“Linkuva” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Lithuania)

56° 05' / 23° 58'

Translation of the “Linkuva” 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 360 - 362)

Linkuva (Lith.)

In Yiddish, Linkeve

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

A county town in the Siauliai district.

Year General
Population
Jews Percentage
1847 .. 872 ..
1897 1,992 1,213 61
1923 1,851 625 34

Linkuva is located in northern Lithuania, about 50 km east of Siauliai, the district's city. The construction of the town began in the second half of the 16th century, near an estate that was already there. During the period of Russian rule (1795 – 1915) Linkuva was part of the Vilnius province. From 1843, it belonged to the Kaunas province. Linkuva started growing and prospering after the middle of the 19th century. Between 1915 and 1918, Linkuva was under German Occupation. In 1915, the Germans built a narrow railway line, which passed not far from Linkuva, and thus connected the surrounding areas to Siauliai. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940), Linkuva was the center of a county.

The Jewish Settlements Till After World War I

Apparently, Jews settled in Linkuva at the beginning of the 18th century. About 300 Jewish families lived in Linkuva before WWI. They made their livelihood from commerce, labor and agriculture. In June 1883, a big fire broke out in the town and about 100 Jewish homes burned down. Among them was the synagogue which was made of wood. 150 Jewish families lost all of their property. Jews from neighboring towns sent bread to the poverty stricken Jews in Linkuva. A resident of Linkuva by the name of Yitzkhak Kapuler published a request in the Hamelitz on July 13, 1883, asking to help the people whose homes burned down. Aharon HaCohen, the Rabbi on behalf of the government, added his certificate of approval.

During the period of Independent Lithuania, the number of Jews in Linkuva decreased by half. In accordance with the law of autonomy for the Jews, a ruling committee of 7 members was voted for in Linkuva. The committee was active for a few years in most areas of Jewish life in the town. One of its first activities (in 1922) was to organize a day which was called “The Flower Day”, whose goal was to collect money for the hungry children in Russia and the Ukraine. The fundraising was done by youth in Linkuva who were affiliated with the Zionist Socialist and the Young Zionist parties. In total, they raised and transferred for that purpose 30,000 marks.

During the period under discussion, the Jews continued to engage in commerce, labor and agriculture. In 1922, the artisans' union in the town had 23 members, and the small merchants' union had 86 members. 3 km from Linkuva was the village of Pamusis (also called Pamuse), whose residents were Jewish farmers. The big yearly fair and the markets days, which were held on Mondays and Fridays, contributed to the livelihood of the town's Jews. In 1934, the town had a number of incidents when Lithuanians harmed their Jewish neighbors.

According to the 1931 Lithuanian government census, Linkuva had 24 stores, 23 of them (96%) were owned by Jews. The division into business branches is shown in the table below:

Branch or Type of Business Total Owned
by Jews
Groceries 4 4
Crops and flax 6 6
Butcher shops and cattle 3 2
Clothing, furs and textiles 5 5
Leather and shoes 1 1
Sewing and house utensils 1 1
Medicine and cosmetics 1 1
Radios, bicycles and electrical equipment 1 1
Tools and iron products 1 1
Miscellaneous 1 1

According to the same census, there were 17 factories in Linkuva, 8 of them were owned by Jews (47%), including a power station, a sawmill, a few flourmills, a bakery, a barber shop and others.

The Jewish Popular Bank (Folksbank) was established in Linkuva in 1922. It had an important contribution to the town's economic life. In 1927, it had 164 registered members. The bank provided loans to impoverished artisans who returned from Russia after the war so they could buy equipment and raw materials for their work. The petty traders and the farmers also enjoyed benefits from the bank. Linkuva also had a branch of the Credit Union of Jewish Farmers. In 1937, the town had 14 Jewish artisans: 4 tailors, 2 tinsmiths, 2 butchers, 2 “Tapars” “ (Hebrew, “tapar”, which refers to “a craftsman in shoemaking who makes the uppers”), a baker, a hat maker, a photographer, and a potter. In 1939, there were 50 telephones in the town; 12 of them were owned by Jews.

When the “Hibat Zion” movement was established, and later the Zionist movement, the Jews of Linkuva became active in aiding to settle Eretz-Yisrael. The lists of donors for that purpose, which were published in the “Hamelitz” in 1886, 1898, and 1903, show the names of many Jews from Linkuva. The delegates were Yitzkhak Kapuller and Y. M. Kapuler. The 1909, list show the names of 16 Jews from the town. A few of Linkuva's Jews emigrated to Eretz-Yisrael before WWI. One of them was Josef Berlovitz, who established in Petakh Tikva a factory that burned bricks and roof tiles. He also established in Petakh Tikva the “Akhiezer” Union of Artisans. Another emigree from Linkuva was Tsiyon Zetler, who settled in Kefar Saba in 1905. Many of Linkuva's Jews belonged to the Zionist camp during the period of Independent Lithuania and participated in voting for the Zionist Congresses. The division of votes to the various parties is 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
14 1925 40 - - - - - - -  
15 1927 69 58 4 17 - 21 - - 16
16 1929 144 65 2 23 3 25 - - 12
17 1931 81 68 11 19 8 23 - - 7
18 1933 .. 115 77 5 23 - 3 7
19 1935 .. 135 90 - 1 13 - 31
21 1939 96 76 49 - 6 - 20 1

