“Kvedarna” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Kvėdarna, Lithuania)

55° 33' / 22° 00'

Translation of the “Kvedarna” 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 295-297)

Kvedarna

In Yiddish, Khveidan, also Chveidan

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Shimon Joffe

A regional town in the Taurage District in the Samogitia region

Year General
Population
Jews %
1765 .. 186* ..
1841 320 .. ..
1897 1,190 671 56**
1923 950 394 41
1938 1,100 350 32

*poll tax payers
**120 families

Kvedarna lies on the left bank of the Jura River, in North Western Lithuania, in the Samogitia region, 15 km. North West of Shilel. Hundreds of years ago, a fortress stood in this place but it was destroyed by the Crusader knights in 1329. Kvedarna is mentioned as a sub-district center in the sixteenth century. In 1792 it was granted the Magdeburg privileges. After the great fire in 1843, the houses were rebuilt some 2 km. from the previous place. Besides four solid buildings, two being two stories high, all the other houses were built of wood. As a result, the town suffered many conflagrations.

Until the First World War, the nearest railway station was at the town of Sveksna, some 20 km away. During the Russian occupation (1795-1915), Kvedarna first belonged to Vilnius province, but from 1843 it was included in the Kaunas province, Raiseiniai district. During Lithuanian independence, it continued as a sub-district center.

The Jewish community in Kvedarna dates from the seventeenth century. In 1662, the town contained 7 Jews, (3 men and 4 women, not including children and the aged). According to the records of 1765, Kvedarna had 186 Jews paying poll tax .They found their income mostly from commerce and craftwork. After the great fire in the summer of 1881, Dr Rilf, Rabbi of Klaipeda (Memel), was instrumental in organizing an appeal among the Jewish communities. Out of the 500 rubles contributed, 100 was distributed among the sufferers of the fire, and the remainder was devoted to the restoration of the study house. Fifteen years later, after another fire, almost all the town houses burnt down, (except for ten). The community Dayan (religious judge), Reb David Yehuda Leib, first born son of Moshe Luria, appealed for assistance from the Jewish public in the pages of the newspaper Hameliz. From that period onwards until the First World War, the following rabbis officiated; Rabbi Arieh Leib Rapaport(from 1872), Rabbi Yitshak (from 1883), Rabbi Yitskhak Zvi Kriger ( during 4 years), Rabbi Moshe, first son of Yehuda Leib Rosin (from 1900). For many years Rabbi Avraham Karelitz , known as the Khazon Ish, studied in the local study house. He refused to accept an appointment and lived off the income from his wife's shop, a native of the place. In the lists of contributors for the settlement of Eretz-Yisrael in the years 1898 and 1899 appear the names of the local delegates; Y. Mishnitz and Zvi Eliezer Meirowitz.

The effects of the war caused most of the Jews to flee the town in 1915. Only some of them returned after the gaining of Lithuanian independence. With the governmental declaration of Jewish autonomy, a community board of 5 was elected. It was active during the years in most spheres referring to Jewish life in the town. In those years, the Jewish community was composed of about 80 families, 12 of these lived off farming. The town had a number of rich dealers in forests. The remainder of the Jewish population dealt in flax, fowls and grains, and others were artisans.

According to a survey conducted by the Lithuanian government in 1923, Kvedarna had a Jewish dealer in cattle, a butchery, 3 textile shops, 2 restaurants, an ironmongery and tool shop, a haberdashery and household goods, a general goods shop, a pharmacy and a Jewish owned dying works. In 1937, town had 12 Jewish artisans, 3 bakers, 3 tailors, 2 butchers, a hatter, a smith, a metal worker and a barber. Out of 20 telephones in the town, only one belonged to a Jew.

In addition to the study house, the town also had the following institutions; Talmud Torah (a religious school), 3 Haderim, a Hebrew primary school belonging to the Tarbut stream, a library, a Jewish Peoples Bank, various charitable loan societies, and a Linat Tsedek (hostel) society. The Maccabi organization had 30 members on its rolls.

During this period, Rabbi Shraga-Feivl Gavran filled the post of town rabbi, and he kept in close contact with persons and institutions across the sea, (e.g. Ezrat Torah in New York), and received grants from them for the extension of religious education in the town.

The following table reflects the Zionist activities and the political and ideological tendencies of the community, and this is seen from the voting pattern to the Zionist Congresses.

Congress
No
Year No. of
Shekels
Total
Votes
Labor
No
Revis-
ionist
General
Zionists
State
Party
Mizrachi
Z S Zts. A B
15 1927 14 - - - - - - - -
16 1929 24 - - - - - - - -
18 1931 .. 7 1 2 1 3 - - -
19 1935 .. 115 16 - 2 2 1 95
              National Block
21 1939 .. 24 8 - 2 14

One of the most active youth movements in the town was Bnei Akiva. During the period of Soviet rule in Lithuania (1940-1941), its Zionist activities were outlawed and some shops, both owned both by Jews and others were nationalized.

On June 22, 1941, the day war broke out between the Soviet Union and Germany most of the Jewish inhabitants left town in fear of bombing and sought shelter in nearby villages. After the entry of the Germans, they returned to the town. On June 29, members of the S.S. together with Lithuanian nationalists (so called activists), raided the Jewish homes and arrested all males over the age of 15. They were concentrated in the market square to the sounds of jubilation on the part of the mass of Lithuanians who had just come out of church. One of them cut of the beard of Rabbi Gavran and scattered the hair to the applause and cheers of the crowd. After a further series of maltreatments the prisoners were taken to Heidekrug in the Klaipeda district. They were kept there close to two years. Again and again they underwent Selektsia and the unfit for labor were executed. At the end of July 1943, the remainder was transferred to Auschwitz. Two months later, the survivors were taken to Warsaw to clear the rubble from the destroyed ghetto. Only four saw the day of liberation. The women and children of Kvedarna were moved at the beginning of July 1941, to the study house and nearby houses. Here they found themselves in a sort of ghetto controlled by the Lithuanian 'activists'. The latter cruelly maltreated the children and more so the women. Many of them were raped and then brutally murdered. A short time after the Succoth festival 1941, the surviving women and children were taken to the forest near the Tubiniai village, where they were shot by armed Lithuanians and the bodies thrown into pits dug beforehand in two places; the one 300 meters north of the village and the other 350 meters south west of it. The same place served as the last resting place for the murdered Jews from the towns Shilel, Kaltinenai and other townships in the vicinity .The study house served afterwards, during the period of the Nazi conquest, as a place for holding parties and celebrations by the local Lithuanians. The Sefer Torah was hidden in the house of the priest Milimas, and after the war returned to the few local Jews who had remained alive in various places. The names of the Lithuanian murderers are on record in the Yad Vashem archives.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-1/E-139/176; Koniukhovsky Collection 0-71, files 4, 15.
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1701, 55/1788, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: files 9698.
Gotlib, Sefer Ohalei Shem, p. 161.
Di Yiddishe Shtime [The Jewish Voice] – (Kaunas), 31.5.1922.
Hamelitz
[The Advocate] – (St. Petersburg), 31.5.1896, 26.7.1881.

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