[Hebrew page 5, Yiddish page 49]
Translated by Rachel Mines
Edited by Haya Newman and Aviva Tirosh
Funded by a research grant from Langara College, Vancouver Canada
With reverence and trembling in our hearts, we have attempted to immortalize the name of our birthplace Shkud, which was destroyed in the second, bloody, and for us, also tragic, world war. Very few of us, sadly, survived, but the consciences of some of us decreed that we must turn to the work of publishing this memorial book with the little strength that we possess. And we have done so. We have succeeded in our sacred mission, in the memorialization of the martyrs of our little town fathers and mothers, children, brothers and sisters, relatives and good friends who were murdered in the bloodbath which the Nazis and the Lithuanians together perpetrated in the year 1941.
The wave of great misfortune that befell our town also brought with it the deaths of all local cultural leaders and ordinary leading citizens alike, and their bitter fate determined that we must be the memory-keepers for all the fallen ones.
With small courage we have proceeded to the holy task, and very few sources remained from which we could draw the needed material. Also, the needed financial resources were not enough. But we have ventured, and the picture of our destroyed Shkud stands before us as if it were alive. This book is primarily meant for the new generation of our children. For those who were born in Shkud, this is still a book of memories. We will find here few surprises. It will only remind us of our memories of the town that once suffered, and how tragically it ended. Yes, fearful is the word once, and great is the wound, which has not yet healed. We have turned back to an era which is soaked with blood and cruelty
We have set down these memories so that our shtetl will not be lost from history. The new generation should read and understand what kind of a beautiful,
cultural, and material life their parents led in Shkud, the kindness and gentility that reigned amongst the Jews of Shkud. The spiritual leaders and the personalities which our Shkud contained should be immortalized: what Shkud has done for Zionism and the building of Eretz Israel (thanks to that, there are a good number of Shkud Jews in the land of Israel).
May the memory of our Shkud Jews who have been murdered be engraved in our hearts, and may this book be the eternal memorial to the fallen.
For this opportunity, we express our thanks to Mr. Michel Natanson (in Israel), who helped us set down many of our memories, and Mr. Moshe Ben Efraim Ben-Tzion Urdang (in America), who made it financially possible for us to publish this book.
Translated by Rachel Mines
Edited by Haya Newman and Aviva Tirosh
Funded by a research grant from Langara College, Vancouver Canada
The shtetl Shkud lies between two rivers, Bartuva and Luoba, and is near the German-Latvian border. A bridge over the Bartuva joined the Old Town and the New Town. Jews settled in the Old Town in the 17th century. The New Town was built at the end of the 18th century. Near Shkud were Dorbian, Kretingen, Memel, Maisad, Salant, Bershtitz, Yelok, and others. The Old Town consisted of one long, wide street, which was called the Jewish Street, because in the New Town lived, aside from Jews, also Lithuanians, Germans, and Latvians. The centre of the New Town was the marketplace with two rows of shops. From the marketplace ran streets and alleys. Each Monday and Thursday, market-days took place, to which Lithuanians from surrounding villages used to bring their home-grown products to sell. The Shkud Jews were lucky when a fair passed in peace, without fighting and blows from drunken peasants.
In the time of Russian rule up until the first World War, all Jewish legal matters, both spiritual and secular, were organized by twelve elected people (The Twelve). They often had to go to Telzsh to prevent harmful edicts against the Jewish population. After the war, the entire Jewish town leadership was given into the hands of the Community Committee. The first chairman was Mendel Chatskels. The Community Committee existed until 1926. In that time, the Ezra [Help] Society was established, which ran all the town's concerns until the town's destruction. Among the duties of Ezra were to oversee the slaughtering in the slaughterhouse; to pay the teacher of the folk-school; to provide loans for needy inhabitants, and so on. The first chairman of Ezra was Michal Fogelman, and later, Meir Henoch Bloch. In the social sphere, G'Milut Chessed [Acts of Loving Kindness], Linat HaTzedek [Housing the Homeless] Bikur Cholim [Visiting the Sick], Me'ut Ch'sin [distribution of money for matzos at Pesakh], L'Chem Enaim [Bread for the Poor], and Hakhnasat Kala [Weddings for Poor Brides] were active. Old and young people took part in these activities.
Financial and Industrial Institutions
A great benefit to the economic development of Shkud was the Jewish Folksbank. The founders of the bank were Michal Fogelman, Eliyahu Tanur, Ephraim Bentzion Urdang, and Mendel Chatzkels. The last managers were Meir Henoch Bloch and Motel Fogelman. Before the First World War, Shkud had business relations with Riga and Libau. There was no border between Lithuania and Latvia. Lithuania sent agricultural products and meat, and imported textiles and foreign merchandise. Transportation was by horse and wagon until the Memel-Libau railway line was built through Shkud. After the border between Lithuania and Latvia was closed, business relationships ended. The connection between Memel and Lithuania radically changed. Then the merchants began to bring goods from Memel, and also from Kovno. Lithuanians saw that business was concentrated in Jewish hands, and so, with the government's help, they opened co-operatives. In 1929, a central cooperative opened in Shkud called Bendrova-Krautuvès, which completely conspired against the existence of the Shkud merchants. The government supported the cooperative financially, and competition became severe.
