The Years of the Town's Decline.
On Saturday, the first of April 1933, Jews from Kibart who went to Eydtkuhnen as usual, were surprised to see a uniformed S.A. man in front of each Jewish shop, who prevented them from entering. This was the beginning of the end of German, and for that matter, of East European Jewry too, but on that day people did not as yet imagine to what this would lead and how it would end.
During the following years traffic through this border passage decreased gradually, because most of the Kibart's Jews abstained from going to Eydtkuhnen, only very few would cross the border. At the railway station the traffic also decreased very much, only groups of "Chalutzim" would pass the station from time to time on their way to Eretz-Israel. In the luxurious rooms of the station, once upon a time designated for the Tsars family, the Magistrate's Court was now housed and the only persons frequenting these rooms were those who came to be judged or just curious onlookers.
In the long building near the border where there were at one time 15 shops, only two were left, of all the others only the signs remained. A few carts would pass the border during the day, carrying some goods for processing by those few "Expediters" still in Kibart.
Those merchants whose business was not based on the population of Eydtkuhnen or on smuggling, continued as usual. The same was true of the factories and workshops who produced for the local market.
According to the official 1939 telephone book there were 123 phone subscribers in Kibart, of whom about 30 belonged to state institutions such as the police, border police, customs, courts etc. Of the other 93 subscribers 54 belonged to Jewish owners of the large shops, the manufacturers and the expediters (see Table 20).
In those years the influence of the Lithuanian Merchants Association (Verslas), who propagated the boycott of Jewish shops and to buy only "Lithuanian" increased. Slowly but surely this propaganda gained popularity among wider circles and Jewish shops were avoided. As a result not only did many Jewish families leave the town and to look for a livelihood elsewhere, but many young people did so too, in order to find work in Kovno.
In 1937 or 1938 the well known "story" of the geese occurred and this is the time to relate it:
Lithuania's main export items were agricultural products, most of them to Germany, one of the major items being live geese. At the beginning of winter, the exporters would bring the geese to a lot in the railway station. The quacking of the geese was heard day and night during a month or so. The geese or a part of them were transferred across the border by foot and a white throng of geese could be seen flowing along the main street to the border. When Hitler's rule in Germany had become a fact, he demanded that Memel (Klaipeda) and its districts return to German sovereignty. By way of pressure he canceled the commercial treaty with Lithuania, as a result of which all the geese assigned for export were left without buyers. To solve the problem, the Lithuanian government ordered that all its clerks receive part of their salary in geese. The amount of geese for every clerk was calculated according to his salary. Thus the price of geese greatly decreased and many people enjoyed roast geese and geese schmaltz.
In order to illustrate the image and decline of the town mention is made here of several excerpts from an article written by the writer David Umru which was published in the Yiddish newspaper "Volksblat" in July 1939: "Eydtkuhnen made a living from Kibart and Kibart from Eydtkuhnen." Today both towns have declined in comparison to their living standards in recent times. Kibart' is different from all other Lithuanian towns. Not only the grandiose railway station but also the other buildings look similar to a large city. The columns of trees along the sidewalks, the lawns and also the behavior of its people are not provincial. Kibart is imbued with western culture. Even the door frames of the shops are a copy of German examples...
Now there is a struggle with the so called "German disease. Girls who not long ago only knew German, opened their mouths and began to speak a fluent Yiddish. Library workers used the opportunity and started to mobilize new subscribers, and if you paid the Lit, so why not to take a book? Then having taken a book, you read a little and even started to feel the taste of it.
The public institutions in Kibart are successful. The activities of the "OZE"and "ORT" organizations are not comparable to that of any other town in Lithuania. Ten youngsters were sent to the "ORT" vocational schools in Kovno financed by the community. Preventive medicine of "OZE" is also on a high level. The only association which is lacking is one which would cause cultural activity to advance to a proper level.
Once there were factories in Kibart. Today there are no factories left, only poverty. About ten men are still "Couriers" who travel to Kovno every day, taking some smuggled goods with them to sell there in order to add some income to their poor livelihood. But in the street poverty is almost unnoticeable. It is well hidden as is appropriate for a town with an outward shine."
In spite of the fact that the situation was deteriorating all the time, it is worthwhile mentioning the help Kibart's Jews gave to refugees from the Suvalk region at the end of 1939.
According to the Ribbentrop-Molotov treaty the Russians occupied the Suvalk region, but after surveying the exact borders according to which Poland was carved up between Russia and Germany, the Suvalk region fell into German hands. The retreating Russians allowed anyone who so wanted to join them and to move into the territory occupied by them, and indeed many young people left this area together with the Russians. The Germans expelled from their houses those Jews who remained in Suvalk and its vicinity, their property was robbed, after which they were led to the Lithuanian border, where they were left in great poverty. The Lithuanians did not allow them to enter Lithuania and the Germans did not allow them to go back. Thus they stayed there in this swampy area in cold and rain for several weeks, until Jewish youngsters from border villages in Lithuania smuggled them into Lithuania by different routes, with much risk to themselves. Altogether about 2,400 refugees were passed through or infiltrated by themselves, and were then dispersed in the Vilkavishk and Mariampol districts. In Kibart alone 125 refugees were accommodated, among them several tens of "Chalutzim", who got the warm and devoted treatment for which Kibart's Jews were famous.
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