“Nemunaitis” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania

54° 18' / 24° 2'

Translation of the “Nemunaitis” 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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(Page 407)

Nemunaitis (Lith.)

In Yiddish, Nemunaits

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

A county town (until 1931) in southern Lithuania, 12 km south of Alytus, the district's city.

The town is located on the right bank of the Nemunas River. The settlement originated as a fortress in 1384 that was built by the Prussian Crusade Order. In 1792, it was granted the Magdeburg Rights. In 1847, the town had 225 Jews. In 1897, it had 742 residents, with 361 Jews among them. In 1923, it had 727 residents, with 142 Jews among them. According to the 1923 Lithuanian government census, Jews owned in the town a flourmill and a factory that produced turpentine (in one of the county's villages).

In 1939, there were still 50 families in Nemunaitis; 29 of them made their living by sailing timber on the Nemunas River. There were also 3 Jewish tinsmiths in the town who worked for the farmers in the surrounding areas, and a few other artisans and grocers. In 1939, the town had 6 telephones; 2 of them were owned by Jewish merchants (Leibel Yurkanski and Mordekhai Zupovitz).

The religious and spiritual life of the Jews concentrated around the synagogue, which was a magnificent building that was built in 1838. Five old copper lamps, an engraved closet and a Hanukkah lamp made of copper which is inscribed with the words “The Society of Men” have been preserved in this synagogue. All of those Judaica were hidden in the earth during war and emergency periods. During the period that preceded WWI and also afterwards, there was a strict religious atmosphere in Nemunaitis. The children wore a small talit and fringes which hung out from their pants' pockets. In addition to the compulsory studies that were given in a regular Lithuanian grammar school, they also received traditional Jewish education from a local teacher. One of the Rabbis who headed the Rabbinate in Nemunaitis was Rabbi Pesakh-Hertz Berman, who was born in 1871. Until the end of the 1930's one could still encounter children in Nemunaitis who walked barefooted also during winter. The town was also characterized by Jews who rode their horses as they led their cows to graze in the meadows.

As WWII draw near, there were 15 Jewish families in Nemunaitis. A few weeks after the Germans conquered Lithuania at the end of June, 1941, the last Jews of Nemunaitis were transferred to Alytus, where they were murdered during the autumn of that year together with the Jews of Alytus. Among the victims was also Rabbi Leib Hirshovitz.

Bibliography:

Di Yiddishe Shtime (Kaunas), 18.8.1936.

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