Siauliai, Joniskis, Zagare & Kriukai in Lithuania


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Flag of Šiauliai
Coat of arms of Šiauliai
Coat of arms

Šiauliai ([ʃʲɛʊ̯ˈlʲɛɪ̯ˑ] ( )), is the fourth largest city in Lithuania, with a population of 133,900. 1994 to 2010 it was the capital of Šiauliai County. Unofficially, the city is the capital of Northern Lithuania.


Šiauliai is referred to by a various names in different languages: SamogitianŠiaulē, Latvian Saule (historic) and Šauļi(modern), German (outdated): Schaulen, PolishSzawleRussianШавли (Shavli – historic) and Шяуля́й (Shyaulyai – modern), Yiddishשאַװל (Shavel).

History – Jewish references

After the Partitions of Poland, Šiauliai got a new coat of arms. The city grew and became an important educational and cultural center. Also, infrastructure was rapidly developing: in 1836–1858 a road connecting Riga and Tilsit was built, in 1871 a railroad connecting Liepāja with Romny was built.[citation needed] Šiauliai, being in a crossroad of important merchant routes, started to develop as an industrial town. Already in 1897 it was the third largest city in Lithuania with population of about 16,000. The demographics changed also: 56.4% of the inhabitants were Jewish in 1909. Šiauliai was known for its leather industry. Chaim Frenkel owned the biggest leather factory in the Russian Empire.

During World War I, about 85% of the buildings were burned down and the city center was destroyed.[1] After the war and re-establishment of Lithuania, the importance of Šiauliai grew. Before Klaipėda was attached to Lithuania, the city was second after Kaunas by population size. By 1929 the city center was rebuilt. Modern utilities were also included: streets were lighted, it had public transportation, telephone and telegraph lines,water supply network and sewer.

The first independence years were difficult because the industrial city lost its markets in Russia. It needed to find new clients in Western Europe. In 1932 a railroad to Klaipėda was built and it connected the city to the Western markets. In 1938 the city produced about 85% of Lithuania’s leather, 60% of footwear, 75% of flax fiber, 35% of candies.Culture also flourished as many new periodicals were printed, new schools and universities opened, a library, theater, museum, and normal school were opened.

In 1939, one fifth of the city’s population was Jewish.[2] German soldiers entered Šiauliai on June 26, 1941. According to one of the Jewish survivors of Šiauliai, Nesse Godin, some 700 people were shot in nearby woods during the first weeks of occupation after having been forced to dig their own graves. The Šiauliai Ghetto was established in July 1941. There were two Jewish ghetto areas in Šiauliai, one in the Kaukas suburb, and one in Trakų. During World War II, the Jewish population was reduced from 8,000 to 500. About 80% of the buildings were destroyed.[3]


In 1795 there were 3,700 people in Šiauliai, and by 1897 Šiauliai (16,128 population) was the second most populus city in Lithuania after Kaunas. In 1909 56.4% of the population was Jewish.[1] The Jewish population in Šiauliai has been steadily rising since the mid-1900, when many Jews congregated there after the war. A particular Jew called Shauli Bar-On encouraged the Jews of Europe to come to Lithuania because he saw enormous potential for success. In 1923 Šiauliai population was in third place in Kaunas and Klaipėda. Under the occupied territory of the area 24 km2 (9 sq mi) remained fourth in the city of Kaunas, Klaipėda and Panevėžys


 Hill of Crosses



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Skyline of Joniškis
Flag of Joniškis
Coat of arms of Joniškis
Coat of arms

Joniškis church

Joniškis (About this sound pronunciation ) is a city in northern Lithuania with a population of about 11,150. It is located 40 kilometers north of Šiauliai and 14 kilometers south of the Lithuania–Latvia border. Joniškis is the municipal and administrative center ofJoniškis district municipality.

With the Church of the Accession of the Holy Virgin Mary (founded in 1901) and a complex of Jewish synagogues at its centre, the city has the status of an architectural heritage site.

Joniškis has a Culture Centre, a local venue for music and theatre events.

A railway line connecting Riga and Šiauliai runs along the western boundary of the city. West of the railway, the city’s allotment gardens and the Lutheran and Victims of World War II cemeteries are located. Joniškis hosts the Jonas Avyžius Public Library of Joniškis District Municipality.


Joniškis is the Lithuanian name of the city. Versions of the name in other languages include PolishJaniszkiRussian: Янишки YanishkiBelarusian: Яні́шкі YanishkiYiddish: יאנישאק YanishokGermanJonischkenLatvianJonišķi

Notable people


Laurence Harvey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Laurence Harvey
Laurence Harvey Allan Warren.jpg

Laurence Harvey in 1973,
photograph by Allan Warren
Born Zvi Mosheh Skikne
1 October 1928
Died 25 November 1973 (aged 45)

Laurence Harvey (1 October 1928[1] – 25 November 1973) was a Lithuanian-born actor. In a career that spanned a quarter of a century, Harvey appeared in stage, film and television productions primarily in the United Kingdom and the United States. His 1959 performance in Room at the Top [2] brought him global fame and an Academy Award nomination.[3] That success was followed by the role of the ill-fated Texian commander William Barret Travis in The Alamo, produced by John Wayne, and as the brainwashed Raymond Shaw in The Manchurian Candidate. Many of his films earned nominations and awards for either the films or his co-stars.

