“Vidiskiai” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Vidškiai, Lithuania)

55° 18' / 24° 52'

Translation of the “Vidiskiai” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Dov Levin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1996


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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Lita: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Lithuania,
Editor: Prof. Dov Levin, Assistant Editor: Josef Rosin, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


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(Pages 225-226)

Vidiskiai

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

In Yiddish, Vidishok

A small town in the county of Zemaitkiemis in the district of Ukmerge.

Year General
Population
Jews Percentage
1859 78 .. ..
1897 483 151 31
1940 400 50 12

Vidiskiai is located in eastern Lithuania, 8 km northeast of the district city of Ukmerge, on the right bank of the Sventoji River, along both sides of the Ukmerge-Utena road. The settlement is mentioned in historical sources dating from 1502. In 1703, the town was granted the rights to hold weekly market days and annual fairs.

Apparently, Jews established a community in Vidiskiai at the beginning of the 19th century. Among other things, they had a prayer house. Most of them made a living from storekeeping and petty trade, but with great difficulty. As a result, emigration to the United States increased among the Jews of Vidiskiai. In the summer of 1915, a year after the outbreak of WWI, all of the town's Jews were expelled to the interior regions of Russia. Some of them did not return to Vidiskiai after the war.

Rabbi Yekhiel Belitski served in the Vidiskiai rabbinate for some time.

As the handful Jews who returned from Russia began to restore their homes and livelihood, local Lithuanians set the prayer house on fire, and it was only through great effort that they were able to rebuild it in the center of the town. Public prayer in the prayer house took place only on Saturdays and holidays, because during the weekdays most of the town's Jews left the town at dawn in order to work in the villages in the surrounding areas.

According to the 1931 Lithuanian government census, Jews owned the following businesses in Vidiskiai: 3 flax stores, a grain store and a wool carding factory. In 1937, there was a Jewish butcher in the town. Of the 4 telephones in the town in 1939, one was in the home of a Jewish family which had a flourmill in Vidiskiai.

The small children studied in the local “Kheder” and later continued their education in the nearby city of Ukmerge. Due to their difficult economic conditions and the size of their population, the Jews of Vidiskiai were not able to upkeep a Rabbi in the town. The Rabbi of Ukmerge was also the Rabbi of Vidiskiai. The town's Jews were also very much connected to Ukmerge in cultural and commercial matters. Although there was constant emigration of young people and adults abroad and some who went to Eretz-Yisrael, Zionist activities continued in Vidiskiai. The results of the votes to the Zionist Congresses in the town are shown in the table below:

Congress
Nr.
Year Total
Shekalim
Total
Voters
Labor
Part
Revisionists General
Zionists
Grosmanists Mizrachi
Z”S Z”Z A B
19 1935 .. 24 23 - - 1 - -
 National Bloc
21 1939 10 8 7 - - 1

In the autumn of 1940, when Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union, the “Kheder” in Vidiskiai was shut down and Zionist activities were disbanded.

On June 22, 1941, Lithuania was conquered by Germany and it was precisely at that time that local Lithuanian nationalists took control of the town. They assisted in taking the remaining Jews of Vidiskiai to Ukmerge, where they were murdered together with the Jews of Ukmerge on September 5, 1941 (13 Elul, 5701). Their bodies were placed in a mass grave in the Pivonija Forest, which is located 4 km southeast of Vidiskiai.

Bibliography:

Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1788, 55/1701, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.

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