GRAZDZIAI: Vilna/Kovno Print

Alternate names: Gruzdžiai [Lith], Gruzd [Yid], Gruzdi [Rus], Gruździe [Pol], