(All photos were supplied by Joseph Woolf and Shelomoh Kurliandshik)
Shat (Seta) is situated in the center of Lithuania. A dirt road of about 17 km connected it with the district town Keidan (Kedainiai).
Shat is first mentioned on historical documents during the 17th century. Early in the 18th century it was burnt down during the Swedish invasion. In 1785 the town was granted permission by the ruling king to hold two fairs per year.
Until 1795 Shat was part of the PolishLithuanian Kingdom, when the third division of Poland by the three superpowers of those times Russia, Prussia and Austria caused Lithuania to become partly Russian and partly Prussian. The part of Lithuania which included Shat fell under czarist Russian rule, firstly as part of the Vilna province (Gubernia) and from 1843 part of the Kovno province. In the 19th century Shat developed at a very fast pace, holding large trade fairs and weekly markets. During this period there were approximately 40 stores, bars, wine distilleries, a factory preparing pelts, flour mills and a drugstore. Towards the end of the Russian rule and the period of Lithuanian independence (19181940), Shat was the center of the county in Keidan district. During the autumn of 1915, heavy battles took place between the armies of Germany and Russia in the vicinity of Shat and a fire caused heavy damage in the town. For a short period in 1919, it fell under Bolshevik rule.
Once again in the Second World War the town was burnt down by the Germans. In the years 19411944 Shat was under Nazi rule with all its atrocities and murders.
Jewish Settlement until after the First World War
The Jews first settled in Shat at about the middle of the 17th century. It is recorded that the Karaites settled there in 1664 and in the eighteenth century there was a blood libel against a Karaite resident. Shat was one of the few towns in Lithuania where the Karaites lived for many years.
For a number of years at the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Karaite rabbi Joseph ben Yitzhak had lived in Shat, and the last time the Karaite community was mentioned in historical documents was in 1709. In the years 167980 there was a blood libel against the Jewish community.
During the period of the autonomous Jewish Council of Lithuania (Va'ad Medinath Lita) (16231764) Shat was most of the time included in the Keidan Circuit.
Being far from a railway and from a highway it was difficult for Jews of Shat Jews to make a living. They were in trade and crafts and in transport as coachmen. In the nearby villages of Bukantz Bukonys (10 km away) and Truskava (15 km away) Jews were engaged in farming. In 1847 there were 802 Jews living in Shat.
|Kovno Street, on left the house of Kurliandshik family|
The town suffered frequently from devastating fires from time to time. In the years 1860 and 1878, 100 homes were burnt down, including the synagogue and Beit HaMidrash, and in 1892 again 115 homes were burnt down. The squire Montvila assisted those made homeless by the fires and in 186869 also assisted many in the years of drought and hunger. Every year he donated 25 rubles to the fund for Maoth Khitim which provided Matzoth for the poor during Pesakh. In 1876 he also built a new the house of the Hakhnasath Orkhim (Lodging for Travelers). In 1889 the new bath was erected.
In 1897, 1640 people lived in town, of them 1135 Jews (69%).
Numerous lists of Jewish residents of Shat, census, revision, candle taxes, box taxes, rabbi electors, etc., including one containing over 1,000 names in the latter half of the nineteenth century are to found in Lithuanian Archival Documents in the JewishGen web site (www.JewishGen.org).
Jewish children were depended on their learning at the Kheder, until 1898 when a Jewish school was established by the initiative of the Rabbi Yisrael Levin. He rented a large wide house and partitioned the rooms to provide a separate room for each class. He also hired experienced teachers of various subjects, including Hebrew and its grammar, the Bible, etc.
The large Beit HaMidrash and the Synagogue were the center of the religious life of the Jews of Shat.
For a list of the Rabbis who served in Shat see Appendix 1.
|Shat Synagogue 1937|
In 1900 the institution Linath HaTsedek (Righteous Lodging) was founded to assist the poor. The same year the Zionist Council was established by ElkhananYa'akov Ritenberg and Betsalel Meitkis the first chairman being Zundel Rubensohn. Of those who donated to assist settlement in Eretz Yisrael from the years 1900 to 1903, quite a number of names from Shat are recorded. The fundraisers were A.Y.Wittenberg, Betsalel Hirsch Meitkis and in 1903 a Kurliandshik.
