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

54° 18' / 23° 26'

Translation of the “Rudamina” 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 631 - 632)

Rudamina

In Yiddish, Rudamin, also Rudamine

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shimon Joffe

A county town in the Seinai district.

Year General
Population
Jews Percentage
1800 269 About 50 families ..
1827 245 .. ..
1923 256 98 30
1940 .. About 20 families ..

Rudamina is to be found in the Lithuanian south, approximately 7 km north west of Lazdijai, the center of the Seinai district, on the banks of the Rudaminelis river .The town began to develop near the estate of Polish noblemen at the end of the 16th century. At the beginning of the 17th century it was granted a Magdeburg charter. In 1795 it was annexed to Prussia. Because of the small number of inhabitants and the bad economic situation, it lost its city status and privileges. Between the years 1807-1815 it belonged to the Grand Duchy of Warsaw. From 1815 on, it came under Russian dominion. At a later date it was included in the Suwalki province. During that time, and during the time of Lithuanian independence it served as a county center.

It would appear that Jews began to settle in Rudamina in the middle of the 18th century. The first Jews to arrive were artisans, tailors, shoemakers etc. With the growth of the settlement, a rabbi was appointed, whose principal income was derived from a tavern run by his family. A fine synagogue was built, and land for a cemetery was leased. Most of the Jews were farmers who leased land from the Polish Paritz, Gavronski, for periods of five years each time. At the end of the 19th century, approximately 50 Jewish families lived there. In 1899, a Jew purchased most of the farmed land and then began a short period of prosperity for the Jews in the town and the vicinity. Within the town there were Jewish artisans, tailors, shoemakers, carpenters, makers of wooden tiles and harness makers.

With the granting of Jewish autonomy by the independent Lithuanian government in the early 20s', a community board of 5 members was elected and it was active in all Jewish walks of life. In those years, a branch of Tzeirei Zion (Zionist Youth) existed in Rudamina and it participated in the elections to the community board as an independent list.

According to a survey made by the Lithuanian government in 1931, all the shops in Rudamina belonged to Jews; 2 groceries, one hardware store, a grain business, and a tavern. Jews also owned a wool-combing plant, and an alcohol distillery. The Pakisniai estate possessed a brick and ceramic tile plant owned by S. Ziman. There were a few dozen Jewish families in the area who engaged in agriculture. The economic situation of the Jewish farmers deteriorated in those years. This had its influence also on the shopkeepers and the artisans and many left the town for nearby towns or for countries across the seas. Some 20 families only remained in the town before the Shoah.

The Radumina community had a rabbi during its existence. The Jews from the whole vicinity came to pray in the festivals and holy days in the beautiful old synagogue. Among the rabbis who served the community were; Rabbi David Svirsky (served for approximately 18 years from 1903), and Rabbi Mordekhai Kohen, the last rabbi of the community (until 1941).

During the time of the Soviet regime, (1940-1941) small industrial plants and shops belonging to Jews were nationalized and as a result the standard of living was much reduced.

On the morning of June 22, 1941, the day the German army invaded the Soviet Union, Radumina was bombed. A number of Jewish houses were burnt and there were fatal casualties as well. German soldiers were seen in town the same day. The Jewish population attempted to escape in the direction of Russia but was not successful and as the front moved eastwards they began to return to their homes. The Lithuanian hooligans already ruled the town, and they began to molest the Jews, robbed them of their possessions and forced them to do demeaning work. Only those who worked for Jewish farmers were exempt from these labors, as non Jews were forbidden to work for them. Within a short time, rules were promulgated for the Jews by which, for instance, they were forbidden to buy butter, and forced to wear a yellow badge on the clothes shaped like a Magen David, etc. Every rule was accompanied by the threat of execution for non compliance. In the middle of July, some Germans accompanied by local Lithuanians came from Lazdijai, went from house to house, robbed the Jews and beat them. The Jews were fined 500 Roubles per head. The fine was paid also for those unable to pay. A few weeks later a sort of Ghetto was established in the synagogue and in neighboring half -ruined Lithuanian houses. On September 15, 1941, the Radumina Jews were expelled from their homes and taken to the Ghetto in Katkiskes, which already contained the Jews from Lazdijai and the neighboring communities. The Jews lived there for approximately six weeks under awful conditions. On November 3, 1941, all the Jews in Katkiskes were murdered in the nearby forest. Many Jews attempted to hide with peasants, but over time they were caught. Only the Kalvarisky brothers from Svaboda and the son of Rabbi Gedaliah Kohen survived. They hid with the Kausas and the Sasnauskas peasant families. After the war, a memorial was raised over the mass grave.

Genrikh (Henakh) Ziman (1910-1985), son of an estate owner, was parachuted from Russia during the Second World War and became the commander of a Lithuanian partisan brigade in the Rudniki forests. His nom de guerre was Yurgis. After the war, he edited a Communist party newspaper, Tiesa, (Truth) in Vilnius, and in 1940, he was among the chief destroyers of Jewish culture in Lithuania.

Bibliography:

YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: files 1196-1202. Dzuku Zinios (newspaper of the Lazdijai region), #59, 5.8.1992.

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