“Birstonas” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Birštonas, Lithuania)

54° 37' / 24°02'

Translation of the “Birstonas” chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Josef Rosin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1996




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Acknowledgments

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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 178- 179)

Birstonas

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

(Yiddish, Birshtan; Russian, Birstani)

A resort town in the Alytus district.

Birstonas is located in the southwest of Lithuania, on the right bank of the Nemunas River, about 25 km east of Alytus, the district's city. The town is known for its beautiful landscape: it is surrounded by pine forests and by mineral springs. During the 14th century Lithuanian princes built a hunting estate there and the town started to grow next to it. The mineral springs near the town have been known for centuries, but it was only at the beginning of the 19th century that they were used for medical purposes. In 1861 the town had 243 inhabitants

Birstonas was in the Polish zone until 1795. From 1795 until 1918 it was in the Russian zone and was included in the Gubernia (region) of Vilnius. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918 – 1940) the springs were nationalized (in 1924) and the recuperation houses were leased to the Lithuanian “Red Cross”, which started building various types of medical facilities there

It is not known when the Jews first settled in Birstonas. A document from the first half of the 17th century mentions the name Birstonas together with a nearby place by the name of Zydaiki. It is possible to assume that this name indicates that Jews were already in the area at that time. In 1882 a decree was issued by the Russian government that forbade additional Jews to settle in Birstonas. This decree was annulled in December 1903

Only a few Jews lived in Birstonas on a permanent basis during the period of Lithuanian rule. It was only during the recreation season that lasted for 4 months that Jews, who owned inns, restaurants and shops in the town, would come to live in Birstonas. In 1939 there were 20 telephones in the town; one of them belonged to the Jewish children house that was managed by Mrs. S. Warshavsky.

It is difficult to ascertain how many Jews were present in Birstonas on the 22nd of June 1941, when the German army invaded Lithuania. What we do know is that on the 9th of September of 1941 (17 Elul 5702) the Jews of Birstonas were taken to Butrimonys and were murdered there together with the local Jews. After the war, a monument was built on the mass grave

Bibliography

YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: file 1662.

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