Vidukle can be found in the northwestern part of Lithuania, in the Zamut (Zemaitija) region, stretching along the main KaunasKlaipeda road, about 14 km. to the northwest of the Raseiniai district administrative center. The Vidukle railway station is three kilometers away from the town.
Vidukle was first mentioned in historical documents dating back to the fifteenth century where it was referred to as a settlement belonging to the Catholic bishops of Zemaitija.
Before 1795 Vidukle was included in the PolishLithuanian Kingdom. According to the third division of Poland the same year by the three superpowers of those times Russia, Prussia and Austria, Lithuania was divided between Russia and Prussia. As most of Lithuania, Vidukle became a part of the Russian empire, first in the Vilna province (Gubernia) and from 1843 in the Kovno Gubernia as a county administrative center. It preserved its status during the period of independent Lithuania as well. (19181940).
The Jewish settlement till World War II
Most likely Jews began to settle in Vidukle in the middle of the seventeenth century. In 1662 four Jews lived in town. The number increased following King August the Third's declaration on May 21, 1742 that Jews will be granted some privileges. Jews made their living in shop keeping, crafts and agriculture, mainly on leased terrains. In 1879 a new Beth Midrash replaced the ruins of the old one. As indicated in the Hebrew newspaper HaMelitz dating back to the years 1899 and 1901, the list of contributors for the settlement of Eretz Yisrael included the names of 61 Vidukle Jews (see Appendix 1). The fundraiser was Ze'ev Telem.
During World War I, the Russian military set May 5, 1915 as the date for the exile of Vidukle Jews to inner Russia, but the Germans occupied the town a week before, consequently permitting the Vidukle Jews to stay.
After the war, in 1918, an independent Lithuanian state was established. Vidukle Jews participated in the October 1922 elections to the first Lithuanian Seimas (Parliament). The Zionist list received 86 votes, Akhduth (Agudath Yisrael) received 13 votes and the Democrats received 10 votes. According to the first government census of 1923, the total population of Vidukle was 694 people, 221 among them were identified as Jewish (32%).
During that period Vidukle Jews continued to deal in the small trades, crafts and agriculture. According to the government survey of 1931, four shops were operating in town, two of them were Jewish, a textile shop and a
pharmacy. According to the same survey, Jews also owned a sawmill, a flourmill, a woolcombing shop and a leather factory.
In 1937, fifteen Jewish tradesmen worked in Vidukle: three tailors, two bakers, two glaziers, two butchers, one oven builder and five others.
Among the seven Vidukle telephone subscribers in 1939, only one was Jewish.
Jewish children acquired their elementary education at the Hebrew Tarbuth School, and some of the boys attended the Heder. Some graduates continued their studies at the Kelm or Telz yeshivoth. The community maintained a library filled with Hebrew and Yiddish books.
Many of the Vidukle Jews belonged to the Zionist camp and were supporters of almost all Zionist parties, as one can see in the distribution of votes for the Zionist congresses in the table below:
|Total Votes||Labor Party
A few young people from Vidukle joined the Akhvah (Fraternity) group from Kovno that emigrated to Eretz Yisrael in 1920 and joined the founders of the Kibbutz Sarid.
Religious life centered around the great Beth Midrash. Among the rabbis who served Vidukle were:
Yehoshua HaCohen Kaplan (18731941); he published several books on religious issues and was the last rabbi of Vidukle, murdered together with his community in 1941.
Among the charitable associations of Vidukle one could find the Bikur Holim and Gemiluth Hesed.
Among the well known personalities born in Vidukle were Yisrael Kaplan (1902 died in the 1990s in Tel Aviv), the son of a rabbi, historian, teacher and writer, he survived the Kovno ghetto, the Riga and Dachau concentration camps and arrived in Israel in 1949 where he published many articles and books in Yiddish.
Meir HaCohen Kaplan, he was the rabbi's second son and became a member of the rabbinical court in Tel Aviv.
During World War II
With the annexation of Lithuania to the Soviet Union and the change of its 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.