The HaMeilitz database below lists 32 Shat donors in the years 18981900.
The reporters in HaMeilitz from Shat were Sh. Rabinovitz and Ya'akov Glik.
At the old Jewish cemetery in Jerusalem a tombstone of a Shater Jew exists: Duber son of Avraham Segal, died in 1871.
The Bund (the AntiZionist Workers Organization) was organized towards the end of the 19th century followed in 1903 by the Young Bund. On the first yahrzeit of the mourning for the pogrom at Kishenev, the members of the Young Bund climbed onto the bimah of the synagogue and prevented the cantor from intoning the prayer for the health of the Tzar.
The Period of Lithuanian Independence (19181940)
According to the autonomy law for minorities, issued by the new Lithuanian government, the minister for Jewish affairs Dr. Max Soloveitshik ordered elections to be held during the summer of 1919 for community committees (Va'ad Kehilah) in all towns of the state.
According to the regulations, in towns where the Jewish population counted less than 1,000 people, like in Shat, only the chairman of the committee and his deputy were elected. In 1922 the chairman was Ze'evWulf Yofeh, the deputy L.Grinblat and the secretary Hayim Katz. At the end of 1923 the chairman was Yosef Leib Kagan (see an example of the correspondence of the Committee below)
The committee, active till the end of 1925 when the autonomy was annulled, collected taxes as required by law and was in charge of all aspects of community life.
Standing from left: , Rachel Yankelevitz, Sarah Glass, Yokheved Ginsburg
Sitting from left: , Leah Isakovitz, Tsiporah Bernshtein, Sarah Bernshtein
According to the first census conducted in 1923 by the Lithuanian government, the population of Shat totaled 877 people and of them 440 (50%) were Jewish.
Standing from left: , Tsiporah Bernshtein
Sitting from left: Sarah Bernshtein, Yokheved Ginsburg, Sarah Glass, Leah Isakovitz
Top Row from left: fourthPesha Vulf, fifthDavid Riklis, sixthFeige Raizman
Second Row: thirdPesha Teper, fifthLeah (Koren) Rigler,
Third Row: firstMrs.Teper, fourthRachel Vulf, fifthOga (Katz) Vulf, sixthEli Vulf, seventhKhasiah (Koren) Nadel
Fourth Row sitting from left: Sheine Taube (Gordon) Vulf, Shemuel Vulf, Ya'akovHirsh Vulf, child sitting on his lapYosef Vulf, the bride Basa Vulf, the groom Shemuel Koren, Avraham Koren
Fifth Row sitting on ground: fourthRachel Riklis
During this period the Jews earned their livelihood from trade, crafts and transport. The weekly market was on Tuesdays and two fairs were held per year, both being important for the livelihood of the Jews of Shat. They would buy agricultural products from the peasants and transport them to Kovno, about 50 km away, where they sold them for higher prices.
According to the census of 1931 conducted by the Lithuanian government, of the 12 stores and other business enterprises of Shat, 9 of them (75%) were Jewish.
|Type of the Factory||Total||Owned
|Butchers and cattle dealers||2||0|
|Restaurants & inns||3||3|
|Furs, clothes & textile stores||4||4|
|Radio, electrical goods & sewing machines||1||1|
|Iron & steel, tools||1||1|
The same census listed factories for soft drinks, wool combing and felt, all Jewishowned. The two cousins Hirsh Yofe and YosefLeib Kagan owned a limekiln in the nearby village Pilkalnis.
In 1937 there were 37 Jewish craftsmen as follows: 8 tailors, 5 stove and fireplace builders, 3 glaziers, 3 carpenters, 3 blacksmiths, 2 bakers, 2 tinsmiths, 2 butchers, 1 feltboot manufacturer, 1 knitter, 1 shoemaker, 1 barber, 1 leatherworker, 1 shoe stitcher, 1 other. The Jewish Peoples Bank (Folksbank) played an important role in the economy of the town; in 1927 there were 129 depositors. Two years after that there were only 105.
