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Žiežmariai (Zhezhmer) {Cont.}


During World War II and Afterwards

After Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940, intensive sovietization took place in Zhezhmer. Businesses, mostly Jewish, were nationalized and Jewish parties and organizations were disbanded. Many Jews joined government economic enterprises and security institutions. The Hebrew school was closed and all Zionist activities were forbidden. A limited amount of cultural activity on behalf of the Comsomol took place in the hall of the Y.L. Peretz library. At the same time the departure of the town's youngsters to Kovno and other towns continued, and just 200 families were left in Zhezhmer.

On June 24th, 1941 only two days after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Zhezhmer was occupied by the German army. The town was already in the hands of Lithuanian nationalists who began their persecution of their Jewish neighbors. Among the first victims they murdered were three members of the Ilionsky family. On the pretext that Jews had shot Lithuanians and that they had hidden explosives under the floor of the synagogue, the LIthuanians searched Jewish houses and robbed them. They detained heads of families and other men and transferred them to Koshedar (Kaisiadorys), where they were killed together with the local Jews. At the same time the local authorities published orders forbidding Jews to be seen in the streets, to buy food and so on.

For several weeks many Jewish men were forced to dig peat in Palemonas and the women to do the same in Praveniskis.

In the second half of August 1941 all Jews were gathered into the synagogue and kept there without food and water for several days. On August 27th, 1941(4th of Elul 5701) all the men were taken to Strosiunai forest near the village of Vladikiskis, about 3 km. (nearly 2 miles) north of Zhezhmer. There they were executed and buried in previously prepared pits. The next day, August 28th (5th of Elul), the women and children were slain in the same forest. 2,200 men of Koshedar, Zhosly and Zhezhmer together with 1,800 women and children from those towns are buried in those mass graves. One of the women, Miriam Kotskin, who realized what was going to happen, set fire to her house and jumped into the flames before the murderers came to take her to the murder site.

Most of the local residents did nothing to help their Jewish neighbors and only a few helped Jews to survive. Their names are inscribed in the archives of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.

In 1943 Nazi military rulers established a working camp in Zhezhmer, intended for hundreds of Jews from small ghettos between Lithuania and Belarus. In May of that year 700 people from this camp were transferred to the Kovno ghetto where they were absorbed by the local authorities.

In the autumn of 1991 the local authority erected a metal fence around the mass graves and placed new marble slabs on the monuments. On them is written in Lithuanian and Yiddish: “Here on August 28th, 1941, Nazi murderers and their local helpers tortured and buried alive 2,200 Zhezhmer, Zhosly and Koshedar Jews.”

On the nearby mass grave the same inscription was engraved with a slight variation to its wording: “…1,800 women and Jewish children…” There the Lithuanian sculptor V. Kapaciunas erected three wooden sculptures named “Pain.”

The massacre site of the men in the forest of Strosiunai
At the left of the photograph stand the three wooden sculptures


The massacre site of the women and children


A group of survivors at a commemoration service beside the monument


Yad Vashem Archives - Jerusalem: M-1/E-122/50; 633/531, 1313/1274, 1493/1403, 1763/1635, 2129/1908, 2452/1514; M-9/15(6); M-33/383; M-35/80; 0-3/3681, 3870.
Koniuhovsky Collection 0-71, file 85; 0-57 Zhezhmer file, testimony of Yits'hak Kalmitsky.
YIVO New York, Lithuanian Communities Collection, file 1519
Garfunkel, Leib, Kovna HaYehudith BeHurbanah (Hebrew), Jerusalem, 1949
Levin, Dov - Zhezhmer: Pinkas HaKehiloth-Lita, Yad Vashem, Jerusalem 1996
Ghetto Yedioth (Yiddish), Vilna, #33, 4.4.1943; #42, 6.6.1943
Di Yiddishe Shtime - Kovno, 16.7.1922
HaMelitz - St. Petersburg #68, 135, 158
Folksblat - Kovno, 25.10. 1937, 26.7.1939, 13.11.1940
Kaisiadoriu Aidai, #76, 21.9.1991

Appendix 1

List of Zhezhmer Jews donors to the Persian famine sufferers in 1872 listed in Hamagid.
(From JewishGen>Databases>Lithuania>Hamelitz . Compiled by Jeffrey Maynard)

