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[Page 221]

Ramygala (Remigole)

55°31' 24°18'

Ramygala (Remigole in Yiddish) lies on the Ponevezh–Keidan (Panvezys–Kedainiai) road 25 km. south of the district administrative center Ponevezh. Remigole is mentioned in historical documents as early as the thirteenth century. In 1525 Remigole County was mentioned for the first time. In 1580 the town was granted the right to conduct three fairs per year as well as its large markets.

Until 1795 Remigole was included in the Polish–Lithuanian Kingdom. According to the third division of Poland in the same year by the three superpowers of those times, Russia, Prussia and Austria, Lithuania was divided between Russia and Prussia. As most of Lithuania, Remigole became a part of the Russian Empire, first in the Vilna province (Gubernia) and then from 1843 in the Kovno Gubernia. During the period of independent Lithuania (1918–1940) Remigole was a county administrative center in Ponevezh district.

Jews probably began to settle in Remigole at the end of the sixteenth century, according to gravestones at the old Jewish cemetery. In 1766, 225 Jewish taxpayers were living there. Their number increased by the second half of the nineteenth century. According to the all–Russian census of 1897 the population was 1,329 residents, 650 being Jewish (49%). It is known that in 1859 a synagogue already existed in the town.

In 1883 fire destroyed 35 Jewish homes. Sixty families became homeless and destitute and appealed for help from the Jewish communities in Lithuania.

In lists of donors for the settlement of Eretz–Yisrael published in the Hebrew newspaper HaMelitz during the years 1899 and 1900 the names of 91 Remigole Jews appear (see Appendix 1).

In Remigole the bibliographer Yits'hak ben Ya'akov (1801–1863) was born, whose main work was the book Otsar HaSefarim (Treasure of the Books). This was a detailed bibliography of 17,000 Hebrew books and manuscripts published up to 1863.

In May 1915, during World War I, the Russian military exiled Remigole Jews to the central regions of Russia. After the war only two–thirds of those exiled returned home.

In 1918 Lithuania became an independent state and following the Law of Autonomies for Minorities issued by the new Lithuanian government, the Minister for Jewish Affairs, Dr. Menachem (Max) Soloveitshik, ordered elections to community committees Va'adei Kehilah to be held in the summer of 1919. In Remigole a community committee of seven members was elected. This committee was active in all aspects of the Jewish life in the town from 1920 until the end of 1925 when the autonomy was annulled by the Lithuanian government.

[Page 222]

lit6_222.jpg
A street in Remigole
Photograph courtesy of Joe Woolf, Ilania, Israel (1992)

 

Remigole Jews made their living in the small trades, peddling, crafts and agriculture. In 1929 there were thirty small shops owners, twenty–five orchard and farm tenants, twenty craftsmen and eight peddlers.

According to the government survey of 1931 four textile shops belonged to Jews; two flour mills in the area also belonged to Jews.

In 1937 eleven Jewish artisans worked in Remigole: three shoemakers, three butchers, two bakers, two blacksmiths and one tailor.

In summer of 1929 a fire destroyed 62 Jewish buildings. These included 27 dwellings, barns, stables and so on, as well as the Linath HaTsedek building, the library and the reading room, the Beth Midrash and the Talmud Torah. Only eleven houses were insured. All others victims of the fire required aid. This came in from the “Joint” organization and its subsidiary company “Foundation,” local donations and government assistance with low–cost timber, which made it possible for uninsured house owners to rebuild their homes.

In the mid–1930s the Jewish population fell. The economic crisis in Lithuania and open propaganda of the Lithuanian merchants Association (Verslas) urging people not to buy in Jewish shops caused many to move elsewhere.

In 1939 there were ten telephone subscribers, of whom only one was Jewish.

[Page 223]

At the beginning of the 1920s a Yiddish school was established in Remigole, but it was closed after a short time. Later the Jewish children studied at the Hebrew Tarbuth school. To replace the 600–book library that burned down in 1929, a new library was established in town; after a long dispute this was taken over in 1931 by the Yiddishist Folkspartei.

