“Panemunelis” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Panemunėlis, Lithuania)

55° 55' / 25° 29'

Translation of the “Panemunelis” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Josef Rosin

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 497-498)


Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Shaul Yannai

In Yiddish, Panemunek; in Russian, Ponemunok

A county town in the Rokiskis district.

Year General
Jews Percentage
1914 .. 200 ..
1923 383 102 27
1940 550 25

Panemunelis is located in northeastern Lithuania, 14 km southwest of Rokiskis, the district's city. Near Panemunelis there was a dense forest and the Nemunelis River flowed through it. Panemunelis originated at the end of the 19th century, as the railway line to Dvinsk was being constructed and a train station was built in the town. That was when merchants started to settle in the town and hold market days. During the period of Russian Rule (1795-1915), Panemunelis administratively belonged to the Vilnius province, and from 1843 and onwards, to the Kaunas province. During WWI (1915-1918), Panemunelis was under German occupation. During the period of Independent Lithuania (1918-1940), Panemunelis was the center of the county.

Jews settled in Panemunelis during the 19th century, when the train station was built in the town. They engaged in trading crops and fruits, which were transported by train to Dvinsk, Riga, Libau and other cities in Latvia.

At the beginning of the 20th century, a big fire broke out in Panemunelis, which nearly burned it down completely. However, the town was reconstructed after a short while. At that time, the town had approximately 200 Jews, most of whom were Hasidim. The Hasidim and the Mitnagdim had separate prayer houses.

At the beginning of WWI, Russian authorities expelled all of the town's Jews and their houses were burned down. After the war ended and Independent Lithuania was established, 22 families returned to the town. The economic conditions of the Jews deteriorated because the town had already become disconnected from Dvinsk and other places. As a result, they made their living from petty trade and peddling.

According to the 1931 Lithuanian government census, there were 8 shops in Panemunelis, 7 of which (87%) were owned by Jews. The division of the businesses according to branches is shown in the table below:

Branch or Type of Business Total Owned
by Jews
Restaurants and taverns 1 1
Food 1 1
Clothing, furs and textiles 2 2
Medicine and cosmetics 1 1
Tools and iron products 1 0
Wood and heating materials 1 1
Miscellaneous 1 1

Panemunelis had no Jewish artisans, apart from 2 butchers. A few well-to-do families provided the town's poor with matzah for Passover and from to time to time also some work for their livelihood.

During the period under discussion, nearly all of the town's Jews were Hasidim, who had their own Beth Midrash where they prayed according to the Sephardic tradition. The synagogue was made of simple wood; it's Holy Ark and pillar did not have any special ornamentations. Panemunelis did not have a Rabbi or a doctor. When need arose for a doctor or a Rabbie, the Jews would go to Rokiskis. The Jewish children studied in the local “Kheder”. Some of them attended the Lithuanian school and others studied at schools and Yeshivas in the surrounding areas. At one point, a female teacher was brought to the town, who taught the children Hebrew according to the Sephardic pronunciation, which was in complete contrast to the Ashkenazi pronunciation that was studied at the “Kheder”. The deceased were buried in the nearby town of Kamajai.

Among the natives of Panemunelis was Alter Espstein (1879-1959), a journalist and author, active in the “Bund”, who emigrated to the United States in 1908. He published dozens of articles and stories in Yiddish newspapers which appeared in New York.

The Jews in the town did not experience big changes during the summer of 1940, when Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union.

We have no information about the fate of the Jews of Panemunelis after the Germans conquered Lithuania in June, 1941. We can assume that they were transferred to Rokiskis, and their fate was similar to the fate of the Jews of Rokiskis (see Rokiskis).


Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, 0-4/37.
Bakaltshuk-Falin, M., Yizkor Book of Rakishok and Environs, Johannesburg, 1952, pp. 374-379.
Hamelitz [The Advocate] – (St. Petersburg), 24.12.1886, 8.3.1887.

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