In the mid 1930's the Jewish population decreased and the economic crisis which caused it was due to the boycott and pressures organized by the Lithuanian Merchants Association (Verslas). Those who left sought a livelihood in other places. A large portion of them emigrated to South Africa; some attempted to emigrate to the U.S.A. For many years a Shatter Association existed in South Africa and the one in New York was formed in 1909, officially still exists but is inactive.
In 1939 there were 13 telephones in Shat, 7 of them were owned by Jews.
30 Jewish children studied at the Kheder and 70 at the Hebrew elementary school belonging to the Tarbuth network. There was also a Jewish library which contained approximately 500 books in Hebrew and Yiddish but very few Jewish residents of Shat used them. There were very little cultural activities, no theater and no cinema, mainly because of the difficulty in reaching Shat, especially during periods of rain. There was no decent road and also no railway line. Electricity was nonexistent.
For some time a Jewish soccer team acted in town and a Jewish fire brigade.
Back Row: 1) Unknown, 2) Meishke Rodblatt, 3) Borke Milner, 4) ? Milner, 5) Ben Zion Ginsburg, 6) Jankele Greenblatt.
Second Row: 7) Abke ?**, 8) Chilke Bloch**, 9) Elke ?, 10) Unknown, 11) Unknown, 12) Jankele Rodblatt, 13) Leibke Milner.
Third Row: 14) Nochke Glick (medic), 15) Feivke Goldman, 16) Chaimke ?, 17) Leibke Kolanchick, 18) Motke Schneid, 19) Unknown from another shtetl, 20) Ziske Kolanchick, 21) Chilke Der Gleser, 22) Judke Katz, 23) Shmulik Kolanchick Kolanchick 24) Chonke ? (signaler).
bottom row: 25) Fievke (Der Smid) Aharon, 26) Mishke Glass*, 27) Meike Reis, 28) Hirshel Strauss (commander), 29) Jankele Bloch (deputy commander)*, 30) Saike Milner, 31) Leibke Woolf*.
The Beth Midrash
(Picture supplied by Ada Green)
|Drinks shop of GlassStrazh family at Keidan Road|
From left: Sarah Glass, Tuviyah Bernshtein, Leah Isakovitz, Yokheved Ginsburg, , Tsiporah Bernshtein, David Rotblat, Sarah Bernshtein, BenZion Ginsburg
Standing from left: Reizel, HanahElla (Glass) Straus, Hershel Straus, ShelomohItsik, Sarah (Glass) Isakson, Leah Glass
Sitting: RokhaShula (Shtrom) Glass, Orchik Glass
Of the Jews of Shat who participated in Zionist activities, most belonged to Zionist parties. In 1925 a branch of the Zionist Socialist Party consisting of 10 members was formed. Many activities were organized by the Grosmanists and there were a number of Zionist Youth Groups, amongst them BeneiAkiva and HaShomerHaTsair. The proportion of members of the various Zionist organizations was influenced by the voting patterns of the Zionist Congresses between the years 19291939. The following chart reflects this:
|Total Voters||Labor Party
Standing from left: Hayim Mankovitz, a Lithuanian, Shelomoh Kurliandshik, a Lithuanian, a German, Barukh Balatin, Aba Teper, Berl Blekher
Sitting from left: Henakh Riklis, Mikhael Yankelevitz, Manes Kurliandshik
The religious life of Shat was centered around the Synagogue, Beit HaMidrash and Kloiz (prayer room). Following the resignation in 1935 of the Rabbi Shelomoh Rabinovitz after 30 years' service to the community, the town was without a rabbi for some time until the election of Rabbi Elkhanan Vainer, who was the last rabbi of the Shat Jewish Community. Through all the years of the history of Shat, the Jewish Community always had a Shokhet (ritual slaughterer). The Gemiluth Khesed (charitable loan fund) was also important in the life of the Jewish community in providing interestfree loans to the needy. For a partial list of personalities born in Shat see Appendix 2.
