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[Page 108]

(Plungė, Lithuania)

55°55' 21°51'

Plunge (Plungyan in Yiddish) lies in north–western Lithuania, in the Zamut (Zemaitija) region, 28 km. (17 miles) southwest of the district administrative center of Telsiai (Telz) and 50 km. (31 miles) northeast of the seaport city of Klaipeda (Memel). An estate named Plunge is mentioned in historical documents dating back to the fourteenth century. The town developed near the estate and in 1658 became a county administrative center. In 1792 it received the rights of a town and an emblem. In the eighteenth century Plungyan became an important junction on the commercial roads between Zamut, Memel and Liepaja in Latvia. Quarterly fairs were held in the town, the main trade being in cattle and horses. A market was held twice a week.

After the third division of Poland in 1795 by the three superpowers of that time, Russia, Prussia and Austria, part of Lithuania including Plungyan was handed over to Russia. During Russian rule (1795–1915) Plungyan was included in the Vilna Gubernia (province) but from 1843 was included in the Kovno Gubernia. During the period of independent Lithuania (1918–1940) the town ruled itself: that is, it had its own municipality and was also a county administrative center.

The estate, together with the town Plungyan, became the property of the noble family of Oginsky in 1873: they built a splendid palace with a garden of 50 hectares, which still exist.


The Oginsky Palace
(Picture taken and supplied courtesy of Elkan Gamzu, July 2005)


In 1888, 1894, 1914 and 1931 fires ravaged the town.

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A sorry sight after a devastating fire, probably in 1931


The burial of the holy books and Torah scrolls damaged in the fire of 1931

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Jewish settlement until after World War I

According to headstones in the Jewish cemetery, Jews settled in Plungyan during the sixteenth century. In the middle of the seventeenth century, during the Va'ad Medinath Lita (1623–1764), the Plungyan community was included in the Keidan district (Galil). In 1719 its first synagogue was built and Jewish houses were erected in the center of town and in the main streets. In 1769 the bishop of Zamut allowed Plungyan Jews to build a synagogue on church land on condition that it should not be higher than the church. As the Jews did not abide by this, a fine was imposed on them, but it is not known for how long they paid the imposition.


The Bath House Street


In 1765, 816 Jews lived in Plungyan. Their number had increased to 2,917 by 1847.

In 1848 an outbreak of cholera spread to Zamut and Plungyan and several hundred Jews succumbed in the epidemic.

Plungyan was one of the nineteen Jewish communities that objected to the Russian government order of 1843 stating that all Jews who resided less than 50 Viorst (about 50 km. or 31 miles) from the western border of the state should move to other gubernias further into Russia.

Local Jews dealt in trade, crafts and agriculture. The merchants in town maintained close commercial connections with the Memel region, then part of Germany, selling cattle, horses, geese, flax and other merchandise to the Germans. Jewish artisans, the tailors, shoemakers, butchers and others made a satisfactory living. In the 1880s there were several Jewish–owned workshops for processing amber, each employing 40 to 50 workers, and their products were sold all over Russia. Many families maintained auxiliary farms near their homes.

During these years hundreds of Plungyan Jews emigrated, mostly to South Africa and a few to America.

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In the period 1869 to 1872, when some parts of Lithuania suffered a serious famine, Plungyan Jews sent money to Jewish victims through the aid committee in Memel. The Hebrew newspaper HaMagid (1872) published a list of Plungyan Jews who donated money to Jewish victims of the great famine in Persia (see Appendix 2). The fundraisers were Ya'akov Margalith and Josef Sol.

A large fire in the summer of 1888 burned down 25 Jewish houses, leaving 48 families without shelter and in great poverty. M. Oginsky, the estate owner, managed to contain the fire with the help of his workers. Later he did what he could to help the victims and this included the building of a hospital for the Plungyan Jews.

On a Fair day in July 1894, another fire destroyed 400 houses, 323 of them owned by Jews. Visitors to the fair escaped from the burning town but blocked the roads, and thus the fire brigade, on its way from the estate, was unable to reach the town. Many public buildings were razed, including the famous beautiful synagogue built in 1814, the great Beth Midrash built in 1864 which included two Yeshivoth with more than 100 students, the Kloizim, the Talmud Torah and the Gemiluth Hesed houses, and the ritual bath. Only 45 small houses escaped serious damage in the fire but about 2,500 Jews were left destitute. HaMelitz (July 20th, 1894) published an appeal to Jewish communities and to former Plungyaners abroad for help. Rabbi Zevulun Leib Barit, a member of the aid committee, signed this appeal. The address for sending donations was that of the chairman of the help committee, the nobleman Michael Oginsky. After the fire he accommodated several hundreds people in buildings on his estate and also fed them. Near the market square, where dozens of Jewish shops had burnt down, Oginsky built 36 permanent shops, making them available to the Jewish merchants at low prices to be repaid in twelve annual payments. For very poor merchants the payments were spread over twenty–four years. In addition, on his own account, he built a ritual bath house for the Jews and also lent the community the money to rebuild the big synagogue, on condition that half the sum would be repaid to him during the building and the balance in two years. Indeed, after two years the synagogue was ready.

Jews also lived in villages around Plungyan. In 1895 several Jews were murdered by neighbors: this prompted the exodus of many Jews.

In 1901 a Society for Supporting the Poor was established in order to stop beggars from knocking on doors for donations.

In that same year a house for the Talmud Torah was bought.

