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

55° 22' / 23° 22'

Translation of the “Betygala” 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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(Page 170)

Betygala

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

(Yiddish, Betigole)

A county town in the Raseiniai district.

YearGeneral
Population
JewsPercentage
1841483....
19233348525
1940..11 families 

Betygala is located in central Lithuania, on the banks of the Veivirsa River, about 12 km east of Raseiniai, the district's city. It was built on an old settlement which is mentioned in historical sources in the 13th century. At that time the settlement suffered from attacks by the Teutonic Order. The town began to grow in 1516 when it had weekly market days and built public baths. From 1795 to 1915 Betygala was under Russian rule, first in the Vilnius Gubernia (region) and later in the Kaunas Gubernia.

During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918 – 1940) Betygala was the center of the subdistrict. With the declaration of autonomy for the Jews, a ruling committee of 5 members was voted for in the town. The committee was active in most areas of Jewish life in the town for a few years. In 1923 the committee conducted an inner census in the town in accordance with the instructions of the Ministry of Jewish Affairs. There were then 17 Jewish children ages 4 – 17. Also, in 1923 the Jews of the town donated to the “Fundraising Campaign for Hungry Jewish Children in the Ukraine”. This campaign was conducted in all of the Jewish communities in Lithuania.

Between the two world wars, there were a few Jewish shops in the town, and Jews also owned a sawmill and a flourmill. A few Jewish families owned estates next to the town and dealt in agriculture. In 1937 there was a Jewish knitter in Betygala.

The number of Jews in the town decreased over the years. By the time the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, only 11 families remained in the town. Betygala, like the rest of Lithuania, was under Russian rule for a single year (1940 – 1941). This rule resulted in far-reaching economical, political and cultural changes.

When the war between Germany and the Soviet Union broke out on June 22nd, 1941, Lithuanian nationalists took control of Betygala, but no German forces were stationed in the town. Armed Lithuanians kept their Jewish neighbors terror stricken for three weeks. They abused them, looted their property and forced them to do all kinds of strange types of labor. In the middle of July, 6 families were forced to go to the estate of a Jew by the name of Berl Vinik which was in Zazesia (about 7 km from Krakes). The remaining 5 families were forced to go to the Vathgophiai estate (about 4 km from Ariogala) that belonged to the Jews Shlomo Vinik and Aron Smolenski.

Lithuanian auxiliary police arrived at these estates at the end of August. They locked up all the Jews in the granary, and on the 28th of August, 1941 (5 Elul 5702) murdered them. Only 2 young Jewish women succeeded to escape. Lithuanian peasants hid them and they had the good fortune of seeing the day of liberation. The names of the Lithuanian murderers, and not to mention them in the same breath with the names of the savers, are kept in the Yad Vashem archives.

After the war, descendants of Betygala's Jews transferred the bones of the murdered to the mass grave of the Jews of Ariogala. A monument was built there with the inscription: “Here rest 500 Soviet citizens. They were murdered by the Nazi murderers.”


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