Top row from left: Esther Garun, Pesia Vulf, , Feigale Raizman
Standing: Manes Kurliandshik, Avraham Garun
Standing from right: Zalman, Sonia
Second row sitting from right: Sarah Bernshtein Grinblat, her son Arik
Third row from right: Adv. Shimon Bernshtein
From left: Frumah Bernshtein, her daughter Masha.
From left: Rachel, YehudahLeib, Basa, Eli (in uniform of the Lithuanian army), .
The Second World War and After
In June 1940 Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union and became a Soviet Republic. Following new rules, the majority of the shops belonging to the Jews of Shat were nationalized and commissars were appointed to manage them. Also several Jewish houses whose area was more than 220 square meters were nationalized and their owners forced to vacate them. All the Zionist parties and youth organizations were disbanded and Hebrew educational institutions were closed. Some Jewish youth integrated into the new regime and became members of the Comyug (Communist Youth Organization).
In the Yiddish newspaper Shtraln (Rays) of the tenth of August 1940, a report was published by the Shater A. Garun about the festive meeting on the occasion of the integration of Lithuania into the family of the great USSR which took place in Shat on Sunday the fourth of August with the participation of about 3,000 people. There were songs and dances and among others M. Kurliandschik delivered a speech as the secretary of the local Comyug, Y. Grinblat in Yiddish on behalf of the peoples committee and Sh. Kurliandschik on behalf of the Comyug organization.
Supply of goods decreased and, as a result, prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore most of the brunt, and the standard of living dropped gradually. Many families remained without any income. In the middle of June
1941 Shimon Bernshtein and his wife were exiled to Siberia. After 30 years, in 1971 they returned to Vilna where, 2 years later, he passed away.
In 1940 there were about 250 Jews of the total population of 1450 in town.
It should be mentioned that despite all their hardships and poverty, the Jews of Shat never lost their sense of humor, their determination, and their togetherness.
When the German invasion began on Monday 23rd June 1941, local Lithuanians were already armed and on the rampage, and terror spread amongst the Jews. Their fear was great. The younger people tried to escape to the town of Vilkomir, but were intercepted by the armed Lithuanians who poured out of the forests, and brutally forced the young Jews to return to Shat.
On Tuesday morning 24th June, German tanks arrived from the direction of Keidan and were met by large forces of the Russian Army, resulting in a bitter battle. The Jews fled from their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs. Some of them congregated next to the Jewish cemetery, and some escaped to the estate of Aba Ziv, about 6 km from Shat. Others tried to find refuge with local farmers known to them. Only a score of people remained in the village itself.
The first act of the Germans was to round up Yehoshua Aharon Levi, a respected local Jew. They took him to the Synagogue and ordered him to tear the Torah scrolls. When he refused, they shot and killed him.
The Lithuanian activists, together with the Germans, then went from house to house and forcefully assembled the remaining Jews for hard labor. They were tortured and beaten cruelly. Those Jews who had found shelter amongst known local farmers were forced to leave.
Each day, some Jews returned to their village, but they were killed by the wild mobs.
Old people were dragged out of their homes, tortured and then passed on to the two village madmen, who paraded them through the village, and on to the neighboring village of Vilkalnai, where most of them were murdered.
On the 20th August, the remaining Jews were rounded up, put on trucks and taken to Keidan. At the same time, all those who had hidden on Aba Ziv's estate, including Aba Ziv himself, were also trucked to Keidan. Together with the Jews of Keidan and other villages of the area, (Zeimiai and others) they were held under terrible crowded conditions for thirteen days at the Zirginas, riding school stables.
Except for so called coffee they were not fed, the men being taken daily to various forced labor works.
Meanwhile Russian prisoners of war had dug a massive pit on the banks of the Smilga stream.
On the 28th of August they were taken to the pit. The first group of 60 old people were thrown mercilessly into it and fired upon by the Lithuanians with automatic weapons.
Of the next group of 60, some of the Jews of Keidan and Shat resisted, inflicted wounds on some of the murderers and fought until the end.
To avoid any further resistance, the next groups were reduced to 20 victims, for easier control. The last groups were mothers and their children. The mothers and older children were shot and the infants were used as balls by the Lithuanians, being thrown from one to the other and then thrown alive into the pit.
