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Sign at entrance to Riebini
Riebini is a small town in the Latgale region of Latvia, about 56 km. north of Daugavpils. It was part of Vitebsk gubernia under the Russian Empire.

Alternate names:

Ribinishki, Ribinishok, Silajani

Geographical location:

56 degrees 21 North Latitude, 26 degrees 48 East Longitude

Maps:

Latvia travel map--Riebini is outlined in red, near the top. Copied from: Bartholomew European Travel Map--Latvia ,1:400,000 (London, Bartholomew, 1996) with the permission of Collins Bartholomew (a division of HarperCollins Publishers).

Map of Preili and Riebini

 

JEWISH POPULATION:

Year

Total population

Jews

% of Population

1847

..

77

..

1897

584

533

91

1920

446

386

87

1925

..

360

..

1930

408

348

85

1935

464

317

68

 

HISTORY

Earliest times to World War II:

Riebini began as a small agricultural settlement at the end of the 18th century. The first Jews settled here at the beginning of the 19th century, most of whom lived in houses built on land belonging to the major estate owner. In 1843, Rabbi Zev Wolf Zioni became the towns first rabbi, and there was also a shochet who doubled as a teacher. By the end of the 19th century, the Jewish population had grown to make up 91% of the towns population.

Even by the 1920s, Riebini was a remote town, difficult to reach. Its Jewish population was poor, making its living from small stores, peddling in villages, and various trades. Families lived in wooden homes with straw roofs. Next to each house was a plot of land where the families grew their own vegetables. In the early 1920s, the Joint Distribution Committee reported that the community was unable to help itself, and set up a number of programs to help the needy. Every Thursday, women would collect money or food for those in need. Traders also assessed a 10% tithe on themselves, the proceeds of which went to help the poor. There were 17 shops in the 1930s, all but one of which belonged to Jews. Many of the younger people left Riebini during this time for Riga and elsewhere, due to the lack of livelihood.

After World War I, when Latvia became an independent country (1920-40), an elected council managed the Riebinis affairs. There was a Jewish elementary school, set up in 1921, with 5 classes. Classes were taught in Yiddish, and Hebrew was also taught. The Jewish school lacked the sixth form, so in order to complete grammar school, under the compulsory education law, students had to finish at the Jewish school in the neighboring town of Preili.

There were two synagogues in the town, the old synagogue (Die Alte Shul) where the poorer people prayed, and the new synagogue (Die Neie Shul) which attracted the wealthier residents. The list of Rabbis of Riebini is found below. There was a Young Zionist (Tzerei-Tsion) party, the only active Zionist party in the town. Under its sponsorship, two pioneer youth movements, Borochov Youth and HaShomer HatsairNetzach were formed. During the 1920s and 30s, a few families immigrated to Israel. A few also immigrated to the United States. By 1935, on the eve of World War II, Ribinis Jewish population had dwindled to 317, comprising 68% of the population.

Holocaust:

The Soviet army occupied Latvia in the summer of 1940. The following year, in June 1941, the Germans invaded the Soviet Union. At least 20 inhabitants of Riebini joined the Red Army to fight the Germans. Following the Russian defeat in July 1941, anti-Soviet Latvians began to round up Jewish residents, especially those with leftist leanings. At the end of August 1941, Latvian civil defense police (Aizsargi) arrived in three trucks to round up the Jews of Riebini. According to the Soviet Extraordinary Commission report, this happened over a 3-day period, from August 23 to 25. This group was completed by Latvian volunteers (Aizsargi) and several Germans who watched the Aktion. The victims were arrested and locked into the synagogues. Then they were moved to Ribinishki Forest (4 km. northwest of Ribinishki) and killed there. There were some local inhabitants lived in Soluions district) who took part in that bloody Aktion

This is the list of names of the victims of Riebini found in the Soviet Extraordinary Commission report. As the Soviet Union recaptured lands from the Germans in World War II, it established a commission, known as the "Extraordinary Commission to Investigate German-Fascist Crimes Committed on Soviet Territory", whose purpose was to document German atrocities occurring on Soviet soil. The records of the Commission are arranged by locality. The lists were compiled from interviews with inhabitants of the towns, some years after the fact. While the data is of genealogical and historical value, it is nonetheless subject to error. The records are handwritten in Russian. There is a narrative of atrocities that occurred in the area, as well as a list of victims and perpetrators. This is a sample page from the report. 

Rabbis:

Rabbi Zev Wolf Zioni, 1843 -

Rabbi Avraham Benjamin Teitz, 1922 1925

Rabbi Eliezer Zev Schutz/Scheetz, 1925 1941(?)

Photos :

Click on the photo for a larger version

Wooden House

Feimanka River running through Riebini

 

Site of old synagogue

Wooden house across from synagogue

Cemetery:

Riebini cemetery listing

Click on the photo for a larger version

 

Overview of Riebini cemetery

 

Eroded headstone in Riebini cemetery.

Related Links:

All Latvia Database

References:

Beth Hatefutsoth

Cohen, Chester G. Shtetl Finder: Jewish Communities in the 19th and Early 20th Centuries in the Pale of Settlement of Russia and Poland, and in Lithuania, Latvia, Galicia, and Bukovina, and with names of residents (Cohen, Los Angeles: Periday Co., 1980)

Extraordinary Commission to Investigate German-Fascist Crimes Committed on Soviet Territory, records for Ribinishki, Latvia, obtained from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Archives, RG-22.002M, Selected Records of the Extraordinary Commission to Investigate German-Fascist Crimes Committed on Soviet Territory, microfilm reel 23.

Pinkas ha-kehilot. Latviyah ve-Estonyah : entsiklopedyah shel ha-yishuvim ha-Yehudiyim le-min hivasdam ve-'ad le-ahar Sho'at Milhemet ha-'olam ha-sheniyah, 'orekh, Dov Levin, be-hishtatfut Mordekhai Naishtat.Yerushalayim: Yad va-shem, rashut ha-zikaron la-Sho'ah vela-gevurah, 1988, pages 295-296, translated by Martha Lev-Zion.

Werle, Marion Back to Ribinishki: a Case Study in Jewish Genealogical Research, FEEFHS Journal, volume 8, 2000, pp. 41-51.

Photos and cemetery data courtesy Aleksandrs Feigmanis , Latvian researcher and tour guide, who visited the Latgale area of Latvia in August 1998.

This page is dedicated to the memory of the Skutelski and Getz families of Riebini. The Skutelskis had lived in Riebini from at least 1820, and Avrum Getz, of Subate, married Gena (Hana Rochel) Skutelski. Two Skutelski brothers left Riebini, one in 1909, and one in 1914, a month prior to the outbreak of World War I. One settled in Canada, the other in Minneapolis, MN. Their mother and three sisters (one of them with a husband and children) who remained in Riebini, were murdered in the Holocaust.

This page was compiled by Marion Werle.

Copyright (c) 2003, Marion Werle and the Latvia SIG

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