Tryškiai (Trishki in Yiddish) is a small town in the northwestern part of Lithuania, spreading along the shores of the Virvyte River, about 54 km from the Shavl (Siauliai) district administrative center to the northwest. The Tryškiai estate and the village itself were mentioned in historical documents dating back to 1538. In 1792, the town was granted the Magdeburg rights of autonomy. After the third division of the Polish Lithuanian Kingdom in 1795, Trishki, like almost all of Lithuania, became part of the Russian empire. Initially Trishki was included in the Vilna province; however, in 1843 it fell under the jurisdiction of the Kovno Province (Gubernia).
Since the middle of the nineteenth century, Trishki was considered a county
administrative center, with public markets and fairs. Trishki preserved its
status as a county administrative center during German occupation in World War
I (1915-1918), and during the period of independent Lithuania (1918-1940).
Jewish settlement till World War II
A few Jewish families settled in Trishki at the end of the seventeenth century, but a community was formed only at the end of the eighteenth century. In 1848, seventeen Jews died during a pandemic of cholera which ravaged the town. During the famine of 1869-1872, Trishki Jews were helped by the Help Committee of Memel. Famine notwithstanding, some Trishki Jews were motivated and able to send money for the victims of the great famine of Persia in 1871-72. The list of contributors for the benefit of the victims was published in the Hebrew newspaper HaMagid in 1872 and included names of 62 Trishki Jews (see Appendix 1).
In the fall of 1887 a fire destroyed all the houses in town, including the synagogue and it's Torah scrolls. About 200 families lost shelter and were stricken by poverty. On September 1, 1887, the Hebrew newspaper HaMelitz published a moving appeal for help on behalf of the victims of the fire, signed by the local rabbi Hayim Pun. At the end of the nineteenth century, the economic situation deteriorated, and many Trishki Jews emigrated.
Nevertheless, Trishki Jews donated money to the Jewish National Fund to buy land in Eretz-Yisrael. The list of contributors for the years of 1899, 1903 and 1909, includes the names of fourteen Trishki Jews (see Appendix 2).
According to the all-Russian census of 1897, 1,971 people lived in Trishki, of whom 681 (34%) were identified as Jews.
A Talmud Torah was formed and the Bikur Holim society provided medical care and medication free of charge. At its beginning in 1903 the society was headed by Ya'akov-Hanokh Grinberg and the teacher Mosheh-Ze'ev Rakovchik. Following 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 1921 a Va'ad (community committee) with seven members was elected in Trishki: four were from the General Zionist list, one from Tseirei Zion, one from Akhduth and one from the artisans list.
The Va'ad worked for several years in all areas of Jewish life. In the elections to the first Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament) in October 1922, Trishki Jews cast 122 votes for the Zionists, 72 votes for Akhduth (Agudath Yisrael) and none for the Democrats.
|A street in Trishki|
15 Trishki families made their living in manual occupations, in particular in the tanning trade, while five families worked in agriculture and the remainder in trades. The weekly markets and the monthly fairs were their main source of income for Trishki Jews.
According to the government survey of 1931 there were 13 shops, all owned by Jewish families: five textile shops, two grain stores, one grocery shop, one butcher's shop, one leather shop and one timber and fuel business.
According to the same survey, Trishki Jews owned eleven factories including five shoe manufacturers, two leather processing ateliers, one flour mill owned by Kaganton who also supplied electricity, a bakery, a textile business and a felt factory. Later, the Cohen family opened another flourmill in the area.
In 1937, ten Jewish people worked in various trades: three shoemakers, a baker, a tailor, a milliner, a blacksmith, a tinsmith, a butcher and a needle trade specialist.
The Jewish Popular Bank (Folksbank) played an important role in the economic life of Trishki Jews. It was established in 1926 with 97 members, and in 1929 it gained the recognition of the Folksbanks.
Council of the Jewish Folksbanks 1938
from left: speaker Agr. Kelzon, Dr. Gregory Volf, Leib Gorfinkel, Gedalyahu Halperin,
In 1939, the town had 25 telephone subscribers, 10 of them Jewish.
Jewish children were schooled at the Hebrew elementary Tarbuth School, which had an average of 30 students. A number of its graduates continued their studies at the Telz Yeshivah or at the local Hebrew gymnasium or in Shavl (Šiauliai). A library with about 400 books in Yiddish and Hebrew was open for the public. Social life was busy in the branches of Mizrahi, Beitar, Z.S. and Maccabi.
Before the beginning of the 1930s, the relations between Jews and the non-Jews were more or less courteous. The situation worsened when open propaganda of the Association of the Lithuanian Merchants-Verslas urged people not to buy in Jewish stores. As a result, many Trishki Jews, in particular the youth, had to seek opportunities in bigger Lithuanian towns and abroad. Later some of them began to support their relatives who stayed in Trishki. The Association of Former Trishki Jews in Chicago was continually sending money to support the poor people of their town (Maoth Hitim for Pesakh, for fuel in winter, and so on). On the initiative of the Gabai of the synagogue and the people who worked in the public sector, a society was formed to deal with social issues of the Trishki Jews.
In 1939 a fire broke out and eight buildings burned down, including four residential homes, the Folksbank building and the Hebrew school as well as other homes.
Many Trishki Jews supported the Zionist camp. All Zionist parties were represented in the town's political structure. The table below shows how Trishki Zionists voted for five Zionist congresses:
|Congress No.||Year||Total Shkalim||Total Votes||Labor Party
The rabbis who served Trishki during these years included Shemuel-Mosheh Shapiro (1843-1908) who lived in Trishki from 1874; Hayim Pun (?-1903), between 1891-1897; Yisrael-Yehoshua Segal, from 1898; Eliyahu-Ben Zion Pun, 1922-1941, later murdered by the Lithuanians.