Among the Zionist Youth Organizations that were active in Linkuva were: “Gordonia”, which had 40-50 members, and “HeKhalutz HaTzair”. Sport activities by the youth were held in the “Maccabi” branch, which had 26 members. In 1934, there was a rural Kibbutz that was affiliated with the “HeKhalutz” movement.

The synagogue burned down during the big fire and was not rebuilt. What remained in the town were the Bet Midrash, which was built of bricks, and the “Kloiz” (prayer house). The Rabbinate in Linkuva was headed by a number of well known Rabbis. Among them were: Rabbi Joel-Yitzkhak Katzenelenbogen, who most important book was “Zera Yitzkhak” (The Seed of Yitzkhak); Rabbi Meir HaCohen Rabinovitz; Rabbi Tsvi-Hirsh HaCohen Rabinovitz; Rabbi Tankhum-Shraga Revl; Rabbi Tsvi HaLevi Levitas; Rabbi Natan-Yerakhmiel Litvin; and Rabbi Yekutiel-Zalman Levitas, who was the community's last Rabbi. The latter two perished during the Nazi occupation.

Among the natives of Linkuva were: Rabbi Dov Revl (1885-1940), who had a Phd in Philosophy, was the head of the Yeshiva in Brooklyn named after Yitzkhak Elkhanan, and was the first president of the Union of Rabbis of the United States; Tsvi-Hirsh Rabinovitz, who published in Hebrew many books on the subjects of mechanics, physics and chemistry; Rabbi Yisrael-Hillel, the son of Rabbi Khaim Kaplinski, who was murdered in Khevron during the pogroms of 1929.

During World War II and Afterwards

In the summer of 1940, when Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union, the factories and shops, most of which belonged to Jews, were nationalized. The middle class, who were mostly Jews, were severely hurt and their standard of living declined gradually. All the Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded.

On June 23, 1941, a day after the German army invaded the Soviet Union, the Jews of Linkuva also started fleeing towards the east after discovering that the Soviets were retreating from Lithuania. Lithuanian Nationalists began their activities on that very day. They waited in ambush for the fleeing Jews and shot a few of them. While the Jews were fleeing eastward, Jews from Siauliai and from towns in the surrounding areas arrived in Linkuva. Thus, on Saturday, June 28, 1941, the day the Germans entered Linkuva, there were about 1000 Jews in Linkuva. Lithuanian police ordered the Jews to assemble in a stable that was owned by Y. Kapuler and in the warehouses that were owned by A. Kahn, S. Girsh, and L. Ber. Many of the Jews assembled there and were immediately locked up and were tortured; they had their beards cut off, and in spite of the hot summer, were not given any water or food. On June 30, 10 young people ages 10-18, were taken out of there and were murdered on that very night by being shot to death. The following day, Lithuanians took out many Jewish men and murdered them in a forest, about 3 km from the town. Between July 2 and July 23, Lithuanians murdered a few hundred other Jews from Linkuva and from among the refugees who got stuck in the town. The massacre took place near the village of Dvariukai. 57 men were taken out of their homes, were led to Siauliai, and were kept in the local prison in the most humiliating conditions. 30 of them, the stronger ones, were forced to dig pits in the Kuziai Forest. Those pits were later used as the large mass grave for the Jews of Siauliai. The remaining 27 men, who were not taken to work, were shot on July 10. The 30 men who dug the pits were placed in the Siauliai ghetto after it was established. Their fate was the same as the fate of the other Jews from Siaulia. After the ghetto was liquidated, the surviving Jews were transferred to internment camps in Germany. On July 23, 1941 (28 Tamuz, 5701), the remaining Jews, who were imprisoned in the cowsheds of the estate owner, David Davidson, about 700 souls, were taken to the Atkucionai Forest, where they were all shot to death.

At the beginning of May, 1945, only 4 of Linkuva's Jews were fortunate to be liberated by the American army. After the war, a memorial was erected near Dvariukai for the 200 murdered victims.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-9/15(6).
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1788, 55/1701, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
Hamelitz [The Advocate] – (St. Petersburg), 25.3.1879, 13.7.1883.
Kamzon, The Jews of Lithuania, pp. 161, 171.
Der Yiddisher Kooperator [Jewish Cooperation] (Kaunas), 1922, #'s2-3; 1930, #1.
Yiddishe Shtime [The Jewish Voice] – (Kaunas), 9.8.1922, 16.3.1923, 16.10.1928, 15.6.1932.


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