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[Page 492]

Sudarg
(Sudargas, Lithuania)

55°03' 22°38'

The small town of Sudarg (in Yiddish) is situated in the south–western part of Lithuania, in the county of Shaki (Sakiai), on the left bank of the river Nieman (Nemunas) and close to the border with East–Prussia. It lies 9 kilometers (5.4 miles) down–river from the larger town of Jurbarkas (Yurburg or Yurbrik in Yiddish) which lies on the right bank of the Nieman river and can be found on many maps. The town was established during the second half of the sixteenth century, and in 1724 King August the Second granted the town its city rights.

During the third division of Poland in 1795 the territories on the left bank of the river Nieman were given to Prussia and during that period (1795–1807) the above mentioned rights were annulled. From 1807 until 1815 Sudarg was within the boundaries of “The Great Dukedom of Warsaw”. At that time people used to say that “when a rooster crowed in Sudarg he was heard in three countries: Poland, Russia and Prussia.” After the defeat of Napoleon, Russia took over all the territory of Lithuania and ruled there from 1815 until the First World War. During these years Sudarg was a small town with an growing population: In 1827 there were 373 inhabitants in the town, in 1890 – 900 people and by 1901 about 3,000.

The first Jews probably settled in Sudarg at the end of the eighteenth or at the beginning of the nineteenth century. At that time community institutions were established and for many years the Jews were the majority. In 1856 Sudarg had a population of 689 people, of whom 627 were Jews (91%).

A large forest of about 1,000 hectares (an area of 2 miles by 2 miles) near Sudarg, lying partly in Lithuania and partly in Prussia, was a convenient site for smuggling and many Jews made their living from this activity. There were some people from Sudarg, also including Jews, who would float timber down the Nieman river; in Sudarg these rafts of timber would be disassembled, the logs would be sawed up and loaded onto boats for transportation to Germany. In those days, Sudarg's connection to the world was by way of boats on the Nieman River or by carts in summer and sledges in winter. In spring, when the ice on the Nieman began to break up and the dust roads were full of sludge and mud, the town was practically isolated from the world.

During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918–1940), Sudarg became a forgotten small town, where opportunities to earn a living became ever more difficult. As a result almost all Jewish youths left the town and moved mainly to Kovno (Kaunas) or went abroad and the Jewish population of Sudarg dwindled. The first census in Sudarg undertaken by the Lithuanian government in 1923 showed only 257 people in the town.

During the years before World War I and in the first years of Lithuanian rule many young people from Sudarg emigrated to America (to El Paso and Dallas, Texas and Albuquerque and other parts of New Mexico, and New York City to name a few places) and there raised large families (Rosin–Rosen, Hilelson–Hilson, Guttman, Goodman and others). According to Martin Miller, Joseph

[Page 493]

Hillel Goodman (Guttman) from Sudarg helped 47 of his fellow townsmen immigrate to El Paso, Texas in the early part of this century (see below for more information from Martin Miller).

 

Lit4_493.jpg
Standing from right: Yits'hak Hilelson, Gershon Hilelson, Leah'le*, her father Yehuda Goldberg *
Sitting from the right: Yits'haks first wife (name unknown)*, Mina Rosin Hilelson *, Elka Hilelson Goldberg (Leah'le's mother)*
(The author's aunt and cousins)

* murdered

 

The Jews in Sudarg ran a few grocery and haberdashery stores, two taverns, two bakeries, a pharmacy and a wool combing workshop. Others traded illegally in meat, mainly with the Germans on the other side of the border. According to the Jewish Craftsmen Association's survey of 1937 there were then two Jewish tailors, one butcher and one baker in Sudarg.

Throughout the whole period of the presence of a Jewish community in Sudarg, there existed a great synagogue (Di Shul), decorated inside with spectacular wood engravings. This synagogue was used for prayers only in summer, while in winter people would pray in the other synagogue, the “Beth–Midrash,” in which there was a stove. Both synagogues were built in the nineteenth century and were made of wood. Among the Rabbis who served in Sudarg were: Tzvi Rom (1844–1886), author of the book “Eretz Hatsevi” (Land of the Deer); Sender Vilensky; and also Regensberg who moved to New York in the 1920s in order to serve there as a Rabbi. In the 1930s J. Cohen served as Rabbi in Sudarg.

[Page 494]

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Lit4_494b.jpg
The headstones of Devorah–Leah bath Shabtai Rosin and her husband Dov ben Dov Rozin in the Sudarg Jewish Cemetery

 

In the 1920s there still was a “Heder” in Sudarg, where children learned to read and write, also study some biblical scriptures and a little Hebrew. Later the few Jewish children studied in the Lithuanian school.

The engineer and architect Mosheh Yits'hak Blokh (1893–August, 1942), a native of Sudarg, devoted much of his time to drawing up city plans. He even prepared a plan for excavating a channel from Haifa to the Jordan river, exploiting the difference in height between the Mediterranean and the much lower level of the Jordan in order to produce electric energy. He also had plans for irrigating the Negev.

The British mandatory authorities found his plans interesting, and in 1938 he visited London in order to discuss these with them, but was told that Europe was on the verge of war and that this was not the right time to deal with such plans. He taught painting and drawing in two Hebrew High Schools in Kovno. On the 14th of June 1941 he was arrested by the Russians and sent to a labor camp in the Archangelsk region as a “counter revolutionary”, being the chairman of the “Revisionist” (Hatsohar) party in Kovno. He was shot by a guard in August 1942 when he demanded that they stop humiliating prisoners.

[Page 495]

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Sewing course for Jewish women from Sudarg 1929

 

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Guttmann Berkman family group photo from Sudarg in 1927

[Page 496]

The municipality of Be'er Sheva in Israel named a street after Engineer Yits'hak Blokh.

The German Army entered Sudarg on the first day of the war between Germany and the Soviet Union, on the 22nd of June 1941. During the first days after their arrival, the Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators started to plot against the local Jews, which at that time consisted of only about 30 Jewish families. In the beginning of July 1941 the Nazi and their Lithuanian collaborators transferred all men as well as two intellectual young women to Shaki, where they were murdered, together with the local men on the 5th of July 1941 (10th of Tamuz 5701).

The women of Sudarg had sent a Lithuanian peasant to clarify what had happened to their men. The peasant arrived in Shaki just at the time of the murders and was an eye witness to the horror, and on his return to Sudarg he lost his mind. The women and children of Sudarg were murdered on the 6th of July 1941 (11th of Tamuz 5701) in the vicinity of the village of Kidul.

Sources:

YIVO –Collection of the Jewish Communities in Lithuania, File 673, pages 29210–29214
Verbal Evidence by Yits'hak Hilelson (A native of Sudarg)
The biography of Moshe Isaac Blokh by Miriam Blokh–Makhlis, Holon, Israel (1987)
The memorial Book for the Jewish Community of Yurburg–Lithuania; Translation and Update (English), Editor and Compiler: Joel Alpert, Assistant editors–Josef Rosin and Fania Hilelson Jivotovsky; NY 2003

[Page 497]

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The monument on the mass grave

 

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“In the forest between Kiduliai and Sudargas, Lithuania Hitler's occupation forces took 40 women and 16 children from Sudargas and shot them here. August 11, 1941.”

[Page 498]

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Plaque in Yiddish reads, “In this place Hitler's murderers and their local helpers slaughtered 48 Jews men, women and children on August 12, 1941.”

 

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