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Among the rabbis who officiated in Plungyan were:

Yehudah–Leib Ziv (lived during the eighteenth and at the beginning of the nineteenth centuries), he granted his approval (Haskamah) to print the Vilna Talmud
Yehiel Heler (1814–1863), who published many books on Judaism. These were printed in Koenisberg. He died in Plungyan.
Hayim–Yits'hak HaCohen Blokh (1867–1948), born in Plungyan, rabbi and head of the local Yeshivah. Later he emigrated to New Jersey in the United States, serving as Honorary President of the Association of the American and Canadian Rabbis. He published articles in HaTsefirah and in Pardes.
Zevulun Barit
Shemuel–Avigdor Faivelson (1859–1929).


The Great Synagogue


The Beth Midrash


[Page 113]

In a list of yearly membership subscribers to Agudath Yisrael published in the party journal HaDerekh in Frankfurt, 56 Plungyan Jews were mentioned, headed by Rabbis Avigdor Faivelson and Josef Shakhnovitz (see Appendix 1).

Plungyan children studied in Hadarim where 20 to 30 youngsters were crowded into a small room. Later a Talmud Torah housed in the tailors' Kloiz was opened with about 80 children, most of them from poor families, and two Melamdim, Yeruham Levinsky being one of them for many years. One of the wealthy men in town donated a building for the Talmud Torah and employed Melamdim of a higher level, including a teacher for general subjects. Graduates of this Talmud Torah were accepted into Yeshivoth.


The Shamash Mosheh'le Reizes


In 1888 a Society for Teaching Crafts was established to teach poor children and orphans arts and crafts. The children who finished their studies at the Talmud Torah but did not continue at Yeshivoth were accepted as apprentices to craftsmen and the society paid for their tuition.

In 1891, a learned woman named Lina Odes opened a school for Jewish girls, which was licensed by the government. Russian, German and French languages were taught there.

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According to the all–Russian census of 1897 there were 4,498 residents in Plungyan, 2,502 (56%) of them Jews.

In 1906 a Jewish teacher. Gutl, opened a Heder Metukan (improved Heder) where all subjects were taught in Hebrew. The students even performed plays in Hebrew. Due to pressure from the orthodox, who called this school a Heder Mesukan (dangerous Heder), this institution was closed after two years and only the Talmud Torah remained. During the years before the war the children of the wealthy also studied here but in the German occupation (1915–1918) the rulers opened an elementary school where the teaching language was German and all Jewish children studied there.

The Hibath Zion movement was quite active and in an 1896 list of Members who supported Jewish Agrarians in Syria and Eretz–Yisrael, three Plungyan Jews are mentioned. The Zionist movement influenced Plungyan when the first Zionist congresses were held.

Lists of donors published in HaMelitz for the settlement of Eretz–Yisrael in 1898, 1899, 1903 and 1909 mention many Plungyan Jews (see Appendix 3). Meir and Mosheh–Yits'hak Fleisher were the fund raisers, whereas the correspondents to HaMelitz from Plungyan were Ya'akov Mark and David–Mosheh Mitskun.

In 1901 the Benoth Zion (Daughters of Zion) society was founded, with 300 members. Most members tried hard to speak only Hebrew amongst themselves. From July 1901 until July 1902, 62 Shekalim were sold.

One delegate representing Plungyan, Telz and Salant participated in the conference of Zionist Societies from the provinces of Suwalk and Kovno in 1909.

Emigrants from Plungyan to Eretz–Yisrael at this time included Tovah Azulai, who arrived in 1906 and was known as a public worker in Jerusalem (where she established a public kitchen), and Avraham Liberman, who was the first Shomer (guard) in Herzliya and later became head of the municipality.

In the cemetery on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem there are at least six headstones of Plungyan Jews:

Pinhas, died 1862
Batyah daughter of Yedidyah, died 1868
Josef son of Azriel, died 1870
Ze'ev son of Meir, died 1878
Sarah daughter of Ze'ev, died 1882
Golde wife of Ze'ev, died 1889.

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The Period of Independent Lithuania (1918–1940)

At the end of the German occupation, Plungyan Jews retrieved their businesses and resumed their economic life.

In 1918 two Jewish youngsters, Garb and Bunka, voluntarily joined the newly organised Lithuanian army and fought for the independence of the new state. They were awarded medals for outstanding service as well as plots of land, as were given to other volunteers.

According to the government census in 1923, Plungyan had 4,236 residents, and 1,861 (44%) of them (including 46 from neighboring villages) were Jews.

Following the law of autonomy for minorities issued by the new Lithuanian government, the minister for Jewish affairs, Dr. Menakhem (Max) Soloveitshik ordered elections to community committees (Va'adei Kehilah) to be held in the summer of 1919. In Plungyan a community committee of fifteen members was elected: eight from Akhduth (Agudath Yisrael), two General Zionists, two Tseirei–Zion, two workers and one non–party man. The committee was active in all aspects of Jewish life in the town from 1919 until March 1926.

The municipal elections of 1924 resulted in a council of fifteen members including seven Jews. Together with the elected Progressives they constituted an absolute majority. Two out of three candidates for mayor of the town were Jews. David–Barukh Goldvaser was the mayor for ten years. In the 1931 elections, four Jews, Mordehai Puzin, Avraham Lipman, Shelomoh Levi and Yehezkel Zaks, were among nine council members elected. But the elections of 1934 produced only three Jews (Puzin, Goldvaser and Lipman) in a council of nine. The deputy mayor was a Jew.

By and large, relations with Lithuanians were normal, despite the fact that Jews were often ridiculed or treated with scorn, and on several occasions offences were committed against Jews because of libel or false indictments. In 1935 there were serious anti–Semitic incidents, prompting the mayor to sign a public denunciation bearing the signatures of the priest and the local judge. The situation worsened after the Nazis came to power in neighboring Germany and especially after the annexation of the Memel region to Germany in 1939. On one Sunday, when hundreds of peasants were in town, a pogrom resulting from a blood libel was prevented at the last moment.

