Kaltinenai (Kaltinan in Yiddish) is located in the northwestern part of Lithuania, in the Zamut (Zemaitija) region, along the main Kaunas-Klaipeda road, about 50 km. to the northeast of the Tavrig (Taurage) district administrative center. The Kaltinan estate was first mentioned in the chronicles of the Prussian crusader order in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In the sixteenth century a small town already existed beside the estate. In 1702 the town was granted permission to hold an annual fair.
Before 1795 Kaltinan was included in the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom. According to the third division of Poland in that year by the three superpowers of those times, Russia, Prussia and Austria, Lithuania was divided between Russia and Prussia. As with most of Lithuania, Kaltinan became a part of the Russian Empire, first in the Vilna province (Gubernia) and from 1843 in the Kovno Gubernia. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940) Kaltinan was a county administrative center in the Tavrig district.
Jews settled in Kaltinan in the middle of the nineteenth century, having previously been forbidden to live there. The first Jew to receive permission was David Kaltinaner, who had been abducted as a child to serve in the army of Czar Nikolai I. He constructed a prayer house and a bathhouse in the town.
Eleven Kaltinan Jews are named in the Hebrew newspaper HaMelitz #121 in a list of donors for the settlement of Eretz-Yisrael dated 1900 (see Appendix 1 ).
In 1918 Lithuania became an independent state, and following the Law of Autonomies for Minorities issued by the new Lithuanian government, the Minister for Jewish Affairs, Dr. Menachem (Max) Soloveitshik, ordered elections to community committees (Va'adei Kehilah) to be held in the summer of 1919. In Kaltinan a community committee of five members was elected. This committee functioned from 1920 until the end of 1925 when the Autonomy Law was annulled by the Lithuanian government. In these years the committee was active in all aspects of the Jewish life in town.
According to the first government census of 1923, there were 660 residents, 130 of them being Jewish (20%).
During the first years of the new Lithuanian state the economic situation of Kaltinan Jews was difficult. They received aid from the YeKoPo organization for food and cultural needs, with access to a loan fund.
The government survey of 1931 showed that there were nine shops in Kaltinan, five of them being Jewish: two taverns, two textile shops and one leather shop. Jews also owned a wool-combing workshop and two flourmills.
In 1937 there were two Jewish butchers, a baker and a tinsmith. There were no Jews among the fourteen telephone subscribers listed in 1939.
In the elections for the eighteenth Zionist congress (1935) 28 Kaltinan Zionists voted as follows: twelve voted for the Revisionists, nine for the General Zionists A, six for the Labor party and one for Mizrahi.
Before World War II about 15 to 20 Jewish families lived in Kaltinan. Despite their small number, the community had a rabbi, Yits'hak-Eliezer Vishnevsky. He was murdered by Lithuanians in July 1941, together with his community.
With the annexation of Lithuania to the Soviet Union and its change of status to a Soviet republic in the summer of 1940, nationalization of factories and larger shops owned mostly by Jews, followed. All Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded, and Hebrew educational institutions were closed.
On the second or third day after the outbreak of war between Germany and the Soviet Union, June 23 or 24, 1941, following a battle with the retreating Red Army, the Germans entered Kaltinan. On June 29, 1941, S.S. men arrived in the town, and together with Lithuanians, they detained all Jewish males fifteen years old and older and transferred them to the work camp at Heydekrug (Silute). Jews from other towns including Vainutas and Laukuva were also brought to this camp. The prisoners were forced to work at digging drainage channels. The work mostly lasted from dawn till evening and the food was scanty; 300 grams of flavorless bread and half a liter of watery soup per day. The attitude of the German foreman towards them was vicious. In winter when the weather conditions precluded work on drainage, the Jews were sent to the railway station at Stonishken in East Prussia for the strenuous work of loading wagons.
In August 50 to 60 men, mainly the elderly and weak, were separated from the others. They were told that they would be returned home, but on the way they were murdered. In October and November 1941 further selections were made and those chosen were told as before that they would be sent home, but, as it was later discovered, they were murdered and buried in the ravines of Siaudvyciai.
At the end of July 1943 the men from the Heydekrug camp were transferred to Auschwitz. About 100 of them were annihilated there. The remainder of them were sent to the Warsaw ghetto after about two months in order to vacate the ruins. Many died in a typhus epidemic that broke out in Warsaw. In summer 1944 the survivors were transported to the Dachau concentration camp. No one from Kaltinan survived to be freed by the American army.
The women and children who remained in Kaltinan were put to work by the Lithuanians in different projects, mainly in agriculture. On September 16, 1941 (24th of Elul, 5701) they were all were brought to the Tubines Forest, to a place about 7 km. along the road to Silale, where they were murdered together with other Jews from the region. According to Soviet-Lithuanian sources two mass graves were later found to contain the bodies of 500 men and 700 women.
After the war a monument was erected on the graves: this was replaced in the 1990s.
|The mass grave with the monument in the Tubines Forest|
The tablet on the monument with the inscription in Lithuanian and Yiddish:
In this place the Hitler assassins and their local helpers in 1941
murdered 700 Jews, men, women, children.
|The mass grave and the monument at the ravines of Siaudvyciai|
Yad Vashem archives, Jerusalem, M-9/15(6); 0-3/2580; Koniukhovsky Collection 0-71, files 4, 13
YIVO, New York, Collection of Lithuanian Jewish Communities, pages 69510-69516
List of 11 Kaltinan Jews donors for the settlement of Eretz Yisrael as
published in HaMelitz #121, in the year 1900
(from JewishGen>Databases>Lithuania>Hamelitz by Jeffrey Maynard)
The above article is an excerpt from Protecting Our Litvak Heritage by Josef Rosin. The book contains this article along with many others, plus an extensive description of the Litvak Jewish community in Lithuania that provides an excellent context to understand the above article. Click here to see where to obtain the book.
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