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Troki Yizkor Book

(Trakai, Lithuania)

 

Project Leader: Fred Millner
JewishGen Liason/Advisor: Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis

This project is being initiated in order to fund the translation of the 79-page Yizkor Book. Originally published in Hebrew and Yiddish in 1954 in Tel Aviv, the editor is listed as “Former Residents of Trakai in Israel.” The goal is to eventually provide a complete translation of this book to JewishGen. JewishGen currently only has a translation of the title page and a three-page “List of Martyrs from Trakai.” The New York Public Library Yizkor collection does not have a copy of the original.

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists who have ancestors from Troki will be interested in possibly learning the fate of cousins who never emigrated. The project will also be of interest to those studying Trakai, Lithuania, capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in medieval times. Trakai also remains the center of the Karaite sect of Judaism, and it is hoped that the Yizkor will provide information for historians studying Karaism.

Project Importance

Yizkor books are unique sources of information on once vibrant towns, primarily in central and Eastern Europe, whose Jewish populations were destroyed in the Holocaust. Written after World War II by émigrés and Holocaust survivors, YIzkor books contain narratives of the history of the town, details of daily life, religious and political figures and movements, religious and secular education, and gripping stories of the major intellectual and Zionist movements of the 20th century. The necrologies and lists of residents are of tremendous genealogical value, as often the names of individuals who were taken to extermination camps or died in the forests are not recorded elsewhere.

Trakai is located 27 km west of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. It is of extreme historical importance to Lithuania. Per Wikipedia: “Trakai Island Castle (Lithuanian: Trakų salos pilis) is an island castle located in Trakai, Lithuania on an island in Lake Galvė. The construction of the stone castle was begun in the 14th century by Kęstutis, and around 1409 major works were completed by his son Vytautas the Great, who died in this castle in 1430. Trakai was one of the main centres of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the castle held great strategic importance.” The ruins of the castle were famous to 18th century European travelers, and the modern restoration, though no longer as romantic as the ruins, is impressive to say the least.

Trakai is also extremely important in the history of Karaite Judaism. Karaites were given exclusive rights as Jews to live in the town from 1388 until 1862, when Ashkenazi settlers were given rights to move there that were never revoked by the Russians. But the Karaite/Ashkenazi relations were never resolved. Per the Jewish Virtual Library article on Troki, “before the outbreak of World War II, there were about 300 Jews in Troki. The Jewish community was liquidated on Sept. 30, 1941. Only the Karaite community remained, and according to the 1959 Soviet census there were 5,700 Karaites in Troki. After the war the Jewish community was not reconstituted.”

However, the YIVO Encyclopedia article on Trakai seems to contradict several of these points. “By 1939, the Jewish population had dwindled to approximately 300. During the Holocaust, the Nazis considered Karaites to be members of the “Turkish race,” and did not persecute them. Karaite leaders even submitted a list of all members of their community to the German authorities so as to prevent Rabbinites from infiltrating. By contrast, the Rabbinites of Trakai and its surroundings (numbering about 2,500) were deported on 30 November 1941 to an island on the lake of Trakai, where they were murdered. Today, approximately 20 families in the town identify themselves as Karaites, out of a population of 6,000. The Karaite kenesa (synagogue) has survived, and serves also as a museum of the Karaite community.”

Hopefully, Troki will help clarify the dates and numbers. It is unclear whether the “300” in both of the above articles includes the Karaites.

In any case, it is clear that the Jewish population of Trakai was small. And JGFF only lists 46 researchers for Trakai. But a translation of Troki will also interest any who study medieval Lithuania or the Karaites.

Project Description

As funds become available, Hebrew pages will be translated into English by a professional translator. The book is small enough to be translated from beginning to end at an orderly pace, without pause. The project coordinator will review the translation and work closely with the translator to ensure a grammatically correct and idiomatic translation.

Estimated Cost

A full translation is currently estimated to cost $2,500. It is not expected that this will change materially.


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