During this period the number of Jews decreased through emigration. The number of deaths exceeded the number of births: between 1930 and 1934 there were 94 births and 134 deaths, while 32 weddings took place.

Plungyan Jews made their living from trade, crafts, light industry and agriculture. According to the government survey of 1931 there were 54 shops, 47 (87%) of them owned by Jews.

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Corner at the market, a shop and an ice cream seller (on the left)


Type of Business Total Jewish
Grocery and Dairy products 4 4
Grains and Flax 3 3
Butchers and Cattle Trade 10 8
Restaurants and Taverns 3 2
Food Products 1 1
Beverages 2 2
Textile Products and Furs 10 10
Leather and Shoes 3 3
Haberdashery and Home Utensils 2 2
Pharmacies 4 3
Radio, Sewing Machines, Electric appliances 1 1
Hardware Products 6 5
Heating Materials 2 2
Miscellaneous 3 1

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According to the same survey there were 27 enterprises, 20 (74%) Jewish owned:

Type of Factory Total Jewish
Metal Workshops, Power Plants 1 1
Chemical Industry: Spirits, Soaps 1 1
Textile: Wool, Flax, Knitting 4 3
Sawmills, Furniture 1 1
Food Products: Mills, Bakeries 3 3
Dresses, Footwear, Furs, Hats 5 2
Leather Industry: Production, Cobbling 7 6
Hairdressers, Bristles and others 5 3

Because of the economic crisis in Lithuania and the open campaign of the Lithuanian merchants′ association (Verslas) urging the non–Jews to boycott Jewish shops, the financial status of Jewish concerns deteriorated and in a few years their number declined to almost half. The situation of the Jewish artisans was no better. In 1935 there were about 60 Jewish artisans: thirteen bakers, eight shoemakers, six tailors, five blacksmiths, four tinsmiths, three tanners, three mirror makers, three photographers, three seamstresses, two hatters, two glaziers, two locksmiths, two barbers, two watchmakers, a carpenter and a saddler. Several Jewish families engaged in agriculture in neighboring villages. There were three Jewish doctors and two Jewish lawyers. By 1925 there were two Jewish doctors and a Jewish woman dentist. The Shavl–Memel (Siauliai–Klaipeda) railway, which began to operate in 1932, deprived many Jewish carters of their livelihood.

About 70% of Plungyan Jews received financial support from their relatives in South Africa, America and even Eretz Yisrael.

The Jewish Popular Bank (Folksbank) played an important role in the economic life of Plungyan Jews. In 1929 it had 321 members, but by 1935 the number had decreased to 220, 15% being Lithuanians.

An extensive fire razed half of the town's houses in March 1931, leaving 250 Jewish families roofless and destitute. Lithuanian Jewry organized help for the victims. In December 1932 a committee established for this purpose reported receiving donations from 200 settlements and institutions to help rehabilitate the victims. Most of the houses, bigger and more beautiful, were rebuilt over several years. Some owners, however, accrued great debts, which they could not settle.

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The management and workers of the Folksbank


Education and Culture

In 1919 two schools, one Yiddish and one Hebrew opened in Plungyan: these amalgamated in 1927 under an order of the Ministry of Education. However, the majority of students preferred the Hebrew instruction. At the outset about 200 pupils had studied in both schools, but, due to the decreasing Jewish population, the number dwindled, and in 1935 only 130 to 140 pupils enrolled. For two years a Hebrew kindergarten existed. There was a Talmud Torah, at which 60 boys studied in substandard buildings, as well as a Yeshivah of about 50 boys.

A Hebrew pro–gymnasium supported by the government was housed in a building donated to the community by nobleman Oginsky before World War I. Its teachers were Yofe, Eidelman, Klibansky (Puzin), Amalsky and others. This building also housed the Tarbuth library with 500 books in Hebrew and 500 in Yiddish.

In 1930 the Yiddishist Libhober fun Visen (Fans of Knowledge) society established a library containing about 1,000 books in Yiddish, which was named after the writer Y. L. Peretz . Next to it was a reading room where the daily newspapers from Kovno were available. In 1935 there were 60 subscribers to the various Jewish daily newspapers.

Occasionally cultural activities took place. In April 1933 a protest meeting was held against the persecution of the Jews in Germany. The speakers included the well–known Dr.Ya'akov Robinson, the lawyer Hirsh Rolnik and others. On June 5th, 1935 there was a mock public trial on the subject of the attitude of Jewish youth to the nineteenth Zionist congress that had taken place in this year.

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Zionist and other activities Many Plungyan Jews belonged to the Zionist movement. All Zionist parties were represented. The Plungyan Zionists voted for the various parties at seven Zionist Congresses as follows:

Year Tot Shek Total Voter Labor Party
Rev. Gen. Zion.
Gros. Miz.
14 1925 27
15 1927 24 17 2 5 5 5
16 1929 109 51 14 6 2 17 12
17 1931 70 25 4 24 11 6
18 1933 156 116 21 6 3 10
19 1935 246 212 114 5 50 2 11
21 1939 86 64 52 5 Nat Block

Cong. = Congress; Shek. = Shekalim; Rev. = Revisionists; G.Z. = General Zionists; Gros. = Grosmanists; Miz. = Mizrahi; Nat. Block = National Block

In May 1932 the new Zionist Socialist Party Club opened with a festive ceremony. The HeHalutz branch at this time consisted of about 50 members and extensive cultural activities took place here. Among the Zionist youth organizations active in Plungyan were the HaShomer HaTsair, HeHalutz Hatsair and Betar.

