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

54° 36' / 24° 10'

Translation of the “Jieznas” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Dov Levin

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 329-330)

Jieznas

In Yiddish, Yezne

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

A county town in the Alytus district.

Year General
Population
Jews %
1866 553 170 31
1879 892 .. ..
1923 989 286 29
1940 1,100 ~300 27

Jieznas is located in southwestern Lithuania, near the Alytus-Kaunas road, about 10 km west of the right bank of the Nemunas River. Lithuanian princes already had an estate there in the 14th century. In the 17th century, the Pez noble family bought the estate, and they built a magnificent palace there that for many years was the pride of the town. During the period of Russian Rule (1795-1915), Jieznas was included in the Vilnius Gubernia (region), and from 1843 it was part of the Kaunas Gubernia. The town went through many hardships during the war between Russia and Sweden at the beginning of the 18th century, also during the Koschushko rebellion in 1794, and also when Napoleon invaded Russia. In 1837, a fire destroyed the town and the palace. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940), Jieznas was the center of a sub district.

Jews settled in Jieznas during the first half of the 19th century. Prior to 1912 they did not have their own cemetery and buried their dead in the nearby town of Butrimonys. The 1903 list of donators for settling Eretz-Yisrael contains the names of Jews from Jieznas. The authorized delegate for collecting the donations was Yehuda-Zalman Zilber.

In 1915, the Russian military authorities expelled the Jews of Jieznas to the interior of Russia. After the war, most of them returned to the town. They lived under difficult conditions and received aid from “YeKoPo”.

In accordance with the declaration of autonomy for the Jews that was legislated by the Lithuanian government, a ruling committee of 7 members was elected in Jieznas. For a number of years, the committee managed most of the areas of Jewish life in the town.

The Jews of Jieznas engaged in commerce, labor and agriculture. 16 of the 18 shops in town were owned by Jews. Among them were a few grocery stores, 5 cloth shops, 2 leather shops, and a few taverns. In 1937, the town had 17 Jewish artisans and 5 families who engaged in agriculture. Among the artisans were: 4 bakers, 3 shoemakers, 3 butchers, a welder, a tinsmith, a carpenter, a photographer and a barber. Important factors in the economic life of the town were the weekly market days, which took place on Thursdays, and the yearly fairs, which took place 4-5 times a year. Jieznas had a branch of the Credit Union for Jewish Farmers. In 1939, there were 13 telephones in the town, 2 of them were owned by Jews.

Prior to WWI, the Jewish children in the town studied in a “Heder” and later in a “Progressive Heder”. During the period of Independent Lithuania, Jieznas had a Hebrew school that was part of the “Tarbut” network. On average, 50 pupils studied in that school. The town also had a library with a few hundred books in Hebrew and Yiddish. Many children continued their education in high schools, usually in Kaunas.

Many of the town's Jews belonged to the Zionist camp and it had supporters for all the Zionist parties. In the elections to the first Lithuanian Seimas in October 1922, the Zionist party received 156 votes and the religious “Akhdut” party received 11 votes. Many of the town's Jews participated in the elections to the Zionist Congresses. The results of their votes are shown in the table below:

Congress
Nr.
Year Total
Shekalim
Total
Voters
Labor
Part
Revisionists General
Zionists
Grosmanists Mizrachi
Z”S Z”Z A B
17 1929 22 19 3 6 9 1 - - -
18 1933 .. 131 72 57 1 - 1 -
19 1935 .. 88 86 - 1 - - 1

Of the Zionist Youth Movements, “Beytar” and “Gordonia” had active branches in the town. Their members used to raise funds for “Keren Kayement LeYisrael.

Jieznas had an old synagogue with a women's section on the second floor. The Rabbi's house was next to the synagogue. The Rabbis made their living from selling yeast, from providing licenses to slaughter poultry and cattle, from “Maot Khitim” (money for flour for Passover), and Hanukkah “gelt” (money) that was contributed by the community. Among the Rabbis who served in Jieznas were: Rabbi Tzvi-Hirsch Horovitz (from 1884); Rabbi Moshe Stol (from 1903); Rabbi Yitskhak Belitski (from 1907). Jieznas' last Rabbi was Rabbi Moshe Litvak. He perished in the Holocaust. Of the welfare organizations that were active in town it is worthy to mention the “Hakhnasat Orkhim” society, which had a special building for hosting travelers and refugees. The other welfare organizations were: “Matan BeSeter” (donating money anonymously) – a fund which was managed by the Rabbi, “Bikur Kholim”, “Hakhnasat Kala” and “Khevra Kadisha”. The teenagers had a club which used to stage plays in order to collect money for the above mentioned associations.

Of those who were born in Jieznas we would like to mention: Dr. Yitskhak Pertzikovitz-Peretz, an educator and linguist, who was the head of the Hebrew Language Department at Tel Aviv University; Rabbi Yisrael Shvarzblat, who was a Rabbi in Odessa; and Dov Aloni (Dubin), an educator.

When Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940, most of the Jewish shops were nationalized. The supply of goods declined gradually and the prices skyrocketed as a result. The middle class, composed mostly of Jews, suffered a severe setback and its standard of living deteriorated. All of the Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded. The Hebrew school was shut down.

Lithuanian Nationalists started harassing Jews even before the German army entered Jieznas on June 25, 1941. They searched the Jewish homes, burglarized them, and murdered a number of young Jewish people. They also forced the men to work in order to torture and to humiliate them. The first mass murder took place on August 16, 1941 (23 Av, 5071). The entire Jewish population was ordered to assemble in the market square and the Lithuanians selected 63 men and 26 women. Those Jews, together with a group of Jews who came on 5 wagons from Stakliskes, were led to Prienai, where they were murdered. On August 8, 1941 (5 Elul, 5071), the Germans took out 70 people, entire families, and transferred them to Alytus. They were murdered there together with the Jews of Alytus and were buried in a mass grave. The final extermination of the Jews of Jieznas took place on September 3, 1941 (11 Elul, 5071). On that day, all the women and children were concentrated in the Bet Midrash, where they were forced to undress and remain in their underwear, and this is how they were led through the town to the lake. At the lake, behind the orchards, they were murdered and buried. The men who still remained in the town were led fully naked to the same place and they too are buried in those same pits. On that day, 144 people were murdered. Only 4 of the 18 people who escaped from the slaughter remained alive: Josef Gordon, who was hidden by a Lithuanian farmer, returned to Jieznas after the war and lived there for 2 years (from July 1944 until May 1946), Meir Shador, Puchkarnik and Megolovitz. Some of them emigrated to Israel. The names of the Lithuanian farmers who hid them are kept in the Yad Vashem archives.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-1/Q-1313/2134; Koniukhovsky Collection 0-71, files 120.
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1788, 55/1701, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
On the Ruins of War and Turmoil, edited by Moshe Shalit, Vilnius, 1930.
In Memory of the Martyrs of the Jieznas Community who Perished in 1941, edited by Dov Aloni, Jieznas Descendents in Israel Publication, Tel Aviv, 1968.
Gimtasis Krastas, #2, 9.1.1992.

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