Nemakščiai (Nemoksht in Yiddish) is situated in central Lithuania, on the main Kovno-Memel (Klaipeda) road, about 24 km. to the northwest of Rasein (Raseiniai), the district administrative center. The town was first mentioned in 1386 in documents of the Prussian Crusader order. By 1590 markets were already established there. From 1785 weekly markets and tri-annual fairs were held in Nemoksht.
Until 1795 Nemoksht was included in the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom. According to the third division of Poland in that same year by the three superpowers of those times, Russia, Prussia and Austria, Lithuania was divided between Russia and Prussia. As most of the other towns of Lithuania, Nemoksht became part of the Russian Empire, first in the Vilna province (Gubernia) and from 1843 within the Kovno Gubernia. In the years from 1915 to 1918 during World War I, Nemoksht was occupied by the German army. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940) Nemoksht was a county administrative center in the Raseiniai district.
Jewish settlement before World War II
Jews first settled in Nemoksht in the seventeenth century. In 1662 twelve Jews (seven men and five women, plus children who were not counted) were known to be living in the town. After King August III granted Nemokshst some privileges in 1742, its Jewish population increased. In 1847, there were 255 Jews. According to the all-Russian census of 1897, 1,180 people lived in Nemoksht, 954 being Jewish (81%). They made their living in trade, small trade and in agriculture.
The religious and social life of the Jews was centered around the Beth Midrash. On February 2, 1887 the Hebrew newspaper HaMelitz printed a complaint by Yekhezkel Furmansky against his co-residents who did not want to enlarge the Beth Midrash, stating that on Shabatot and holidays there was insufficient space for all the worshipers.
The welfare societies included Gemiluth Hesed, Hevrah Kadisha and Linath HaTsedek. Mutual aid was customary among the Jews, in particular the custom of sending food to the poor.
Zionism arrived at the end of the nineteenth century. In the years from 1895 to 1900 HaMelitz listed 96 Nemoksht donors for the settlement of Eretz-Yisrael (see Appendix 1). The fundraisers were: Yosef-Yits'hak Katz, Aba-Eliyahu Abelson and Eliezer-Yits'hak Zaksh.
During World War I the Russian army was not successful in exiling the town's Jews to Russia (as they had done in a great part of Lithuania) because the Germans preceded them and occupied the town. In 1917 a great fire burned down many houses.
In 1918 the Lithuanian state was established. Following the passage of the Law of Autonomies for Minorities by the new Lithuanian government, the Minister for Jewish Affairs, Dr. Menachem (Max) Soloveitshik, ordered elections to community committees (Va'adei Kehilah) to be held in the summer of 1919. In Nemoksht a Va'ad (community committee) with eleven members was elected. This committee was active in all fields of Jewish life until the end of 1925.
The first government census in 1923 counted 1,018 residents in Nemoksht, 704 them being Jewish (69%). In this period the number of the Jews in the town decreased as a result of emigration abroad and to Eretz-Yisrael.
Nemoksht Jews participated in the elections for the first Seimas (Parliament) that took place in October 1922. The Jewish votes were divided as follows: 240 for the Zionist list, 73 for the Akhduth (Agudath Yisrael) list and 6 for the Demokrats.
During this time the Jews made their living in small trade, cattle trade and crafts; there were also three farm owners. Most of the families maintained garden plots beside the houses and some others rented fruit gardens. However the opportunities for export decreased and this affected their living standards.
According to the government survey of 1931 there were fifteen businesses in Nemoksht, fourteen of them in Jewish hands (93%): one flax and grain shop, eight cattle trade businesses, two food shops, three textile shops. According to the same survey Nemoksht Jews owned a sawmill and two flourmills.
In 1937 sixty-four Jewish artisans were employed in the town: thirteen tailors, seven butchers, seven bakers, five shoemakers, two hatters, two glaziers, two barbers, two tinsmiths, one blacksmith, one knitter and four others.
The Jewish Popular Bank (Folksbank) played an important role in the economic life in town. In 1927 it had 159 members; by 1929 their number had decreased to 118. In 1939 there were twenty-five telephone subscribers, nine of whom were Jewish.
The Jewish children received their elementary education at the Hebrew Tarbuth school. The town had a library with Hebrew and Yiddish books.
The old Beth Midrash continued to serve as the main prayer place and the center of social and religious life. A new cultural center was erected with a donation from one of the Hering brothers, a Nemoksht-born philanthropist who had emigrated to America and supported the Folksbank. This was probably the only brick building in Nemoksht. It hummed with activity 24 hours a day. In it resided the bank, the Tarbuth school, the library, rooms for social and youth activities and a hall for sports and shows.
The rabbis who officiated during the years in Nemoksht were:
Uri-David Afrion (nineteenth century) was conversant in the Torah and many rabbis consulted with him.
Mosheh HaLevi Zaksh
Yehudah Ben Zion HaLevi Zaksh, 1905-1932, member of the Yavneh center and of the Mizrahi party center in Lithuania
Yisrael Krenitz, the last rabbi of Nemoksht, was murdered together with his community in summer of 1941.
|Rabbi Uri-David Afrion|
|Total Votes||Labor Party
|Hebrew Tarbuth school, 1929|
Zionist youth organizations included HaShomer HaTsair and HeHalutz HaTsair (from 1933). In 1934 an Urban Training Kibbutz (Kibbutz Hakhsharah) from HeHalutz movement operated. Under this scheme thirty Nemoksht youngsters emigrated to Eretz-Yisrael, included four from the Leizerovitz-Derori family.