In 1933 an urban Kibbutz with 22 Halutsim and Halutsoth existed. Several of them emigrated to Eretz–Yisrael and were among the founders of Kibbutz Ramath HaShofet. Sports activities took place at the branches of Maccabi with its 80 members, also under the auspices of HaPoel and Sport, the latter a society connected to the Peretz library.

There was an all Jewish fire brigade whose commander was a man named Rest.

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Kibbutz of HeHalutz, Hamefales 1934


Jewish members of the volunteer fire brigade

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Religion and Welfare

The great synagogue, the new Beth Midrash and three Kloizim of the orthodox were located in the Shulhoif, the center of religious life of Plungyan Jews. Religious youths were organized in a Tifereth Bahurim organization which in 1929 had about forty members. There was also a children's society Pirhei Shoshanim (Rose Flowers) whose aim it was to collect religious books for the synagogue. After the Simhath Torah holiday these books would be delivered to the synagogue in a festive ceremony while the children were carried on the arms of the adults to this event.

Two rabbis served in Plungyan at this time: Levi Shpitz (1887–1941), one of the most important rabbis in Lithuania, who wrote an essay on the Talmud, but was murdered in the Holocaust, and the last rabbi, Avraham Mordehai Vesler (1892–1941), the spiritual director of the teachers seminar in Telz, and an active member of Agudath Yisrael. He was also put to death in the Holocaust, together with his community.


The Hevrah Kadisha


Help and welfare institutions included: Gemiluth Hesed, which gave loans without interest or against goods deposited in a pawnshop, a hospital, the Bikur Holim society which provided medical help and medicine to the needy, a Hevrah Kadisha and others. The OZE organization provided free pediatric treatment and free meals to poor school children and sent the sick to summer camps in Kalniskiai, a village 3 km. (2 miles) from Plungyan. In 1939 this organization also provided free medical help and financial support to refugee children from Memel. OZE also supported Jewish sport clubs and libraries. The money it received was used for financing its activities came from fundraising events and amateur shows.

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When refugees arrived from Memel after the German annexation of their town in March 1939, a committee was established to take care of them. Avraham Puzin left his business and dedicated all his time to collecting money for this task, in which he excelled.

These were some of the personages who were born in Plungyan:

Yits'hak Ze'ev Olshvanger (1825–1896), rabbi in Tavrig and St. Petersburg and active in the Hovevei Zion movement.
Josef–Jozel Hurvitz (1848–1920), a pupil of Israel Salanter, who propagated his Musar (Ethics) doctrine among thousands of his pupils. He died in Kiev and his coffin was brought to Israel in 1963. He was buried in Jerusalem.
Eliezer–Lazarus Goldshmidt (1871–1950), who translated the Talmud–Bavli (the Babalonian Talmud) printed in 1930–1936 and the Koran into German. He died in London.
Mordehai Plungyan–Plungyansky (1814–1883), a Hebrew writer, the secretary and proofreader of the well–known Rom printing establishment in Vilna, which published books on Jewish issues.
Luis Rozental (born in 1888), among the greatest sculptors of his time in America.
Adv. Tsevi Rolnik, the director of the Hebrew pro–gymnasium in town.
Meir Rolnik, brother of Tsevi Rolnik (above), a well–known publisher in Jerusalem.
David Shur (1901–1987), emigrated to Eretz–Yisrael in 1920 and was among the founders of Kibbutz Ayeleth HaShahar and Moshav Yarkonah. He was a specialist in beekeeping, and published books and articles on bee breeding.
Tsevi–Hirsh Brik (Barak) (1905–1995), graduated in law at the University of Kovno; member of the Zionist Socialist Center in Lithuania; imprisoned in the Kovno ghetto for three years; wrote articles in the Kovno newspapers Di Tsait and Dos Vort; lived in Israel from 1949; one of the editors of Yahaduth Lita Vol. 4 (Tel Aviv 1984); father of Aharon Barak, the president of the High Court of Justice in Jerusalem. He died in Jerusalem in the 1990s.
Zalman Levi, born in 1907; studied at Telz Yeshivah, in Johannesburg South Africa from 1927; wrote political articles for the periodical Proletarishe Shtime (Johannesburg) and was its editor from 1970. Wrote many articles in the Afrikaaner Yiddishe Tsaitung.

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During World War II and Afterwards

With the annexation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union in 1940, the factories and also most shops, many Jewish owned, were nationalized, with the owners becoming the managers. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and Hebrew educational institutions were closed. The supply of goods decreased and as a result prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore the brunt, and the standard of living dropped. At the beginning of June 1941, five Jewish families, who were considered “undesirable elements”, comprising fourteen people, including four young children, were exiled to Siberia. However some Jewish youths were happy with the new regime and played an active part in its institutions.

In 1940 Plungyan had about 6,000 residents, about 1,700 (28%) of them Jews.

When the news of the German invasion into the Soviet Union on June 22nd, 1941 became known, Jews fled to villages near the town and to Russia. But only thirty families and some individuals succeeded in their flight. A train that had departed from Plungyan was bombed by the Germans and all its passengers were killed, among them many Jewish families.

The Germans entered Plungyan on June 25th, 1941. Before the Germans arrived, armed Lithuanians identified by white stripes on their arms had already taken over the town. On the second day of their rule the Jews were ordered to leave their houses and to congregate in the synagogue and in the Beth Midrash. Armed guards at the doors did not permit the admission or distribution of any food brought by Lithuanian friends or the maids of their former employers. About sixty young men were sent to work on farms in the vicinity while other men and women were assigned to various chores every day. They swept the streets and cleaned latrines manually while being assaulted.

The Lithuanian guards would perform different pranks in order to humiliate the Jews and to delight the masses. For example, they forced five or six respected Jews to carry a wooden beam, over which they poured petrol and which they then set alight. The Jews were compelled to carry the beam until the fire spread onto their garments. One who attempted to escape from the fire was beaten to death.