Among the personages born in Trishki were Ze'ev Volf Kaplan (1826-1888), a
writer, who published his works under the name ZKN, and Mosheh-Yits'hak Svitz
(Shayevitz 1896-1939), a writer who lived in South Africa.
During World War II and afterwards
With the annexation of Lithuania to the USSR in 1940 and its transformation into a Soviet Republic, most of the Jewish-owned shops and factories were nationalized. Trades people organized into cooperatives (known as Artels). The Hebrew school was closed. Following the closure of the Telz Yeshivah, a number of its students moved to Trishki to continue their studies there. After the invasion by the German army into the USSR on June 22, 1941, the Yeshivah students joined the retreating Red Army heading towards Russia. Many of them later arrived in America, where they established the Telz Yeshivah in Cleveland.
The Germans entered Trishki on June 25, 1941, three days after the war began. The Lithuanian nationalists immediately took control. They began by bursting into Jewish homes, beating everybody inside and robbing the families. The Jews were fearful and did not dare to go outside. At that time one of the most respected members of the community, Kaganton, passed away. The gabai of Hevrah Kadisha was courageous and decided to bury the deceased in the Jewish cemetery, but he was shot by Lithuanians and buried together with Kaganton.
The mass grave and the monument at the murder site
of Trishki Jewish men
In the middle of July the Jews were ordered to leave their houses and they were led to the estate of Graf Plater, where they were crammed in a barn. A barbed wire fence was placed around the barn and Lithuanian guards were stationed around.
Later, three Germans arrived and ordered 70 Jewish men out of the barn. Lithuanians who knew these men prepared a list of names. Everyone was called by his name and profession to make it appear that he was called to work outside. These men were taken to the shores of the Virvyte River where the Kaganton's flourmill stood, about 300 meters from the road to Telz. They were ordered to undress and led in small groups to prepared pits. There they were shot and buried.
Women and children were kept in the barn longer. Money and valuables were taken from them and in exchange they received small rations of food. Hungry and weak, they walked around in circles inside the closed barn. When the women inquired about the fate of their husbands they were told that the men were working and would soon return home.
|The mass grave and the monument at the town park in Zhager|
The inscription on the monument in Lithuanian and Yiddish states:
On 2.10.1941, here Hitler's murderers and their local helpers murdered 3000 Jews,
men, women, children from the Šiauliai district.
At the beginning of August the women were told that they would join their husbands, but in fact they were led to Gruzd (Gruzdžiai) and there, they were left in an open field without any shelter from the burning sun, wind or rain, and suffered abuse by the Lithuanian guards.
A week later, in the middle of August, they were brought to the Zhager ghetto. On October 2, 1941 (11th of Tishrei, 5702) they were murdered in the city park (Narishkin estate) together with 3,000 Jews from Zhager and the surrounding towns.
Yad Vashem archives, Koniukhovsky collection: 0-71, files 68, 102
Central Zionist archives: files 55/1701, 55/1788, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548
Yahaduth Lita (Hebrew) Vol. 1-4, Tel Aviv
YIVO New York, Collection of Lithuania Jewish Communities, pages 757-761
Di Yiddishe Shtime (Yiddish) Kovno, 19.7.1939
Der Yiddisher Cooperator (Yiddish) Kovno, #7-8 (1928); #10 (1929)
HaMelitz (Hebrew) St.Petersburg: 8.6.1883; 22.8.1883; 30.8.1887; 1.9.1887; 30.1.1893; 15.2.1893
Folksblat (Yiddish) Kovno, 19.7.1939
|RADNAZER||Avraham ben Kadish|
|RADZANER||Kadish||father of Avraham|
|ROZE||Hoshea||from Pabalve (Pavolne)|
|SEGAL||Mordechai ben Sh|
|WEINBERG||Tzvi ben K|
|Abba ben Getzil||brother of Meir|
|Abba ben Tzvi|
|Ari bn Binyomin|
|Ber ben Leib|
|Chaim Shalom son of the rabbi|
|Daniel ben Yakov|
|Dov ben Y|
|Dov ben Zev|
|Dovid ben Hillel|
|Dovid Yakov ben Eli|
|Eli ben Shraga|
|Ephraim ben Shraga|
|Gedalia ben Avraham|
|Leib ben Dov|
|Manesh ben Shmuel|
|Meir ben Getzil||brother of Abba|
|Meir ben Zelig|
|Mordechai ben Dov|
|Mordechai ben h"k Tzvi|
|Moshe ben Meir ben Moshe|
|Moshe ben Tzvi|
|Moshe ben Yosef|
|Nachum ben Shraga|
|Reuven ben Y|
|Shlomo ben Ari|
|Shlomo ben Nachman|
|Shlomo ben Shraga|
|Shraga ben Don|
|Tzvi ben Boruch|
|Tzvi ben Shlomo|
|Yakov ben Aharon|
|Yakov ben Zusman|
|Yakov Yosef ben Tzvi|
|Yehoshua ben Sh|
|Yisroel ben Chaluna|
|Yisroel Yitzchok ben Yehuda|
|Yitzchok ben Dovid|
|Yitzchok ben Tzvi|
|Yitzchok ben Y|
|Yoel ben Yakov|
|Yosef Zev ben m"r|
|Zev ben Chaim|
|Zev ben G|
|FIN||Chaim father of Eliahu Bentzion||Rabbi ABD||Tryškiai, Lith.||1899|
|FIN||Eliahu Bentzion ben Chaim husband of Rochel Etil Grosman from Nemakst||wed||Tryškiai, Lith.||Hamelitz #50||1899|
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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