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

54°05' / 23°51'

Translation of the “Leipalingis” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Josef Rosin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1996


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Carol Hoffman

 

Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

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 357-358)

Leipalingis

(Leypalingis, Lejpuny, Leipalingis, Leipalingio, Leiauny)

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Carol Hoffman

Town in Sejny district.

Year Total
Population
Jews %
1897 1,314 13410
1919   99  
1923 751 16021
1940   Approx. 30
Jewish families
 

Leipalingis is located south-west Lithuania, on the high left bank of the Seira river, about 10 kilometers north-west of the Neiman River next to Druskininkai. Historical sources cited Leipalingis in 1503 as a small estate of the Lithuanian Duchy. In 1516 Leipalingis was built up next to the estate. Over the generations the estate belonged to noble families. In 1923 with the Agrarian Reform in Independent Lithuania lands were distributed to the farmers, and the main building became a school. Between the years 1795-1807 Leipalingis was under Prussian rule, and from 1815 it belonged to Russia. It became part of the Suwalki region. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940) Leipalingis was a central town. Up to 1923 all of the residents suffered from attacks by armed Polish gangs that crossed the border.

Jews settled in Leipalingis during the first half of the 19th century. In 1847 a Jewish settlement was established in Leipalingis on lands that the Russian government gave for free. Jews from the nearby town Meretch (Merkine) also settled there. In time a synagogue known for its beauty was established. The 1897/8 population survey showed 25 Jewish families in Leipalingis that worked in agriculture. On the first of April 1915 the Russian army expelled the Jews of Leipalingis from their lands, and their properties were damaged heavily. In 1919 Jewish relief organizations surveyed the Jewish farmers in the region. The survey showed that half of the Leipalingis properties were lost, and only 18 families remained. After 6 families from Meretch (Merkine) joined them, the number of families rose to 26. During the years 1919-1920 the Leipalingis community received food, cultural supplies and heating supplies from “Yakapa”.

Fire broke out in Leipalingis in 1920, and 12 Jewish homes burned to the ground. As a result a fire department was established in Leipalingis; all of the workers were Jewish.

The beginning of 1920, in accordance with the Jewish Autonomy Law, Leipalingis chose a community committee which operated until the end of 1925. The committee conducted a survey in 1921 which showed 38 Jewish families in Leipalingis with 119 people. Of the total 33 were children aged 7-13. The survey conducted by the “Joint” in 1922 showed there were 10 shopkeepers, 6 butchers, 4 fishermen, 3 cart owners, 2 peddlers, 2 tailors, 2 shoemakers, 2 glaziers and carpenters. Six families owned land, and 5 families worked leased land. The majority of the Jews' commercial activities were based on market days (Thursdays) and on 4 annual fairs. The Lithuanian government held a survey in 1931 that showed almost all of the shops in Leipalingis were owned by Jews. Of them 5 were grocery stores, 3 fabric shops, one butcher, one inn, and one grains' shop. That same survey showed there were in Leipalingis a factory for wool combing, a bakery and a flour mill owned by Jews.

In 1937 there were only 7 Jewish tradesmen in Leipalingis: 3 shoemakers, 2 butchers, baker and barber. Of the 14 telephone listings in Leipalingis 3 were Jewish.

There was no Jewish school in Leipalingis, and the Jewish children studied in nearby towns of Seirijai and Meretch (Merkine).

Several of the Leipalingis Jews joined Zionist camps affiliated with Zionist parties. Some of them bought “shkelim” (unit of money) and voted in the Zionist congresses, as seen in the following table:

Congress
Number
Year Shekel
Amount
Number
Votes
Eretz
Israel
Labor RevisionistsGeneral
Zionists
Statesmen Mizrachi
        Tzash Tzatz   A B    
15 1927 10                
16 1929 20 10   6         4
18 1933   8 5           3
19 1935   26 9           17
                 National Camp
21 1939 12 12 3         9  

In additional to the Zionist cultural and political activities Leipalingis had fund raising campaigns for the Karen Kayemit in Israel (Jewish National Fund). The Jewish Zionist youth group in Leipalingis was “Gordonia”, a nest of Bitar, with 30-40 members

When Leipalingis was annexed to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940 the condition of the shops, factories and general economic situation of the Jews deteriorated. All Zionist activities were forbidden.

The war broke out between Germany and the Soviet Union in June 1941, and Leipalingis Jews tried to escape to internal Soviet Union. However, their attempt failed, and they returned to Leipalingis. Here the local Lithuanian nationalists were waiting for them and punished them in various ways. On 9 September 1941 155 men, women and children were murdered close to the Catholic cemetery next to the Seira river. Those Leipalingis Jews who survived were arrested Rosh HaShana eve 1941 and taken by Lithuanian guards to the town of Olkenik in the region of Vilnius and from there taken with the people of Olkenik and Dekshna to Eishishok. En route the Lithuanian guards abused them terribly. Every half kilometer 2-3 were shot until the very end only 70 people were left. In Eishishok the abused Jews were put into barns were they were maltreated severely. All of their valuables, boots, fine overcoats were stolen; women were raped. The abuse continued after they took the Jews from the barns to the horse market in town, circled by high piles of wood. During the days until “Shabbat Shuva” (27.9.41) they removed from the horse market groups of Jews who were murdered in the battle of the Christian cemeteries in Eishishok. Amongst the murdered was the last rabbi of the community, Rabbi Isaak Stampfner. The names of those murdered are in the Yad Vashem archive.

Sources

Yad Vashem Archive. Konichovsky Collection, 0-17, file 131.
YIVO Archive New York. Lithuanian Communities Collection, files 550-553, pages 23988-23901.
Central Zionist Archive Jerusalem. Files 55/1788, 55/1701, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
Arshtar Kanfarantz von Yidishen Gagsnt Kamimat “Yakafa” oif Tzav Halphon di Karbonot fon Milhema. Vilna 1920.
Das Vart (Kovno). 19.6.1939, 21/6/1939.
Die Yidisha Shtima (Kovno) 9/2/1923, 19/6/1939, 20/6/1939, 21/6/1939, 22/6/1939, 3/7/1939, 12/7/1939, 14/7/1939.
Falksblat (Kovno) 20/6/1939, 18/7/1939.
Dzuku Zinios (Lazdijai regional newspaper), no 56, 25/7/1992.


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