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Translation of the Marijampole chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita
Translation of the Marijampole chapter from
Written by Josef Rosin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1996
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem, 1996
Our sincere appreciation to Yad Vashem
Our appreciation to Sandy Zimmerman, who allowed us to publish
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.
the translations which were done by Shalom Bronstein for her private use.
Our appreciation to Sandy Zimmerman, who allowed us to publish
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.
JewishGen, Inc. makes no representations regarding the accuracy of
the translation. The reader may wish to refer to the original material
JewishGen is not responsible for inaccuracies or omissions in the original work and cannot rewrite or edit the text to correct inaccuracies and/or omissions.
Our mission is to produce a translation of the original work and we cannot verify the accuracy of statements or alter facts cited.
Translated by Shalom Bronstein
|Year||Total Population||Jews||Jews as percentage of Total Population|
Today's location of Marijampole was formerly an area of thick forests. In the second half of the 17th century, farmers began to settle in the area along the Sesupe River. Around the year 1736, they started to call their newly developing town, Starapole. Close by, another town began to develop and inn 1756 was given the name Marijampole. When the two towns merged, the name Marijampole was adopted. In 1795, it was included in Prussian territory. Between 1795-1807 it was ruled by the "Grand Duchy of Warsaw." In 1815, after Napoleon's defeat (whose withdrawing troops passed through the city), Marijampole was incorporated into Russia in Augustowa Province. In 1866, it was attached to Suvalk Province. From 1817, it was a District City. In wake of the cutting of the road from St. Petersburg to Warsaw in 1829, which passed in close proximity, Marijampole began to develop quickly.
A tremendous fire consumed many wooden homes in 1868. As a result, many houses were rebuilt of stone. The city's area was expanded, and its noted gardens, famous for their size and beauty, were laid out. During the period of independence, 1918-1940, Marijampole was a district city. The laying of the railroad in 1923 also contributed to its development. This track, which branched off from the Kovno-Kibret line, connected Marijampole to the national rail system. A large sugar beet factory also opened at this time. Many new houses were constructed, its population increased, and it became one of the loveliest cities in Lithuania. It was also an important cultural center, noted for its many gymnasia [high schools]. Before World War I there were three Russian gymnasia in the city.
The German army, which captured the city in 1941 and ruled until 1944, destroyed the city's center, the power station, and the sugar beet factory when it withdrew. From 1955 until 1990 the city was renamed Kapsukas. Upon freeing themselves from Soviet domination, the traditional name was restored.
In 1881 a volunteer fire brigade, most of whose members were Jews, was organized. Jewish children were educated in the traditional 'heder' where they were also taught some Russian. The basic instruction was in bible and some Talmud, and the children also acquired a good background in Hebrew. In the late 1890s, Marijampole had an 'improved heder' [heder m'tukan]. Its Hebrew language teacher, Yehiel Yehielczik, after settling in Eretz Yisrael was the principal of the girl's school in Neve Zedek [one of the early Tel Aviv neighborhoods]. At that time an 'improved yeshiva' [ yeshivah m'tukenet ] was also founded. In addition to Talmud and bible, Hebrew and literature were also taught. Two of the teachers, Hayim Joseph Luria and Hayim Ber Rosenbaum, later taught in Marijampole's Hebrew gymnasium. Some of the Jews in the community subscribed to the Hebrew press -- Haboker [This Morning], Haz'man [The Time], and the children's newspaper HaHaver [The Friend].