Early life

Harvey maintained throughout his life that his birth name was Laruschka Mischa Skikne, but it was actually Zvi Mosheh Skikne. He was the youngest of three boys born to Ella (née Zotnickaita) and Ber Skikne, a Lithuanian Jewish family in the town of JoniškisLithuania.[4][5] When he was five years old, his family emigrated to South Africa, where he was known as Harry Skikne. He grew up in Johannesburg, and was in his teens when he served with the entertainment unit of the South African Army during theSecond World War.



From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Zagares dvaras.2009-06-11.jpg
Coat of arms of Žagarė
Coat of arms


Foreign renderings of the name include: LatvianŽagarePolishŻagoryYiddishZhagar זשאַגאַר.[1]


Žagarė’s name is probably derived from the Lithuanian word žagaras, meaning “twig.” This is likely because of the forests that originally surrounded the early village.


The foundation of Žagarė dates back to the 12th century. It was an important centre of Semigallian warriors, who fought against the Livonian Brothers of the Sword and the Livonian Order. It long had a Jewish population who contributed to its culture.

Yisroel Salanter (1810-1883), the father of the 19th-century Mussar movement in Orthodox Judaism, was born there.Isaak Kikoin (1908–1984), a renowned Soviet physicist, was also born there. During World War II and the German occupation, the Germans set up a Jewish ghetto in Žagarė, to hold Jews from Šiauliai Ghetto. In a massacre of theEinsatzgruppe A at the Jom Kippur the 2nd. October 1941 all Jews where cruely killed by the lithuanian population at the marketplace and buried in Naryshkin Park. The blood was flowing to the Svete River and the Fire brigade had to wash it away. [2]


Today Žagarė is the administrative centre of the Žagarė Regional Park, known for its valuable urban and natural heritage.

Famous people


  • Rose Zwi: “Last Walk in Naryshkin Park” 1997 ISBN 978-1875559725 A Familie chronicle of her two families of origin Yoffe and Reisen. This account tells the story of Lithuanian Jews caught in the sweeping history of the first half of the century in Europe.




From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Coat of arms of Kriukai
Coat of arms

Kriukai is a small town in Šiauliai County in northern Lithuania. In 2001, it had a population of 602.



Šiauliai Ghetto

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
 The Šiauliai or Shavli Ghetto was a Jewish ghetto established in July 1941 by Nazi Germany in the city of Šiauliai (Yiddish:שאַװלShavl) in Nazi-occupied Lithuania during the Holocaust. The ghetto comprised two areas – one in the Kaukazas suburb and one on Trakai Street. Both were liquidated by July 1944, and their inhabitants were killed or transferred to Nazi concentration camps. In 1939, one quarter of population of Šiauliai was Jewish, about 8,000 persons. By the end of World War II, only about 500 Jews of the city had survived.

Before the war

Šiauliai was the second largest city in independent pre-war Lithuania, and its Jewish community, numbering 8,000 in 1939, was the second largest in the country. The city had elected a Jewish deputy mayor. Jews were involved in the manufacture of leather products, and there was a Jewish-owned shoe factory. Jews were also involved in the iron and chemical industries, and many worked as clerks, laborers, and craftsmen.[1]

The Jewish community supported numerous cultural and social institutions and organizations. Among these were Yavneh, a religious secondary school, a Hebrew secondary school, an elementary school, and a kindergarten, as well as several Yiddish schools. There were 15 synagogues, a yeshiva, and two libraries.[1]

Mass murders

Men forced to dig their own graves by Einsatzgruppe A troops, Šiauliai, July 1941

After the start of the German invasion of the Soviet Union, and before the arrival of the Germans in Lithuania, several hundred Jews from the city fled to Russia. German soldiers entered Šiauliai on 26 June 1941. Of the Jews who remained, several thousand were massacred by the Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators, both before the ghetto was established and thereafter.

During the first weeks of the Nazi occupation, about 8000 people were shot in the nearby Lieponiai forest near Kužiai after being forced to dig their own graves.[2] In July 1941, the Germans moved 732 Jews and communists from the Šiauliai jail to the vicinity ofPročiūnai village, about 7 km (4.3 mi) southeast from Šiauliai, and murdered them there.[3] From 7–15 September 1941, about 1000 Jewish men, women and children from Šiauliai were killed in the Gubernija forest, about 6 km (3.7 mi) northwest of the city.[4]


The German occupation authorities began preparations for a ghetto in Šiauliai at the beginning of July 1941. The Šiauliai city military commandant gave instructions to the new deputy mayor, Antanas Stankus, who had been put in charge of “Jewish affairs”. Stankus set up a committee of Jewish notables to liaise with the Lithuanian authorities to relocate Jews. The first step was the registration of all Jewish residents – all the Jews in the city were required to register at the city government’s office from 19–22 July.[5]