Surname Given Name Comments Source in Hamelitz Year
  Breine woman from Ziezmariai (Zezmer) #12 1872
BATZKAN Eidil   p169 1872
BEILES Yosef Tzvi ben Avraham   #17 1872
BEILESH Yosef Tzvi ben Avraham   p169 1872
BEISHTRIK Moshe Avraham brother of Zev p169 1872
BEISHTRIK Zev brother of Moshe Avraham p169 1872
BINSH Yitzchok   p169 1872
BROIDA Tzvi   p169 1872
BROIDA Yakov   p169 1872
CHAYAT Leib   p169 1872
CHAYAT Meir   #17 1872
DONOWKE Moshe   p169 1872
EIZELMAN Yitzchok   p169 1872
ELIAN Yekutiel Leib   #17 1872
ELIAN Yekutiel Leib Rabbi p169 1872
GARBER Chaim Hirsh   p169 1872
GLEZER Boruch brother of Yekil & Gedalia p169 1872
GLEZER Gedalia brother of Boruch & Yekil p169 1872
GLEZER Moshe old p169 1872
GLEZER Shimon   p169 1872
GLEZER Yekil brother of Boruch & Gedalia p169 1872
HEILPER Yisroel   p169 1872
KA”TZ Yudil ben Ch   p169 1872
KATZ Avraham   p169 1872
KATZ Chaim   p169 1872
KATZ Eidel brother of Eliezer p169 1872
KATZ Eliezer brother of Eidel p169 1872
KATZ Peretz   p169 1872
KATZAV Feivish   p169 1872
KIRZNER Aharon   p169 1872
KIRZNER Avraham   #17 1872
KIRZNER Eli   #17 1872
KIRZNER Yakov   #17 1872
KIZANSKI Yitzchok   p169 1872
KOMINER Aharon   #17 1872
MAILIAN Moshe   p169 1872
MAILIAN Yosef   #17 1872
MALIVOWITZ Moshe   p169 1872
MELAMED Leib Ber   p169 1872
MERETZ Mordchai   p169 1872
MERETZ Moshe   p169 1872
MIOEWIA Tzvi   p169 1872
MIZASLI Yosef   p169 1872
MONES Eli   p169 1872
NEPHACH Eli   p169 1872
NEPHACH Leib   p169 1872
NEPHACH Michel   p169 1872
PERETZ Leib his wife p169 1872
POLIMS Moshe   #17 1872
POM Raphel father of Yudil p169 1872
POM Yudil ben Raphel   p169 1872
POMIANSKI Zev   p169 1872
POMPIANSKI Aharon   p169 1872
PRENSKI Dovid   p169 1872
RABINOWITZ Zev   p169 1872
RATZKI Yitzchok   p169 1872
ROZINBERG Eliezer   p169 1872
ROZINBERG Yosef   p169 1872
RUBINOWITZ Zev   #17 1872
SANDLER Mina   p169 1872
SANDLER Yakov Moshe   p169 1872
SANDLER Yosef   p169 1872
SEGAL Yitzchok Leib   p169 1872
SEGAL Zalman   p169 1872
SHACHOR Niv   p169 1872
SHACHOR Shmeriahu   p169 1872
SHACHOR Yakov   p169 1872
SHAFER Leib   p169 1872
SHAMAI Yedidia Eliezer   p169 1872
SHAPIRO Eidil   p169 1872
SHINBIT Yitzchok   p169 1872
SHWART Dovid Leib   #17 1872
SIFER Leib brother of Reuven   p169 1872
SIFER Reuven brother of Leib   p169 1872
STRASHUN Chaim ben Yosef   p169 1872
STRASHUN Note   p169 1872
STRASHUN Yosef father of Chaim p169 1872
TEPER Anshil   p169 1872
TEPER Beinish   p169 1872
TEPER Note   p169 1872
TKATZ Kopil   p169 1872
TRILISHOK Binyomin   p169 1872
YANOWER Leib   p169 1872
YETILIN Moshe   p169 1872
YEZNERKE Sarah   p169 1872
  Aharon ben M   p169 1872
  Aharon Chaim   p169 1872
  Ari Tzvi   p169 1872
  Avraham Meir   #17 1872
  Avraham Yitzchok ben N Sh   p169 1872
  Dov k”b p169 1872
  Eli Eidil   p169 1872
  Eliakum Hertz   p169 1872
  Falk nephew of Zalman p169 1872
  Gedalia from Kaunas (Kovno) p169 1872
  Heshil ben Y P   p169 1872
  Leib ben A   p169 1872
  Leib ben Ch   p169 1872
  Leib Mendil   #17 1872
  Mordechai ben Z B   p169 1872
  Mordechai Eli   #17 1872
  Moshe a”ch p169 1872
  Moshe ben Y P   p169 1872
  Moshe Bentzion   #17 1872
  Moshe Hirsh   p169 1872
  Moshe Yitzchok   p169 1872
  Naphtali ben Y Tz   p169 1872
  Peretz the old p169 1872
  Risha woman p169 1872
  Shimshon bven Dov   #17 1872
  Shmuel k”b p169 1872
  Tzvi ben N Sh   p169 1872
  Tzvi Gershon   p169 1872
  Tzvi Matitiahu   p169 1872
  Yakov Shmuel   p169 1872
  Yehoshua Lipman   p169 1872
  Yekutiel Nechamiah f-i-l of Zelig p169 1872
  Yisroel k”b p169 1872
  Yitzchok ly”m p169 1872
  Yitzchok ben A Ch bridegroom p169 1872
  Yona k”b p169 1872
  Yosef Dovid   p169 1872
  Yosef Tzvi hach”m p169 1872
  Zalman ben A   p169 1872
  Zalman uncle of Falk from Jurbarkas (Yurburg) p169 1872


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