“Akmian” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Akmenė, Lithuania)

55°31' / 24°03'

Translation of the “Akmian” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Dov Levin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1996



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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Lita: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Lithuania,
Editor: Prof. Dov Levin, Assistant Editor: Josef Rosin, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.

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(Pages 155-156)

Akmenė (Lith.)

Akmian (Yiddish)

Okmyany (Russian)

A town in the Mazhaik district

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by

1847 667 
1921 150 
1940 100** 

*In all the region
**30 families

Akmenė is located in the north-west of Lithuania, in the Zhamot strip, on the banks of the Dbinkinė River, leading to the Venta River. The town was established in the first half of the 16th century. In the 17th century it was the center of the region. After it was totally burnt in the Northern War (1705), Akmenė received permission to hold four yearly fairs. In 1792 Akmenė received Magdeburg Rights.[1]

By 1859 there were already 62 courts-houses. In the period of the revolt against the Russian government in 1863, the town was under the rule of the revolters. The development of Akmenė ceased as a result of the laying of the iron rails, in 1873, from the south in Ukraine to Libau in Corland. Akmenė continued to be the capital town also in the period of the Lithuanian independence (1918-1940) and also during the Soviet regime (1940-1941).

Jewish Settlement until World War Two

The beginning of the Jewish settlement in Akmenė was, apparently, in the middle of the 18th century. The Jews of the town supported themselves mainly by peddling in the neighboring towns and by crafts. A small number supported themselves by agriculture. In the first half of the 19th century, Jews were about two-thirds of the population. In the village of Alkishok, which is in the area of Akmenė, there exists until today a Jewish cemetery in the south-west corner of the town cemetery. In 1893, a fire broke out in Akmenė which caused great damage to the property of the Jews. According to the notice which was published in amelitz the local Rabbi, Rav Aharon Eliyahu Kahane wrote, “A fire broke out in the middle of the town and its environs and more than forty houses, many buildings and stores were destroyed and sixty Jewish families were left destitute.” People abroad who were from the town were asked to send donations to help rehabilitate the families who suffered from the fire. At the same time the Jews were approximately one-third of the general population. Many of them emigrated and this continued until World War One. Many of the Jews from Akmenė who were expelled in 1915 to central Russia never returned.

With the declaration on giving the Jews autonomy in independent Lithuania, a community council consisting of five people was elected in Akmenė: 3 from the “Achdut” list (Agudat Yisrael), 1 from the General Zionists and one from the Workers list. For a number of years the council took care of most of the activities of the Jews of the town.

The emigration of the Jews from the town continued in the period of Lithuanian independence, mainly because of the difficult economic conditions. According to a survey taken by the Lithuanian government in 1931 there were 14 stores in Akmenė of which 11 were owned by Jews (79%): 4 textile stores, 3 butchers, a grocery store, a grains store, a shoe store and a store for repairing sewing machines. In Akmenė there was also a flour mill owned by Jews. In 1937 in Akmenė there were 7 Jewish craftsmen, a baker, a carpenter, a tinsmith, a butcher, a watchmaker and 2 others. In 1925 in the town there was a Jewish woman doctor (Rebecca Gurvitz).

Many were helped by loans they received from the Jewish folk bank (Folksbank) which had a branch in Akmenė. In 1927 the branch had 94 clients and in 1929 there were 108 and it was considered one of the smaller branches .in Lithuania. Client loans that year added up to 45,000 Lit (approximately $4,500). In 1939, there were 36 telephone subscribers, 6 of them were Jews.

Despite the constant decrease in the number of members of the Jewish community the activities of the major organizations and institutions continued, such as the synagogue, the “Yavne” School network and others. The local rabbi was Rabbi Nachum-Mordechai, son of Rabbi Yehuda LeibWerebovski, who from1907 served as the Rabbi of Akmenė. He was also the last rabbi of the Jewish community and was murdered by the Lithuanians. Many of the Jews of Akmenė were members of the Zionist camp. Witness to this is the participation of Jewish voters in Akmenė in the elections to the first Seim in 1922. The Zionist list received 66 votes, the religious list “Achdut” 31 and the Democratic list 1 vote. Distributions of the votes to the 18th and 19th Zionist Congresses are presented in the table below:

Congress no.YearTotal “ShkalimTotal votesWorking Eretz YisraelRevisionistsGeneral ZionistsPoliticalsMizrachi
S.Z.Z.Z. A  B 

The Zionist youth movements in active in Akmenė were Hashomer Hatzair and Betar.

In this period relations between Jews and their Lithuanian neighbors were generally proper. But in the second half of the 30s thing began to change for the worst. In March 1939 Lithuanians attacked a group of Jews. The Jews demonstrated opposition and drove off the attackers.

During World War II and Afterwards

Great changes occurred in the condition of the Jews during the Soviet regime in 1940-1941, and especially on the economic and social political levels. Among others, Zionist activities of any type were forbidden.

In the end of June 1941, a short time after the German invasion of the Soviet Union, nationalistic Lithuanians organized in Akmenė and arrested all Jewish men. In cooperation with the few Germans that came to Akmenė, the Lithuanians shot and killed a Jew named Shmit who, in the past, owned a fabric store, and Yosef and Feibush Yoselevitz. On August 4, 1941 all the remaining prisoners were transferred to three silos on the bank of the river Venta, near Mazhaik[2]. The men were taken immediately to dig pits and the women were attached to the Jewish women who had been imprisoned in Mazhaik prior to all of this. All of them were murdered together with the Jews of Mazhaik and the surroundings on August 9, 1941 (Shabbat, Av 16, 5701).

A few years after the war the place where they were murdered was fenced in and a black marble monument was set up. After the war some Jews settled in the village. In 1979 there were 3 Jews there. By 1989 not a single Jew remained.

Translator's Footnotes:

  1. The Magdeburg Rights were granted by the nobility to Jews and a few other minorities for commerce, trade and money-lending. Return
  2. Maxhaik is the Yiddish name for the town. The current Lithuanian name of the town is Mazeikiai. Return

Mass grave at Mazhaik

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