“Skaudvile” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Skaudvilė, Lithuania)

55° 25' / 22° 37'

Translation of the “Skaudvile” 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 695-698)

Skaudvile

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

In Yiddish, Shkudvil

A county town in the district of Taurage.

Year General
Population
Jews Percentage
1847 .. 204 ..
1873 712 .. ..
1897 1,390 1,012 72
1923 1,362 1,017* 75
1940 2,000 1,000 50

* About 200 families.

Skaudvile is located in the Samogitia region in western Lithuania, on both banks of the Ancia River, 25 km northeast of the district city of Taurage, and near the German border (Eastern Prussia).

The town's name is mentioned in historical sources from the beginning of the 18th century with regard to activities by a Catholic and Lutheran Churches there and the schools that operated next to the Churches. The town started growing during the middle of the 19th century, after the construction (during the years 1836-1850) of the main road between St. Petersburg, the capital of Russia, and Konigsberg, the main city in central Prussia. Merchants from Germany, England and Sweden took part in the annual fairs in Skaudvile. During the Rebellion of 1863, the rebels executed the chief of the local police, and as a result, the town's residents were severely punished. In 1873, Skaudvile had 80 houses, a customs' post, and several of the county's administrative offices. During the period of Russian Rule (1795-1915), Skaudvile was part of the Vilnius gubernia (region) and from 1843 it was part of the district of Raseiniai in the Kaunas gubernia. During WWI, the district's offices were in Skaudvile. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940), Skaudvile continued to develop because some national and public institutions were established in the town. Fires broke out in the town in 1922, 1931, and 1937, and the town burned down. Most of town's municipal buildings were already restored when WWII broke out.

The Jewish Settlements Until After World War I

Apparently, Jews first settled in Skaudvile during the middle of the 18th century. Later, the Jews became the decisive majority in the town. Jews who owned inns on both sides of the main road, and Jews who engaged in other businesses, needed a Beth Midrash (which was established in 1862) and a local Yeshiva, which were headed by Rabbi Shaul Joffe and Rabbi Dov-Ber, who was the supervisor. Jews from the surrounding areas used to come often to Skaudvile in order to find grooms for their daughters among the Yeshiva students. Perhaps that is the reason why the Jews of Skaudvile were nicknamed “Shkudvil Parpel Tsimes” (fluttering flakes). Many of the town's Jews made their living from storekeeping and petty trade, but there were also merchants who traded in cattle and poultry. A few families made their living from agriculture. Among the Rabbis who served in the Skaudvile communities were: Rabbi Moshe, son of Eliezer Joffe (1859-1889); his son, Rabbi Yissaskhar-Ber (served in Skaudvile until 1913); Rabbi Avraham-Yitzkhak Perlman (served from 1913 until the destruction of the community in 1941), author of the book “Pnei Avraham (Kedainiai, 1927).

More than 100 Jewish names from Skaudvile appear on the 1913 list of donors for “Akudat Yisrael”.

In contrast to what happened in many other towns in Lithuania, the Jews of Skaudvile were not expelled during WWI. However, some of them, including some of the affluent Jews, emigrated to other places. In 1915, the Skaudvile community requested help from “The Aid Organization of German Jews” with providing food and warm clothes for the many refugees from Taurage, who found shelter in their town.

During the Period of Independent Lithuania

After the war, many of the town's Jews returned to Skaudvile, which was already under the rule of Independent Lithuania. In accordance with the law of autonomy for the Jews, a ruling community committee of 9 members was elected in Skaudvile: 4 from the General Zionists, 2 from "Akhdut", 2 from what appears to be the "Tzeirei Yisrael" party, and 1 nonpartisan. The committee was active in most areas of Jewish life in the town.

In the elections to the first Lithuanian “Seimas” in Skaudvile, the Jewish parties voted as follows: 251 voted for the Zionists, 115 voted for the religious branch of the “Akhdut” party, and 22 voted for the Democrats. During the period under discussion, the town's Jews continued to make their living from petty trade and storekeeping, and also from trading in grains, cattle and poultry. 10 Jewish families engaged in agriculture and 20 Jewish families in crafts. Some Jews worked in a small candy factory. A major part of the commercial activities took place during the weekly market day, which was on Tuesdays. But because of the influence of the Union of Lithuanian Merchants (Verslas), the market was moved from the center of town to the outside of the town, a move which severely affected the livelihood of many Jews. As a result, quite a few families and youth emigrated abroad.