Because of the restrictions on the number of male students admitted to the Russian government's gymnasium for boys (limited to 10% of the total enrollment), this school had very few Jewish students. In contrast, there were no enrollment restrictions for Jewish girls in the two private gymnasia. Both had large Jewish enrollments, among them the author Devorah Baron. Through the study of the bible and the widespread knowledge of Hebrew, most of Marijampole's Jews were sympathetic to the Hibbat Zion Movement. As early as 1881, the local rabbi, R. Solomon Zalman Gordon, was among those who wrote an approbation for the book of Rabbi Nathan Friedlander, Yosef Hen, which dealt with the resettling of Eretz Yisrael and circulated widely in the diaspora. A year later, Rabbi Gordon published a detailed position paper on the Zionist movement in reaction to the attack on that organization by a group of rabbis known as "The Black Cabinet." In 1882 a group of Marijampole Jews joined the organization Yesud Ha-maleh, which had been formed in Suvalk to encourage the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael. For a number of reasons, one of which was rabbinic opposition to taking active measures until the coming of the Messiah, their efforts did not bear fruit. In 1884, 27 photographs of Moses Montifiore were sold in Marijampole. Their sale was organized to raise funds for the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael.
Gedaliah Gitlowitz from Marijampole was a delegate to the First Zionist Congress held in Basle in 1897. Rabbi Elijah Klatzkin represented Marijampole as a delegate at the regional Zionist Conference in Vilna in 1899. The scope of participation in Zionist activities is attested to by the sale of 100 shekalim between July 1, 1902 and July 1, 1903, the year of the Fifth Zionist Congress. The local Zionist organizations were called B'not Zion [Daughters of Zion], Tehiah [Rebirth], and Bar Kokhba. They were among the opponents of the so-called Uganda Plan. In 1905 under the leadership of Devorah Baron, a number of young people joined a Zionist group called Pirhei Zion [Buds of Zion/Young People of Zion]. Some time later the name was changed to Tikvat Zion [Hope of Zion] because of derision by youngsters affiliated with the [anti-Zionist, socialist] Bund who purposely mispronounced the first word of their name. This distortion rendered the meaning of their name "Scabies of Zion" and even in Yiddish slang of the time "Rats (human) of Zion." Abba Isaac Rosenfeld from Marijampole was the only delegate from Suvalk Province to the Conference of Zionist Organizations in 1909.
One hundred names of Jews from Marijampole appear on the list of contributors to the fund for the resettlement of Eretz Yisrael in 1909. In that year Rachel Solnik, later the wife of Judah Gorodelsky, one of the founders of Rehovot, made aliyah. Barukh Liebowitz, discussed later in this chapter, and later known as Dr. Barukh ben Yehudah, made aliyah in 1911.
The branch of the Bund that operated in Marijampole vigorously opposed Zionism and they disrupted Zionist activities at every opportunity. One such occasion led to the break-up and dispersal of the memorial meeting held in Marijampole's synagogue marking the end of the thirty day mourning period for Theodor Herzl in August 1904.
Community life centered around the three synagogues of the city: the Central Synagogue, the 'Hospitality for Wayfarers' Synagogue [Hakhnasat Orhim], and the Beit Midrash. The ceiling of the Central Synagogue was decorated with illustrations of a leopard, eagle, deer, and lion. The Holy Ark was noted for its beautiful wood carvings. Until 1870, the rabbi of Kalvarija also served as rabbi of Marijampole. The first rabbi to occupy the post was R. Hayim Perlmutter [Sharshover] who served from 1780-1820. He was the author of the book Elef Amar Kra [One Thousand Say Read], Horodno, 5565 . He was succeeded in Marijampole by his son-in-law R. Judah-Leib Charlap. Subsequent rabbis were R. Solomon Zalman Gordon (d. 1879); R. Jonathan Eliasberg (served 1879-1887); R. Azriel-Arieh Rakovsky (d. 1894); R. Elijah Klatzkin (served 1892-1910).
The mutual aid agencies that characterized the other Lithuanian Jewish communities of the time also functioned in Marijampole; Gemilat Hesed (Free Loan), Linat Zedek (Housing), Somekh Noflim (Supporters of the Fallen) from 1876, Bikur Holim (Visiting the ill) from 1892) - with a basic capital of 1600 rubles, a considerable sum in those days.
Marijampole was captured by the Germans from the Russians at the outbreak of World War I. They withdrew a short time later as the Russian army advanced. The local Jewish community was accused by the Russians of being sympathetic to the Germans. As punishment, on Sukkot 5675 (1915) the Russian General Reninkamph ordered the Jews, including the rabbi, to do road repair work.
