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Mažeikiai (Mazheik) {cont.}

lit5_086g.jpg [25 KB]
Mazheik girls, students of the Hebrew gymnasium “Or” in Vilkomir
All of them members of HaShomer HaTsair

Sitting in the middle: Keile Aharonovitz; third from left – Gita Trigubov;
Standing second from right – Shoshanah Smole, third – Michael Dreznin, fourth – Miriam Halavin
(Picture courtesy of Yehoshua Trigor-Trigubov)

lit5_086h.jpg [31 KB]
Children at an “OZE” playing ground , 1929

(Picture courtesy of Pesakh Navoth)

In 1939 there were 128 telephone subscribers, of whom 41 (32%) were Jewish. In that year vandalism against Jews was reported – breaking of the windows at the Jewish pharmacy and bakery, tearing the sign off the Jewish bank and other acts.

The community committee established in 1920 worked in various aspects of Jewish life, and in particular in the cultural/educational field. It founded a Hebrew elementary school of the Tarbuth network and a Hebrew pro-gymnasium. The first director of the latter was Mr. Yafe. In 1928, Dr. Goldshtiker replaced him, followed by Dr. Heselzon. In 1930, during Dr. Goldshtiker's time, the teachers in the pro-gymnasium were Fania Goldshtein, Mr. Ox, Sonia Nahimovitz, Etl Beker, Aliza Laiptsiger and Mr. Katz. The secretary of the school was a Mr. Verblovsky. 120 students attended the four classes of the elementary school and the six classes of the pro-gymnasium. Later, a kindergarten was established. The Tarbuth society organized evening courses and in 1922 thirty people participated in the program.

lit5_086i.jpg [31 KB]
The “Maccabi” soccer team

With the decrease of the Jewish population in the second half of the 1930s due to emigration, in particular to South Africa, the Hebrew pro-gymnasium was closed and many students continued their studies at the government high school.

There were two Jewish libraries, and the town had several active groups. Among them, the leftist Yiddishist Kultur Lige worked in the field of culture, the non-party Frauen Verein (Women's Society) worked in the welfare field, and the Zionist Maccabi, established in 1924 with 84 members, worked in sports. The local branch of the OZE was very active in the health care of the school children. The local volunteer Fire Brigade, all Jews, excelled in acts of bravery on numerous occasions.

A great number of Mazheik Jewish youth were active in the Zionist youth organizations HaShomer HaTsair, Betar and Benei Akiva. In 1932 the Zionist Socialist party (its official name was “Education Society named after Nakhman Sirkin“) was established in town with thirty members. This party supported the local HeHalutz branch with its twenty-five members. Most of the Zionist women were organized in WIZO. Only a few belonged to the Yiddishist Society of Libhober fun Visen and to anti-Zionist leftists. The results of the elections to the Zionist Congresses are given below:

Year Total
Total Votes Labor Party
Revisionists General Zionists
Grosmanists Mizrakhi
15 1927 71 58 11 12 8 20 7
16 1929 195 100 30 38 4 23 5
17 1931 114 88 23 33 7 22 3
18 1933 253 164 42 38 7 2
19 1935 300 256 155 25 49 11 16

lit5_086j.jpg [30 KB]
The Mazheik “Betar” branch 1936
(Picture courtesy of Yehoshua Trigor)

After the death of Rabbi Avrekh in 1922, his son-in-law Rabbi Josef-Ze'ev MamYafe succeeded him, continuing to serve the community until its liquidation at the hands of the Nazis.

lit5_086k.jpg [25 KB]
Training Kibbutz of “Hehalutz” in Mazheik 1934
(Picture courtesy of Yehoshua Trigor)

Between the years 1885-1914 there were forty-five subscribers to rabbinic literature in the town.

Among the personages born in Mazheik were:

Hayim Kruger (1875-1933), who lived in Canada from 1907, a Yiddish-Hebrew journalist and writer who published articles and stories in the Canadian Jewish press and a book on the life and work of the Rambam

Leib Yudeikin (born 1904), emigrated in 1925 to South Africa: he published stories in Yiddish periodicals on Jewish life in South Africa

Artist Pinhas Abramovitz (born 1909), who emigrated to Eretz-Yisrael and served as chairman of the Association of the Artists and Sculptors in Israel (1981-1984): his works are exhibited in museums in Israel and abroad

Yehoshua Trigor (Trigubov), one of the senior staff of the Israeli Foreign Ministry

Brothers Engineer Pesakh Navoth and Professor Yisrael Navoth.

During World War II and After

In 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Following new rules, factories owned by Jews were nationalized. Jewish shops and farms were also nationalized and commissars were appointed to manage them. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and the Hebrew school was closed. In its place a Yiddish school was founded. The activities of religious institutions were restricted. Supply of goods decreased and as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore the brunt and the standard of living dropped gradually. Several activists of the leftist camp moved into government and municipal institutions.

At that time, there were about 900 Jews in Mazheik.

With the German invasion of Lithuania on June 22nd, 1941, many Jews, in particular activists working for the Soviet government, attempted an escape to the Soviet Union. Only a few managed to make the journey, as many perished on the way and others returned home. A few became stranded in Latvia on their way to Russia. Among these was the communist activist Leizer Baro, who later worked in the anti-Nazi underground in the Riga ghetto.

On June 25th, 1941 the Germans entered Mazheik, which at that time was under Lithuanian rule established by nationalist circles. The Lithuanians worked in the service of the Germans, rendering them particular support with the liquidation of their Jewish neighbors. Already in July 1941, the Lithuanians had helped the Germans to bring all the Mazheik Jews (except for Dr. A. Krongold) to the Beth Midrash, and in a few days transferred them to big barns near the River Venta. Women and children were sent to Psharkasniai farm, near the town of Tirksliai (Tirkshle). Fania Lampe, the dentist and her little son were shot dead before the transfer to the barns, because she refused to leave her house.

The men were detained in the barns for several weeks and were forced into hard labor, all the while being abused and maltreated by their Lithuanian guards. On August 3rd, 1941 (10th of Av, 5701) all the men were led to prepared pits near the Jewish cemetery and shot by a Lithuanian firing squad. One of the victims, Kalman Rakhmil, managed to shout to the murderers, “Our blood will not be silent! The revenge will come.” Inevitably, the dead victims were looted of their clothes and valuables by their Lithuanian executioners.

Two days later, the women and the children were returned to the barns and kept there for four days under terrible conditions. On August 9th, 1941 (Shabbat, 16th of Av, 5701) all, including Dr. Krongold, were taken to the same pits where a week earlier the men were murdered, and there they too were killed in the most vile and cruel manner. Women were forced to undress. The children were thrown into a long ditch and many of them were buried under heaps of soil and lime while still alive. In the same place, together with the Mazheik Jews, Jews from the nearby towns of Akmyan (Akmene), Vekshne (Vieksniai), Zhidik (Zidikai), Tirkshle (Tirksliai), Pikeln (Pikeliai), Klikol (Klykouliai) and Siad (Seda) perished.

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