Guards cut off the beard of the town's rabbi, Avraham–Mordehai Vesler: they then forced him and his wife to walk arm in arm through the streets, carrying a bucket each, to the jeers and laughter of the residents.

One day a fire broke out in the bath house street and the Lithuanians blamed the Jews for starting it. Under this a pretext they spread a rumor in town that the Jews were all dangerous. Thus the Jews were all imprisoned in the synagogue, where crowding, hunger and lack of sanitation made conditions unbearable. The pharmacy owner Efrayim Israelovitz, the pharmacist Hayah Shlomovitz, the flourmill owner Karabelnik, the blacksmith Shelomoh Gilis and the textile engineer Bishitz who had continued with their jobs until then, were also imprisoned in the synagogue. The young men who worked on the farms did not return to the synagogue. They were murdered en route.

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On Sunday, July 13th, 1941 Lithuanian guards transported the Jews in groups to sites where pits had been prepared. The first group of sixty men were led there on foot. As they passed the textile factory, the factory guards, testing their weapons and with the encouragement of the escorts, murdered about forty of the hapless men. The remaining victims, group by group, were transported to the execution site in trucks. There they were forced to undress and to sit on the brim of the pit, where they were shot from behind.

A group of girls was led on foot to the gruesome site. Passing the Catholic church one of the girls, Orela Tsin, said harsh words to the Lithuanians. The murderers poured kerosene over her and set her on fire. Among the victims were sixty girls who had agreed to convert to Christianity in order to be saved. According to the evidence of Josefa Osovsky–Olshvang, a righteous among the nations, a monk named F. Lignogaris who taught religion at the gymnasium and knew the girls, had convinced them to convert to Christianity in order that their lives would be spared. But soon after the massacre they too were killed and buried in a mass grave near that of their families. According to the witness, the monk later lost his mind and was committed to a mental hospital. The killing spree lasted from Sunday morning and all through the night until Monday. In the morning the executioners returned to the town in trucks, singing. Two Germans who were in the town did not interfere. All the “work” was done by Lithuanians, most of them residents of Plungyan and its vicinity. The names of several of these killers are listed in the Yad Vashen archives in Jerusalem.

Only one Jew survived the murder, having married a Lithuanian woman before the war and converted to Christianity: his wife and the local priest saved him. After Soviet rule returned to Plungyan, this man revealed the names of the murderers and helped to find them. Some, who did not escape with the Germans, were caught and sentenced.

According to Soviet sources, 1,800 victims were buried in mass graves near the village of Kausenai, about 4 km. (2.5 miles) northwest of Plungyan, and the bodies of the sixty youngsters who worked on the farms were found in a forest near the village of Milosaiciai, about 6 km. (4 miles) south of Plungyan.

Only 221 Plungyan Jews survived the war. Some were hidden by Lithuanians, some remained in the Shavl ghetto and others settled in the Soviet Union. Twenty–six Plungyan youths fell in battle as soldiers of the Red Army.

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After the war a monument was erected on the mass grave in Kausenai. In 1988 another was erected in memory of Plungyan Jews by the Jewish sculptor Ya'akov Bunka and a team of Lithuanian sculptors.

Plungyan born Masha Rolnik was in the Vilna ghetto with her family. She was moved to concentration camps in Germany. Somehow she survived, and wrote her memoirs in Yiddish. Her book (I Have To Tell, Jerusalem 1965) has been translated into many languages, including Hebrew.

After Lithuania was liberated from Nazi rule, about thirty Jewish families returned to Plungyan. They settled in their homes after evicting the Lithuanian tenants. In 1946 armed Lithuanians who were roaming the forests because they refused Soviet rule, murdered a single Jew who had returned from the Soviet Union. In 1953 a blood libel was circulated concerning a war invalid who had allegedly abducted a Lithuanian girl in order to use her blood. The main instigator, a drunkard and criminal, together with the girl's mother, threatened Plungyan Jews. The commander of the local police enlisted soldiers from a nearby camp and when the girl was found to be healthy and unharmed, the situation was defused. The mother was sentenced to fifteen days in jail and the instigator, who had vandalised the windows of Jews and was found with stolen property in his flat, was sentenced to three years in prison.

However, many Plungyan Jews left town. Some moved to larger towns in Lithuania and some emigrated to Israel. In 1970, 41 Jews were resident in Plungyan; in 1979, there were 25; in 1989, only 15.

In the early 1990s, on the site of the old Jewish cemetery, a monument was erected with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: “The old Jewish cemetery. Let the memory of the deaths be sacred.”

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The mass graves near the village of Kausenai
(Picture taken and supplied courtesy of Elkan Gamzu, July 2005)

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The murder site and the monument


The inscription on the monument:
“At this site, the Nazi murderers and their helpers, on 13–15 July 1941,
brutally murdered 1800 Jews, children, women, men.”