According to the 1931 Lithuanian government census, Skaudvile had 43 businesses; 40 of them (93%) were owned by Jews. The division into business branches is shown in the table below:

Branch or Type of Business Total Owned
by Jews
Grocery 6 6
Crops and flax 1 1
Butcher shops and cattle 1 1
Restaurants and taverns 11 9
Clothing, furs and textile products 5 5
Leather and shoes 5 5
Medicine and cosmetics 1 0
Radios, bicycles and sewing machines 1 1
Tools and iron products 5 5
Building materials, timber and furniture 2 2
Miscellaneous 7 5

According to the same census, Skaudvile had 10 factories; 8 of them were owned by Jews: 2 bakeries, a power station, a candy and chocolate factory, a gravestone factory, a brick factory, a wool carder and a sawmill.

In 1937, there were 28 Jewish artisans in Skaudvile: 5 butchers, 4 hat makers, 2 shoemakers, 3 bakers, 2 oven builders, 2 tinsmiths, 2 "Tapars" (Hebrew, "tapar", which refers to “a craftsman in shoemaking who makes the uppers”), a glazier, a weaver, a barber, a blacksmith, a painter, a watch maker, and a seamstress. In 1925, there was a Jewish doctor (Yitzkhak Zachs) in the town.

The Jewish popular bank (Folksbank) played an important role in the economic activity of the town's Jews. In 1927 it had 152 members. Many of the town's Jews received financial support from their relatives abroad. Those needy received aid from such charity institutions as: “Tsedaka Gedola”, “Lekhem Aniyim” and “Hakhnasat Kala”. The societies of “Linat Tsedek”, “Bikur Kholim” (visiting the sick), “Hevra Kadisha” and others, were also active in Skaudvile.

Religious life in Skaudvile concentrated around the Beth Midrash and the synagogue, where the town's Jews prayed mostly during the summers; the small Yeshiva (which was established by Rabbi Eliyahu-Ber Kotz and Rabbi Shaul Zachs); the Yeshiva of Rabbi Leib Ya'akov, who belonged to the “Men of Morality” society; organizations and societies for Torah and Mishnaiot studies (“Khayey Adam”, “Menorat HaMaor” and others); and also “Tiferet Bakhurim” (literally "Company of Splendid Young Men"). Most of the children (about 150) studied in the Hebrew school that was part of the “Tarbut” network; and the other children studied at the Talmud Torah.

A firefighters association, whose members were all Jews, was established in the town after the big fire in Skaudvile in 1922. Subsequently, this association also operated in the area of self-defense, especially when there were blood libels and other forms of tensions. During the blood libel of 1936 in Taurage, the members of this association guarded the Jewish population in the town, day and night, against possible attacks on them. The fire that broke out in the town in 1935 harmed many Jewish homes. However, the damage was repaired fairly quickly only because of the aid provided by former Lithuanians who lived in the United States.

The following cultural and social organizations were active in Skaudvile: the General Zionists, “Akudat Yisrael”, Tzeirei-Zion”, “HaMizrakhi”, “Maccabee” (in 1933 it had 49 members), “HeKhalutz”, and “HaShomer HaTzair-Netsakh”.

Below are the results of the votes to the Zionist Congresses in Skaudvile:

Congress
Nr.
Year Total
Shekalim
Total
Voters
Labor
Part
Revisionists General
Zionists
Grosmanists Mizrachi
Z”S Z”Z A B
15 1927 48 39 6 4 4 13 - - 12
16 1929 88 39 - 5 1 16 - - 17
17 1931 60 57 3 1 15 22 - - 16
18 1933 .. 256 150 52 43 - - 11
19 1935 .. 317 171 - - 89 3 54

For an extended period of time, there was a public library in the town.

