Pajūris (Payure in Yiddish) lies in western Lithuania, on the east bank of the Jura River, about 40 km. (25 miles) north west of the administrative district center of Tauragė (Tavrig). The forested hills around the town attract vacationers in the summer months.
The land and the village that developed nearby are mentioned in documents dating back to the sixteenth century. In the eighteenth century the land and the village were owned privately. Until 1795 Payure was part of the Polish Lithuanian Kingdom. The third division of Poland by the three superpowers of the times, Russia, Prussia and Austria, resulted in most of Lithuania becoming Russian territory until World War I. Between 1915 and 1918 the Germans occupied this zone, until in 1918 it was handed over to the new Lithuanian state.
|General view of Payure|
It is not known when Jews began to settle in Payure. During the Russian rule about 50 Jewish families lived there. From 1918 until 1940, under the rule of independent Lithuania, the number of the Jews in Payure decreased until just prior to the Holocaust only 30 Jewish families remained. Most of the Jews who departed, emigrated to South Africa.
In the 1900 list of donors in HaMelitz #121, the name of Ya'akov-Mordehai Abramson appears. He gave money, probably for the Settlement of Eretz-Yisrael.
Jews made their living from trade and crafts. The weekly market days on Mondays and Fridays and the quarterly fairs provided the main source of livelihood for the Jewish residents. Almost every family had an auxiliary farm near its home, where they grew vegetables and fruit trees. Some of the farms formed chicken cooperatives.
According to the first government census conducted in 1923, there were 499 residents in Payure, 280 (58%) being Jews.
The 1931 survey of local stores conducted by the Lithuanian government shows there were three leather shops, two bakeries and a pharmacy owned by Jews. Several wealthy timber merchants lived in town. In nearby villages a few Jewish agrarians lived, who would visit Payure during holidays.
In 1937 Payure had twelve Jewish tradesmen: two tailors, two butchers, two bakers, two painters, a cord twister, a photographer, a bookbinder and a milliner.
The Jewish Folksbank in nearby Shilel (Šilalė) served the Payure Jews.
In 1939 two non-Jewish families owned telephones.
Jewish children acquired their elementary education at the Hebrew school of the Tarbuth network. Some of the children studied in a Heder in town. Most of the boys continued their studies at the Yeshivoth of Kelm and Telz.
|The Beth Midrash|
The town's repertory society had a library that was open to the public. Most of the Payure Jews were members of the religious Zionist camp. In the elections for the 19th Zionist congress in 1935, 69 voters participated: 67 voted for the Mizrahi party, one for the Labor Party and one for the Grosmanists.
In Payure there was a wooden Beth Midrash with a splendid Aron-Kodesh. The rabbis of Payure included Yisrael-David Rabinovitz from 1850 to 1865, Shalom-Gershon son of Mosheh-Zelig Kav from 1910 to 1925 and Mosheh Kravitz who served from 1925, while the last rabbi was Yehudah Asovsky.
Institutions listed in the area included Bikur Holim and Linath Hatsedek.
|The Aron HaKodesh in the Beth Midrash|
On June 22nd 1941, the German army invaded Lithuania. At that time only about 120 Jews (approximately 30 families) lived in Payure. Some escaped to the village of Tenen (Teneniai), about 6 km. (3 miles) away. Two Jewish farmers lived there, the Feiges and the Zaltsmans: they and their children were murdered by Lithuanians at a site about 5 km. (3 miles) distant from the village on the road to Khveidan (Kvedarna). Those Jews who arrived at the village were imprisoned in a barn where they were kept for several days without food or water. They were brought to Kvedarna and killed, together with the local Jews, in the Tubines forest on June 29th, 1941 (4th of Tamuz 5701).
|A mass grave in the Tubines forest, one of two massacre sites|
The Jews who remained in Payure were led to Shilel and slain along with the other local Jews in the Tubines forest, 7 km. (4 miles) north of the road from Silale to Tubines on September 16th, 1941 (24th of Elul 5701). There are two mass graves in the forest, 300 meters (330 yards) north of Tubines and 350 meters (380 yards) southwest of Tubines. There were 700 victims, men, women and children, in the two graves.
|The inscription on the monument in Lithuanian and Yiddish:
In 1941, at this site, Hitler's assassins and their local helpers murdered 700 Jews men, women, children.
Yad Vashem Archives, Koniuhovsky Collection 0-71, file 12
The above article is an excerpt from Preserving Our Litvak Heritage by Josef Rosin. The book contains this article along with many others, plus an extensive description of the Litvak Jewish community in Lithuania that provides an excellent context to understand the above article. Click here to see where to obtain the book.
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