Seda (Siad in Yiddish) is located in the northwestern part of Lithuania, in the Zamut (Zemaitija) region, about 26 kilometers southwest of the district administrative center Mazheik (Mazeikiai). The Varduva River flows through the town, connecting to a small millpond. A settlement by the name of Seda was mentioned in historical sources dating back to the thirteenth century. In 1508 a Catholic church was built in Seda, but during the second half of the sixteenth century it was converted into a Calvinist center. In 1638 the lands of Seda were purchased by the Sapiega family, town developers who turned it into a center of economic activity. A weekly market and four annual fairs were conducted in Seda.
Until 1795 Seda was included in the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom. According to the third division of Poland in the same year by the three superpowers of those times, Russia, Prussia and Austria, Lithuania was divided between Russia and Prussia. As most of the other towns of Lithuania, Seda became part of the Russian Empire, first under the auspices of the Vilna province (Gubernia) and from 1843 under the Kovno Gubernia in the Telz district. At that time Seda became a county administrative center with its own schools and other government institutions. Commercial buildings were erected at the market place. At the end of the nineteenth century the town boasted forty stores, twenty pubs and restaurants, a flour mill and a post office.
At the end of 1918, during the struggle for a Lithuanian state, the Bolsheviks (Communists) seized power in Seda and surrounding areas, keeping control for several months.
Seda continued to preserve its status as a county administrative center in the
Mazheik district during the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940) and
during Soviet rule (1940-1941), continuing through the years of the Nazi
Jewish settlement before World War I
Jews most likely began to settle in Seda in the middle of the eighteenth century. Decades later the Jewish community grew to be the largest in the region. In 1847, 1,729 Jews lived in Seda, and according to the all-Russian census of 1897, there were 1,384 Jews out of a total population of 2,015 (69%). Jews made their living in trade, crafts and small-scale agricultural activities.
About 40 families maintained agricultural farms and residences covering an area of about 100 hectares in a village near the town. The neighbors called that place Zydu Dvaras (Jewish Farm).
During the Polish rebellion in 1831, Siad Jews suffered at the hands of both the rebels and the Cossacks who were sent in to quell the rebellion. On 8 June, 1831 the Jewish community of Siad received an edict from Captain Borisovitz, the commander of the rebels, stating that every Jew seen on the road at a distance of a hundred feet from the town would be shot, and the community would pay the Polish army 333 Polish guilders and ten groschen (cents) for not controlling trespassers. On June 17, Borisovitz warned the Jews about spying activities, telling them that a Jew by the name of Yits'hak ben David Dukhin, who worked at a bar of the Yankovsky tavern, had been hanged for espionage.
|Siad a view near the pond|
At that time most intellectual and social activities concentrated around the Beth Midrash, the synagogue and other religious institutions.
The Gemiluth Hesed fund played an important role in the community, supported by Eliezer Ordongin and Shimon-Aba Gordon and others. Donations were also received from a former resident of Siad, the wealthy businessman Leib Perl from St. Petersburg.
On the eve of Pesakh of 1886, a huge fire broke out in Siad that destroyed 200 homes and numerous buildings, most of them belonging to Jews. Five people lost their lives in the fire, and 255 families, numbering about 1000 people, became homeless and destitute.
The Rabbi issued an urgent appeal to nearby towns. Soon Siad was inundated with parcels of Matsoth, meat and other foods for the holiday season. Shelomoh-Mosheh Levenberg from Mazheik and other rabbis from the nearby communities published an appeal for help in the Hebrew newspaper HaMelitz. Two aid committees were organized to work on receiving and distributing the goods among the needy. One committee was headed by the pharmacist A. Kahan with the assistance of L. Tiger and A. Zax. The second was led by Count Plater (who himself donated 200 rubles and grain, bread and other foods), nobleman Oginsky and other high-ranking government officials. Donations designated to rebuild a new Beth Midrash were received from America. Despite all the efforts, the restoration work took several years, and in the meantime many Jews emigrated overseas, resulting in significant decrease in the Jewish population of Siad.