Among its achievements, the Committee saw to it that the Jewish soldiers serving in the Lithuanian army and stationed in the area had a special kosher for Passover kitchen. They also provided the soldiers with a Passover Seder according to the highest standards of Jewish Law.
In 1920, elections were held for the newly established Sejm [Parliament]. The Jews presented a united list, which represented such divergent groups as the Zionists, Agudat Israel, and the People's Party. Rabbi Abraham Dov Popal, Marijampole's rabbi was among those elected. In municipal elections held in the 1920s, 10 Jews were elected to the 32 seat council. In 1931, 6 Jews were elected to a 15 member council. They were Leib Bialobalotski, Isaac Levin, Leon Stoklitzki, Berl Altschuler and Hayim Rutstein. In 1934, only 4 Jews were elected to the 15 seats; they were Attorney Stoklitzki, Isaac Levin, Israel Levin and Abba-Isaac Rosenthal. After the resignation of Rosenthal, Dr. Rosenfeld assumed his vacated seat. One of the Jewish [City Council] served as deputy-mayor.
Jews earned their livelihood through commerce, industry, skilled crafts, and agriculture. In a survey conducted by the government in 1931, there were 146 stores in Marijampole; 121 (83%) were owned by Jews. They were divided as follows [note - the first number is the total, the second number are those owned by Jews, and the third number is the percentage owned by Jews]: grocery stores - 6:6:100%; grain and flax - 13:14:93%; butchers and cattle dealers - 16:20:67%; food products - 9:9:100%; beverages - 1:1:100%; clothing, furs, and textiles - 16:17:94%; leather and shoes - 11:12:92%; tobacco and cigarettes - 1:1:100%; haberdashery and household items - 13:13:100%; medicines and cosmetics - 2:5:40%; watches and jewelry - 3:4:75%; radios, bicycles, electric appliances - 1:3:33%; tools and metal products - 8:10:80%; building supplies, lumber, and furniture - 4:4:100%; fuel and animal fodder - 3:3:100%; overland hauling and machinery - 1:3:33%; paper, books, and stationery supplies 1*:3:33%.
*The store's name was Moriah and was owned by a Jew named Pilvinsky. Later an additional bookstore opened by the name of Toshiya [wisdom](operated by Zaks).
According to the same survey, 26 of Marijampole's 54 factories were Jewish owned. Their breakdown follows: iron monger/locksmith, tin, and power stations - 1:6:17%; tombstones, glass, and bricks - 1:1:100%; chemicals, spirits, and soap - 2:4:50%; woodworking, picture frames, and furniture - 2:4:50%; paper manufacturing, printing, bookbinding - 1:5:20%; food production - 14:21:67%; clothing and shoes - 3:9:33%; others - 2:4:50%.
In the town's vicinity there were several farms either owned or leased by Jews. The following families supported themselves through agriculture -- Wittenberg, Shohat, London, Meklenberg, Goldberg, and Tz. Levin. A Zionist Hakhshara [farm where potential olim to Israel received agricultural training and experience] operated on the Skarisky Brothers farm "Ungarina." Other [Jewish] farming families in the area were Dobzhinsky, Beilis, Berkman, Planitzki and Dombner.
There were numerous Jewish artisans in Marijampole - carpenters, locksmiths, tailors, seamstresses and others. They belonged to the Organization of Artisans which in 1937/38 had 100 members; 22 tailors, 10 shoemakers, 9 bakers, 8 butchers, 7 hatmakers, 7 sewers [males - a category separate from tailors], 6 carpenters, 5 barbers, 4 photographers, 3 tinsmiths, 3 electricians, 3 watchmakers, 2 painters, 2 seamstresses, a glazier, a blacksmith and a silver/goldsmith and one other. This organization maintained a free loan association and was represented among the religious organizations, the municipality, and in the Ezra organization, where it had 4 representatives. An important factor in the economic life of Marijampole was the Jewish People's Bank (Folksbank). It had 525 members in 1927 and some 500 members in 1935. There was also a local branch of the United Credit Organization for Jewish Farmers. In the mid 1930s, the economic situation of Marijampole's Jews began to deteriorate. One of contributing factors was propaganda emanating from the Lithuanian Merchants Organization ( Verslas ) that urged people not to buy from Jews. To further this aim, they organized consumer co-operatives to compete with Jews. In 1939, there were even physical assaults against Jews. During these years, many of Marijampole's Jewish youth emigrated overseas and to the Land of Israel.
