ANYKSCIAI: Utena county, Anyskciai distrct Print

File:Anyksciai COA.gifAlternate names: Anykščiai [Lith], Aniksht [Yid], Onikszty [Pol], Anikshchyay [Rus], Anīkšči [Latv], Onikschten [Ger], Onikshty, Onukszty, Onikschty, Anykščių, Anikshchay, Anykshchay, Anykshchiai, Anikst, Anykst, Russian: Аникщяй. אַניקשט-Yiddish. [55°32' N, 25°06' E], 24 miles NE of Ukmergė (Vilkomir), 21 miles SSE of Kupiškis (Kupishuk), 20 miles W of Utena (Utiyan). 1897 Jewish population: 2,754 (69.7% of the total). A ski resort town deep in a valley surrounded by mountains and encircled by pine forests.

General information.

 

On (Saltupio Gatve) is the old Shulhoif (Synagogue Center and Beit Midrash/House of Study), today used as a bakery. I have many slides of the cemetery and of the few graves that are left. Although the lettering is decipherable, it is extremely difficult to read. Source: Michael Libenson. [date? before 1997?]

Situated in a forested valley of the river Sventoji on a narrow gauge railway line between Utena and Panevezys (a summer vacation destination), Lake Rubik with 15 islands was 9 km from the town. There were 1556 Jews in the town in 1847 and 2756 in 1897 (69.7%). During World War I, the town was completely destroyed and rebuilt during Lithuanian Independence in the 1920s. Every street was paved. World War I caused the Jews to flee eastwards into Russia, but after the war, they returned to rebuild their homes with the aid of the Joint and relatives in the USA. In 1921, the Jewish population was 1,800 (400 families) or 45%. Most were traders of cotton and flax, worked in local factories: textile mill (100 workers), shoe factory (150 workers), hosiery factory (40 female workers), and agricultural equipment factory (20 workers). 166 craftsmen, 16 tailors and seamstresses, 46 shoemakers, nine butchers, 11 bakers, nine metal workers, one carpenter, 4 watchmakers, 2 jewellers and 90 others made up to Jewish community with 50 Jews as bargemen on the Sventoji and Nieman rivers going to East Prussia. Expelled as traders by the Lithuanians government during independent Lithuania, they received assistance from benevolent societies financed by the Jewish Bank founded in Kaunas in 1920 with Jewish depositors of Anyksciai numbering 275 in 1932. The town had six synagogues, most around one small square, the Shulhof, including the Old Shul, the Kloiz (prayer room) of the shoemakers, and a Talmud Torah. There was also the Synagogue of the Mountain (Der Berg Shul). During independent Lithuania, a small yeshiva, some Hebrew schools (cheder), and three other schools: Yavne, Tarbut , and Yiddish with a nursery school existed. Two large libraries, various organizations, and a drama society served the community. Many Jews had emigrated to the USA and South Africa. [March 2009]

Lithuanian poet Baranauskas (1835-1902) described the area in his poem Anikshter Vald [Aniksht Forest]. The Shventa river flows through this summer vacation destination. WWI left much of Aniksht in ruins. In 1920, the Jewish population gradually began to return to half-ruined houses, whose windows they stuffed with rugs. Building, the flax trade, and mechanized manufacturing of stockings, shoes, and fishing nets flourished. Houses were rebuilt. Streets were paved and sidewalks built. The pre-WWII population of Aniksht and its surrounding districts was 4,000 with three types of Jewish schools: tarbut [general Zionist], yavne [Mizrakhi Zionist], and Yiddish and a four-year Lithuanian middle school. Two libraries, theatricals, and holiday celebrations were the life of the town. [March 2009]

CEMETERY: The cemetery is quite large and has many readable tombstones. When WWII started, the Jewish population was about 2,000.Source: Myrna Siegel, Wilmette, IL, [date?]

A local writer, Rimantas Vanagas has a grant [date?] from the Soros Foundation to do a history of the Jews of Aniksht. Aniksht and Kurkil Cemeteries are neatly fenced at the top of a hill under 3 feet of overgrowth. Tombstones are largely legible, most only patronymic. The more important personages have letters cut deeper into the stones. There is a lot of natural weathering. Many stones were stolen. The same has occurred in the Catholic cemetery. Source: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . [date? before 1997?]

Once, there were as many as 1,000 graves in this cemetery. The cemetery was beautiful as trails weave along its hillside. Today, what remains is some dozen old, weather beaten stones at the very top of the hill (too much of a bother for the Russians to pull down?). The cemetery is a rolling green hill where the bodies are unmarked but which the Lithuanian government, to their recent credit, have maintained. Down the street (Saltupio Gatve) is the old Shulhoif (Synagogue Center and Beit Midrash/House of Study). Today, it is used as a bakery. I have many slides of the cemetery and of the few graves that are left. Although the lettering is decipherable, it is extremely difficult to read. Source:  Michael Libenson. [date? before 1997?]

MASS GRAVES: Near the road to Skiemoniai village 1 km from Anykščiai town.

