. At the start, the Germans did nothing in particular to us. As I returned, I immediately got a job as a bakery director. I worked at the bakery, then moved to a mill hub. I worked as an auditor at the mill hub. And there I served until the 15th of May, 1944. On May 15th, the Bolsheviks were catching people in churches and taking them away. I was caught too, and taken to Germany.
  • David Boder: [In German] Slowly.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: [In Lithuanian] I was brought to Germany and had to work all the time at trenches, digging them. I worked in Eastern Prussia and ended up in Karaliaučiaus. Once in Karaliaučiaus, I ran away from the trenches, came to Berlin, having crossed to this side from Berlin—that was the beginning of March, April—after hi— . . . hiding at some farm for a month, the Americans came at the end of one working day. When they came, I was successfully put into the Eastern camp, where I live to this day.
  • David Boder: [In German] So, where had you been when the Americans came?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: When the first Americans came . . .
  • David Boder: Lithuanian.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: [In Lithuanian] When the American came, I was in Austria.
  • David Boder: [In German] And how did you get from Austria to Munich?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: [In Lithuanian] Once in Austria, I immediately went to the Salzburg Militėrvojiniment, reported there and they ordered me to go . . . to go to the Salzburg general displaced persons camp of Glasenbach. I went there, but only to find out that that camp was only for repatriating persons, and I did not want to go back home as long as there was a Bolshevik dictatorship in Lithuania, so I picked up and went to Munich. I came to Munich and have been living at the Didi camp since June 29 of last year.
  • David Boder: [In Russian] Do you think you have a family here . . . at the camp, or are you here by yourself?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: [In German] Please speak German.
  • David Boder: Yeah, yeah.. Do you have a family in the camp or are you by yourself?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: No, my family is in Lithuania. I don't have a family. I am married. My wife and two children are in Lithuania.
  • David Boder: Did they write to you?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: No, she didn't write. Nobody wrote to me. My brother from America wrote a letter to Lithuania, but didn't get any reply.
  • David Boder: He didn't get an answer?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: I didn't get an answer.
  • David Boder: And what do you think will happen now? What are you going to do?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Now . . .
  • David Boder: You have a brother in America.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: I have a brother and a sister in America.
  • David Boder: Will they take you over there?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah, I now got an affidavit, but I don't know, maybe I won't be able to go to America.
  • David Boder: Uh. But since you got an affidavit you will soon be leaving, maybe as quickly as in a few months. On Tuesday, about 400 people are leaving—from the other camp.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: So, the first ones leave. But I am on duty. Besides. there are holidays in the camp right now.
  • David Boder: And what do you do here?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: I am now . . . I am now a fire fighter.
  • David Boder: You are a fire fighter.And what profession did you learn? How did you earn your living?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: I am an economist . . . I am a bookkeeper.
  • David Boder: What does this mean? Economist?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: [In Lithuanian] Economics.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: [In German] Lithuanian—bookkeeper.
  • David Boder: Aha, you studied business economics?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah.
  • David Boder: Where?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: In Kaunas
  • David Boder: In Kaunas. At the university. Uhm. How many Lithuanians are living here in this camp?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Here? About eight hundred.
  • David Boder: Eight hundred Lithuanians.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah.
  • David Boder: Men, woman, and children?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Right, all together.
  • David Boder: Do you have a school?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Yeah, we have a school.
  • David Boder: A Lithuanian school?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: A Lithuanian school. And a Lithuanian secondary school. And that is . . .
  • David Boder: And where did you get books from?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Books? So . . . we got a few from our own people, and now they are sent from America.
  • David Boder: And did you get books from Lithuania?
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: No, not from Lithuania, we didn't get anything from Lithuania.
  • David Boder: So, thank you, Mr. Suvalkaitis, that was a very good report, and we will have it translated. I think it will be very interesting, we will find it very interesting.
  • Andrius Suvalkaitis: Thank you.
  • David Boder: [In English] This concludes the report of Mr. Andrius Suvalkaitis, given mostly in Lithuanian, at Munich Baltic Center, at Lohengrinstrasse, September the 21st, 1946.
  • Contributors to this text:
  • Transcription (German) : S. Peters, P. Gaensicke
  • Transcription (Lithuanian) : L. Paulauskaite
  • Transcription (Russian) :
  • English Translation (German) : S. Peters, P. Gaensicke
  • English Translation (Lithuanian) : L. Paulauskaite
  • English Translation (Russian) :