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

55° 18' / 24° 30'

Translation of the “Siesikiai” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Josef Rosin

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 437-438)

Siesikiai

In Yiddish, Sesik or Sheshik

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shimon Joffe

A county town in the Ukmerge district.

Year General
Population
Jews %
1859 337 .. ..
1923 488 125 26
1940 .. 70* ..

* 21 families.

Siesikiai lies in central Lithuania, on the banks of a lake bearing the same name, 17 km north west of the district town Ukmerge. An estate named Siesikiai was laid out in the area in the 16th century. The right to conduct trade was granted to the town in the 18th century. During the period of Russian rule (1795-1915), the town was initially included in the Vilnius province but as of 1843, it was included in the Kaunas province. During the First World War (1915-1918), it was under German occupation. During the 19th century, and also in the time of Lithuanian independence (1918-1940), it served as a county center. The town burnt down a number of times and was rebuilt anew.

In the first census held by independent Lithuania in 1923, 125 Jews were counted. With the declaration of the Jewish Autonomy Law, a community council of 5 members was elected. It was active between the years 1920-1926 in all matters of Jewish life in the town.

The Jews lived mainly off trade in grains. They bought the grains from the village peasants and sold to the merchants in Jonava. In summer they leased orchards from the estate owners in the neighborhood and in autumn carried the fruit in carts to the railway station in Jonava, where local merchants bought the merchandise for export to Germany. The town also had a number of Jewish owned shops and timber merchants. According to a survey conducted by the Lithuanian government in 1931, the town had 2 Jewish owned businesses; one dealing in flax and the other in textiles. In 1935 a Jew (Meir Fleisher), erected a flour mill and a timber yard. These were the large enterprises in the place. In 1939 the town had 10 telephone subscribers, 2 of them being Jews.

Siesikiai had a small synagogue. It did not have parties or youth movements. Most of the town Jews belonged to the Zionist camp and contributed to the Keren Kayemet L'Yisrael. Out of the 25 voters who cast their votes for the 19th Zionist congress, 17 voted for the Labor bloc, 7 for the Grossmanists and one for Mizrakhi.

The town youths did not hold out any promise for advancement in the town and most of them immigrated to South Africa. Johannesburg held more than 200 past residents of Siesikiai.

After the annexation of Lithuania to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940, the flour mill and timber yard were nationalized and the Jewish owner, who was also a Zionist, was exiled to Siberia.

When the German army invaded the Soviet Union, on June 22, 1941, a few families, previous residents of the town, returned to it in the belief that it would be easier to pass the war time in such a small place. Only one young Jewish man managed to escape to the Soviet Union.

On the ninth day of the war, a group of 10 Nationalist Lithuanians arrived in town with a written order signed by the Lithuanian police chief ordering them to 'clean the place of Soviet agents and anti German elements'. They brought with them 7 bound Russian youths from a nearby village. Together with local hooligans the Lithuanians broke into Jewish homes and arrested 27 men. These were taken to a forest 2 km from the town and forced, with cruel blows, to dig pits. All the Jews and the 7 Russians were murdered and buried there.

At the beginning of September 1941, all the Jews, mostly women, the aged and children, were driven out of their homes and moved into the synagogue. They were kept there during the night, without water and on the morrow put into dozens of carts and carried to the Pivonia forest near Ukmerge. There they were murdered on September 5, 1941 together with thousands of Jews from the neighboring towns.

The remains of the 27 Jews and the 7 Russians, murdered at the beginning of the German invasion were taken out of their graves in 1964 and reburied in the military cemetery in Ukmerge.

All the killings were committed by the Lithuanians only. A few of them were captured by the Soviet authorities and sentenced to lengthy imprisonment. Others fled together with the Germans and now live in the USA. Their names are kept in the Yad Vashem archives.

Bibliography:

Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1788, 55/1701, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: files 1316-1317, pages 60872-60904.
Bolnik, S., “Siesikiai, the Shtetls of My Birth”, within: Jonava On The Banks Of The Vylia, (Edited by Shimon Noy and Yitzkhak Burstein), Tel Aviv 1972.
Naujienos (Chicago), 19.8.1949.

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