Especially important to Shkud was the shoe industry, with the following shoe factories: Yitzhak Cohen, Michal Mines, Hirsh Gilder, Shlomo Peres, Yehuda Berman and Bernstein (in the New Town); and [Gedalia] Abramovic, Moshe Yankelovitz, and Moshe Leib Grinblatt (in the Old Town). A large number of youth worked in these factories. Shoes were sold over all Lithuania and especially in Memel. Raw materials were provided by the tanneries Shpitz, Hochman, Turuk, Kopelovitsch, and Grinblatt. In the Old Town were Mordechai Khoiker's tannery and weaving factory. Also in the New Town were the two dyeing factories of Breina Montriski and Yehuda Chatzkin.
In the nail and chain factory of the Fogelman brothers, 20 people were employed; in the candy factory of Isaac Hovsha 20 female workers; and in Kastelansky's sock-factory 30 women. Besides them were various hand workers, like the bricklayer Joseph Glickman and the printing company of David Davidov.
Some Jews made a living by transporting goods from the railway station to the merchants. Especially important was the stagecoach of Bere Segal (the Prekulie-Traveller), which had the concession to transport merchandise to and from the train, and to carry people to the train. After some time, Bere Segal and his son Ephraim Segal replaced their stagecoach with a large bus.
About six families were involved with agriculture.
In Shkud were two Jewish doctors and two Jewish pharmacists. In the customs house at the Latvian border two brothers, Michal and Isser Yudelman worked as specialists. Other government institutions did not employ Jews. In the time of the First World War, the Germans built two grain silos, which were in later years used as halls for dances and theatre. In the Old Town near the bridge was a water mill, and its dynamos delivered electricity to factories for light and power. The owner was a German, Ellert. After the big fire, the mill was taken over by General Plechavicius, who received it as a reward for his successful putsch in 1927. At that time, the Social Democratic government headed by President Grinius was overthrown.
The National Funds and Organizations
The Jewish National Fund busied itself with conducting various activities such as all the jobs which the central office in Kovno assigned. Especially active were Yisrael Shaf, Doctor Yoselevitz, and David Davidov. Also Keren HaYessod [the Basic Fund] occupied an important place.
Besides these two funds, the youth organization took part in the Treasury of Workers in Eretz Israel.
The first youth organization in Shkud under the name Ha'noar, was founded in 1922 by Shlomo London, Mendel Baskind, and Ephraim Tsizling. The parties which at that time already existed, sought to attract the youth, and because of that Ha'noar split up and formed Hashomer-Hatzair [the Young Guard] under the leadership of Yakov Alexander Pinta (now in Israel), and Gordonia with the help of Merkaz [Centre], headed by Tzvi Rosenzweig.
The youth used to dedicate Sabbaths to cultural and Zionistic
meetings. Members of these organizations are today in Israel and also in kibbutzim. Later the movements Ha'chalutz Hatzair [Young Pioneer], Dror [Freedom], and Betar were founded. Among the movements we must remember Young Zion and Histadrut under the leadership of Yaakov Moshe Yankelovitz, Benjamin Tsizling, Moshe Urdang, and Leah Zundelevitz Weinberg. In the Social Zionistic World Association a great part of the youth were organized under the spiritual leadership of the teacher Moshe Heschel Cohen.
Ha'Oved [The Worker] was the organization for the artisans. The Mizrachi occupied a respected place under the leadership of Chaim Aharon Hovsha and Isaac Hovsha. The well-to-do and the merchants organized themselves into the General Zionists, headed by Davidov. Also active was the women's organization Wizo headed by Alte Shafkind. All the parties and organizations took part in conducting activities to raise money for Eretz Israel. In 1933, an urban kibbutz (Ha'Kibbutz Ha'Ironi) was established near Zelikovitz's agricultural farm. Youth from the nearby towns received their preparatory training before making aliya to Eretz Israel in this very kibbutz. The cohort worked at the hardest labour, and they showed that Jews were just as capable of work as the Gentiles. The kibbutz had 25 members.
The sports organizations Maccabi and Hapoel brought life to the town. Maccabi was founded in 1924 under the leadership of Hirsh (Ikle) Ben Yosef Shaf, who, sadly, died young. After a number of members emigrated to Africa, Maccabi was dissolved. In 1933, Hapoel was founded. The football team was very strong and locally famous. At Lithuanian national celebrations, Hapoel distinguished themselves in their matching uniforms.
