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[Page 161]

Miroslavas (Miroslav)

5420' 2354'

Miroslavas (Miroslav in Yiddish) is located in the southwestern part of Lithuania, about twelve kilometers to the southwest of the district administrative center of Alite (Alytus). Miroslav is mentioned in documents dating from the seventeenth century. In 1744 a wooden church was built there and by 1781 the town had its own monastery.

Until 1795 Miroslav was included in the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom. According to the third division of Poland in the same year by the three superpowers of those times, Russia, Prussia and Austria, Lithuania was divided between Russia and Prussia. The part of the country to the west of the Nieman (Nemunas) River, including Miroslav, was handed over to Prussia. Between1795 and 1807 Miroslav was under Prussian rule. In 1800 the population of the town was 220.

From 1807 to 1813 Miroslav was controlled by the Great Dukedom of Warsaw. In 1813, after the defeat of Napoleon, all of Lithuania was annexed to Russia, and Miroslav became part of the Augustowa province (Gubernia) and in subsequent years belonged to the Suwalk Gubernia. In the years of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940) Miroslav was a county administrative center.

Jews most likely settled in Miroslav at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The synagogue was built in 1896. Among the rabbis who served in town were:

Mosheh Shapira
Shemuel-Aharon Plotkin
Shemuel Hatsor

According to the all-Russian census of 1897, the population of Miroslav was 485, including approximately 60 Jewish families.

Most Miroslav Jews made their living in the small trades and depended on the weekly markets, held on Wednesdays. About ten families worked in agriculture and ten others were engaged in skilled work.

During World War I, in April 1915, the retreating Russian army exiled Miroslav Jews to central Russia.

After the war and the establishment of Independent Lithuania in1918, not all of the exiled Jews returned. Following the passage of the Law of Autonomies for Minorities issued by the new Lithuanian government, the Minister for Jewish Affairs, Dr. Menachem (Max) Soloveitshik, ordered elections to community committees (Va'adei Kehilah) to be held in the summer of 1919. In Miroslav a Va'ad (community committee) with five members was elected. The committee was active in all fields of Jewish life until the end of 1925.

According to the first government census in 1923, 393 people lived in Miroslav; 124 of these were Jewish (32%).

During the period of Lithuanian rule the number of Jews in Miroslav decreased. Many young people emigrated to Eretz-Yisrael to become pioneers in Emek Heifer (The Heifer valley). The older people migrated to America.

By 1937 only two Jewish skilled workers remained in the town, a shoemaker and a knitter.

On July 5, 1939 a fire destroyed eight houses and ten other buildings. Most belonged to Jews and were not insured.

Many Miroslav Jews were supporters of the Zionist movement. They purchased Shekalim and took part in elections to the Zionist congresses. The results of their votes are given in the table below:


Congress
No.
Year Total
Shkalim
Total Votes Labor Party
Z”S Z”Z
Revisionists General Zionists
A B
Grosmanists Mizrakhi
16 1929 2
17 1931 7 7 2 4 1
18 1933 24 1 14 4 1
19 1935 15 16 2
21 1939 10 10 3 N.B.7


The Zionist youth organization Tseirei Zion was active in the 1920s.

In the summer of 1940, Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Following new regulations, some Jewish shops were nationalized. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded. Supply of goods decreased, and as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore the brunt, and the standard of living dropped gradually. At that time about 20 Jewish families lived in Miroslav.

 

lit6_161a.jpg
The Tseirei Zion organization of Miroslav

 

On June 22, 1941 the German army invaded Lithuania. In a few days most of Lithuania, including Miroslav, was under Nazi occupation. Between August 13 and September 9 the Jews of Miroslav were murdered in the Vidzgiris Forest, most likely together with Jews from Alite and other neighboring towns.

 

lit6_161b.jpg
The monument with memorial plaque by the path to the remembrance site

 

On March 19, 1993 a new metal monument in the shape of a broken Magen David was erected in the Vidzgiris Forest (see below). There are nine huge graves, where murdered Jews are buried; each has a circular black cover surmounted by a white pyramid. Near the path that leads to the hill, a memorial plaque now carries the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: “Here, in this place, the Nazis and their local helpers, in the years 1941-1944, murdered tens of thousands of Jews children, women, men and old people, most of them from other countries. Let their memory live forever.”

The architect of the site was Mrs. R. Vasiliauskiene and the sculptor A. Smilingis.

 

lit6_161c.jpg
A broken Magen-David stands as a monument
on the hill overlooking the remembrance site

 

lit6_161d.jpg
The graves with black circular covers surmounted with white pyramids

 

Sources:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, 0-3/639
Lite, Vol. 1 (Yiddish), pages 1558-155, 1870
Folksblat, Kovno, 7.7.1939

 

The above article is an excerpt from “Protecting 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.

http://yurburgfriends.com/Rosin/Heritage.html

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