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Širvintos (Shirvint) {cont.}



Many Yeshiva graduates lived in Shirvint and a daily Gemara page was studied in all three prayer houses and in the Shtibl.


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The Beth Midrash




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The Shtibl of the Hasidim




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The Shamash of the Beth Midrash
waking people for the morning prayer (Shaharith)


Rabbi Avraham Aryeh Leib Grosbard (1870-1941), served in Shirvint from 1913, together with his son-in-law Zundl Kruk who eventually took over from him. Both were murdered in the Holocaust.

Bikur Holim and Linath HaTsedek were the local welfare institutions.

Personalities born in Shirvint included:

Eliyahu-Eliezer Grodzensky (1831-1887), the son-in-law of rabbi Israel Salanter, who was one of the three members of the religious high court in Vilna.
Leon Hazanovitz (his real name was Katriel Shub 1882-1925), one of the leaders of the Poalei Zion party, writer and editor of his party's periodicals.
Avner Tenenboim (1848-1913), reporter and writer published hundreds of articles and books on nature, history and geography in America. He translated books from world literature into Yiddish, which were sought after by Yiddish readers.
Tsevi Bernshtein, arrived in Eretz-Yisrael in 1935, an executive member of Hapoel HaMizrahi.




During World War II and Afterwards

In June 1940, Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Following new rules, light industrial enterprises owned by Jews were nationalized. A number of Jewish shops were nationalized and commissars were appointed to manage them. Supply of goods decreased and, as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore the brunt, and their standard of living dropped. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and the Hebrew school was closed. At least three Jewish families from Shirvint were exiled to Siberia by the Soviet authorities.

A few days after the German invasion into the Soviet Union on June 22nd, 1941, German soldiers arrived in Shirvint. They set fire to the three prayer houses and spread the Torah scrolls in the streets so that people would trample on them. A Jewish woman and her son who lived in the building of the Beth Midrash were burned alive.

Several days later, after the German soldiers left the town and moved eastwards, Lithuanian nationalists took over the rule of the town. Many people who had had some connections with Soviet authorities were detained, both Jews and non-Jews. All were sent to prison in Vilkomir; the non-Jews received 25 lashes and were released. The Jews were executed.

In the middle of July 1941 young men and women up to the age of eighteen were selected for agricultural work on the Sheshulki farm, about 10 km. (6 miles) from Shirvint. From time to time groups of 20 to 25 people were taken and sent to so-called labor elsewhere. Later it became clear they had been imprisoned in Vilkomir.

On August 10th, 1941 all Jews who owned a horse and a cart were ordered to present themselves on the morrow, ready for a journey. Lithuanian police pulled men off the streets and put them on the carts, and many Jews who resisted were sentenced on the spot to die by fire. In fact, fuel was spilled over them and they were burned alive.

At the end of August all Jews were ordered to leave their houses and move to about twenty ramshackle buildings in the old part of town, the area around the bath house and the Mikveh. The rulers called this place the Ghetto. According to one source, the old rabbi Avraham-Leib Grosbard and his son-in-law Zundl Kruk tried to organize life a little, but did not succeed, because Lithuanian auxiliary police would come and demand that the Jews hand over their money and property.

At dawn on September 18th, 1941 (26th of Elul, 5701) the ghetto was surrounded by Germans and Lithuanians. All Jews were forced into trucks and transferred to Vilkomir. From there they were taken to Pivonija forest near the town where pits had already been prepared. They were forced to undress and were then pushed into the pits and murdered. A few resisted. Little children were thrown into the air and the Lithuanians shot at them for live target practice. On the same day a sign was erected at the entrance of Shirvint stating that the town was Judenrein (Clean of Jews).


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The entrance gate to the murder site
at Pivonija forest




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The mass graves at Pivonija forest




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The monument at Pivonija forest




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The tablet on the monument
The inscription in Yiddish, Hebrew and Lithuanian:
“At this site in the year 1941 Hitler's murderers
and their local helpers murdered 10,239 Jews,
men, women and children. ”


After the war two Jews returned. In 1989 only two Jews lived in Shirvint.

At the beginning of the 1990s, on the site of the Jewish cemetery which had become a housing estate, a memorial was erected with an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: “The Jewish cemetery was at this site until 1961”.



Sources:

Yad Vashem Archives, file 22/54
Erd un Arbeit (Yiddish) – The Poalei Zion party's journal, Kovno, 22.7.1922
Der Yiddisher Cooperator (Yiddish), Kovno, #7-8, 1.8.1928
Folksblat – Kovno, 28.11.1938
JewishGen>Databases>Lithuania>Hamelitz by Jeffrey Maynard


The above article is an excerpt from “Preserving 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://www.pickmanmuseumshop.com/prourlihevoi.html

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