According to the official telephone book of 1939, of Marijampole's 297 telephone subscribers, 85 (29%) were Jews.
Marijampole boasted of several Hebrew and Yiddish libraries: the high school [gymnasium]; the Tz's Club [Zionist political party], and the Syrkin Organization. The largest was that of the Liebhaber fun Wissen [Lover's of Knowledge]. That library had over 4,000 volumes in Yiddish in addition to book in both Lithuanian and Russian and a special collection in the area of science. The Tarbut organization conducted evening classes for adults in both Hebrew and in Yiddish. In 1922 it had 50 participants. A drama circle in Marijampole produced Hebrew and Yiddish performances from time to time. The Kovno Yiddish Theater would also mount productions on occasion. The town's two movie theaters added to the town's cultural life. When German refugees arrived in 1934, an agricultural school was opened for their training at the Ungarina farm. Later the ORT offered professional courses for refugees from Germany and Czechoslovakia.
|Congress||Year||Shekels Sold||Votes Cast||Eretz Yisrael Workers|
[The list continues in the same order of Congress and includes the remaining parties listed on the chart in the text]
|Revisionists||List A||List B||Statists||Mizrahi|
There was also a WIZO branch in Marijampole headed by Mrs. Medaliah, which had 138 members in 1938. Among the Zionist youth movements active in the town were Hashomer Hatzair, Betar, Gordonia and Hehalutz. As early as 1919, the Ahva [Fraternity] group of Hehalutz left for on site agricultural training and then settled in Eretz Yisrael. Many former members of these local pioneering groups now make their homes on various kibbutzim in Israel. Hehalutz operated an urban kibbutz in Marijampole in 1934. In 1940, Hashomer Hatzair started a preparatory farm training program on the Michalina (cf.) estate of the Levin family near Marijampole for refugees from Poland. It was short-lived [because of political developments at that time].
Athletic activity was centered in the Maccabi and Young Maccabi branches, which had 125 registered members. The club had a soccer team with its own field as well as gymnastic and light athletic teams. Other sports clubs were Y.A.K. [of the Yiddishists], Hapoel and Hakoah. Youth teams from Marijampole participated in the first and second Maccabiad Games in Tel Aviv in 1932 and 1935. A number of the participants remained in Eretz Yisrael.
When the government disbanded the Jewish Community Council in the mid 1920's, welfare activities were transferred to the Ezra Organization. Together with the Adat Israel Organization, they aided the poor, collected funds for Maot Hitim [Passover needs for the poor], for the old age home, and took care of special cases of need as they arose. The Marijampole Organization [of former residents] in America would sent an annual contribution of $200 for the Maot Hitim fund and from time to time would send cartons of used clothing to be distributed among the town's needy. The 'AHZEH' organization, which ran a children's infirmary and a dental clinic, concentrated it efforts in raising health awareness and the standard of health of the Jewish school children. Frail children and those from families of little means were sent at the organization's expense to summer camps. The Gemilat Hesed society helped the needy by providing interest free loans. In addition, welfare agencies such as Bikur Holim [care for the ill], Linat Tzedek [housing], the Hevra Kadisha [burial society] and others continued to offer their services.