Among the personages born in Nemoksht were:
Mosheh Markovitz (1855-1936), shoemaker and historian, published two volumes of the book Shem Hagedolim HaShelishi (Vilna 1810) about the rabbis of Lithuania, their lives and works and three books on the history of the Jewish communities in Rasein, Keidan and Novogrudek (published Warsaw 1813).
David-Matithyahu Lipman (1888-1941), pharmacist and historian of Lithuanian Jewry, initiator of the Historical-Ethnographic Society in Lithuania, published books and articles on this subject, murdered in 1941 in Tsaikishok (Cekiske).
William Siegal (Velvel Yits'hak Herzog) (1893-1966), a Yiddish actor and dramatist, lived in America from 1906.
During World War II and afterwards
In summer 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Under the new regulations, factories owned by Jews were nationalized, as were some Jewish shops. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and the Hebrew school was closed. Supply of goods decreased and as a result prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore the brunt of this situation and their standard of living dropped gradually. At that time about 70 Jewish families lived in Nemoksht.
With the declaration of war between Germany and the USSR on June 22, 1941, Nemoksht was bombed and almost all of its homes were destroyed. The next day the Germans occupied the town. A month later all Jewish men aged fifteen years and older were taken for forced labor to the nearby town of Vidokle where they were imprisoned in the home of Ya'akov Fridman together with the local Jews. The Lithuanian guards entertained themselves by abusing and mistreating the Jews. They also forced them to do hard and menial labor and beat and humiliated them. Another torture they imposed was by forcing them to do 'gymnastics.' At the night they would break into the building, wake the Jews and shoot over their heads, to shock and terrify them.
On July 24, 1941 (29th of Tamuz, 5701) all men were taken out to bathe in the nearby lake. When they emerged naked from the lake, they were not permitted to dress, but were led in groups of ten to nearby pits and where they were shot and buried.
It is not exactly known where and when the women and children were murdered. Most likely they were murdered between August 18th and August 22nd. During this period, according to a German source, 1,926 Jews from the Rasein district were murdered.
|The mass grave near Nemoksht|
A Jewish youngster named Benyamin who returned to his hometown after the war, was murdered by his Lithuanian neighbor.
According to Soviet sources there is a mass grave 1.5 km from Nemoksht in which 543 bodies were found. At the beginning of the 1990s a stone monument was erected with the inscription in Yiddish: Here the blood of Jews, men, women and children was spilled by the Germans and their helpers.
At the site of the Jewish cemetery a plaque was affixed with the inscription in Yiddish: Here was the Jewish cemetery.
Vashem archives, Jerusalem, M-1/E-1655/1539; M-33/971;
Koniukhovsky collection 0-71, files 42, 52, 53; Testimony of Hanah Levy (nee Leizerovitz), 0-57, file 50
YIVO, New York, Collection of Lithuanian Jewish Communities, file 1667
Gotlib, Ohalei Shem, page 129
Derori (Leizerovitz) Dov, Know from where you came; (Hebrew) manuscript, Library of Yad Vashem
HaMelitz, St.Petersburg, 15.7.1879; 2.2.1887
Di Yiddishe Shtime, Kovno, 1.10.1920; 25.4.1938; 31.10.1938; 28.12.1938; 26.6.1939; 16.6.1940
Folksblat, Kovno, 2.1.1938; 21.8.1940
Der Yiddisher Kooperator, Kovno, 1927, #2
Dos Vort, Kovno, 17.12.1934
List of 96 Nemoksht Jews, donors for the settlement of Eretz-Yisrael as published in HaMelitz
(from JewishGen>Databases>Lithuania>Hamelitz by Jeffrey Maynard)
|GROSMAN||Rochel Etil wife of Eliahu Bentzion Fin from Trishik||wed||#50||1899|
|LIPMAN||Aizik son of the Gaon ABD Plungian||#132||1898|
|OLSHWANGER||Roche daughter of Y R||born 1898||#132||1898|
|OLSHWANGER||Y R s-i-l of Rabbi Moshe Halevi Zachs||#132||1898|
|SHAPIRO||Chaim Tzvi ben haGaon from Kurshan||#170||1897|
|SHAPIRO||Chaim Tzvi son of the Gaon Shmuel Moshe from Kurshan||#132||1898|
|SHAPIRO||Chaim Tzvi son of the rabbi||#121||1900|
|ZACHS||Bas Sheva bas Moshe wife of Yakov Dovid Olshwang of Taurage||wed||#201||1895|
|ZACHS||Eliezer Yitzchok son of the Gaon ABD Nemaksciai||#132||898|
|ZACHS||Eliezer Yitzchok son of the rabbi ABD||#121||1900|
|ZACHS||Moshe Halevi f-i-l of Y R Olshwanger||Rabbi Gaon ABD Av Beth Din||#132||1898|
|ZACHS||Moshe Halevi father of Bas Sheva||rabbi gaon ABD||#201||1895|
|ZACHS||Moshe Halevi father of Eliezer||Rabbi Gaon ABD||#170||1897|
|ZALTZBERG||Avraham Ben Tzion||#121||1900|
|Shlomo ben Shmuel||#132||1898|
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