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Antaliept
(Antaliepte, Lithuania)

5540' 2551'

Antaliepte (Antaliept in Yiddish) lies in northeast Lithuania, about 25 km. (15 miles) from the administrative district center of Zarasai (its previous names were Ezerenai and Novo Alexandrovsk, the latter before World War I) and the same distance from the railway station at Utyan (Utena). The town is situated 9 km. (5 miles) from the main road from Daugavpils (Dvinsk) to Vilnius (Vilna). It has beautiful scenery and is surrounded by hills covered with pine trees and lakes and the Sventoji River that flows through it.

 

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Antaliept - General View

 

Antaliept was probably built in the sixteenth century. In 1675, it had already reached the status of a town. In 1730 Carmelite monks built a monastery on its riverbank. and during the years 1732 to 1760 they built a Baroque style church in the town. In 1832 the Carmelite monastery was closed down and in 1893 a Pravoslavic one was established. The main function of this monastery was to proselytize the Pravoslavic faith among Lithuanians and Poles who were Catholics.

Jews probably began to settle in Antaliept at the end of the seventeenth century. In 1723 the rabbi, of the Galil (district) Vizhun, Avraham Katsenelenbogen of the Va'ad Medinath Lita, granted permission to repair the Jewish cemetery of Antaliept. In 1897, there were 554 inhabitants in Antaliept, including 474 (85%) Jews.

As in most of the Lithuanian towns and villages where houses were built of wood, fires were common so much so that the town was almost entirely destroyed over the years. In 1893, 42 Jewish homes were lost in the fires. Early in May 1898, another large fire broke out and many Jewish homes burned down along with all the possessions. Jews from the neighboring town of Dusiat (Dusetos) collected funds and clothes for the victims.

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In 1905, during the revolution, meetings and demonstrations against the Czarist rule were organized in Antaliept. In 1919, a revolutionary committee representing the Bolshevik rule was formed. Following political stabilization, a weekly market was held on Mondays and fairs were organized semiannually on a regular basis.

There was one flour mill, run on water power, owned by a local Jew; a dairy powered by steam; a private fish processing plant existed along with a stateowned fish shop. In 1924, the town built its own power station.

Before World War I, there were about 80 to 100 Jewish families (about 400 persons) among them ten shopkeepers and many peddlers. Their businesses were supported by the Provoslavic monastery, which housed 100 nuns. Jews served the monastery as shopkeepers, millers, construction workers and tradesmen who worked on repairs.

Among the tradesmen there were three to four shoemakers, two to three millers, two to three etchers, one tanner and one tailor. There were no factories in town, except for a brush-manufacturing workshop. Most Antaliept Jews were poor.

 

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The Beth Midrash

 

As in all Lithuanian towns, the Jews of Antaliept led traditional religious lives. There was a wooden Beth Midrash in town and two small prayer houses run by the Hasidim. Because of the small community, the rabbis who served in Antaliept were not paid, and they made their living by selling yeast, ethrogim, special flour for Matzah-Shemurah (special Passover Matzah) and other religious items. These were their only sources of livelihood, and they were very poor. As a result an implied term was coined for them: “Rabbinate of Antaliept”.

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During the years 1875 to 1885 there were 21 subscribers to rabbinic literature in this town.

During the German occupation that occurred in World War I, the situation became worse. The nuns left the monastery and the German army personnel took over the building. Nevertheless, the Jews remained in town with the exception of two families who moved to Russia.

During the Period of Independent Lithuania

After World War I, during the period of independent Lithuania (1918-1940), there were changes in the lives of Antaliept Jews. Many left and emigrated to South Africa, America and Uruguay, and the number of Jews in the town decreased. According to the first census conducted by the new Lithuanian government in 1923, there were 581 residents in Antaliept, including 367 (63%) Jews. Many young people left town for economic reasons or because they didn't see a future for themselves in a small town. Quite a few emigrated to Eretz-Yisrael.