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Two of the three memorial wooden sculptures by Ya'akov Bunka


The third sculpture

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Yad Vashem Archives –M–1/E–1697/1565; M–40/MAP/76; O–2/946; O–33/976, 2349; Koniuhovsky collection 0–71, files 37–39
YIVO – New York, Collection of Lithuanian Communities, files 716–727, 1397, 1398, 1537
Zikhron Meir, Memorial book for Meir Rolnik (1900–1973), Jerusalem 1974
Piker, Yankel – So it was (Yiddish), Tel Aviv 1979
Rolnik, Masha – I have to tell (Hebrew), Jerusalem 1965
Yiddisher Lebn – Kovno–Telz, No.165
Dos Vort – Kovno, 13.11.1934; 27.9.1935
Dos Naie Vort – Kovno, 9.7.1934; 12.6.1934
Di Yiddishe Shtime – Kovno, 3.10.1919; 22.6.1928; 22.7.1930; 1.4.1931; 7.4.1931; 10.4.1931; 14.4.1931; 15.4.1931; 17.6.1931; 26.6.1931; 21.8.1931; 13.10.1931; 23.12.1932; 2.9.1935; 4.11.1935
Di Tsait – Kovno, 21.5.1932
HaMelitz – St. Petersburg, 22.9.1869; 18.9.1878; 25.10.1881; 9.5.1887; 10.1.1888; 22.5.1888; 21.6.1888; 11.2.1891; 27.10.1891; 20.7.1894; 9.3.1895; 13.11.1895; 26.6.1901; 20.5.1902; 12.6.1903
HaNe'eman – Telz, No. 1–2, Teveth, 5689 (1929)
Folksblat – Kovno, 21.7.1930; 29.8.1930; 1.1.1933; 19.4.1933; 5.6.1935; 13.6.1935; 16.6.1935; 25.4.1939; 21.5.1939; 2.7.1939; 12.7.1939
Jerushalayim d'Lita (Yiddish) – Vilna, No. 5(7), May 1990
Pakalniskis A. (Lithuanian) – Plunge, Chicago 1980
Naujienos – Chicago, 11.6.1949
Respublika – Vilnius, 25.6.1992

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Appendix 1

List of paid–up members of the Agudath Yisrael party

Abramovitz Hayim Alkanovitz Ben–Zion
Berman Ben–Zion, shohet Broda Ze'ev
Dimant Yehoshua Epil Mordehai
Fain Mosheh–Zelig Faivelzon Shemuel–Avigdor, Rabbi
Gamzu Shimon Garb Eliezer
Garzansky Shelomoh Getz Ze'ev
Gibor (Gvor) Yits'hak Gornzinsky Yedidyah
Hotz Eliezer Hovsha Sheraga
Israelevitz Yisrael–Eliyahu Klotz Benjamin
Klotz Sheraga Kreszol Aizik
Kriger Shaul Kruskol Mosheh–Leib
Leibovitz Yehoshua Levinsky Yeruham
Liberman Avraham Likhtenshtein Meir
Lipman Tsevi Litvin Mordehai
Luria Aharon–David Luria Hilel
Metz Ya'akov Metz Yehoshua–Mordehai
Odes Yits'hak Orliansky Zalman
Patsun Ya'akov Pozin Mosheh
Ritov Benjamin Rostovsky Eliezer
Rubinshtein Tsevi Segal Yits'hak
Shakhnovitz Josef, rabbi Shapiro Ben–Zion
Shpitz Barukh Shlavin Zalman
Shereshevsky David Sher Yits'ha–Leib
Sher Azriel Sher Zalman
Sher Joel Shtutsin Yehezkel
Verzaner Dov Yaffe Josef
Yafet Tsevi Zak Yits'hak–Josef
Zinger H.G. Zusmanovitz Yits'hak

[Page 131]

Appendix 2

List of Plungyan Jews donors to the victims of the Persian famine
(From Lithuania databases HaMagid # 15, 1872, by Jeffrey Maynard)

ADEM Leizer BLANK Michel
FRAINK Yitzchok & son GARB Feitel GARB Moshe
GARB Yechezkel Leib GARB Yitzchok Yakov
HATZIN Shimon KA”TZ Baruch
NATKIN Chaim Nachman POTSTERM Dovid
ROSMOWSKI Shlomo ben Yosef ROSMOWSKI Yitzchok
SIL Leib SIL Meir Zev
TROIB Meir bridegroom TROIB Michel
YAFFE Yosef YAMKOWSKI Apamheker (female?) 1872
YEZNER Leizer ZAK Zelig
ZAKS Heshil ZATON Shalom
ZIN Hirsh Leib ZIV Ezriel
ZIV Shaul Yitzchok Ezriel from Kuliai (Kohl)
Leib ben Pazriel Levi ben Monash brother of Shmuel
Shmuel ben Monash brother of Levi Yakov from Birstonas
Yakov Hirsh Yakov Meir

[Page 132]

Appendix 3

List of Plungyan Jews donors to the Settlement of Eretz Yisrael
(From Jewishgen databases Lithuania Hamelitz. Compiled by Jeffrey Maynard)