The Russian prisoners were made to throw lime over the bodies, many of them still moving. After the pit was covered, the ground heaved from the mass of victims still being alive. The Germans brought steamrollers to flatten the surface and subdue the victims.
Involved in this massacre were two Lithuanians from Shat (their names are held at the archives of Yad Vashem).
According to the Yaeger Report, a total of 2,076 persons were murdered there; however, the correct figure is bound to be more.
After the war, the few survivors of Keidan and Shat placed a Memorial Stone on the Communal Grave, inscribed in Yiddish, Russian and Lithuanian, which stated: Victims of the Fascist Terror.
In the 1990s the tablet was replaced by a new one with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: Here the Hitler murderers with their local helpers on August 28th, 1941 murdered 2076 Jews.
The monument on the mass grave in Keidan
From left: Yudel Ronder, Joseph Woolf
|The tablet on the monument with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian|
The Jewish cemetery was erased during the Nazi rule and the tombstones used by the Lithuanians for building purposes. [Ada Greenblatt's note: according to elderly Lithuanians currently living in Seta, the Jewish cemetery was erased during the Communist rule in 1949 and the tombstones used by the Russians for building purposes]. The photos below show the cemetery as photographed in 1937 and the empty site with the monument as photographed in the nineties.
|The Jewish cemetery in 1937|
The site of the Jewish cemetery in 1992 with a monument.
The inscription on it in Yiddish and Lithuanian says:
At this place till 1941 was the Jewish cemetery of Shat.
The survivors of Shat Jews were: Haim Burshtein, who managed to join the partisans in the forest near Keidan; the brothers Shelomoh and Manes Kurlandchik, Khaim Mankovitz, Avraham Garun and David Rotblat who escaped to Russia and fought the Nazis in the Lithuanian division of the Red Army. Kh. Mankovitz and Manes Kurliandschik fell in battle.
The following also survived: the sisters Mirah and Liuba Vidutsky, who had successfully escaped from the Kovno Ghetto and remained in hiding.
Leah Aizikovitz and Sarah Grinblat, having been sent to Stutthof concentration camp from Kovno.
Tuviyah Goldberg was another still alive when the Ghetto was emptied.
Fruma Bernshtein, Yehudith Kamod and Rachel Yankelevitz also emerged alive, having been in Russia during the war.
For the list of Shat Jews before World War II, as prepared by Shelomoh Kurliandschik, see Appendix 3.
YadVashem Archives: 03/2276; M33/989; M1/E1509/1415; 1700/1569.
Koniukhovsky Collection 071, File 40.
YIVO, New York, Lithuanian Jewish Communities Collection, File Keidan, pages 44179, 44200, 44201, 44247, 44248.
Shat. Its history and destruction, unpublished article by Shelomoh Kurliandschik.
HaMeilitz (St. Petersburg): 26.8.1887; 13.2.1888; 28.4.1897;12.7.1898; 21.1.1900; 1.8.1903 (Hebrew).
Folksblat, Kovno: 17.7.1935 (Yiddish).
Di Yiddishe Shtime (The Yiddish Voice) Kovno: 18.7.1933 (Yiddish).
Yiddisher Hantverker (Jewish Artisan) Kovno: Nr.3, 1938 (Yiddish).
First line kneeling from right: Sgt. Shelomoh Kurliandschik, Sgt. Hanan Levin, Corp. Zlate Miller, First Sgt. Reuven Levitan, Fania Ribak.
Standing from right: Lt. Yudl Bendet, First Sgt. Zelbovitz, Blekher, Segal, Nadel.
Three Shatter born young men, Sydney Levy (Gaddie), Hymie Schakhman and Joseph Woolf came with the 800 South African volunteers to participate in Israeli's War of Liberation 1948/49.