Important changes occurred in the education system of the children. It is true that some continued studying in the open Hadarim, but some parents began sending their children to study in other towns. During the Czarist rule there were children who were sent to study at the elementary school not far from Antaliept. In 1937, a Hebrew school was opened in town and the lifestyle became more modern.

 

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Children of the Hebrew Elementary School - winter 1937

 

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Children on an excursion in 1937

 

According to a trade survey conducted by the state in 1931, the town had a textile shop and a heat utility shop owned by Jews.

Several Jews worked in agriculture and one Jewish person was the owner of the flourmill in the area. There were 15 Jewish tradesmen among them: five butchers, four metal workers, three carpenters, two tailors and one shoemaker. In 1939 there were nine telephones in town, none owned by a Jew.

At the sixteenth Zionist Congress, which took place in 1929, only two Antaliept Jews bought Shekalim. At the elections for the eighteenth congress in 1933, 15 people voted: 10 for the Labor Party, 3 for Mizrahi, 2 for the General Zionists A party. At the elections for the nineteenth congress in 1935, the number of voters increased to 114 voters: 59 for the Labor Party, 55 for Mizrahi. In Antaliept, a branch of Hashomer-Hatsair was active as well.

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Guests at a wedding in town

 

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Members of Hashomer Hatsair

 

Among the Rabbis who served in Antaliept, Yehudah-Tudl (in the second half of the nineteenth century) was famous for his knowledge of the Torah and for his wisdom. In 1858, Nathan, the son of Moshe Levin was the rabbi of Antaliept. The last rabbis were Zalman-Tuviyah Markovitz, Yitschak Nosel and Yehudah Levin. Rabbi Markovitz was murdered in the Fort IX in Kovno together with his son Hayim-Shimshon, who was well known for his phenomenal memory, along with Yits'hak Nosel and Yehudah Levin.

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Yits'hak Nosel

 

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Antaliept youths at an outing in the snow

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During World War II and Afterwards

In 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and the Antaliept Jews were compelled to conform to the new rulers.

The German army entered Antaliept on June 26th, 1941, four days after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The Lithuanians, former members of the Sauliai (Gunmen Society), were quite well organized by then and began their constant persecution of the Jews. Particularly active were Jonas Masilauskas, the son of the local bell-ringer, and other peasants in the vicinity.

Shortly after the German invasion, Jews were ushered to the church square and the torture began. One of the most respected merchants in town, Yitschak Berelsky, was made to run back and forth from the square to the river carrying two buckets filled with water all through the day until he collapsed. The Germans forced the healthier young men to work for the local farmers. One farmer whose farm was about 2 km. (1 mile) from the town took in a group of Jews to work for him, but he kept them without food and in such shocking condition that none returned alive.

 

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Monument at the massacre site with the inscription:
“Let us do everything so that this tragedy is never again repeated.”

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At the end of August 1941 all Jews were brought to the Paziemiai grove, situated about 3 km (2 miles) southeast of the village Baltriskiai, 500 meters (1600 feet) off the Deguciai-Dusetos road, where they were massacred on August 26th, together with the Jews of Zarasai - 2,569 men, women and children.

After the war, the Lithuanians would not let the victims rest in peace. During these years, gold seekers exhumed the bodies looting for gold and other valuables.

Among the few youths who managed to escape from the Germans to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, ten served in the Lithuanian Division and in the other units of the Red Army. Kalman Shur of Antaliept was decorated with the highest order - “Hero of the Soviet Union.” In the 1970s he emigrate to Israel.

 

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A ditch filled with the remains of the slain Jews

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The monument on the mass graves

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Sources:

Vashem Archives: 0-57 A, testimony of Mosheh Barkan (according to the story of Yehudah Levinas).
Bakaltchuk-Felin, M., Yizkor Book of Rakishok and Vicinity, Johannesburg, 1952, pages 346-349.
Hamelitz (St.Petersburg) 20.5.1898.
Antaliepte by Rafi Julius “Pinkas Hakehiloth-Lita” Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1996.

 

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