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

55° 21' / 22° 31'

Translation of the “Batakiai” 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 169-170)

Batakiai

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

In Yiddish, Batok; In Russian, Botoki or Botoka

A county town in the Taurage district.

YearGeneral
Population
Jews%
1841154....
1886665....
1923..88..
1940~260~10
families
..

Batakiai is located in western Lithuania, 18 km northeast of Taurage, the district's city. The town was first mentioned in historical documents from the 13th century. An estate was built there in the 15th century and the town developed near it. During the period of Russian rule (1795 – 1915) Batakiai was included in the Vilnius Gubernia (region) and from 1843 in the Kaunas Gubernia. Before WWI there were about 50 Jewish families in Batakiai. They were involved in trading with Germany.

During the war a libel was spread against the Jews, accusing them of throwing a dead cat into a public well, intending to poison the local inhabitants. In March, 1915, the Jews of Batakiai were given half an hour to uproot themselves from the town and leave.

During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918 – 1940) Batakiai was the center of the subdistrict. The few Jews that remained in the town earned their living mostly from agriculture and a few of them from small commerce. The flourmill in town was owned by a Jew (S. Mendel). The town had a small Beit Midrash. Among the Rabbis who served in the Batakiai were: Rabbi Gershon Lipschitz (1891 – 1899) and Rabbi Gershon-Shalom Kab (from 1907).

22 Jews from Batakiai participated in the elections for the first Lithuanian Siem on October 1922: 16 voted for the Zionists, 21 for “Achdut” (Agudat Yisrael) and 5 for the Democrats. In 1939, of the 12 telephones that were in the town, one belonged to a Jew.

The economic situation of the Jews of Batakiai did not change much while the Soviet Union ruled Lithuania (1940 – 1941). The German army entered Batakiai on the first or second day of the outbreak of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union (22 or 23 of June, 1941). The harassments against the Jews of Batakiai and the Jews of the nearby towns started shortly thereafter. Some of them were brought to the train station near the town which had 3 large unfinished shacks that the Soviet military had started building. A few hundred Jewish women and children from Batakiai, from the nearby towns of Upyna and Skaudvile, and refugees from other towns were squeezed into 2 of these shacks. All the women and children who were in those shacks were murdered during the month of August and were buried in a mass grave in the Batakiai forest, about 18 km from Taurage and 5 km from Batakiai, on the bank of the Ancia stream. According to a Soviet source, 300 corpses of women were found in this mass grave.

After the war, during a trial in the city of Ulm in Germany against the military company from Tilsit, the witnesses said that the massacre was conducted by Gestapo clerks and by auxiliary Lithuanian police. The women were forced to dig a grave 100 meters long. They were brought to the pit one group after another, they were hungry, thirsty and terror stricken, and were then shot there. Before that they were forced to undress completely. During this trial, a photo taken by a German was displayed, showing a Lithuanian policeman dragging a naked woman by her hair with one of his hands, and with his other hand butting her neck with a pistol. The Jewish men of Batakiai were murdered before them and their place of burial remains unknown.

In the beginning of the 1990's a stone memorial was erected on the mass grave in Gryblaukis, a village near Batakiai, with an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian saying: “In 1941, the Hitlerite murderers and their local helpers killed in this place 1,800 Jewish women and children.”

During the same time a memorial was built on the grounds where the former Jewish cemetery was located and on it an inscription in Hebrew and Lithuanian: “The Old Cemetery. May the memory of the martyrs live for-ever.”

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, Konyochovsky Collection 0-71, files 10, 11; M-33/984.
YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: file 1662.
Gotlieb, Sefer Oheli Hashem, p. 17

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