Surname Given Name Comments Source in Hamelitz Year
ABRAMOWITZ Chaim   #211 1899
AKUM A   # 225 1903
ALBIN K   #225 1903
ALBIN K   #225 1903
ALBIN Kalman   #211 1899
ARINZON Paula wife of Y Levenshtein wed lag b'omer #123 1900
BEINSHTEIN Sh   #123 1900
BERENSHTEIN Gedaliah   #142 1898
BERENSHTEIN H   #130 1897
BERNSHTEIN G   #123 1900
BERNSHTEIN Yosef Zev from Chotzer Wilmishken near Plungian #4 1895
BLANK Sh   #225 1903
BLANK Shmuel   #144 1898
BLOCH Chaim   #211 1899
BRIK Mina wife of Shmuel Shor of Telz wed #215 1893
BRIK Sh   #142 1898
BRIK Sh   #211 1899
BRIK Sh   #225 1903
BRIK Shraga   #90 1898
BROIDA Moshe   #115 1898
COHEN G   #225 1903
COHEN Nachum   #211 1899
DAGISHEWSKI M   #225 1903
DIMANT M   #225 1903
DRUK A   #211 1899
DRUK A   #225 1903
DRUK Eli   #44 1899
DRUK Eliahu   #90 1898
EDELMAN Chaim   #211 1899
ELKANOWITZ B   #225 1903
EMDEN Y R   #225 1903
EMDIN Batia wife of Chaim Dov Lewinzohn wed in Plungian #209 1893
FAKTOR H #225 1903
FEIGELMAN Nesanel Yehuda wed #79 1899
FEIN M Z #225 1903
FEIN Yitzchok #115 1898
FEIN Yitzchok #79 1899
FEIN Yitzchok fiance of Leah Katzenelenboigen engaged #142 1898
FEIN Yitzchok husband of Leah Katzenellenbogen wed 1898 #228 1898
FEINSHTEIN M   #225 1903
FIN Yitzchok   #211 1899
FLEIKS M A   #228 1898
FLEISHER Devorah sister of M A deceased TRGZ #115 1898
FLEISHER M A   #142 1898
FLEISHER M A   #235 1898
FLEISHER M A   #90 1898
FLEISHER M A   #211 1899
FLEISHER M A   #123 1900
FLEISHER M A   #225 1903
FLEISHER M A brother of Devorah   #115 1898
FREIA Y   #225 1903
FREIA Yisroel   #228 1898
FREIA Yisroel   #211 1899
FREINK B   #123 1900
FRIDENSOHN R wife of G Kaplan from Lodz wed 1898 #235 1898
FRIDLAND Pesach husband of Ita Rabinowitz wed #142 1898
FRIDMAN Y D   #225 1903
GABOR Y   #225 1903
GAMZO Y   #211 1899
GAMZO Y   #225 1903
GARB A   #211 1899
GARB A   #225 1903
GARB M   #225 1903
GARB M   #225 1903
GARB Y   #211 1899
GARB Y R   #225 1903
GARB Yakov Dov   #211 1899
GARB Yitzchok   #211 1899
GESELOWITZ Shmuel   #144 1898
GETZ A   #228 1898
GETZ A   #211 1899
GETZ A   #225 1903
GETZ Aharon   #144 1898
GETZ Z   #211 1899
GLEZER Tz   #225 1903
GLIKMANTZ Shifra   #228 1898
GRAF Z   #123 1900
GRAF Z   #225 1903
GRINMAN A B   #225 1903
GURWITZ R   #144 1898
GUTMAN Avraham Yosef   #160 1897
HAGAR Yitzchok husband of Leah Knopfing from Libau   #4 1895
HESHELOWITZ Sh   #211 1899
HESHELOWITZ Sh   #225 1903
HIRSH M   #225 1903
HIRSHOWITZ Peretz in Africa #44 1899
HOWSHA Sh   #225 1903
IZRAELEWITZ Ephraim   #211 1899
IZRAELEWITZ Ephraim   #272 1900
IZRAELOWITZ Y   #225 1903
KALZIN Tz   #123 1900
KANTOR Hillel   #211 1899
KANTOWITZ Aizik   #211 1899
KAPLAN A Ch father of G   #235 1898
KAPLAN Eliezer Leib   #206 1895
KAPLAN G son of A Ch husband of R Fridensohn wed 1898 #235 1898
KAPLAN Sh Ch   #225 1903
KARG B   #225 1903
KATZENELENBOIGEN Leah fiancee of Yitzchok Fein engaged #142 1898
KATZENELLENBOGEN Leah wife of Yitzchok Fein wed 1898 #228 1898
KATZIN B   #228 1898
KATZIN B A   #79 1899
KATZIN Tzvi   #144 1898
KATZIN Y T   #228 1898
KENIGSBERG Kalman   #90 1898
KENIGSBERG Kalman   #79 1899
KESEL Chaim   #211 1899
KESSEL Chaim   #44 1899
KIRSH M   #44 1899
KIRSH Tz   #225 1903
KLOIZNIN Sh from Salant #228 1898
KLOTZ Sh   #44 1899
KLOTZ Sh   #79 1899
KLOTZ Sh   #225 1903
LASKAS? B   #123 1900
LASSER Izidor husband of Regina Lewinzohn wed in Chicago #229 1895
LEIBOWITZ A   #228 1898
LEIBOWITZ D B   #228 1898
LEIBOWITZ Y   #228 1898
LEIBOWITZ Y   #225 1903
LENMAN Avraham   #235 1898
LENTIN A   #123 1900
LENTIN A   #225 1903
LENTIN Avraham   #156 1895
LENTIN Avraham   #228 1898
LENTIN Avraham   #115 1898
LENTIN Avraham   #142 1898
LENTIN Avraham   #144 1898
LENTIN Avraham   #90 1898
LENTIN Ephraim   #211 1899
LESHEM Boris   #90 1898
LESHEM Boruch   #211 1899
LESHEM H   #225 1903
LESHEM Sh   #225 1903
LEVENSHTEIN Y husband of Paula Arinzon Doctor – wed lag b'omer #123 1900
LEWI Aba   #211 1899
LEWIMZOHN L father of Yosef Chaim   #123 1900
LEWIN A   #225 1903
LEWINZOHN Chaim Dov husband of Batia Emdin wed in Plungian #209 1893
