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[Page 257]

Ligum
(Lygumai, Lithuania)

56°00' 23°39'

Ligum (in Yiddish) is situated in the northern–central part of Lithuania, on the left bank of the river Kruoja, about 27 km northeast from the district administrative center Shavl (Siauliai). An estate with the same name is mentioned in historic documents from the fifteenth century. Nearby the estate the village grew mainly in the nineteenth century, from 331 residents in 1841 to 801 residents in 1897, of them 482 Jews (60%).

Until 1795 Ligum was part of the Polish–Lithuanian Kingdom, when the third division of Poland by the three superpowers of those times – Russia, Prussia and Austria – caused Lithuania to become partly Russian or Prussian. The part of Lithuania, which included Ligum fell under the rule of the Czarist Russia (1795–1915). From 1802 it was part of the Vilna province (Gubernia) and from 1843 as part of the Kovno province.

During the period of independent Lithuania (1918–1940) Ligum was a county administrative center in Siauliai district. Police and post offices were stationed in Ligum. In the town there also were several small factories for processing agricultural products, some workshops and shops.

 

lit4_257.jpg
A Wooden Jewish house

 

The first Jews settled in Ligum in the 18–th century. Until the beginning of the century there were more Jews in Ligum than in Shavl and the Ligum Jewish cemetery served Shavl Jews as well. Ligum Jews made their living from small trade, crafts and peddling. During several tens of years they became the majority in town. At the beginning of the 19–th century there were a “Beth–Midrash”, a “Kheder” and other institutions in town.

[Page 258]

In 1876 a big fire occurred in Ligum, which burnt down 60 Jewish houses. In 1887 a big fire burnt down 64 Jewish houses including the “Beth–Midrash” and the Synagogue.

 

lit4_258.jpg
The Synagogue in 1999
(Photo taken by Barry Mann 1999)

 

In the years before World War I many of Ligum Jews immigrated to America, England and South Africa and about 60 families in Ligum remained. In the summer of 1915 all Ligum Jews were expelled to the inner regions of Russia. After the war only 50 families returned to Ligum.

 

During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918–1940)

Following the autonomy law for minorities, issued by the new Lithuanian government, the Minister for Jewish Affairs, Dr. Menakhem (Max) Soloveitshik, ordered elections to be held for community committees (Va'ad Kehilah) in the summer of 1919. A committee of 5 members was elected in Ligum. This committee was active in almost all fields of Jewish life until the end of 1925.

According to the first census performed by the Government in 1923 there were 753 people in Ligum, of them 240 Jews (32%). During this period most of the Jews made their living from agriculture, craft, peddling and small trade. The weekly market day, which took place on Wednesdays was their main income source. Almost every family maintained an auxiliary farm and owned a milking cow. Several Jews worked at Yosef Perkis' spinning and dying plant.

According to the government survey on shops and factories taken in 1931 in Ligum there were one butcher's shop and one grocery owned by Jews.

[Page 259]

In “Khol haMoed Pesakh” 5693 (13.4.1933) a big fire broke out in Ligum which burnt down 87 buildings in the center of the town, while 44 of them were habitations. Many people became roofless and in the press calls for helping the victims of the fire were published. Until World War II most of the houses were rebuilt.

In 1937 there were 6 Jewish craftsmen in town: 2 butchers, 1 tailor, 1 shoemaker, 1 tinsmith and one another.

There was an Hebrew school in Ligum, but because of the low number of pupils it was closed after two years of operation and a number of the children went to the Lithuanian school. The more prosperous families sent their children to the Hebrew schools in Shavl or Kovno. Boys went also to the “Kheder” of Meir the slaughterer, taught in addition to his main profession.

Most of Ligum Jews were fans of the Zionist movement, but there were a small part of the Jewish youth who were active in the Communist underground.

In the table below we can see how Ligum Zionists voted for the different parties at seven Zionist Congresses:

 

Cong.
No.
Year Total
Shekalim
Total Voter Labor Party
Z”S Z”Z
Rev G.Z.
A B
Gr. Miz.
14 1925 28
15 1927 14
16 1929 15 8 3 2 3
17 1931 30 23 4 1 18
18 1933 19 2 8 4 5
19 1935 24 7 4 13
21 1939 32 24 10 2 Nat Blk
12

Rev.–Revisionists; G.Z.–General Zionists; Gr.–Grosmanists; Miz.–Mizrahi; Nat Blk : National Block

 

The elections in 1931 took place in the “Zionist Hall” and in 1939 in “Beth Hamidrash”.

The relations between the Jews with their Lithuanian neighbors were by and large normal, but sometimes incidents occurred like the desecration of the Jewish cemetery.

The large fire of 1933 caused extensive damage to about 30 Jewish families, of which only 10 were insured, the. In the same time the economic situation of the Jews was harmed because of the strong competition of Lithuanian organizations headed by the Association of the Lithuanian merchants “Verslas”. As a result of their harsh situation a large number families needed support from their relatives abroad.

For the partial list of Rabbis who served in Ligum see Appendix 1.

[Page 260]

During World War II

In June 1940 Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union, becoming a Soviet Republic. The new rule caused many changes in the economic and social life of Ligum. A number of the providers integrated into government economic institutions. The supply of goods decreased and as a result prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore most of the brunt, and the standard of living dropped gradually. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and a worsening in the relations with the Lithuanians occurred. In this year there were about 120 Jews in Ligum.

On June22, 1941 the German army invaded Lithuania. Many of Ligum Jews tried to escape to Russia on carts and by foot through Dvinsk in Latvia, but arriving to the Latvian border on the 28–th of June, they became aware that the German army preceded them. Consequently they had to return home. In Ligum the Lithuanian nationalists already took over the rule. With the pretext of searching for arms the Lithuanians robbed valuables from Jewish houses. They also detained Jews with the pretext that they were Communists. Among the captives were honored people, merchants etc. All were transferred to Shavl prison and there they were murdered.

As follows is the testimony of a Lithuanian young woman, Julija Butkute, born in 1915, saved in the “Special Lithuanian Archives” LYA. F.K–1.B.198. P. 2–4., on the fate of Ligum Jews:

“Ligum Jews were detained at the end of July and the beginning of September 1941. The detained men were kept in a cellar of some building, and the women were detained in the synagogue. In the night of the 3–rd to the 4–th of September at the Junkaiciai forest the men and young women were shot. The murder began early in the morning at about 6 o'clock. In town we could smell the odor of the gunpowder. After the “action” the participants, among them the chief of Ligum county police Jonas Petraitis, gathered in the town club where refreshments were prepared. Four German officers coming from Siauliai took part in this gathering.

After several days –– another action. 25 carts were provided for transferring the mothers with their children to the murder site. All began early in the morning. The women were relieved that the convoy is going to Zagare, where they and the mature children will have to work. The women put into the carts their few belongings and the carts moved.

In the middle of the day, at 12 o'clock, the action was already finished. The women were led only to the Junkaiciu forest. In town, the carts loaded with the Jewish belongings returned. The garments (of the murdered) and parcels prepared by the Jewish women were stored in a storehouse owned some time ago by a Jew.

For the participants of the “Action” a party in the club with much alcohol was again arranged. The Germans, after taking part in the party for about half an hour, returned to Siauliai.

[Page 261]

For a partial list of personalities born in Ligum see Appendix 2.

 

lit4_261a.jpg
The tablet at the murder site with the inscription:
In this place the Hitler murderers and their local helpers
in year 1941 annihilated 250 Jews, men, women, children
(Photo taken by Barry Mann 1999)

 

lit4_261b.jpg
The monument on the mass grave
(Photo taken by Barry Mann 1999)

[Page 262]

Sources:

Yad–Vashem Archives: Koniuchovsky Collection 0–71, Files 109
Kamzon Y.D.–Yahaduth Lita, page 168
Dov Levin – Ligum (Lygumai), Pinkas haKehiloth. Lita (Encyclopedia of Jewish Settlements in Lithuania) (Hebrew), Editor: Dov Levin, Assistant editor: Josef Rosin, Yad Vashem. Jerusalem 1996.
Dos Vort, Kovno (Yiddish): 25.10.1934.
Folksblat, Kovno (Yiddish): 14.4.1933; 19.6.1933
Di Yiddishe Shtime (The Yiddish Voice) Kovno (Yiddish): 23.7.1929; 14.4.1933; 19.4.1933.
Di Tsait (Time) (Yiddish) Kovno, 21.5.1939

Appendix 1

A partial list of Rabbis who served in Ligum

Nakhum Shapira (1818–1902)
Tsevi–Yehudah Rabinovitz, In 1876 was in Ligum, died in the age of 44.
Dov Rabinovitz, till 1887
Mordehai–Yitskhak –Aizik Rabinovitz, (1856–1920), in Ligum 1887–1902, publish several books.
Mosheh Hurvitz, In Ligum since 1907, immigrated to America, published several books.
Yisrael–Nisan Taitz, in Ligum till about 1921.
Yehudah–Leib Laba, the last Rabbi of Ligum, murdered in 1941.

Appendix 2

A partial list of personalities born in Ligum.

Mordehai–Betsalel Shnaider (1865–1941), since 1896 in Vilna where he was the central personality in education and Zionism, wrote research articles on the Hebrew language in the Hebrew periodicals (HaShiloakh, HaTekufah etc.). Published two volumes of his comprehensive book “The theory of the Hebrew language in its historic development” (Vilna, 1939–1940). The third volume was already prepared to print, but the incoming Soviet rulers dissipated the matrixes. He was murdered in Ponar in 1941.
Rafael Rabinovitz (1897– ?), was the director of the Hebrew high school in Rasein (Raseiniai) and later the director of the Hebrew teachers seminar “Tarbuth” in Kovno. Since 1932 in Tel–Aviv where practiced as a lawyer. Was in charge of the publishing the “HaTalmud HaMenukad” (The vowelled Talmud).
Gershon Weitsman, established the first matches factory “Nur” in Eretz–Yisrael in Ako.

 

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