“Darsuniškis” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania

54° 44' / 24° 07'

Translation of the “Darsuniskis” chapter
from Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Dov Levin

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 212- 213)

Darsuniskis

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

(Yiddish, Dabeik; Russian, Dobeiki)

A town in the Trakai district.

YearGeneral
Population
JewsPercentage
1847..280..
1897673....
192381712015

Darsuniskis is located in the southeast of Lithuania, about 20 km southeast of Kaunas, on the right bank of the Nieman River. In the 14th century, there was a fortress there. When the inhabitants were forced to flee from the Crusader Order they burned down the fortress. As time progressed, the land of Darsuniskis became the property of the Lithuanian princes. During the 16th century, tree clearing was started in the forest next to Birstonas so the economic importance of Darsuniskis also rose. In 1792, the town was granted the "Magdeburg rights" and it gained urban status. In 1818, the town burned down and it stopped developing.

Jews settled in Darsuniskis at the end of the 18th century. Even at their peak, the number of Jews in the town did not exceed more than 300-350. During the period that preceded WWI many of them emigrated to other places. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918 – 1940) their number decreased to a few dozen. At the beginning of the 1920's, a council committee of 5 members was active in the town. The committee was elected democratically and was encouraged to do so by the Ministry of Jewish Affairs in Kaunas. Most of the Jews engaged in petty trade, labor and peddling. Some of them had small ancillary farms. According to the 1931 Lithuanian government census Jews owned in the town: 3 cloth shops, 2 liquor stores and one restaurant. In 1937, there were still 13 Jewish artisans in Darsuniskis: 6 tailors, 3 butchers, a glazier, a blacksmith, a shoemaker and a barber. In 1939, there were 7 telephones in the town. 2 of them belonged to Jews (Meir Wolpe and Leyzer Zimanski).

For many years, Darsuniskis was known for its teachers. Among them were: Rabbi Aryeh-Tsvi Dayakhes; Rabbi Pinchas Finfer (1838 – 1913); Rabbi Haim-Yermiyahu, son of Avraham (was a Rabbi in Darsuniskis from 1871); Rabbi Haim-Avraham Shas (1887 – 1888); Rabbi Shemuel-Josef Shoham (from 1891); the town's last Rabbi was Rabbi Moshe Aryeh-Leib Milevski, who perished in Darsuniskis during the Holocaust together with his community.

We know about the Zionist activities of the Jews of Darsuniskis from the results of the elections to the two Zionist Congresses during the 1930's. The tally table below shows their votes:

Congress
Nr.
YearTotal
Shekalim
Total
Voters
Labor
Part
Revisi-
onsists
General
Zionists
Grosm-
anists
Mizrachi
Z”SZ”ZAB
181933..311262  2
191935..241  2211

During the period of Russian rule (1940 – 1941), all Zionist activities were forbidden in the town, as in the rest of Lithuania.

At the end of June, 1941, after Germany conquered Lithuania, a ghetto of sorts was set up in Darsuniskis, where the local Jews and other Jews from the towns of Kruonis, Pakuonis and other towns were imprisoned. The Jews were forced to do labor on farms in the surrounding areas, fix roads and to do other types of work, while the Lithuanians who supervised them tortured and brutalized them. On August 15, 1941, armed Lithuanians led the Jewish men towards Kaunas and murdered them. Apparently, the massacre took place in the Komenduliai forest, not far from the Pazaislis monastery; according to a different version, they were massacred in the Fourth Fort in Kaunas. The others, 69 women, 20 children and 10 sick and old men, a total of 99 people, were massacred (according to a German source) between August 28 and September 2, 1941, in the Jewish cemetery in Darsuniskis. According to testimonies given by farmers in the surrounding area, the Lithuanian murderers threw the old women into the grave while they were alive and said: “It is a pity to waste bullets on the likes of them”. Only a few of the Jews of Darsuniskis remained alive.

In autumn,1991, through the initiative of the local council, a memorial was erected in Darsuniskis and on it an inscription in Lithuanian and Yiddish: “Here, in 1941, in the Jewish Cemetery in Darsuniskis, Nazi murderers and their helpers murdered children, women, and men.”

25 Jewish women and their children were murdered in the autumn of 1941 in the Gojus grove next to Kruonis. Hands, shoes and other remains of the massacred women poked out from the earth for a long time. In 1990, at the initiative and funding of “The Kaisiadorys Forestry Fund”, a stone memorial was erected in the place with the inscription: “In this place, on 15.8.1941, the Nazi murderers and their local helpers, massacred Jewish women and children.”

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-33/969; Koniukhovsky collection 0-71, files 147.
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1701, 55/1788, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
YIVO - Lithuanian Communities' Collection: files 155 pages 8356-8360.
Gar, Josef, Viderklangen (Yiddish), Vol. 1, Tel Aviv 1961, pages 274, 346.
Kaisiadoriu Aidai (Kaisiadorys region newspaper), # 76 (6009), 21.9.1991.

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