In January 1933 the community inaugurated the new Beth Midrash that was built where the original one had been burnt down. Now the town had two Batei Midrash and both held classes in Talmud and Mishnah every day, in the mornings and in the evenings. Remigole had quite a number of learned and intellectual men who also spoke Hebrew.

 

lit6_223.jpg
The tablet on the wall of the Beth Midrash
with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian:
“Here stood the Beth Midrash. Now a community center.”

Photograph courtesy of Joe Woolf, Ilania, Israel (1992)

 

The rabbis who officiated in Remigole included:

Shemuel–Mosheh Shapira (1843–1908), in Remigole from 1869
Joel Haitovsky, from 1892
Zisl Shteinfeld, the last rabbi, murdered together with his community in the Holocaust.

Many of the Remigole Jews were Zionists and supporters of most of the Zionist parties. The youth belonged to the Tseirei Zion organization. In the table below are given the results of the elections for three Zionist congresses:

 

Congress
No.
Year Total
Shkalim
Total Votes Labor Party
Z”S Z”Z
Revisionists General Zionists
A B
Grosmanists Mizrakhi
18 1933 18 13 3 2
19 1935 68 46 1 2 19
21 1939 10 6 3 1 National
Block
2

[Page 224]

In summer of 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Under the new regulations, the Jewish flour mills and some of the shops were nationalized. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and the Hebrew school was closed. Supply of goods decreased and as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore the brunt of this situation and the standard of living dropped gradually. At that time about 350 Jews lived in Remigole. The Soviet rule lasted for one year until June 22, 1941 when the German army invaded Lithuania.

Even before German soldiers were seen in Remigole, Lithuanian nationalists organized themselves and began to abuse the Jews. One Jews was immediately shot and another who resisted was buried alive with his feet protruding from the ground. Rabbi Zisl Shteinfeld was tied to a cart harnessed to a horse and was dragged through the streets until he died. When the Germans entered the town the Lithuanians began to snatch Jewish girls. The Germans and the Lithuanians abused the girls, cutting their bodies with knives, while the Jews were forced to attend and watch the horror. After two months of this torture the Jews were ordered to assemble in the Beth Midrash in order to be transferred to Ponevezh where they were told they would live and work. The old and ill were left in the Beth Midrash which was set on fire and burnt down with the people inside it.

On August 24 and 25, 1941 (1st and 2nd of Elul 5701) the remaining Jews were led by foot in the direction to Ponevezh and were murdered in the Pajuoste Forest, about 8 km. east of Ponevezh. The names of the Lithuanian murderers are recorded in the archives of Yad Vashem.

 

lit6_224.jpg
The monument in the Pajuoste forest with the inscription in Lithuanian:
“In this place the Hitlerists and their helpers in August 1941
murdered about 8000 Jewish children, women and men.”

[Page 225]

In 1992 a monument was erected with an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian in the place where the Jewish cemetery once was.

 

lit6_225.jpg
One of the few intact tombstones at the cemetery:
“Our dear mother, the modest and great Rabanith Shasha
daughter of Pinhas who died on the 5th of Iyar 5685 (1925)”

Sources:

Yad Vashem archives, Jerusalem, M–9/15(6)
YIVO, New York, Collection of Lithuanian Jewish Communities, Files 1130–1148, 1349, 1546
Gotlib, Ohalei Shem, page 378
Di Yiddishe Shtime, Kovno, 19.4.1922; 23.7.1929; 29.7.1929; 31.7.1929; 14.1.1931; 8.5.1931; 1.7.1931; 9.1.1933
Der Yiddishe Kooperator, Kovno, #10, 12, 1929
HaMelitz, St. Petersburg, 9.11.1883; 25.3.1889
Folksblat, Kovno, 2.10.1935

[Pages 226-229]

 

Appendix 1

List of 91 Remigole donors for the settlement of Eretz–Yisrael as published in HaMelitz
(from JewishGen Databases Lithuania HaMelitz by Jeffrey Maynard))

 

