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Garliava (Gudleve)

54°49' 23°52'

Garliava (Gudleve in Yiddish) lies about 9 km. south of Kovno, along the railway line to Prussia. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, the town began to develop on the estate owned by Gudlevsky, as a settlement of one street along the main road from Kovno (Kaunas) via Mariampol (Marijampole) to Warsaw.

Until 1795, Gudleve was included in the Polish–Lithuanian Kingdom. According to the third division of Poland in the same year by the three superpowers of those times, Russia, Prussia and Austria, Lithuania was divided between Russia and Prussia. The parts on the left bank of the River Neman (Nemunas), including Gudleve, were handed over to Prussia.

During the years 1807–1815 Gudleve belonged to the Great Dukedom of Warsaw. From 1815, after Napoleon's defeat, all of Lithuania, including Gudleve, was annexed to Russia and later it was attached to the Suwalk Province (Gubernia). During Russian rule and also during independent Lithuania (1918–1940), Gudleve was a county administrative center in the Kovno (Kaunas) district.

Jews probably began to settle in Gudleve as soon as it was founded. It was reputed that Gudlevsky, the estate owner, built their first prayer house. According to the Russian census of 1897 there were 962 residents, including 469 Jews (49%).

The census of 1898 for the Parafia (parish of the church) included 41 villages and 33 farms with 14,861 inhabitants, including 2,218 Jews.

Most Gudleve Jews made their living in small trade and crafts, and almost every family had an auxiliary farm beside the house. Near the town there were several Jewish farms (Shvartz, Segalovsky). Yits'hak Segalovsky received his farm as a gift from Gudlevsky, the estate owner, for serving as translator between him and Mosheh Montefiore, when the latter passed through the town on his way to Russia.

During World War I the town was burnt down almost completely.

According to the first census performed by the new Lithuanian government in 1923, there were then 936 residents, 311 being Jews (33%). During the period of independent Lithuania the number of Jews diminished, mainly because of economic problems. Many Gudleve Jews emigrated to America, Canada, South Africa and Eretz–Yisrael. Before the Shoah about 50 families remained in the town.

Following the passage of the Law of Autonomy for Minorities by the new Lithuanian government, the minister of Jewish affairs, Dr. Menachem (Max)

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Soloveitshik, ordered elections for community committees (Va'adei Kehilah) to be held in the summer of 1919. In 1921 a Community Committee was elected in Gudleve, which was active until 1923, and dealt mainly with registration of births, marriages and deaths.

 

lit6_026.jpg
A Jewish house in Gudleve

 

According to the 1931 government survey, there were 16 shops in town, 14 of them in Jewish hands (87%): three pubs and restaurants, two grain trade shops, two textile shops, three for machines and tools, one grocery, one butcher's shop, one shoe shop and one haberdashery. The same survey showed 17 enterprises, of them 10 Jewish owned (59%): two brick factories, two flourmills, two workshops for cleaning the bowels of cattle, one factory producing oil, one dying plant, one leather factory and one barber shop. In 1939 Gudleve had 38 telephone subscribers, seven of them Jewish.

During the period of independent Lithuania, Jewish children received their elementary education at the Hebrew Yavneh School and at a Yiddish school, each school having an average of 45 pupils. The proximity of Gudleve to Kovno made it easier for the graduates of the schools to continue their studies in the big city.

Many Gudleve Jews belonged to the Zionist movement, and supporters of all Zionist parties took part in elections for Zionist Congresses.

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The election results are given in the table below:

 

Congress
No.
Year Total Shkalim Total Votes Labor Party
Z”S Z”Z
Revisionists General
Zionists
A B
Grosmanists Mizrahi
14 1925 16
15 1927 20 12 1 6 1 4
16 1929 52
17 1931 13 10 1 5 1 3
18 1933 11 5 3 2 1
19 1935 59 28 6 9 9 7

 

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The Beth Midrash
 
lit6_027b.jpg
 
lit6_027c.jpg
The Shamash   The seal of the Beth Midrash

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Religious life in town concentrated around the Beth Midrash. Among the rabbis who officiated in Gudleve were: Hayim HaLevi Katz (1854–1932); Yehudah Barshtein, from 1900; Harakshansky from 1922, and from 1926 the last rabbi, Kalman Levin, who was murdered in the Shoah.

 

lit6_028.jpg
Rabbi Hayim Halevi Katz

 

Native born Rabbi Josef–Reuven Katz, who officiated in Vishinta and Glubok, was an activist of the Mizrahi party in Vilna.

In 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Following new rules, the factories, most of them owned by Jews, were nationalized, as were Jewish shops. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and the Hebrew school was closed. The supply of goods decreased, and as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore the brunt of this situation and its standard of living dropped gradually.

The war between Germany and the USSR began on June 22nd, 1941. By the end of the month all Lithuania had been occupied by the German army. Lithuanian nationalists immediately took control of the country and began to plot and mistreat the Jews. This also happened in Gudleve, and the murder of Jews began on August 28th, 1941 (5th of Elul, 5701). A few days previously, Jewish men had been taken to the valley of the Jiesia River beside the town, where they were ordered to dig a pit 80 metres long and 2 metres wide.

When they were finished they were ordered to hand over all their money and valuables, and to take off their garments and shoes. They were then pushed into the pit and shot dead by Germans and Lithuanians. On that same day or possibly the next, the women and children were murdered and buried in a

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mass grave. According to a German source, 73 Jewish men, 113 women and 61 children were murdered in this place between August 28 and September 2, 1941.

lit6_029a.jpg
The mass grave near the Jiesia River

 

lit6_029b.jpg
The monument with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian:
“In this place Hitler's murderers and their local helpers murdered 274 children, women and men, on August 28th, 1941.”

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The commission for investigating German crimes in Soviet Lithuania determined in 1944, after opening the grave, that about 400 people – Jews from Gudleve, Mavruch (Mauruciai), Pakun (Pakuonis), Veiver (Veiveriai) and other small settlements in the surroundings – were buried in this pit.

Sources:

Yad Vashem archives, Jerusalem, 0–3/3217, 3259.
Central Zionist Archives: 55/1788; 55/1701; 13/15/131; Z–4/2548.
YIVO, New York, Collection of Lithuanian Jewish Communities, File #146, pages 7615–7622.

 

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