The list of contributors for the settlement of Eretz-Yisrael between the years 1897-1900 includes 53 names of Siad Jews, as published in HaMelitz (see Appendix 1).
Before World War I the rabbis who served in Siad were:
Moshe-Barukh HaLevi Hurvitz, Dayan
Yisrael-Ezra HaLevi Levin (1892-1903)
Mordehai Graf, from 1912
Ya'akov Geri (Hering), who later became the Minister for Commerce and Industry in the Israeli Government
The journalist Yits'hak ben David (Binder)
The poetess Leah Kaplan, burned to death in the Kovno ghetto in 1944
Professor Benyamin Ziv (1879-1947), from 1936 in Eretz-Yisrael, became Head of the Faculty of Law and Economics at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.
|Professor Benyamin Ziv|
During Independent Lithuania (1918-1940)
Due to social and economic difficulties, emigration of Siad Jews continued. The birth rate was very low. In 1920 there were twenty-four deaths but only nine births and four weddings, strongly indicating that the number of the Jews was dwindling.
Following the passage of the Law of Autonomies for Minorities issued by the new Lithuanian government, the Minister for Jewish Affairs, Dr. Menachem (Max) Soloveitshik, ordered elections to community committees (Va'adei Kehilah) to be held in the summer of 1919. In 1920 a Va'ad (community committee) with eleven members was elected in Siad. The committee worked in all fields of Jewish life until the end of 1925. By its initiative several social and religious institutions including the Talmud Torah, Linath Hatsedek, Lehem Aniyim and Malbish Arumim became active again. A Hebrew School was opened as well, accommodating 65 students.
|A street in Siad|
In the elections for the first Seimas (Parliament) in Lithuania in 1922, Siad Jews cast 289 votes for the Zionist list, 88 votes for the religious Akhdut and only 2 votes for the democrats.
According to first census performed by the new Lithuanian government in 1923 the Siad population was 1,851, with 815 of them Jewish (44%).
Siad Jews made their living in trade, crafts and auxiliary farms. Jewish shops were located in two large buildings in the market square. Weekly market days on Mondays and Wednesdays and the three annual fairs provided opportunities for trade.
|Type of business||Total||
Owned by Jews
|Grain and flax||2||2|
|Butcher's shops and cattle trade||5||4|
|Restaurants and taverns||3||3|
|Textile products and furs||7||6|
|Leather and shoes||4||4|
|Haberdashery and house utensils||1||1|
|Medicine and cosmetics||1||1|
|Bicycles and electrical equipment||1||1|
|Timber and heating material||1||1|
|Type of factory||Total||Jewish owned|
|Power plants, metal workshops||1||0|
|Textile: wool, knitting||5||2|
|Dresses and shoes||1||0|
|Sawmills and furniture||4||2|
|Flour mills, bakeries, food production||3||1|
In 1927, the Jewish People's Bank (Folksbank) of Siad, directed by Izidor Kahan, had 154 members and exerted a commendable influence on the economic life of Siad Jews. A branch of the United Credit Association for Jewish Agrarians also provided services in Siad.
In 1939, there were 37 telephones listed in the town, 14 of them in the homes and business of Jews.
Rabbi Mordehai Rabinovitz served in Siad from 1935 until he was murdered in the summer of 1941 together with his community.
A library with many books in Yiddish and Hebrew formed by the Yiddishist association Libhober fun Vissen (Fans of Knowledge) was open for readers in Siad.
Many Siad Jews belonged to the Zionist camp and took part in the elections for the Zionist congresses. The results of their votes are given in the table below:
|Total Votes||Labor Party
Many of the Jewish youth spoke very good Hebrew and belonged to Zionist organizations such as HaShomer HaTsair. Sports activities were organized by Maccabi and HaPoel which had 60 members.
During World War II and afterwards
In June 1940 Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union, becoming a Soviet Republic. Following new regulations, the majority of Jewish factories and shops were nationalized, and commissars were appointed to manage them. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded, and Hebrew educational institutions were closed.
