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Translation of Krekanava chapters from Yahadut Lita
(Lithuanian Jewry), Vols. 3 & 4
Published by The Association of The Lithuanian Jews in Israel
Published in Tel Aviv, 1967 (Vol. 3) and 1984 (Vol. 4)
Project Coordinator and Translator
Our sincere appreciation to Joseph Melamed, Advocat, for permission
This is a translation from: Yahadut Lita: (Lithuanian Jewry), Vol. 3
Town: Krekenava, p. 356 (Vol. 3), pp. 354-355 (Vol. 4), p. 481 (Vol. 4)
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[Page 356 - Vol. 3][The following quotation is in the article by Baruch Shillman, A Semester in Krekenava, which appeared in Lite (Lithuania), Volume 1, edited by Dr. Mendel Sudarsky, Uriah Katzenelenbogen, J. Kissin, Jewish-Lithuanian Cultural Society Lite, New York, 1951, pp. 1535-1540 (Yiddish). My maternal grandfather, Reb Shelomo Leib Bloch, came from Krekenava. He was later known in the region as Reb Shelomo Podberezer, because for a long time he served as a ritual slaughterer in Podbrez (not to be confused with Podbredz, Vilna Province). My grandfather's sister, Bubba ['Grandma'] Batya, lived in Krekenava. She was the local midwife and almost all of the youth of Krekenava saw the light of day with her help.
Krekenava is located on the Nevezis River, 30 kilometers from Keidan and Panevezys. The nearest train station was 17 kilometers from the town.
Before World War I, there were 300 Jewish families. During the war (1915), all the Jews were expelled to Central Russia and the entire town was burnt. After the war (1921) there were 150 living there and in 1939, there were 60 families.
The Jews earned their living primarily in the linen trade. There were also a few artisans. Two flourmills were owned by Jews and the town's marketing days were Monday and Thursday.
The town had a synagogue, Beit Midrash (Study House), a small synagogue (kloiz) and a large yeshiva that was founded and headed by Rabbi Moses Cheskin. The Tarbut School had some 170 students. There was also a 2000 volume library. There were charitable institutions and social welfare aid was provided to the needy. Its youth organizations were Maccabi, Hehalutz Hatzair, and Hashomer Hatzair.
The town was noted for its scholars. Many of its leading figures had rabbinic ordination, but they did not earn their living from their rabbinic training. In the Beit Midrash, the study of the Torah continued uninterruptedly day and night.
Among its rabbis were R. Moses Mishel Luria who served for 50 years; R. Nathan Neta Flaum, who was born in Krekenava and was the son of R. Moses Mishel Luria - he served as rabbi for 35 years and died in 5655 (1895); R. Sheneur Zalman Sheneurson, d. 5645 (1885); R. Moses Cheskin, served for 15 years until 5685 (1915), and its last rabbi, R. Benjamin Mousha, may God avenge his soul.
Among its native sons were R. Saul, the son of R. Moses Mishel Luria, R. Eliezer Judah Rabinowitz, R. Joseph Elijah Fried and Abba Shaban, a community leader in South Africa.
[Pages 354-355 - Vol. 4]
A town located in the Panevezys District on the banks of the Nevezis River. At the time of the Holocaust, some 60 Jewish families lived there. At the outbreak of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, the Jews of Krekenava tried to flee to Russia. They remembered the days of World War I when refuge was found in Russia. They were able to foretell what their fate would be at the hand of the Lithuanian nationalists who did not hide their feelings of hatred and threats of revenge if they [the Jews] remained in Krekenava.
The wagons of the Jews leaving the town formed a long line. They got as far as Panevezys where they were stopped by the Lithuanian Activists and were forced back to Krekenava. By the time they returned, the German army occupied the city and armed Lithuanian bands roamed freely wreaking devastation. They immediately gathered all the young men and imprisoned them in the jail next to the police station. Two local Jews, Isaac Levin and Dudu Beinish Levin, brought food for their relatives and asked the Lithuanian guards to deliver it to them. They were tormented by the guards who shot both of them on the spot. The imprisoned young men were tortured for several days and one night they were taken from the jail and divided into two groups. One group was taken to a place known as The Priest's Fields on the mountain, and the second to the field between the stone bridge and the Nevezis River. They were forced to dig their own graves and were shot and buried on the spot. The sound of fire was heard for a great distance and resounded in he ears of the fathers, women and children who crowded horrified in their homes unable to help.
The murderers then set their sights on the women. They gathered the attractive young Jewish women, dragged them to a cellar, where they were brutally raped and tortured to death.
A short while later some of the Jews were forced from their homes and imprisoned in the Beit Midrash. They were kept there with no food or water and their suffering knew no limit. Shmeril Levin, a brave and valiant Jew and a relative to the Levins mentioned above, approached the Lithuanian guard and asked for permission to leave the Beit Midrash. When he was refused, Levin pulled a knife and stabbed the guard.
The majority of the Jewish men were taken a few days later to the road leading to Panevezys. They were forced to gather large rocks and break them in preparation for the laying of the road. They worked for a short time and were then murdered and buried on the spot.
The women and children, along with the few remaining men, were gathered to the synagogue and a few of the surrounding houses and the area was declared a ghetto. Hungry and thirsty, they were imprisoned there until July 27, 1941, when they were told to take the few items they could carry and be ready to be transferred to a 'camp.' They were taken to field near the Pajuoste airport. They were literally thrown from the wagons that continued on loaded with their possessions. Tortured and tormented with only the clothing on their backs, starving and thirsty, these unfortunate people remained without food for a few more days until the government managed to gather to that spot all the Jews from the surrounding area. Meanwhile, the murderers were busy excavating pits. In four long and deep pits the Jews of Krekenava, along with their fellow Jews of surrounding towns and Panevezys, were murdered and buried.
Shalom Grak, a Jew of about 40 was the lone survivor. At first, he found refuge with a priest and later he wandered from place to place in the area. For the last two years of the war, he hid at the isolated farm of an old Pole. After the Soviets returned to Krekenava, Shalom Grak joined the Soviet police which fought against those who opposed the Soviet regime and against those who had collaborated with the Germans. He saw as his role in life the taking of revenge on the murderers of Jews. One day a Lithuanian woman recognized him and reported it to the Lithuanian resistance, which captured him and tortured him to death.
In the list of mass graves printed in the book Mass Murder in Lithuania, Part II, (2 volumes, Vilna 1965 and 1973, in Lithuanian) a mass grave located in Krekenava on the banks of the Zenepersa River, a kilometer's distance from the town, some 400 meters from the main road to Survilishok (Surviliskis), is recorded. Some 200 men, women and children, who were murdered in the months of July and August 1941, are buried there.
Source of information - Testimony of Chaya Levin-Binder, Holon.
[Page 481 Vol. 4]
There were three mass murder actions:
After the war, a monument was erected on the mass graves engraved with a Star of David, one of the few in Lithuania with this type of an inscription. This monument was erected thanks to the untiring efforts of Samuel Papiert who came from a town in the vicinity of Panevezys, Krekenava. He invested super-human efforts to gather Jewish orphans who had remained with Lithuanian families during the war and return them to Jewish families who agreed to accept them. He was 25 when he returned from the USSR where he fought in the ranks of the Lithuanian Division in the Soviet army. In 1948, while he was in Ritova searching for a Jewish child, he was murdered by Lithuanians.
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