“Panosiskes” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Panošiškės, Lithuania)

54° 31' / 24° 44'

Translation of the “Panosiskes” 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 498-499)

Panosiskes

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

In Yiddish, Panasishok

A village in the Onuskis county within the Trakai district.

Panosiskes is located on the banks of the Verkne River, one of the tributaries of the Nemunas River in southeastern Lithuania. The settlement's name is mentioned in historical documents dating from the middle of the 18th century. During the period of Russian Rule, Panosiskes administratively belonged to the Vilnius province. After WWI, when the Vilnius province, including the district of Trakai, was conquered by the Poles, Panosiskis remained in Lithuanian territory, very close to the border (the cease-fire line) with Poland.

Jews formally settled in Panosiskis in 1849. It was an agricultural settlement, and was one of 32 settlements that were established on government land in the area. Between 1898 and 1899, those settlements, including Panosiskis, were under the patronage of the Jewish Colonization Association (J.C.A.). The Jewish farmers were trained and instructed by J.C.A. agronomists and professionals and also received loans for purchasing equipment. According to a census conducted by J.C.A. in 1898, Panosiskis had 158 Jews (17 families). They had 1125 acres of land (of which 123 acres were not suitable for agriculture), 42 cows, 18 horses and 4 goats. Most of the Jews lived in a concentrated area at the center of the settlement and engaged in agriculture. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that that was the reason why their Lithuanian neighbors called the settlement “Zydkyemis” (that is to say, the court or village of the Jews). At the end of 1939, when Vilnius was returned to Lithuania, Panosiskes was no longer a border settlement.

Social life concentrated mostly around the Beth Midrash in the village, which also had a “Kheder” for children. Panosiskes had a “shokhet” (slaughterer). The Rabbi of Onuskis also served the Jews of Panosiskes.

In 1919, a short while after WWI, the Jews of Panosiskes needed help from “YeKoPo” (the organization which helped the victims of the war). According to the census which was conducted at that time, the village had 99 Jews (22 families) and they had 804 acres of land (some of it across the border), 13 cows and 9 horses. 17 Jewish families made their livelihood from agriculture. During the last quarter of 1919, “YeKoPo” gave the community of Panosiskes a sum of 1,497 marks for feeding its children and for cultural activities. The aid increased in 1920, which included money for buying matzahs for Passover. A few dozen Jewish families still lived in Panosiskes between the two world wars. Panosiskes is mentioned in the 1938 list of Jewish artisans in Lithuania: at that time, the village had a shoemaker and a tinsmith. Some of the Jewish youth in the village moved to Kaunas and to other cities and the number of Jews in the village decreased to about 50. The village also had a branch of the Credit Union for Jewish Farmers.

During the autumn of 1940, when Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union, the sovietization process introduced economic and social changes in Panosiskes, as in all of Lithuania.

In the summer of 1941, a few days after the outbreak of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union and after Lithuania was conquered by the Germans, former Lithuanian police forces took control of Panosiskes. Edicts, such as, the obligation to wear a yellow patch and others, were imposed on the Jews. But for a few weeks they were permitted to live their normal life as usual. Some of the Jewish farmers were still able to reap their crops. On the eve of Rosh HaShana, 5701 (September 21, 1941), the village was surrounded by dozens of policemen and armed Lithuanians. The entire Jewish population in the village, men, women, children and infants, except the few who were able to hide in time, were concentrated in the Beth Midrash, where they were heavily guarded. The terrified Jews, who already heard of the bitter fate of their brethren in other towns, prayed a lot, kissed the Torah books, recited the psalms, and pleaded in front of the open Holy Ark for their endangered lives. From time to time, the guards would steal jewelry and clothes from the imprisoned Jews. The Lithuanians brought wagons and transported the Jews of Panosiskes from the Beth Midrash to the Trakai ghetto. The Jews were kept in the ghetto in horrible conditions for about ten days, and then, on the eve of Yom Kippur, 5702 (September 30, 1941) the Jews of Panosiskes were shot to death together with the Jews of the surrounding areas. A few Jews who tried to escape were caught, handed over to the authorities, and were also murdered.

Of the entire Jewish population of Panosiskes, less than a dozen Jews survived. Some of them hid with farmers in the surrounding areas, and some joined the Soviet partisans who were active in the Rudniki Forests and other places in the region.

After the war, surviving Jews from Panosiskes erected a memorial on the mass grave. In April, 1989, a team from Israel's Educational Television filmed some of the houses that in the past belonged to Jewish farmers (who were called by their neighbors by such names as “Osherke”, “Zorkheke”, and other names). A local farmer (who spoke Yiddish!) spoke to the television team about his Jewish neighbors. That film was included in a movie by the name of “To the Forests), which was shown a number of times on Israeli television.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-33/983; Koniukhovsky Collection 0-71, file 91; testimony of Nakhum Mikelshevsky 0-57.
The First Conference of the Local Committee for Helping the Victims of the War, Vilnius 1920, pp. 13-30.

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