That year 2,087 people lived in Siad, of whom 400 (about 110 families) were Jewish.
On June 23, 1941, the day after the German invasion into the Soviet Union, the first German soldiers entered Siad. However, before their invasion, Lithuanian nationalists organized under the leadership of Kamaitis and Stankus were already murdering Jewish youths. Their first victims were the Binder brothers, Kon and other boys. The murders intensified, and among victims who were subject to torture was Rabbi Mordehai Rabinovitz. Soon all Jews were herded into the nearby Jewish Farm where they were kept without food and water for several days. On July 3, 1941 (8th of Tamuz 5701) armed Lithuanians took the men out, murdered them and buried them at a site near the Jewish cemetery.
|The mass grave and the monument near the Jewish cemetery in Siad|
The women and children were taken to the site of the Jewish cemetery in Mazheik on August 9, 1941 (15th of Av 5701), where they were murdered together with Jews from the surrounding towns. Horrific details of the last moments of the murdered Jews emerged later, as recounted by one of the murderers during his trial by the Lithuanian Soviet authorities on October 2, 1958.
|The mass grave with the
monument at the entrance
to the site in Mazheik
The monument at the entrance to the murder site
with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian:
At this site Hitler's murderers and their local helpers
executed about 4000 Jews and people of other nationalities.
The names of the murderers are recorded at the archives of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
At the beginning of the 1990s a monument was built at the place where the old Jewish cemetery of Siad had been, carrying an inscription in Hebrew and Lithuanian The old Jewish cemetery; let the memory of the deceased live forever.
Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-1/E-1670/1555, 1771/1637; Koniukhovsky Collection 0-71, file 21
YIVO, New York, Collection of Lithuanian Jewish Communities, files 675-684
Gotlib, Ohalei Shem, page 201
Fridman A. A. Memories Book (Hebrew), pages 114-115
Kamzon Y. D. Yahaduth Lita, pages 75-76
Levin Dov, Seda (Siad), Pinkas Hakehiloth-Lita (Hebrew), Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1996
Unzer veg (Yiddish) Kovno, 2.7.1925
Di Yiddishe Shtime, Kovno, 2.8.1929; 26.5.1933
HaMelitz; St.Petersburg, 29.3.1881; 10.5.1881; 13.6.1885; 18.4.1886; 4.6.1886; 27.4.1887; 2.6.1903
Janulaitis Augustinas, Zydai Lietuvoje (Jews in Lithuania) (Lithuanian), Kaunas, 1924, pages 139-140
Vicas J., S.S Tarniboje (In the S.S. service) (Lithuanian), Vilnius 1966, pages 48-49
Masines Zudynes Lietuvoje (mass murder in Lithuania) (Lithuanian), Vol. 2, Page 399
List of 53 Siad Jewish donors for the settlement of Eretz-Yisrael as published in HaMelitz
(from JewishGen>Databases>Lithuania>Hamelitz by Jeffrey Maynard)
|KOCHMISTER||Tzvi husband of Alte Zachs||wed in Shad||#191||1900|
|KOLK||Chaim husband of Mina Zalkower||wed 1897||#145||1897|
|WOLFOWITZ||Tzvi fiance of widow Gordon of Koshedori||engaged||#56||1899|
|ZACHS||Alte wife of Tzvi Kochmister||wed in Shad||#191||1900|
|ZAKS||Aharon father of Rochel Nechama||#198||1900|
|ZAKS||Rochel Nechama bas Aharon||#198||1900|
|ZALKOWER||Aharon father of Mina||#145||1897|
|ZIW||Meir husband of Sarah||#285||1900|
|ZIW||Sarah wife of Meir||#285||1900|
The above article is an excerpt from Protecting Our Litvak Heritage by Josef Rosin. The book contains this article along with many others, plus an extensive description of the Litvak Jewish community in Lithuania that provides an excellent context to understand the above article. Click here to see where to obtain the book.
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