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Alternate names: Gargždai [Lith], Gorzd [Yid], Gordzh [Rus], Garsden [Ger], Gorzdy [Pol], Gargždi [Latv], Gargzhday, Garzdai, Gorzad, Gorzed, Gorzhdy, Russian: Гордж / Гаргждай. גורזד-Yiddish. 55°43' N, 21°24' E, 38 miles WSW of Telšiai (Telz), 13 miles SE of Kretinga, 11 miles E of Klaipėda (Memel). 1900 Jewish population: 1,455. This is NOT Gruzdziai at 56°06′0″N 23°15′10″E.


ShtetLink. JOWBR burial list: Jewish Cemetery. The first Jews settled in Gargždai in the 16th century. In 1639, King of Poland and Lithuania Vladislov IV granted Jews civil rights and privileges. The Jewish community grew in the 18th century, deliberately stimulated by privileges and allowances such as the privilege of Vladislav Vasa in 1639 that set the town status as a custom-town. The privileges of 1600 and 1782 improved the economic situation of all residents since they set the number of the market days that made Gargždai popular in the district, especially with artisans who could sell their production -- agricultural and crafts.  1897 Jewish population: 1,455 (60 % of total) and in 1921, 1,148. On the eve of the Shoah, about 1,000 Jews resided in Gargždai (including those who escaped Klaipeda Region in 1939). TheJews of Gargždai engaged in very lucrative trade with Eastern Prussia. In 1929,the town had a Jewish Bank had 269 members, a Jewish synagogue, a beit midrash, Jewish charitable associations, Hebrew and Yiddish schools, libraries, a Macabee sports club, and Zionist organizations. .[March 2009]

ONLINE VIDEO: Liepaja (Libau)-Vilnius-Gargzdai (Gorzhd)-Klaipeda (Memel) (396KB) - From amber town, windy sea-port Libau come to Lithuanian capital, Vilnius; see Jewish sites of Gargzdai, from there came to Baltic sea town Klaipeda/Memel.[March 2009]

CEMETERY: Next to Memel, in the summer of 1993, the Lithuanian government was in the process of righting some fallen stones. However, since this was a good-sized community, the cemetery was virtually destroyed except for perhaps 30 stones. Source: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it ,  [date?]

MASS GRAVES: Gargzdai, Klaipedos street; 109; pic. # 132. Forest of Vezaitine, at the road Veziaieiai-Kuliai 110-111; pic. # 135-137 US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. the Jewish massacre in Gargzdai may have been the first mass Jewish massacre in
Lithuania and maybe in the entire territory of the former USSR.

MASS GRAVES: The German Army occupied Gargždai on the first day of WWII. Unlike other places on the German-Lithuanian border, Gargždai was occupied after desperate fighting at about 3 PM on June 22 1941. The local Gestapo Office (Hans-Joachim Boehm) started carrying out massacres of communists and Jews along the 25 km border in Lithuania. Since Gestapo forces were insufficient, policemen were involved, totaling about 125 men. Massacre of communists and Jews was ordered on June 23. All Jews and communists in Gargždai were arrested. Rumors were spread that civilians resisting the German Army would suffer. That day, a group of policemen from Klaipeda went to Gargždai (17 km away) and ordered the arrest of Gargždai's Jewish men and communists, about 200. Jewish women (about 100) were separated from men and placed in a barn near Gargždai. The arrested men were driven to the German border and kept in the field in the open air guarded by German policemen. A 20-25 man "Alarmzug" squad (special mobile force) was formed in Klaipeda to prepare for fights with Soviet paratroopers and spies. In the evening of June 23, this force received an instruction to get ready to execute the Jews from Gargždai the next day. In the morning on June 24, the special police force from Klaipeda left by bus for Gargždai. Gestapo and other Nazis came to watch the killing. Policemen from Klaipeda were told that severe penalty was necessary because the arrested civilians shot at German soldiers. Before shootings, valuable items and clothing were taken from the condemned. They were told to bury the bodies of the perished Red Army soldiers and deepen the trenches left by the Soviet army. Gestapo officers took groups of 10 to run to the trench, lined them up facing the line of policemen from Klaipeda and shot. The wounded were finished off by Gestapo officers. These murdered Jews included the Jews who fled from Klaipeda to Gargždai in 1939. Former Director of Klaipeda Soap Factory, Fainstein, recognized his former neighbor and friend Wachtmeister among the shooters. Before dying, Fainstein shouted at him: "Do not miss, Gustav." 200 men and one woman, who married a Soviet commissar, were killed. Nearly all executed persons were of the Jewish nationality. After the massacre, Gestapo officers plied policemen with vodka and took a group picture. This massacre was the first mass extermination of Jews in Lithuania, maybe even from the entire former Soviet Union. The genocide of Lithuanian Jews started in Gargždai. After the shooting of men, Jewish women, children and elderly were arrested and confined in the ghetto in Aneliškes? estate (about 1 km outside Gargždai going toward Vežaičiai). The estate accommodated about 250-300 Jews for about a month. In early September 1941, young able-bodies women were taken from the ghetto purportedly to work in Plunge. Policemen and white-bands from Gargždai took them by carts to Vežaitine forest (about 11 km from Gargždai going toward Kuliai) where two large trenches were dug in the forest. Chief of the Auxiliary Police Ildefonsas Lukauskas ordered the women to take their outer clothes before white-bands from Kuliai and Gargždai shot them in groups of 8-10 at the edge of the trench. After the massacre, the murders filled the trenches themselves and returned to town with the women's belongings. About a week later (late September, possibly the 14th or 16th), the remaining 100-300 Jewish women and children were brought in carts to be executed to the same place in Vežaitine forest near Ašmoniškiai village, but in other ditches. About 10 meters into the forest at 10 meter ditches in a clearing, 100-300 Jewish women with children started screaming and crying, realizing what was about to happen. Policemen and white-bands from Gargždai did the murdering. Vežaičiai priest, Jonas Aleksiejus, witnessed this massacre. On the day of the massacre, he was bicycling from Gargždai to Vežaičiai. On his way he caught up with the convoy. The women begged the priest to go with them. In the forest, the priest asked the guards to have mercy on the women and not to kill them, but the executors ignored him. The women were told to undress before the shooting, but at the priest's request, they were allowed to leave on their underwear. Police Chief Mackus asked the women whether they wanted to convert to Catholicism. The women asked whether they would be pardoned. Mackus' said no. Nevertheless, some women were baptized, but still shot in groups at the ditch, mothers holding their babies in their arms by policemen and white-bands from Gargždai and some of their superiors. Part of the property of the victims was stolen by the murderers. The commission of Kretinga District, which investigated crimes of Nazis in 1945, established that 751 persons were executed in the town of Gargždai during the German occupation. Source. [March 2009]

The total number of Jewish residents of Gargzdai killed by a Nazi death squad during the Holocaust is at least 500 including 200 men killed on June 24, 1941, and 300 women with children killed on September 14 and 16, 1941. The killings were perpetrated by Einsatzgruppe A under the command ofSS Brigadeführer Walter Stahlecker, and documented in the Einsatzgruppen and Stahlecker reports. Source [Mar 2013]

Last Updated on Tuesday, 21 March 2017 22:47
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