At first, only one location, in the Kaukazas neighborhood, was selected for the ghetto. The area proved to be too small for the entire Jewish population, and additional Jews were transported to Žagarė.[6] After Jewish protests, a second location between Ežeras and Trakai streets was chosen. When both areas housed approximately 3000 Jews each, the Jews petitioned for a third ghetto. The authorities promised an area in the Kalniukas neighborhood and gathered more Jews in the Village Traders’ Synagogue, the Jewish Home for the Elderly, and the Central Choral Synagogue.[6] However, instead of being relocated to the third ghetto, the Jews were taken in groups of 200–300 to Lieponiai forest and shot. The last 500 Jews were shot in Bubiai and were buried in pits dug from clay.[7]

Life in the ghetto

The resettlement was completed by 15 August.[5] Between 4,000 and 5,000 Jews, including 1,500 from areas surrounding Šiauliai, were forced into the ghettos and were interned there.[1] The Jewish committee was recognized as the Judenrat (Jewish Council) of the ghetto. The Germans conducted frequent Aktionen – massive killing sprees – to eliminate “useless” Jews. Gainful employment was perceived to provide security from these Aktionen. Approximately 600 Jews were employed in a nearby shoe factory, and another 600 in construction projects at the Zokniai airport.[6] Others were employed in workshops in the city tanning and processing leather, producing items such as gloves and brushes. Some Jews were transferred to labor camps in the surrounding areas to provide labor force for specific projects, mainly extracting peatfrom peat bogs. A group of 125 Jews was transferred to Linkaičiai, where they worked in a weapons and artillery workshop.[6]

The period from around January 1942 to September 1943, was a “quiet period” without major massacres. During that time the Jews in the ghetto established several cultural and educational organizations, including Hechalutz and Beitar.[8] On 26–27 May 1942, the Germans conducted a census within the Generalbezirk Litauen, including the Šiauliai Ghetto. The census counted at least 4,665 Jews in the ghetto, but many avoided the census as they believed it to be a ruse in preparation for anotherAktion.[6] On 30 August 1942, several Jews were found smuggling food into the ghetto. The Germans told the Judenrat to select 50 Jews for execution. The members of the Judenrat refused and instead offered themselves. The sentence was commuted and one food smuggler was hung.[6]


On June 21, 1943, Heinrich Himmler issued an order to liquidate all ghettos and transfer remaining Jews to concentration camps. The Šiauliai Ghetto was reorganized into a concentration camp, an exterior camp (Außenlager) of the Kaunas concentration camp (Kaunas Ghetto) under jurisdiction of the SS. At the time, the ghetto had five work camps: Zokniai airport (500 Jews), Linkaičiai weapon workshop (250 Jews), Pavenčiai sugar factory (250 Jews), A.B.A. military clothing workshop (800 Jews), Akmenė brick factory (250 Jews) and Daugėliai brick factory (250 Jews).[6] Territorial Commissioner (Gebietskommissar) Hans Gewecke was replaced by SS-OberscharführerHermann Schlöf on 1 October 1943 as commander of the ghetto.[5]

The original Kaukazas neighborhood ghetto site was liquidated in mid-October 1943.[5] On November 5, 1943, SS troops and a company from the Russian Liberation Army seized and transported 574 children under the age of 13, 191 elderly, 26 disabled, and 4 women to Auschwitz concentration camp.[8]

Later, as Germany was losing the war, the Nazis started closing down work camps and transferring the Jews into the ghetto. In July 1944, the Germans, retreating from the advancing Russian army, transferred remaining ghetto residents to the concentration camps of Stutthof and Dachau in Germany. Of the total number of Jews interned, only a few hundred managed by various means to escape death. On 15 July 1944, the final liquidation of the Šiauliai ghetto began. Several thousand Jews were deported in four large groups to the Stutthof concentration camp.[1]

Marker indicating the location of the Šiauliai ghetto at Trakai Street

No more than 500 people were identified as survivors of the Šiauliai Ghetto after the war.[5]


A diary kept by Eliezer Yerushalmi, a teacher and a member of ghetto’s Judenrat, was published in Hebrew in 1950 by Yad Vashem. A portion of this diary was included in the Black Book.[9] Based on the May 1942 census, lists of the names of the Kaukazas and Ežero-Trakų ghetto prisoners, as well as Jews who stayed outside the ghetto, were published by the Vilna Gaon Jewish State Museum in 2002.[10]





2 Replies to “Siauliai, Joniskis, Zagare & Kriukai in Lithuania”

  1. Thanks for that….was very pleased to read about Joniskis is particular as my Zelda was from there and Lawrence Harvey was a cousin ( to an earlier generation).

    Good yomtov to you….are you somewhere with a shul? Was At Central today, as usual, and saw Dean as well as Tony Hochberg.

    Am seeing articles about you in the local Jewish press, I think in the Jewish Report.

    Hope all is going well,



    Sent from my iPad

  2. Hi Eli, Thanks for this. My Dad was born in Joniskis and the family sans Zeida who went on to SA first then moved to Siauliai before coming to Johannesburg in 1934. Cheers Lewis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

%d bloggers like this: