Operation Barbarossa, Nazi Germany‚Äôs invasion of the Soviet Union, commenced on June 22nd 1941. The German 61st Infantry Division led by General Major Robert Sattler, entered Kretinga on the 24th June 1941 without any opposition. Immediately the Tilsit Einsatzgruppen went into action, murdering the first group of Kretinga Jews within two days of their entry to the city. By August 1941 the Kretinga Jewish community has ceased to exist! These murders, together with those perpetrated in Gargzdai and Palanga, were the first committed by the Einsatzgruppen in the Baltic countries, Ukraine and Russia and would end with the destruction of Lithuanian Jewry, the loss of 1.4 million Jewish lives, of magnificent historic communities and their physical heritage.  A full description of the Holocaust in Kretinga can be found here.
The Fate of the Gillises During the Holocaust
 
The Nazi Conquest of Kretinga
The Holocaust
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The Last Kretinga Gillises
During the second half on the nineteenth most of the Gillis family immigrated to Britain, South Africa, Australia and the USA.  By the late 1930s, based on the evidence from survivors, only a relatively small number of family members were left.  The brutal events of June, July and August 1941 would swallow at least 17 of them.  Furthermore, research has shown that at least 13 more Gillises from the nearby towns of Plunge (Plungyan) and Telsiai (Telz) also perished at the hands of the Nazis and their Lithuanian accomplices.  The proximity of these towns to Kretinga, and the use of typical Gillis given names, shows that these victims were related to the Kretinga Gillises, though the exact connection has yet to be reestablished.
The Family of Hirsch and Pere-Gita Gillis
Hirsch Gillis was a great-grandson of Solomon, through his son Bezalel. Hirsch, the fifth child of Solomon Jacob Gillis and Etta Hashum, was the only one of his five siblings to stay in Kretinga, the rest leaving for England, Scotland and South Africa.  Hirsch married Pere-Gita Simon, founded a textile buisiness and resided at 31 Vytauto St. in the town.  They had five children - Zelda, Chaya, Shliomas (Sol), Nechemia (Cheme) and Rachel.

Just prior to the declaration of war, Sol obtained a visa to visit England in order to learn how to operate new textile machines for the family buisiness.  Reaching Manchester he met his first cousin, Hilda Samson, on September 3, 1939, the day Britain declared war on Germany.  Sol fell in love at first sight and as he stated, "he chased Hilda until she had no choice but to say yes to his proposal". This chance visit to England would save Sol's life.
Rachel was the youngest in the family and like her father and brother Nehemiah she had dark hair, blue eyes and a beautiful singing voice. Rachel died of cholera in the concentration camp before the war ended. The daughter of Sol and Hilda Gilis, Ruth Gilis-Noel of St. Johns, Newfoundland in Canada, is named for her.
Hirsch and PereGita Gillis
During the short period of Soviet rule in Kretinga, between 1939 to 1941, Nechemia Gillis joined the Soviet Air Force.  He would be killed in action fighting the Nazis in 1942.

Hirsch and Pere-Gita were probably murdered shortly after the Nazi occupation of Kretinga.  The three sisters, Zelda, Chaya and Rachel were taken to concentration camps.  Though Zelda's first husband died, both she and Chaya survived.  In the Displaced Persons camp at the wars end, Zelda met Julian Hammer.  Sol sponsored Zelda as a housekeeper to a cousin in Glasgow and Julian joined her a year later.  They wed in Sol and Lina Gillis' home in Glasgow.

The war also caught Chaya, her husband Itse Milner and their five year old daughter Golda in Kretinga.   Chaya and Itse arranged to have her live with a Christian family as their niece, thus ensuring her survival.  The three were eventually reunited after the war and Sol brought them to Glasgow where he helped them set up a textile business.
Nechemia (Cheme) Gillis
Hirsch Gillis 1

Hirsch Gillis 1

Hirsch Gillis 2

Hirsch Gillis 2

Pere Gitel Gillis 1

Pere Gitel Gillis 1

Pere Gitel Gillis 2

Pere Gitel Gillis 2

Nechemia Gillis 1

Nechemia Gillis 1

Nechemia Gillis 2

Nechemia Gillis 2

Rachela Gillis 1

Rachela Gillis 1

Rachela Gillis 2

Rachela Gillis 2

Pages of Testimony
The Families of Bezalel and Leah Lina Gillis and Salom and Chana Gillis
Copyright © 2007-2014    Jon Seligman.  All Rights Reserved.
Bezalel (Cale) Gillis was born in 1886 in Sunderland, seemingly out of harms way.  But his family had returned to Kretinga to take part in the import-export trade across the border at Memel, and probably also on to England.  It is not clear whether his younger broher, Salom (Shalom) Gillis, was born in England or in Russian Lithuania.

The brothers were the grandsons of Menachem Emmanuel Gillis and the sons of Shlomo Abraham and Dina Rivka Gillis.

Bezalel married Leah Lina Abramowitz, and like Hirsch and PereGita lived in Vytauto St.  They had five daughters - Dina, Hina, Rachel, Lora Basa-Batya and Roza-Shoshana.  Bezalel worked in the import and export of products that moved back and forth to Germany, and according to his only surviving daughter, also had fabric dyeing business.
Bezalel (Cale) Gillis
Rachel and Lora Basa (Batya) Gillis
To the horror of her parents, Dina joined Hashomer HaZair, a socialist-Zionist youth movement.  After a number of years she decided to abandon her comfortable life in Kretinga and go on Aliyah to mandatory Palestine, where she joined Kibbutz Sha'ar HaAmakim.  Dina was the first member of the family to emigrate to Israel.  Her descendents live today in the north of the country.

Immediately upon the German occupation of Kretinga, on the 24th June 1941, the Lithuanian workers of Bezalel set upon him, drowning him in a dye vat in his own plant.  The rest of the family, including the baby son of Hina, were murdered with the rest of the Jews of Kretinga.
Salom (Shalom), the younger brother of Bezalel, was married to Chana Wolkowitz.  They had four children, Yekhezkel (Chacas), Yaccov-Jacob, Dina and Ben Zion (Bencas).  Salom and his two eldest sons were butchers.  They lived on Furgaus (Market) Street, probably close to their butchery, in the centre of Kretinga.  Their fate would not be any different than that of his brother's family.
Pages of Testimony
After the war Dina Gillis-Zack deposited Pages of Testimony in Yad Vashem in Jerusalem for her parents, sisters, uncle, aunt and cousins.  These were augmented by her grand-daughter, Meital Zack of Afula, some twenty years later.
Bezalel Gillis 1

Bezalel Gillis 1

Bezalel Gillis 2

Bezalel Gillis 2

Leah Gillis 1

Leah Gillis 1

Leah Gillis 2

Leah Gillis 2

Rachel Gillis 1

Rachel Gillis 1

Rachel Gillis 2

Rachel Gillis 2

China Gillis

China Gillis

Batya Gillis 1

Batya Gillis 1

Batya Gillis 2

Batya Gillis 2

Shoshana Gillis 1

Shoshana Gillis 1

Shoshana Gillis 2

Shoshana Gillis 2

Salom Gillis

Salom Gillis

Yechezkal Gillis

Yechezkal Gillis

Yaacov Gillis

Yaacov Gillis

Dina Gillis

Dina Gillis

Ben Zion Gillis

Ben Zion Gillis

More Gillises from Plunge and Telsiai (Telz)
Pages of Testimony exist for Gillis holocaust victims from Plunge, a town only 38 kilometres east of Kretinga, and for Telsiai (Telz), 64 kilometres east of the town.  Some of these Gillises originate in Kretinga, or have given names that are common in the family.  Even though no connections are known there is a very strong possibility that they belong to the Gillis extended family.

Malka Schoss of New York reported the murder of her husband, Leib ben Ben-Zion Gillis, and of her children Reuven and Reizel-Shoshana. She also deposited a Page of Testimony for her husbands brother,  Shlomo Moshe ben Ben-Zion Gillis.
Leib Gillis

Leib Gillis

Leib Gillis

Leib Gillis

Reuven Gillis

Reuven Gillis

Reizel Gillis

Reizel Gillis

Shlomo Gillis

Shlomo Gillis

Chaviva Meirowitz of Haifa placed Pages of Testimony for Shamia ben Lipa Gillis of Plunge, his wife Hadassa, daughters Raizel and Alla and son Ben-Zion.
Shaime Gillis

Shaime Gillis

Hadassa Gillis

Hadassa Gillis

Reizele Gillis

Reizele Gillis

Elle Gillis

Elle Gillis

Ben Zion Gillis

Ben Zion Gillis

A final Page of Testimony records together Simcha, Miriam and Motta Gillis of Kretinga.
Simcha Gillis

Simcha Gillis

After the war the following pages of testimony were deposited in Yad Vashem by Pere-Gita's neice, Chana Simon-Rochman of Rehovot in Israel.
The Gillis Family of Kretinga