The German Army occupied Anykščiai on June 27, 1941. Like in other parts of Utena District, Anykščiai formed a "partisan" squad (white-bands) of several dozen of men in the first days of the occupation. They started arresting the remaining communists and non-local Jews visiting Anykščiai. Many Jews from other counties, fleeing into the Soviet Union via Anykščiai, failed due to the extremely fast invasion East by the German Army. Jewish refugees were closed in synagogues by the white-bands. Some arrested communists and Jews were shot on the first days of occupation. Anykščiai parish priest, Juozas Čepenas, had been arrested and imprisoned in Kaunas by the NKVD. He urged his parishioners to not participate in the executions of the Communists and Jews. Čepenas asked the German commander in Utena not to kill innocent people. He was advised not to appeal to any other institution with the same request if he wanted to avoid trouble. Before the execution, Anykščiai Jews were made to perform hard labor. About July 28, Jewish men were separated from women and children, tortured and shot. The Jewish women, children, and the elderly were executed on August 29 at the foot of Liudiškes mound. The total number of killed Jews is 1,500, shot by more than 20 members of the Anykščiai white-band squad. Their property was brought to the hall of the Riflemen Union where a portion was divided among murderes. Near Ariogala, at the road Anykgeiai-Skiemonys; 80-81; pic. # 57-59 US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad [March 2009]

On June 22 the first Jewish victim was young woman who had been in the neighbouring town of Kurkliai. On the first day of the invasion, she was returning home on her bicycle and stopped at the farm of an acquaintance of her family for a drink of water. The farmer and his son forced her into the granary and raped and murdered her, throwing her body in the Sventoji river. Some days later, her body was discovered on the banks of the river and the son seen riding her bicycle. On 24 June 1941, when the General Secretary of the Communist Party and the police force left town, the town was without any local authority. The German arrival on June 27 created anxiety for the Jews, but not for the Lithuanians who assisted them in a massacre of Jews from other areas who had sought refuge in Anyksciai. After this, gangs of Lithuanians broke into Jewish homes, robbed them, raped teenage daughters, and murdered their families. Jewish refugees from other places, who were stranded in Anyksciai, were imprisoned in Sakumian Street prison as were Jewish intelligentsia of Anyksciai and suspected communists. One hung himself. The cruelty to the imprisoned Jews was unspeakable. After a short time, the vast majority of the prisoners were moved to Utena. On the day after their imprisonment, thirteen were thrown into the square in front of the old Beit Midrash, shot by gunfire by Lithuanian "friends" and buried. Two weeks after the invasion, the remaining Jews were forced into a ghetto at the Beit Midrash and the Shulhof square. Overcrowded conditions meant that even the area outside was too narrow to accommodate everyone. The Jews sought shelter or refuge with farmer friends. Very few succeeded; almost all had to return. When three SS officers arrived to observe, an elderly Jews was shot for saying "Guten Morgen." One evening a gang of Lithuanians chose some beautiful young girls, forced them into the square, and raped them. Then, the Jews were taken out of the town to the nearby Bashiliaks Forest and were held outdoors for a number of weeks in the rain and night chill. Many sickened; and some died. Adult males and young women were taken out daily for forced labor. Farmers under special licence could order Jewish workers for their farms, which saved a number of Jews who managed to get out into the villages, while others were robbed and killed by the farmers. At the end of July, all the Jews working for farmers were returned to the townas were all Jews from surrounding villages. On July 28, the white-bands separated the males and marched them, group after group, in the direction of Sakaimian. Told that they were being taken to a work camp, they were brought to a sand hill called "Rabbit Hill" (Haaznanberg), a few kilometers out of Anyksciai and tied together. The strongest of them were given hoes and forced to dig a large pit while the others were made to do various physical exercise making them weak and easier for their guards to mistreat and humiliate. That same day, the Jews were murdered on the edge of the pit and thrown inside. The lightly wounded and even those not hit at all were thrown in and buried alive. A few weeks later, the women and children were brought to the same spot and murdered the same way. The date was August 29, 1941. The pits were not covered properly so soon winds and rains washed away the thin sand, revealing the mass graves and bodies of the victims. The monument for the mass graves of Anyksciai says: Place - at the foot of Tel Liaudishkim, one kilometer from Anyksciai, 300 meters to the right of the road from Anyksciai to Sakaimian. Date - 29 August 1941. Number who perished - about 1500. [March 2009]

Mass Grave: "Jews of Akniste were shot in the forest next to the Akniste cemetery. ... before July 18, 1941 there were approximately 140 Jews in Akniste. Most of the killings were done by Latvian SS units before the Germans even made it to Akniste. 98% were killed. My grandfather was one of the few who was lucky to survive. One of their neighbors tried to save my grandfather's 5 year old sister Sara. Five days later another neighbor discovered that they are hiding her. They were all killed too. Among the Jews in Akniste graves... (there) were also many many Jews from Lithuania. They were running from the Germans, and Akniste is just couple of miles off (the) Lithuanian border. Krishjan Buikis he is the person who was in charge of killing the Jews in Akniste. Buikis was rewarded with the house of a killed Jewish merchant who was my grandfathers father." Source with photos and virtual tour. [March 2009]

 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 02 November 2011 12:58