Among the notable native sons of Marijampole were the poet Alter Abelson, who was later a rabbi and preacher in Brooklyn; Samuel Zvi Paltin (1831-1897) who for 31 years published the Polish periodical Israelita ; Moses ben Jacob Goldstein, who translated the Passover haggadah and all the holiday prayerbooks into Russian; the author Abraham Abba Rakovsky; the journalist Abraham Frank; the Zionist activists Alexander Goldstein and Abba Isaac Rosenthal (1875-1948); Moses David Hyman who established the first cement factory in Marijampole; Professor Joshua Bronstein and his brother Professor Abraham Bronstein; the educator Dr. Barukh ben Yehuda [Liebowitz](1894-1990) who served as the head of the Education Committee of the Va'ad Leumi [pre-state Jewish governing body in Eretz Yisrael], was the first Director of Israel's Office of Education and Culture, principal of the Gymnasium Herzlia [Tel Aviv's first High School] and who was awarded the Israel Prize for Education (5739/1979); Dr. Eliyahu Segal (1891-1963), Lithuania's first sports physician, who was active in the Maccabi sports organization and who published numerous articles on health in the Israeli press; the artist Arieh Leib Margoshlaski (1914-1982), the founder of the Academy of Drawing in Tel Aviv; Israel Biederman (Izis), master photographer and author, and the artist Moses Rosentalis (b. 1922).
The new regime nationalized all of the factories and most of the stores, many of which were owned by Jews. All of the Zionist parties and their attendant youth movements were disbanded and some of the people who were most actively involved were arrested. Hebrew language educational institutions were closed. The resupply of commercial products was limited and prices sky rocketed. The middle class, who was mostly Jewish, was severely affected and the standard of living deteriorated. Some of the families who had formerly owned factories were expelled to the Russian interior.
On Sunday, June 22, 1941, German airplanes bombed Marijampole at dawn and destroyed the center of the city. Some 20 civilians, most of them Jews, were killed. Those made homeless in the bombing found shelter with other Jewish families. The German army entered Marijampole on the following day, June 23, 1941, after they had surrounded the city and blocked the roads leading eastward. Most of the Jews who fled the city were forced to return. Many were murdered by Lithuanians who ambushed the returning Jews. Very few did succeed in fleeing to the Soviet Union. Even during the first days of occupation many Jews were arrested on various and sundry charges. All those arrested were subsequently murdered in a forest 4 kilometers from the city in the direction of Vilkovoshok (cf)[Vilkaviskis]. Every morning Jews were required to leave on various work details; the men in clearing bomb damage and the women in farm work and domestic service. The elderly, including the town's rabbi, R. Heller, were occasionally required to sweep the local streets. Some of the Jewish youth who actively opposed the Germans and their Lithuanian helpers were murdered and some were hanged at the market square.
On July 15, 1941, the Lithuanian regional governor issued an order that prohibited Jews from being found on certain streets, at the local bathing areas, city parks, coffee houses and restaurants, libraries, and other public places. They were forbidden from purchasing food from street vendors, markets, or on the road, but were restricted to stores at fixed hours, which were set by the governor. They were not permitted to make use of services offered by non-Jews and they were required to wear yellow stars on both the front and back of their clothing. One day a group of Jews was brought to the courtyard of the synagogues and were forced to remove the Torah scrolls from the arks and all the other sacred texts from the shelves, gather them into a pile, and set them on fire. That same month an order was issued that required the Jews to abandon their homes and gather in the synagogues and some adjacent houses. In this packed area, it was easier for the Germans to rob the Jews, take them for forced labor, and abuse the young women at night. The Germans would occasionally choose strong young men for forced labor and then murder them on the city's outskirts.
