During World War II and Afterwards
After Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940, intensive sovietization took place in Zhezhmer. Businesses, mostly Jewish, were nationalized and Jewish parties and organizations were disbanded. Many Jews joined government economic enterprises and security institutions. The Hebrew school was closed and all Zionist activities were forbidden. A limited amount of cultural activity on behalf of the Comsomol took place in the hall of the Y.L. Peretz library. At the same time the departure of the town's youngsters to Kovno and other towns continued, and just 200 families were left in Zhezhmer.
On June 24th, 1941 only two days after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Zhezhmer was occupied by the German army. The town was already in the hands of Lithuanian nationalists who began their persecution of their Jewish neighbors. Among the first victims they murdered were three members of the Ilionsky family. On the pretext that Jews had shot Lithuanians and that they had hidden explosives under the floor of the synagogue, the LIthuanians searched Jewish houses and robbed them. They detained heads of families and other men and transferred them to Koshedar (Kaisiadorys), where they were killed together with the local Jews. At the same time the local authorities published orders forbidding Jews to be seen in the streets, to buy food and so on.
For several weeks many Jewish men were forced to dig peat in Palemonas and the women to do the same in Praveniskis.
In the second half of August 1941 all Jews were gathered into the synagogue and kept there without food and water for several days. On August 27th, 1941(4th of Elul 5701) all the men were taken to Strosiunai forest near the village of Vladikiskis, about 3 km. (nearly 2 miles) north of Zhezhmer. There they were executed and buried in previously prepared pits. The next day, August 28th (5th of Elul), the women and children were slain in the same forest. 2,200 men of Koshedar, Zhosly and Zhezhmer together with 1,800 women and children from those towns are buried in those mass graves. One of the women, Miriam Kotskin, who realized what was going to happen, set fire to her house and jumped into the flames before the murderers came to take her to the murder site.
Most of the local residents did nothing to help their Jewish neighbors and only a few helped Jews to survive. Their names are inscribed in the archives of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
In 1943 Nazi military rulers established a working camp in Zhezhmer, intended for hundreds of Jews from small ghettos between Lithuania and Belarus. In May of that year 700 people from this camp were transferred to the Kovno ghetto where they were absorbed by the local authorities.
In the autumn of 1991 the local authority erected a metal fence around the mass graves and placed new marble slabs on the monuments. On them is written in Lithuanian and Yiddish: Here on August 28th, 1941, Nazi murderers and their local helpers tortured and buried alive 2,200 Zhezhmer, Zhosly and Koshedar Jews.
On the nearby mass grave the same inscription was engraved with a slight variation to its wording: 1,800 women and Jewish children There the Lithuanian sculptor V. Kapaciunas erected three wooden sculptures named Pain.
The massacre site of the men in the forest of Strosiunai
At the left of the photograph stand the three wooden sculptures
|The massacre site of the women and children|
|A group of survivors at a commemoration service beside the monument|
Yad Vashem Archives - Jerusalem: M-1/E-122/50; 633/531, 1313/1274, 1493/1403, 1763/1635, 2129/1908, 2452/1514; M-9/15(6); M-33/383; M-35/80; 0-3/3681, 3870.
Koniuhovsky Collection 0-71, file 85; 0-57 Zhezhmer file, testimony of Yits'hak Kalmitsky.
YIVO New York, Lithuanian Communities Collection, file 1519
Garfunkel, Leib, Kovna HaYehudith BeHurbanah (Hebrew), Jerusalem, 1949
Levin, Dov - Zhezhmer: Pinkas HaKehiloth-Lita, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1996
Ghetto Yedioth (Yiddish), Vilna, #33, 4.4.1943; #42, 6.6.1943
Di Yiddishe Shtime - Kovno, 16.7.1922
HaMelitz - St. Petersburg #68, 135, 158
Folksblat - Kovno, 25.10. 1937, 26.7.1939, 13.11.1940
Kaisiadoriu Aidai, #76, 21.9.1991
List of Zhezhmer Jews donors to the Persian famine sufferers in 1872 listed in Hamagid.
(From JewishGen>Databases>Lithuania>Hamelitz . Compiled by Jeffrey Maynard)
|Surname||Given Name||Comments||Source in Hamelitz||Year|
|Breine||woman from Ziezmariai (Zezmer)||#12||1872|
|BEILES||Yosef Tzvi ben Avraham||#17||1872|
|BEILESH||Yosef Tzvi ben Avraham||p169||1872|
|BEISHTRIK||Moshe Avraham||brother of Zev||p169||1872|
|BEISHTRIK||Zev||brother of Moshe Avraham||p169||1872|
|GLEZER||Boruch||brother of Yekil & Gedalia||p169||1872|
|GLEZER||Gedalia||brother of Boruch & Yekil||p169||1872|
|GLEZER||Yekil||brother of Boruch & Gedalia||p169||1872|
|KATZ||Yudil ben Ch||p169||1872|
|KATZ||Eidel||brother of Eliezer||p169||1872|
|KATZ||Eliezer||brother of Eidel||p169||1872|
|POM||Raphel||father of Yudil||p169||1872|
|POM||Yudil ben Raphel||p169||1872|
|SIFER||Leib brother of Reuven||p169||1872|
|SIFER||Reuven brother of Leib||p169||1872|
|STRASHUN||Chaim ben Yosef||p169||1872|
|STRASHUN||Yosef||father of Chaim||p169||1872|
|Aharon ben M||p169||1872|
|Avraham Yitzchok ben N Sh||p169||1872|
|Falk||nephew of Zalman||p169||1872|
|Gedalia||from Kaunas (Kovno)||p169||1872|
|Heshil ben Y P||p169||1872|
|Leib ben A||p169||1872|
|Leib ben Ch||p169||1872|
|Mordechai ben Z B||p169||1872|
|Moshe ben Y P||p169||1872|
|Naphtali ben Y Tz||p169||1872|
|Shimshon bven Dov||#17||1872|
|Tzvi ben N Sh||p169||1872|
|Yekutiel Nechamiah||f-i-l of Zelig||p169||1872|
|Yitzchok ben A Ch||bridegroom||p169||1872|
|Zalman ben A||p169||1872|
|Zalman uncle of Falk||from Jurbarkas (Yurburg)||p169||1872|
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