“Šilute” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania

55° 21' / 21° 29'

Translation of the “Heydkrug” 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 213- 214)

Silute

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

(Yiddish, Heyedkrug; German, Heydekrug)

The city of a district in western Lithuania, in the Klaipeda (Memel) province.

Silute is located near the Klaipeda-Tilsit railway line, 47 km to the southeast of Klaipeda, the capital of the province. In 1511, there was already an inn in Silute and merchants, fishermen, artisans and others started to settle around it. At the beginning of the 18th century, Silute and the entire Klaipeda region were under Prussian rule. In 1892, the city had 2,042 residents, and in 1905 it had 1,775 residents.

In 1918, when WWI ended, the region was disconnected from Germany and was controlled by the French garrison who was stationed there as representatives of the “diplomatic agreement” (The Entente). In January 1923, Lithuanians took control of the region and ruled it until March 1939, when the Nazis annexed it to the Third Reich. During the period of Lithuanian rule, Silute was the district's city and had 4,389 residents. After the war, from February 1945, the region was part of Soviet Lithuania.

Apparently, Jews settled in Silute at the end of the 18th century. It is known that in 1814 the town had Jews who engaged in trading lumber and who were Prussian citizens (the Devorin, B. Vazbutski, Yakobson families and others). The community grew as time progressed and in 1855 it had a few dozen Jews. In 1914, a short while before WWI, the building of the synagogue in Silute was completed. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1923-1939), the town had at least 100-150 Jews.

According to the 1931 Lithuanian government census, Jews owned in the town 20 stores: 4 for foodstuffs, 3 butcheries, 3 cloth shops, 2 cattle shops, 2 egg shops, 2 sewing shops, 2 weapons' and hunting equipment shops, a beverages shop, and a shop for furs. According to the 1938 census of the Jewish Artisans Association in Lithuania, the town had 8 Jewish heads of families who made their living as artisans: 3 tailors, 2 shoemakers, a butcher, and 2 others. Henrietta Wolf owned a large farm.

In 1939, of the 300 telephones in Silute, 30 were owned by Jews.

A large number of Silute Jews were Zionists. 70 people voted in the elections for the 19th Zionist Congress: 50 voted for the “Eretz-Yisrael HaOvedet” party, 1 for the Grosmanists, and 19 for the Mizrakhi.

The Rabbi of the town at that time was Rabbi Zalman Rokhlin.

Jews were harassed in the town even before the Nazis took control of it in 1939. In 1938, local Nazis broke the windows of the city's synagogue. On March 22, 1939, the German army entered the Klaipeda region and also Silute and its Jewish citizens fled to Lithuania. Some of them were able to sell their belongings for a few pennies to their German neighbors; others left everything behind and left the city. When WWII broke out and Lithuania was conquered by the German army, the fate of the Jews of Silute was the same as the fate of the Jews in other cities and towns where they had found refuge. The German authorities established labor camps in Silute and its surrounding areas and brought to them more than 500 Jews from the towns of Veivirzenai, Kvedarna, Laukuva, Zemaiciu Naumiestis, Kaltinenai and Sveksna. Only 32 of those 500 Jews survived to see the day of liberation.

After WWII, a few Jews returned to Silute, but their number in the city decreased over time. In 1959, there were 20 Jews in the city; in 1970, 5; in 1979, 4; and in 1989, also 4.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Koniukhovsky collection 0-71, files 13, 15, 16.
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1701, 55/1788, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: pages 63778-63786.
Der Yiddisher Handwerker (Kaunas), 1938.
Sembitzki, J., Geschichte des Kreises Heydekrug, Memel 1920.

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