LEWINZOHN D   #225 1903
LEWINZOHN Dovid   #144 1898
LEWINZOHN Dovid father of Regina   #229 1895
LEWINZOHN Eliezer   #90 1898
LEWINZOHN L   #225 1903
LEWINZOHN Leib   #142 1898
LEWINZOHN Leib   #144 1898
LEWINZOHN M A   #228 1898
LEWINZOHN M L   #225 1903
LEWINZOHN Regina bas Dovid wife of Izidor Lasser wed in Chicago #229 1895
LEWINZOHN Yosef Chaim ben L born 1899 #123 1900
LEWINZON Dovid   #90 1898
LEWINZON Dovid   #211 1899
LEWINZON Leib   #211 1899
LEWIT M L   #82 1899
LEWIT M L   #123 1900
LEWIT Moshe Leib   #144 1898
LEWIT Moshe Leib   #235 1898
LEWIT P Y   #225 1903
LEWIT Shraga   #90 1898
LEWITT Moshe Leib   #115 1898
LEWITT Sh   #228 1898
LIPSKI Sh   #225 1903
MARK N   #225 1903
MARKUS M   #123 1900
MERE B   #211 1899
MESHI Avraham   #44 1899
METZ Yakov   #90 1898
MIRWISH M Ch   #225 1903
MIRWISH Moshe Chaim   #228 1898
MIRWISH Moshe Chaim   #44 1899
MOTZ Ch M   #225 1903
NATANZON Eidel father of Miriam   #90 1898
NATANZON Miriam bas Eidel   #90 1898
NEIMAN Tz   #225 1903
NEIMAN Z   #225 1903
NURWITZ Tz R   #123 1900
OLSHWANG M   #225 1903
OLSHWANG P   #225 1903
PLUNGIANSKI A   #211 1899
PLUNGIANSKI A   #123 1900
PLUNGIANSKI A   #225 1903
PLUNGIANSKI Eliahu father of Ezriel   #144 1898
PLUNGIANSKI Ezriel   #211 1899
PLUNGIANSKI Ezriel ben Eliahu wed LG B'Omer #142 1898
PLUNGIANSKI Linie widow #144 1898
PLUNGIANSKI Tz   #123 1900
PLUNGIANSKI Y   #225 1903
POPIN P M wife of Dovid Rachmal wed #79 1899
POZEN Yakov   #201 1895
POZIN Avraham   #90 1898
POZIN Avraham   #44 1899
POZIN Moshe   #211 1899
POZIN Sh Y   #90 1898
POZIN Sh Y   #79 1899
POZIN Y   #123 1900
POZIN Y   #225 1903
POZIN Yakov   #144 1898
POZIN Yakov   #90 1898
POZIN Yakov   #211 1899
RM Rabbi Zelig   #144 1898
RABINOWITZ A   #211 1899
RABINOWITZ A   #79 1899
RABINOWITZ A   #123 1900
RABINOWITZ A   #225 1903
RABINOWITZ A Sh   #123 1900
RABINOWITZ Aharon Sh   #82 1899
RABINOWITZ Eli   #228 1898
RABINOWITZ Eliahu   #144 1898
RABINOWITZ Eliahu   #90 1898
RABINOWITZ Ita wife of Pesach Fridland wed #142 1898
RABINOWITZ Sh L   #225 1903
RABINOWITZ Yoel Eli   #201 1895
RACHMAL Dovid husband of P M Pozin wed #79 1899
REIT Yermiahu engaged #144 1898
REST Yermiahu   #228 1898
REST Yermiahu   #211 1899
ROCHMAL Yona   #211 1899
ROLNIK Aba   #44 1899
ROSHTOWSKI N   #225 1903
ROSHTOWSKI Y   #225 1903
ROSTOWSKI A   #211 1899
ROSTOWSKI A   #123 1900
ROSTOWSKI A Y   #225 1903
ROSTOWSKI Aharon   #144 1898
ROSTOWSKI Aharon father of Shmuel Leib   #90 1898
ROSTOWSKI Shmuel Leib ben Aharon   #90 1898
ROZIN Avraham   #79 1899
SEGAL B   #228 1898
SEGAL B   #211 1899
SEGAL Bendet brother of Yakov Heshil   #68 1898
SEGAL Shalom Yosef   #115 1898
SEGAL Yakov   #115 1898
SEGAL Yakov   #144 1898
SEGAL Yakov   #90 1898
SEGAL Yakov   #211 1899
SEGAL Yakov Heshil brother of Bendet husband of Eitil Zaks wed #68 1898
SHAPIRO Malka wed #144 1898
SHAPIRO Yosef   #228 1898
SHAPIRO Yosef   #79 1899
SHER B   #225 1903
SHER Sh   #225 1903
SHEREKOWSKI D   #225 1903
SHIR   #211 1899
SHLEZ Sh   #225 1903
SHMUEL   #211 1899
SHOCHAT Tzvi   #144 1898
SHOR M   #123 1900
SHOR Moshe   #142 1898
SHOR Sh   #225 1903
SHOR Shmuel   #144 1898
SHPITZ B   #225 1903
SHPITZ Boruch   #144 1898
SHPITZ Boruch   #211 1899
SHTOTZIN A   #211 1899
SHTOTZIN Y   #225 1903
SHULMAN Yosef   #211 1899
TROIB Aizik   #44 1899
TZIN Shmuel   #144 1898
TZIN Zalman   #115 1898
TZINKOWSKI widow from Vilna #90 1898
TZIRA Dovid   #225 1903
WISTOW A   #225 1903
WOLPERT Y   #225 1903
YAFE Ephraim   #211 1899
YAFE Ephraim   #211 1899
YAFE Ephraim   #225 1903
YAFE P   #123 1900
YAFE Tz   #123 1900
YAFE Tz   #225 1903
YAME Y   #225 1903
YAVETZ Yakov   #144 1898
YUDELMAN Ch   #225 1903
YUDELMAN Sh   #225 1903
YUDELMAN Y   #123 1900
YUDELOWITZ M   #225 1903
ZAK H   #225 1903
ZAK Zelig   #79 1899
ZAKS A   #225 1903
ZAKS Eitel wife of Yakov Heshil Segal wed #68 1898
ZALIS Y   #211 1899
ZELIG A   #225 1903
ZELIG Shlomo   #225 1903
ZIW Yitzchol   #211 1899
Shmuel Tzvi   #228 1898
SHER Avraham in Weinberg, suburb of Capetown, SA #131 1900


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