The synagogue in the Old Town was famous in the whole neighbourhood with its Holy Ark, which was artistically carved of wood and 15 metres tall. In the synagogue, people prayed from Passover until the Days of Awe, but on account of its height, it was impossible to heat, and in winter people used to pray in a nearby prayer-house. A large number of the well-to-do from the New Town also had places in
this synagogue. On the second day of holidays, the cantor would pray in this synagogue. The Libau community sent a delegation to conduct negotiations to buy the Holy Ark, but the Shkud Jews would not consent to this, and the Holy Ark remained until the destruction of the town.
In the New Town was a synagogue and two study-houses. In one study-house, people used to learn Torah and Mishna all week with the participation of Rabbi Terushkin. In the evening, the Gemara Society would read their daily page with the participation of Bera Zusya Peres and Yaakov Kaplansky.
The cemetery was situated at the end of the Old Town. At the head of the Burial Society were Aharon Bloch, Leib Baskind, Yaakov Segal, Hirsch Reichkind, and Yisrael Yudelman.
In 1910, with the help of the Twelve, a four-year Russian elementary school was established. The Shkud youth, and also those from the neighbourhood, studied in this school. After school, the boys studied in the cheders of Aharon Nachum Grinberg, Aharon Shereshevski (the Drubianer Melamed), Moshe Vainberg, Girzon [no first name given], Chaim Aharon Hovsha, and Yisrael Shaf. In these cheders, the boys studied Chumash and Rashi until late in the evening, and the children used to walk home with lanterns in their hands. During the First World War, when the Germans occupied Shkud, the same building, near the Russian Orthodox Church, was converted to a German school under the leadership of Hindel Helman, Mrs. Shalmines (Avram Moshe Urdang's wife), and Mrs. Feinstein.
In 1919 Dr. Karshtat founded a Yiddish pre-Gymnasium with Russian as the secondary language. The first teachers were Yudel Mark, Cherniovski, Viener, and Shimen Band. Dr. Karshtat was very devoted to the pre-Gymnasium, and many learned from him free of charge. When there was no money to pay the teachers, he paid them from his private means. Dr. Karshtat distinguished himself in helping the needy, both medically and financially. On account of his leftist leanings, the government forced him to leave Shkud.
In 1921, after Dr. Karshtat was deported from Lithuania, the governing of the school was given over to Michal Fogelman with the
secondary language being Yiddish. It was compulsory to teach the Lithuanian language also. Among the teachers was prominent the writer Yisrael Shaf, who managed the work of the Jewish National Fund and awakened the love of Eretz Yisrael.
In 1921, the building of the folk-school Yavne was begun. The laying of the cornerstone of the folk-school's building was a big event in the town. The celebration, with performances from the school-children of Hebrew songs and speeches, was organized by Leah Zundelevitz and Yudel Vainberg. Funds were raised by Shkudders in Africa and America. In America, a Shkudder Ball was organized by Hertzl and Motel Lang, who later visited Shkud. The Freeman family from Africa helped greatly. The Ezra [Help] society also supported it.
In 1922 the Hebrew pre-Gymnasium opened in the same building with the main focus on culture. The teachers of the previous Yiddish pre-Gymnasium learned Hebrew so they could teach in Hebrew. They also brought in some good new teachers, who implanted in the hearts of the children love and devotion to Eretz Israel. With time, the pre-Gymnasium grew to six classes. Many children from Shkud went afterwards to Kovno, Shavel, and Rasein, to complete their education. Balls and other events were organized to cover the pre-Gymnasium's financial deficit. The teachers of the folk-school and the pre-Gymnasium were Yisrael Shaf, Chaim Aharon Hovsha, Tzvi Rosenzweig, Bar Sheva Pin, Israel Fish, Shimon Vainberg, I. Potashnik, Meyer Fine, Kalmaikov, Rizin, Rier, Shlomo Vainer, Moshe Heshel Cohen, and the teachers who are now in Israel: Frida Aliash-Friedman, Haya Shpitz-Rabinovitz, Haya Sneg-Vermil, Dovid Rudner, and Dovid Reznik.
In 1927 the first Hebrew-language kindergarten was founded. The first teacher was Fruma Markus (now in Israel).
In 1921 the Talmud Torah was founded with the participation of Avram Shefkind and Michal Natanson. This institution was financially supported by the African Jews.
In the town, evening classes were also held, where people learned Hebrew, German, and English.
The library, which contained about 1000 books, was run by a team of volunteers from the Tzeirei Zion-Hitachodut [Union of Zionist Youth] party. A dramatic circle was organized under the leadership of Feivel Naiman, which attracted devotees and was held in high esteem. The performances were King Lear, Mirele Efros, Der Darfsyung, Yoske Musikant, and The Big Winnings.
Also a choir was established, conducted by Professor Silberstein.
In 1926, a cinema was opened in the building of the folk-school under the leadership of BenTzion Fogelman, which brought a lot of life into the town.
We have given a broader overview of the various events and individual personalities in the Hebrew section.
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