In August, the Germans forced the Jewish youth to dig trenches behind the barracks along the Sesupe River. They knew that these trenches were meant for the Jews. When they told their parents, there were strenuous efforts made to prevent [their mass murder] but to no avail. At the end of the month Jewish communal workers were summoned to the Lithuanian governor who informed them that a large ghetto would soon be established in the cavalry barracks and that all the surrounding area was to be turned over to the Jews. To further mislead them, they were told by the Germans that as long as the war continued, they would be permitted to control the economic and social aspects of their lives [in the ghetto]. The Jews packed their belongings and in a long procession made their way in the direction of the barracks. When they arrived, the men were separated from their families and squeezed into the stables. The following days the men were subject to severe mistreatment that the Germans referred to as 'sporting activities.' Jews from Kazlova-Roda (cf) [Kazlu-Ruda], Ludvinova (cf) [Liudvinavas], and other surrounding localities were also brought to the barracks. On August 30 they were joined by the Jews of Kalvarija. On Monday, 9 Elul, 5701 (September 1, 1941), the Jews of Marijampole were among the 7,000 to 8,000 Jews and 1,000 members of other nations who were murdered in the valley next to the Suspe River. They were all buried in the eight trenches previously dug. Each trench was 70 meters long and 3 meters wide. The mass executions continued from 10 o'clock in the morning until 4 o'clock in the afternoon. The majority of the murderers were Lithuanians and among them were many high school and university students. The men, stripped completely naked, were brought to the trenches in groups of between 100 and 200. They were forced to lie in rows and were shot from above by machine guns. When the turn of the women and children came, chaos reigned. The drunken murderers pushed their victims into the pits and smashed the skulls of the children with clubs and spades. Eyewitnesses among the Lithuanian workers who were brought the following day to cover the trenches said that the earth there continued to move for days. Two Jewish families committed suicide -- Dr. David Rosenfeld poisoned himself, his wife and his daughter. Cantor Lansky did likewise with his wife and three children.
After the war the remnants of Marijampole's Jews erected a monument over the mass grave. In 1992 a new monument was put in place and inscribed in Yiddish and Lithuanian: "At this place the blood of some 8,000 Jews, men, women, and children, as well as an additional 1,000 members of various nations was brutally spilled by the Nazi murderers and their local helpers in September 1941." In the same year a memorial tablet was placed in the Shonsk forest in the vicinity of Marijampole with the inscription in Yiddish and Lithuanian: "At this place the blood of 200 Jews, men, women, and children, was spilled -- cruelly murdered by the Nazis and their helpers in the year 1941. May the memory of these martyrs live forever." In the same area an additional monument was erected stating in Yiddish and Lithuanian: "At this place the Hitlerites and their local helpers murdered Jews of Marijampole in July 1941." A memorial plaque in memory of the Marijampole Jewish community was also placed in the Chamber of the Holocaust on Mt. Zion in Jerusalem. In 1992 a plaque was placed where the Jewish cemetery, of which nothing remains, was once located. Its inscription in Hebrew, Yiddish, and Lithuanian indicates that this area once contained the Marijampole Jewish cemetery.
for Sandy Zimmerman from the original Hebrew by Shalom Bronstein, Jerusalem]
Das Nieh Vort [The New Word], Kovno; 2-1934.[Yiddish]
Das Vort [The Word] - Kovno; 1-1934, 3-1939. [Yiddish]
Der Yiddisher Kooperator - Kovno; 1922, no. 2 & 3. [Yiddish]
Di Yiddishe Shtime [The Jewish Voice] - Kovno; 1-1919, 1-1923, 2-1928; 3-1929, 3-1930, 3-1931, 3-1932, 1-1933, 2-1937, 1-1938, 5-1939. [Yiddish]
Folksblatt [The People's Newspaper] - Kovno; 1-1934, 4-1935, 1-1936, 3-1937, 5-1939. [Yiddish]
Hamelitz [The Advocate] - St. Petersburg; 1-1879, 2-1880, 2-1881, 1884, 1-1886, 2-1893. [Hebrew]
Mishmar [The Guard] - Tel Aviv; 18.2.1945 [Hebrew]
Neyis [News] - Kovno; 22.8.1921 [Yiddish]
Unzer Veg [Our Path] - Kovno; 2-1924, 1-1925, 2-1926, 1-1929.
Yiddisher Handverker [The Jewish Artisan] - Kovno; 1-1938. [Yiddish]
Facts & Opinions, "Details on the Destruction of Lithuania," New
York, 1942, no. 2 - pg. 5, no. 6 - pg. 14, no. 7 - pg. 3. [Yiddish]
In the Paths of Education, Kovno; May 1939, May 1940. [Hebrew]
[The printed bibliography contains the full date for each newspaper and periodical reference. In most cases I have supplied only the number of references per year]
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