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[Page 289]


Typed up by Genia Hollander


In Conclusion
(Translated from Hebrew)

by Sh. F.

True are the words of our old scholars who said that “words which flow straight from the heart, flow back to the heart”.

I am sure that also you, dear Reader, have felt the pain, and your heart has also grieved for our dear old town Olkeniki, and for our sanctified families that perished in the Holocaust.

And now, if you are our fellow-citizen or you come from this town, we ask you kindly to peruse this Memorial Book twice a year. On the day of Commemoration and Mourning (Izkor) for Olkeniki, the 4th and 5th of Tishri, and also the day when the Memory of the Holocaust of all the European Jews is remembered throughout the world.

And when you light candles on the mourning days for the names and in Memory of your family and friends (Jahrzeit), and when you shed a tear for those who tragically perished in those horrible days, then you shall know that your tears will mingle with the tears of your suffering nation.

As a sacred task, be it considered that you relate to your children and grandchildren, all the calamities that befell your nation by the most monstrous mass-murderers of our time, the Nazi. And to all the members of your family who have been lucky to escape to Israel, and to all the Jews in the Diaspora, may it be granted that they shall live peacefully and nobody shall ever persecute them again. And my they live to see a full and blessed redemption of the Jewish people in Israel, and in the whole world.

[Page 290]

A short history of Olkeniki

by Shlomo Faber

Olkeniki was one of the oldest towns in Lithuania. In the 16th century, royal palaces were built there and the Polish Kings Zigmund the old and Zigmund August paid frequent visits there. The palaces were built on a hill at the shore of the flowing river “Merechanka”.

Later on, other buildings had been built nearby, by the forest administration. Near these buildings, gentiles and Jews used to dig out stones and tiles from the ground from old foundations of the palaces.

Years later, Olkeniki became a Royal Property which extended over tens of square kilometres. To this property, the town of Olkeniki itself belonged and scores of other villages around it. The whole Possession was worked by peasants who were serfs.

About 400 years ago, Jews began to settle there. It seems that the Jews had come to the district of Olkeniki from two directions, mainly: from the South of Russia – the Kiev region and from Western Europe. They settled in the villages on the shores of the river Niemen and its tributary, the “Merechanka”. From the villages, the Jews wandered into the town because the Russian government at that time was persecuting the Jewish inhabitants in the villages.

In the year 1697, a conference (Sesia) was held in Olkeniki of the Jewish-Lithuanian State Committee (Vaad Hamedina) in which delegates from all of Poland participated. This conference lasted two months.

In 1700, a battle took place between the Polish Lithuanian nobility, which is remembered in Polish history as the “Battle of Olkeniki”.

In 1765, there were 355 tax payers to the government in Olkeniki. From 1795 on, after Poland was divided, Olkeniki belonged to Czarist Russia.

In the years 1798-1802, the world-famous wood carved Synagogue was built on the ruins of the old one.

In 1812, Napoleon visited the Synagogue (possibly some of his officers) and he left there the well-known “Napoleonic Parochet”.

In the 19th century, Jews migrated from the villages into the town under pressure of the Government.

In the years 1848-1850, three villages were founded by Jewish peasants. (Dekshnia-Selo, 2.5km; Leiponi 8km, and Panashishok 18km distance from Olkeniki).

In the course of years, the town grew steadily and numbered finally about 1153 Jewish souls.

In 1860, 8km westward of the town, the Warsaw-Petersburg railway line was built.

In 1863 during the Polish Rebellion, Olkeniki Jews fought at the side of the Polish insurgents. In the last quarter of the 19th century, emigration started to America and since then, the Jewish population diminished.

In 1904-05, A Jewish self-defence unit was in action in Olkeniki. At that time, the Jewish city public theatre was established. In the year 1908, a Jewish library was founded in Olkeniki. From 1912 on, the town had Hebrew and religious schools and lots of young people went to the great towns to study.

In 1920, the first pioneers left for Israel. The situation of the Jews in the following 20 years, under the Polish administration, deteriorated steadily.

In 1940, the Government linked the town with the main highway of the region.

On 23.6.1941, the Germans entered and conquered Olkeniki.

On 20.9.1941, on the Sunday, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, the local peasant under the orders of the Nazi, drove out all Jewish inhabitants from Olkeniki and the neighbouring Jewish villages. They were driven out by foot for 21km walk to Eishishok.

On 25-26.9.1941, the Nazi murdered all the Jewish people from Olkeniki, Selo and Leipuni together with the Eishishok Jews and threw them all into one common mass-grave.

[Page 291]

Editor's Foreword

Ten years have already passed since that day when I prepared this book for publication, but only now it is published.

The great part of this book was written under the urge of mental restlessness to honour the memory of those martyrs who suffered and died during the disastrous period of the Holocaust.

I wish very much to perpetuate our small townlet, Olkeniki, in this Memorial Book, so that future generations shall get acquainted of their ancestors at their old homes.

I regret very much that I had no possibility to describe in this book many venerable and saintly peoples, because nobody of their families have survived.

I accept gratefully the privilege to edit this book. I express my thanks to the Association of Olkeniki and its neighbourhood in Israel as well as to Olkeniki's fellow-citizens in America, who contributed their share wholeheartedly, and sincerely believed that this book should be published.

I also wish to express my thanks to the poet and writer, Mr. Chaim Grade, in America, who lived for sometime in our town Olkeniki whilst studying in the Yeshivah. Later, he has perpetuated its memory in verse and prose. I thank him for allowing me to reprint here some fragments of his poem on Olkeniki.

I, furthermore, wish to thank the esteemed writer, Mr. G. Einbinder, for permitting me to reprint the greater part of his description about the survival of the Lifshitz family from “Selo” (Dekshnie), who were saved and rescued.

We also acknowledge our gratitude to all those who contributed in word and script to this book. Thanks are also due to those who have sent us photographs of their families and friends.

And finally, we gladly express our thanks to the esteemed Mr. R. Chasman and to the Printing Press “Heassor”, who have so generously contributed to the beautiful design of this book.

Haifa, 10.6.1960.

The Days of Jahrzeit in Memoriam of the Fallen
And Martyred Jews of Olkeniki, are:
On the Fourth and Fifth Day in the month
Of Tishri


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