Partial list of the Rabbis who served in Shat
Eliyahu ben Yakov Ragoler (17941849) who served as rabbi in 1821 and who also established the large yeshiva of Slobodka in Kovno;
Naftali bar Ephraim;
MeirMikhel Rabinowitz (18301901) who served in Shat for 20 years, author of the book HaMeir L'Olam, published in Vilnius, 1903, on the logic system of studying the Torah;
Nahum Shapiro (18181902) prodigy of Rabbi Israel Salanter;
ZevWolf Avrekh (18451922) served in Shat in 1875;
Avraham Druskowitz (served Shat 18971902);
ShelomohDov Hacohen Shprintz served in Shat in the 1890's;
Shelomoh son of MeirMikhel Rabinovitz (served in Shat from 1903), died 15th July 1933 (15 Tamuz), age 63, as per entry in the metrical register of the Kedainiai Rabbinate, Central Metrical Archives, Vilnius;
Elhanan Wiener, the last Rabbi of Shat, murdered in 1941.
Partial list of Personalities Born in Shat
Rabbi Yehoshua Rabinovitz (18181887), son of Eliyahu Ragoler, from 1847 head of the yeshivah of Kletsk;
Rabbi MoshehYitzhak Rabin (18341902) who served for 40 years as the authorized rabbi of Ponevezh and for many years the principal of the famous Ponevezh Yeshiva;
BenZion Shater, head of a Yeshiva in Vilna during the 1880's;
Shemuel ben MeirMikhel Rabinovitz, Rabbi in U.S.A., published in Hatsefirah complex problems in geometry, died 16th September 1925 (27 Elul 5685).
MordehaiManes Monashevitz (18571927), an educator and author who founded a wellknown school in Liepaja, Latvia, which existed for 38 years. From 1919 in the U.S.A., where he became a school teacher and latterly in New York. From 1870, publisher of poems, essays, Hebrew educational books and plays;
MeirYitshak Goldberg (born 1871), Rabbi in Ostrova and Vitebsk;
Ephraim Kaplan (18791943) who emigrated to the U.S.A. in 1904, published articles on historical issues and edited Der Morgen Journal (The Morning Journal) in New York;
Yba Ziv, lived in the second half of the nineteenth century, writer of novels in Yiddish and also poems in Hebrew.
List of Shat Jews before World War II
|2||Kurliandschik||Khayim||Masha||Shelomoh, Manes, Hanahh|
|3||Milner||Shaye||Sore Etel||Pesia, Volf & grandmother|
|4||Garun||Avraham||||sister Esther and mother|
|7||Grinblat||Lipe||+||daughter and husband||tailor|
|9||Goldshmidt||Manes||KhasiBeile||Khaya, Keile Rivka, Libe, Tila, JakobMendel and 5 other children|
|10||Randman||Chone||Chiene||son Mikhael||from 1938 in USA|
|11||Vidutsky||Eli||Reizl||Miriam, Liuba, Hanahh, Avraham|
|14||Vulf||Yankel||SheinaTaube||Elke, Pesia, Shmuel|
|17||Kurlandshik||Shimon||Simche||Aizik, Base, Yente|
|21||Blekher||Berl, Yekhiel, EsterMalka, Yankel, Efrayim|
|23||3 brothers||grain merchants|
|28||Burshtein||Itsik||Roza||Khayim, Shimon, Zelda, Leah|
|29||HanahRachel||Aba, BathSheva, Pesia|
|35||Levin||Aharon||+||Reuven, Shmerl, Moshe|
|37||Land||Matle||Yitzkhak, Shmuel David|
|39||Yonah, David, 2 sisters|
|40||Bernshtein||Yeizel||Toibe||Tuvia, Shimon, Fruma, Tsipora, Sheva, Hanahh|
|41||Glass||Aharon||+||Rachel, Leah, Rivkah, Shelomoh, Barukh|
|42||Rotblat||David||brother Nathan, father and mother|
|44||Kidesh||Aba||father and mother|
|49||Sadinsky||Alter||Esther, Golda, father, mother|
> All together are in this list 195 names. Mr. Shelomoh Kurliandschik estimates that there were may be about 3040 more Jews in town he couldn't remember. Joe Woolf contends that there were even more. About 94% were murdered.
Notes added by Ada Greenblatt:
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