Saločiai (Salat in Yiddish) is located in northern Lithuania, on the shores of the Musa (Musha) River, about 23 km (14 miles) west of the district administrative center of Birzai (Birzh). It was mentioned for the first time in historical documents in 1514. A commercial route connected Posvol (Pasvalys) to Bauska in Latvia through Salat. As early as 1525, several shops and pubs could be found in Salat. During the wars with the Swedes (1700-1721) the town was burned down. During the Russian rule (1795-1915) Salat was first included in the Vilna Province and from 1843 onwards was in the Kovno Province (Gubernia). From 1915 to 1918 the town was under the German military rule and during the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940), it was considered a county administrative center.
Jewish Settlement before World War II
Jews began to settle in Salat in the nineteenth century. A community of Karaites lived in the area from the seventeenth century until the middle of the nineteenth century. In the 1880s approximately eighty Jewish families lived in the villages around Salat. They barely survived, working as craftsmen and trading agricultural products in neighboring villages. The catholic priest of Salat preached to the village peasants not to rent their houses to Jews, threatening them with refusals to hear their confessions. The rabbi of Posvol tried to convince the priest to stop inciting the peasants against the Jews. Eventually he succeeded, and the priest became a sympathizer of the Jews.
A Loans and Savings fund was established in Salat before World War I.
In spring of 1915, the Russian military exiled Salat Jews deep into Russia. After the war only a fraction of the exiled residents returned to their town.
Following the law of autonomies for minorities issued by the new Lithuanian government, the minister for Jewish affairs Dr. Menahem (Max) Soloveitshik ordered elections to community committees (Va'adei Kehilah) to be held in the summer of 1919. A community committee of five members was elected in Salat. The committee worked from 1920 until the end of 1925 and covered all aspects of Jewish life.
The first census performed by the Lithuanian government in 1923 showed 621 residents in Salat, including 174 (28%) Jews. Salat Jews worked in trade and agriculture. Their main source of income was weekly market days (Tuesdays) and the annual fairs.
According to the government survey of 1931, in Salat there were seven shops, all Jewish owned; a grocery, a textile, two haberdashery and domestic tools, one cosmetic store and two others. In addition to these stores, there were five other small Jewish shops.
|The market square in Salat|
According to the same survey, there were five Jewish-owned light industry enterprises; one for shoes, one dye and two candy factories and one bakery.
In 1939, there were fifteen telephones in town, only one belonging to a Jew.
Salat had a synagogue and a Jewish school. Among the rabbis who served in Salat was Josef, son of Mosheh Yafe, (1846-1893), who died in Manchester, England. In 1910 Hayim-Shaul Levitan became the official rabbi and he was replaced by the last rabbi of Salat, Rabbi Mosheh-Yonah Vainer, who was murdered in the Holocaust.
Many Salat Jews belonged to the Zionist camp. Most of the Zionist parties had supporters in the town. In 1934, an Urban Training Kibbutz of HeHalutz was formed. At the elections for the Zionist congresses Salat Jews voted as shown:
|Total Votes||Labor Party
In June 1940, Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Following new rules, the majority of the factories and shops belonging to the Jews of Salat were nationalized and commissars were appointed to manage them. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were dismantled and Hebrew educational institutions were closed. At this time about 25 Jewish families lived in Salat.
The Germans arrived in Salat a few days after the German army invaded the Soviet Union on June 22nd, 1941. The Lithuanian nationalists, who by then were well organized, immediately murdered thirteen Jews and six Lithuanians, looting everything they could get their hands on. In August 1941, the Lithuanians transferred the remaining Salat Jews to Posvol (Pasvalys). There they were kept together with local Jews and others who were brought from towns and villages in the area. On the morning of August 26th, 1941 (3rd of Elul, 5701) many large trucks arrived in the town. The Jews were forced onto them and transported to Zadeikiai forest, about 4.5 km. from Posvol, near the Pyvesa River. There all were shot and buried in the freshly dug pits prepared in advance. In these pits 1,358 men, women and children were buried.
|The mass grave in Zadeikiai forest|
The monument on the mass grave with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian:
In this place on the 26th of August 1941 Hitler's murderers and their local helpers murdered 1358 Jews, men, women, children.
Yad Vashem Archives - Koniuhovsky Collection-0-71, files 70,71
YIVO New York, Lithuanian Communities Collection, files 659-669
HaMelitz St, Petersburg, 29.2.1881; 12.4.1881; 29.6.1882; 10.8.1882
The above article is an excerpt from Preserving Our Litvak Heritage by Josef Rosin. The book contains this article along with many others, plus an extensive description of the Litvak Jewish community in Lithuania that provides an excellent context to understand the above article. Click here to see where to obtain the book.
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