Surname Given Name Comments Source Year
BERKLEIN Cheikel   #56 1900
BERKLEIN Cheikil   #121 1899
BERKLEIN Shmuel   #121 1899
BERKOWITZ Aba Shlomo   #56 1900
BERKOWITZ Gronm   #121 1899
BERKOWITZ Nachum   #121 1899
BERKOWITZ Nochum Yona   #56 1900
BERKOWITZ Yakov   #56 1900
BERMAN Yakov Dov   #121 1899
BINYAMINOWITZ Shlomo   #56 1900
CHATOFSKI Chaim Leib   #121 1900
CHATOFSKI Yoel rabbi gaon ABD #121 1900
CHOTOFSKI Yoel Rabbi Gaon ABD #56 1899
COHEN Avraham Aba   #56 1899
COHEN Michel Mordechai   #56 1899
DAVIDOWITZ Shaul   #56 1899
DAVIDOWITZ Shimon   #56 1899
DAWIDOWITZ Shaul   #121 1900
DAWIDOWITZ Shimon   #121 1900
ELIASH Menachem Mendel   #121 1900
ELIASHEWITZ Avraham Aba   #121 1900
ELIASHEWITZ Zusman   #121 1900
ELIASHOWITZ Avraham Aba   #56 1899
ELIASHOWITZ Chaya Henia   #56 1899
ELIASHOWITZ Sarah   #56 1899
ELIASHOWITZ Zusman   #56 1899
FISHER Eliezer Yehuda   #121 1900
FROM Kalman   #121 1900
FROM Pinchos   #121 1900
GANTZER Yakov   #121 1900
GATMAN Yosef   #121 1900
GOLFE Chaim rabbi #121 1900
GOTTLER Moshe   #56 1899
GRIN Avraham   #121 1900
HEILPERN Chaim Rabbi #56 1899
KATZ Alte   #56 1899
KATZ Eli   #56 1899
KATZ Eli   #121 1900
KATZ Nachman Tzvi   #121 1900
KATZ Yitzchok   #56 1899
KAGAN Alte   #121 1900
KOTLER Moshe   #121 1900
KOTLER Noson Note   #121 1900
KRAWITZ Binyomin Aba   #121 1900
KRAWITZ Dovid Benyomin   #56 1899
KRAWITZ Kopil   #56 1899
KRIGER Moshe   #56 1899
KRUK Freida   #56 1899
KRUK Freida   #121 1900
KRUK Shmuel   #121 1900
KRUK Yehuda Zondil   #56 1899
KRUK Yehuda Zundel   #121 1900
LEIBOWITZ Elchanan   #56 1899
LEINT Yitzchok Dov   #121 1900
LEWEMSHTEIN Mordechai   #56 1899
LEWENSHTEIN Sarah Dobra   #121 1900
LEWINSHTAM Yitzchok   #56 1899
LEWINSHTEIN Yakov   #56 1899
LEWINSHTEIN Yakov   #121 1900
LEWINSHTEIN Yitzchok   #121 1900
LIBERMAN Tzvi   #56 1899
LICHTENSHTEIN Leib   #121 1900
LICHTENSHTEIN Nechemiah   #121 1900
LIEBERMAN Yehuda   #56 1899
MAWSHOWITZ Moshe   #121 1900
MEHLNER Yehuda   #56 1899
MILER Yitzchok Dov   #121 1900
NAWISHERTZ Reuven from Boiski #121 1900
NAWISHERZ Reuven   #56 1899
PDOM Kalman   #56 1899
PIKSHER Dov Ber   #56 1899
PIKSHER Moshe Yitzchok   #56 1899
PROM Nechemiah   #56 1899
PROM Shraga Feiwil   #56 1899
PROM Yocheved   #56 1899
RAMIGOLSKI Leib   #56 1899
RONEN Yitzchok Aizik   #56 1899
SEGAL Reizel   #121 1900
SHKLAR Aharon   #121 1900
SHKLIAR Aharon   #56 1899
SHMILG Mordechai   #56 1899
SHMIT Shlomo   #56 1899
SHMIT Shlomo   #121 1900
SHTEIN Hinda Leah   #121 1900
SHTOKER Lipman   #56 1899
SHTOKINA Lipman   #121 1900
WOLFOWITZ Mordechai   #56 1899
WOLFOWITZ Pesach   #56 1899
YAFE Chaim   #121 1900
YAFE Yehuda Leib   #121 1900
YANKELOWITZ Meir   #56 1899

 

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