Skaudvile is the birth place of Dr. Moshe Zilberg, subsequently a judge in the Supreme Court in Jerusalem; Rabbi Mikhel Shlapoberski, head of the “Tiferet Tsvi” Yeshiva in Jerusalem; Rabbi Khaim Stein, one of the leaders of the Telsiai Yeshiva in Cleveland; Rabbi Yitzkhak Kotz, who emigrated to Eretz-Yisrael and served as the principal of a kolel in Petakh Tikva.

During World War II and Afterwards

When WWII broke out, many students from the Baranovitz Yeshiva in Poland arrived in Skaudvile as refugees. Rabbi Avraham-Shemuel Hirshovitz, their leader, was among them. The Jews of Skaudvile welcomed them warmly and took care of their needs. The presence of this group of Jews strengthened the cultural-religious life in the town.

In the summer of 1940, after Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union, the economic and social life of the Jewish population in town changed significantly. Some stores were either nationalized or liquidated because there was no longer a way to continue to maintain them and their owners became part of the work force in construction work intended to strengthen the fortifications near the German border. The Hebrew school was shut down and it was replaced by a school which taught in Yiddish. All of the Jewish organizations, parties and youth groups were disbanded.

Right after the outbreak of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, on June 22, 1941, the Germans entered Skaudvile and executed a number of Jews. After that, there was a period of calm in the town for several weeks. On July 21, 1941, all of the town's residents were ordered to assemble in a yard known as “The Horses' Yard”. Lithuanian guards, who were in the service of the Germans, separated the Jews from the non-Jews. The non-Jews were sent home, while the Jews were kept in the yard. Then, the Lithuanians loaded all of the Jewish men on trucks and transported them 4 km outside of the town, to the Puzai Forest. All of them were murdered on the following day (26 Tamuz, 5701) by being shot to death and were buried in a site which is one km to the right of the road that connects Skaudvile with Taurage. Rabbi Avraham-Yitzkhak Perlman, Skaudvile's last Rabbi, was among the murdered. Three days later, Lithuanians hunted down those who escaped or went into hiding, and killed them. A short while later, the elderly, the women and the children were loaded onto wagons and were taken to the train station in the town of Batakiai. The young and healthy women were sent to work in agriculture among farmers in the area and with the food that they received there they fed their families who were still alive. On September 15, 1941 (23 Elul, 5701), all of them (about 800 people) were taken to the Griblaukis Forest, which is 22 km northeast of Taurage, where they were all brutally murdered. Nine women and a boy (Nakhum Levi), who managed to escape the massacre, hid among farmers and remained alive.

After the war, the burial site of the murdered victims remained desolate and neglected. Azriel Levi, a native of the town who visited there in the autumn of 1989, found it difficult to locate the mass grave. It turned out, that at an earlier point in time a new inscription was placed on the mass grave which mentions the 200 men who were murdered, who were of “Jewish descent” and were residents of Skaudvile. Rabbi Khaim Stein, who was mentioned above, also visited the place and built a monument and a fence there.

At the beginning of the 1990's, a memorial monument was erected on the mass grave in the Puzai Forest and on it an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: "At this place in 1941, Nazi murderers and their local collaborators murdered 300 Jewish men”.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-11/E-1235/1201, 1390/1341; Koniukhovsky Collection 0-71, files 11, 46, testimonies: Ella Kagan, Azriel Levi; Ulm Trial Report, p. 432.
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1788, 55/1701, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: files 1320, 1450, 1679.
The Yiddish Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, the article “Jews, p. 368.
HaAver, Vol. 22, 1976, pp. 297-299.
Masines Zudynes Lietuvoje (Mass Murders in Lithuania), Vol. 2, p. 407.
Ish-Shalom, M., BeSod Khotsvim U'Bonim, Jerusalem, 1988, p. 46.
Stein, H, Skaudvile and Its Annihilation, Lite, Vol. 1, pp.1861-1866.
Yiddisher Leben (Kaunas), 20.4.1932, 16.3.1933.
Di Yiddishe Shtime [The Jewish Voice] – (Kaunas), 20.4.1932, 16.3.1933.
Dos Vort - (Kaunas) - 11.11.1934.
Folksblat [The People's Newspaper] – (Kaunas), 211.1940, 3.11.1940.
Dainotas, Habdangas, “Viskas prasidejo sitaip”, Tauragiskiu Balsas (Everything Started Like This), 14.8.1991.

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