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

56° 10' / 21° 35'

Translation of the “Mosedis” 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 371-373)

Mosedis

In Yiddish, Meisyad

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shimon Joffe

A county town in the Kretinga district.

Year General
Population
Jews %
1841 709 .. ..
1897 904 363 40
1923 .. 175 ..
1938 900 .. ..
1940 .. 130-150 ..

Mosedis lies in the north west of Lithuania, in the Zemaitija province, approximately 40 km north east of the district center Kretinga. Mosedis is an ancient settlement, mentioned in historic documents as far back as 1253. In the 16th century, both the estate and the county are mentioned by this name. At the end of the 16th and the beginning of the 17th centuries Mosedis developed alongside the estate. In 1702 permission was given to the town to hold an annual fair. In 1769 Mosedis was given the right to hold a weekly market and three fairs a year. Between the years 1795-1915, it was under Russian rule, firstly within the Vilnius province and later in the Kaunas province. In the 19th century and in the period of independent Lithuania (1918-1940) it served as a county center.

Until the Second World War

Jewish settlement in Mosedis dates back to the second half of the 17th century. In 1662, it had three Jews, two males and one female, not counting children. It was only after receiving privileges from Augustus Third in 1742 that Jews began to settle in the Zemaitija region as well as in Mosedis town. The Jews lived mainly off trade and many had auxiliary farms near their houses.

During the years when Lithuania suffered famine (1869-1872), the community received modest help from the aid committee in Klaipeda (Memel). In 1913 Mosedis had 3 paid up members of the Agudath Yisrael. After the promulgation of Jewish autonomy by the independent Lithuanian government, a committee of five members was elected in the town. The committee dealt during this period with matters pertaining to most aspects of life in the town.

According to a survey conducted by the Lithuanian government in 1931, the town had 9 businesses, all belonging to Jews. (100%) The division by sector was as follows;

Business
Sector
Total Jewish
Owned
Flax and grains11
Meat stores and livestock11
Trade in foodstuffs (eggs)11
Clothes, Furs, Textiles22
Shoes, Leather, Cobblers11
Pharmacy, Cosmetics11
Sundry22

According to the above survey, Jews also owned a wool combing shop and 3 flour mills, one of these in a nearby village. In 1939 the town had 7 telephone subscribers, none Jewish.

Religious activity in most years, centered around the synagogue, the Kloyz. Among the rabbis who officiatedin Mosedis were Rabbi Shalom-Yitzkhak Levitan (1910-1915), author of many books and perished in the Shoah, Rabbi Yekutiel-Iser Hodes (died in 1924 in Jerusalem), Rabbi Yissakhar-Benet Rabinovitz. The last rabbi of the community, Rabbi Kalev-Meir Ziv, author of the book Golat Kalev (Warsaw, 1905). He was murdered together with his congregation in the Shoah.

Many of the town Jewry belonged to the Zionist camp and most of the parties had their followers. The voting pattern to the Zionist congresses during the 20's and 30's can be seen in the following table;

Congress
Nr
Year Total
Shekelim
Total
Voters
Labor
Part
Revis-
ionist
General
Zionists
Grosmanists Mizrachi
Z”S Z”Z A B
16 1929 15 - - - - - - - -
19 1935 - 80 29 - - 8 - 43
  National Block
21 1939 28 28 15 - 1 - 12 1

Local youths joined the training farms and some immigrated to Eretz Yisrael.

Among the personalities born in Mosedis were; Arieh Esterman (1869-1944), who had immigrated to Eretz Yisrael and was elected to the Tel Aviv city council. In the years 1922-1935 he was the general manager of the Tel Aviv Mortgage Bank; Professor Moshe-Zvi Segal (1878-1970), a biblical scholar, was ordained a rabbi in London, immigrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1926 as a member of the Va’ad Hatsirim (the Zionist representation to the Mandatory authorities) and later appointed professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Professor Segal published many books on biblical subjects, among others the Bible with new interpretations, and a Hebrew-English dictionary.

The Second World War and the Aftermath

In 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet republic. Consequently, plants were nationalized and so too were most of the Mosedis shops, the majority of which were in Jewish hands. All the Zionist organizations were disbanded. Jewish educational institutions were closed. The middle class, mostly Jewish was hard hit and the standard of living much reduced.

On June 22, 1941, war broke out between the Soviet Union and Germany. The very next day the German army entered Mosedis. But before the Germans entered the town, Lithuanian hooligans drew black crosses on the doors of Jewish houses. A number of Jewish youths succeeded in escaping to Russia.

On July 24 all the Jews were ordered to come to the ‘Kloyz‘, (Synagogue).The place was surrounded by Lithuanian guards who would not permit anyone to leave. Soon the atrocities began. Beards were torn out. Women raped. Old men were forced to participate in racing competitions and run around the effigy of the ‘crossed one’. The imprisoned did not receive food or water and were not permitted to go out to relieve themselves. They were kept in these conditions for about two weeks.

Leizer Hodes, who in the past had greatly assisted many Lithuanians, was harnessed to a cart and he was forced to haul it through the town. At that time, there was not as yet a German presence in the town, and all the atrocities against the Jews were practiced by the Lithuanians. At the beginning of July all the Jews were taken out and transported, some in carts and others on foot to Skuodas near the quarters of the Lithuanian sharpshooters, most of the men were killed and the women kept alive a about week longer .They were taken out for labor, such as sweeping the streets and hauling bricks. Later, apparently at the end of July 1941, they were taken, with the children, to the Jewish cemetery in Kretinga and there forced to undress and were shot.

After the war, the Soviet authorities raised a memorial on the killing field. The memorial stated that in this place three women Lithuanian members of the Komsomol (youth section of the Communist Party - names given) and others were murdered. The others were, of course, the Jewish women and children of Mosedis.

Not a single Jewish resident has remained in Mosedis. A few who had escaped to the Soviet Union and a few who survived the horrors of the Kaunas ghetto and concentration camps were still alive on the day of liberation. According to the cartographic survey of Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania, conducted in 1990, a cemetery was found in the vicinity of Mosedis, in the village Naujukai.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-33/979.
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1788, 55/1701, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
Gotlieb, Ohalei Shem, p. 113.
Di Yiddishe Shtime [The Jewish Voice] - (Kaunas), 15.6.1933, 25.4.1938.

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