Lot #: 143409

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WWII/Holocaust era mail from the heart of darkness - Svencioneliai/Schwentschionellen (Lithuania): July 1942 postmarked registered cover sent from Lithuanian sender (Zofija Dunskiene) at "Pharmacy" (vaistine) in SVENCIONELIAI to the lime kiln ("wapiennik") of a soap manufacturer "near Krakow" ("mydlniki koło krakowa") at RZASKA in German occupied Poland.

Although the sender does not indicate personal military service identification on her return address, the cover was sent via the German army postal service (eg. "Feldpost"/OAS, but not endorsed as such) and granted free base-letter postage: the sender wrote her address and that of her correspondent in green ink; the cover was either pre-stamped or stamped thereafter by the handstamp of the 4th battery of the 35th artillery regiment (of the 35th Wehrmacht division), enabling the cover to be posted through the German army (with the postage concession) & the postal clerk added in different ink the endorsement "Einschreiben" ("registered mail") to the top; the postage paid was 30pf for the registry service only, of which one 15pf stamp is missing and the remaining affixed 15pf Hindenburg medallion stamp is tied by the local civilian post office postmark; the cover is tied with a German handstamped registry label bearing the locale's name in German SCHWENTSCHIONELLEN.

The cover was subsequently opened and resealed by the Army (OKW) censor at office "A" in KONIGSBERG, which handled mail to/from the Baltic States & the occupied Soviet Union. Lacking the standard postal code number normally included in the address (here "7a") the postal service subsequently added "Generalgouvernment" as the district for the delivery; there may be a partial arrival postmark on the top right on the front; cover cut open at right.

Significant Holocaust era postal history: the sending locale bears the unfortunate history of the Svencioneliai massacre of Jews in Oct. 1941 & the presence of the town's Svenionys Ghetto until April 1943, plus the May 1942 massacre of 27 locals by "the Fascists" (as reported) on the local highway. The sender bearing a Lithuanian name and being attached in some way to the 35th Division suggests a connection with the perpetration of the Holocaust, as the 35th was one of many divisions noted for its involvement in the Holocaust (and war crimes in general). The sender was likely not a member of the Lithuanian Auxiliary Police (also known as "Schutzmannschaft battalions" and also as "Lithuanian Territorial Defence/TDA Battalions") as this was subordinated to the German Police/SS apparatus and not to the Wehrmacht; similarly the sender was likely not a member of the Lithuanian Security Police ("Saugumas") which was subordinated to the German "Criminal Police" (Kripo).

A concrete possibility is that the sender was a member of an Einsatzgruppen related unit, like the Lithuanian "Special Branch" (Ypatingasis Burys - YB, one of the worst mass murder units of the Holocaust) which did perpetrate mass killings specifically in Svencioneliai and actively participated in mass murder until 1943 (when assigned mostly to guard duties), or a white-armbanded "partisan" - members of the umbrella 'Lithuanian Activist Front' - many of which were loosely attached to killing units and many of whom were active specifically in Svencioneliai, as these were assigned to Wehrmacht commands: these were formed from members of all branches of the German military and Army plus local collaborators but closely associated with military units in the field. Given the covert nature of such a units activity the sender here likely did not reveal an actual unit or identity number on his mail.

The lists of indivduals involved in the mass killings, prepared by the chairman of the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel, Adv. Joseph Melamed, does not list this sender specifically but does include a number of females in those lists; and the phenomenon of female partisans are known specifically from the latter period of 1944-1951 with the "forest brotherhood", which included many wartime pro-German partisans. The surname suffix "skiene" indicates that the woman is either married or widowed to a male whose surname would be "Dunskis".

At this time the 35th Division was assigned to Army Group Center, which had assigned to its region Einsatzgruppen B within which was Einsatzkommando 9a (to whom was attached the YB). This nefarious association gains further credence in light of the fact that from June 1941 to the end of 1943, the 35th Division is documented located in the area of Smolensk-Vyazma-Mozhaisk (eg. the approaches to Moscow; specifically the town of Gsatsk) - but here in mid-1942 we have postal history of a unit from this division in east Lithuania, well behind those lines.