In the morning of June 22nd, 1941, when war between Germany and the Soviet Union began, Jews from Tavrig (Taurage) reached Vidukle by carts and cars and told people that war broke out and that their town was burning. The next morning Vidukle Jews loaded their belongings on carts and went to the neighboring villages to look for shelter at their Lithuanian friends. On that day, Monday afternoon the Germans entered Vidukle, and Jews returned home. Only one Vidukle Jew who worked in Rasein managed to escape to Russia.
The German soldiers occupied the region concentrating at the Vidukle railway station while Lithuanian activists took over governance of the town. They immediately began to mistreat Jews, bread was rationed, and although baked by Jewish bakers, it was given to Jews only if there was some bread left over; Jews were forced into labor, were mistreated and beaten; two Germans would come by cart from the near town of Nemoksht and would together with local Lithuanians enter Jewish homes, evict the residents and loot the property; every Jews was forced to sow on a yellow Magen David on his outer garments. About fifteen Jewish men and women, suspected being Communists were detained and transferred to jail in Rasein. The women were released later, but the men were never seen again.
One day an order was issued for all men fourteen years old and older to come to the building of the local council. The old people were sent back to their homes, but others were taken to the railway station under heavy guard and locked in the house of the Fridman family and in the barns in the yard. Men from Nemoksht were also brought to this site. These men were forced to carry heavy loads on their backs from on place to another and then run back
from the start again. They were also forced to perform socalled gymnastics which was another kind of torture.
On July 24th, 1941 (29th of Tamuz, 5701) old men were taken out of the Beth Midrash where they were locked and led to the railway station. Among them was the elderly Rabbi Yehoshua HaCohen Kaplan who had difficulty walking at the requested speed and the guards pushed him. Frail old men from Nemoksht were also brought to this place. All were taken to a nearby pool, where they were ordered to undress and dip in. While in the pool their clothes were taken away, and naked, in groups of ten they were led to the prepared pit and shot. Every group was eyewitness to the murder of the previous one.
Women and children remaining in town were ordered to leave their homes and gather in the Beth Midrash and in the four houses nearby. For some time the young women would work different jobs, such as washing the floors in the police station and at the local councilor's home. On August 21st, the women began to sense that something bad was going to happen and some of them escaped the homes of Lithuanian peasants. A few managed to get to the Shavl ghetto.
On Friday, August 22nd, 1941 (29th of Av 5701) armed Lithuanians led all the women and children out of the Beth Midrash and on to the Jewish cemetery, where they shot them and buried them in a mass grave. According to the testimony of Lithuanian women who lived near the site, the women were forced to undress naked, and the children were thrown in the pit still alive.
According to the SovietLithuanian sources, near the railway station of Vidukle, about 100 meters right of the road, a mass grave was found with approximately 200 male corpses. Another mass grave was found near the Jewish cemetery with about 100 corpses of women and children.
At the beginning of the 1990s, monuments were built on the murder sites. At about the same time, a stone monument was built on the site of the Jewish cemetery with an inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: The old Jewish cemetery. Sacred is the memory of the deceased.
|The mass grave with the monument near the railway station of Vidukle|
|The monument next to the railway station with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian:
In this place in July 1941 the Hitlerist murderers and their local helpers murdered about 200 Jewish men.
In the Lithuanian language an inscription is added: Sacred be the memory of the innocent victims.
|The mass grave and the monument near the Jewish cemetery with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian:
In August 1941 in this place the Hitlerist murderers and their local helpers murdered about 100 Jewish women and children.
In Lithuanian it is added: Sacred be the memory of the innocent victims.
Yad Vashem archives, Jerusalem, M1/E1655/1939; M33/971; 03/2582 Koniukhovsky collection 071, files 42, 52, 53
Gotlib, Ohalei Shem, page 57
Di Yiddishe Shtime, Kovno, 25.4.1938
Fun Letsten Hurban (Yiddish) Munchen, # 10, December 1948
Naujienos, Chicago, 11.6.1949
The lists of the Vidukle donors for the settlement of Eretz Yisrael as published in HaMelitz
(From JewishGen Databases LithuaniaHaMelitzby Jeffrey Maynard)
|TELES||Zev ben Moshe||#27||1901|
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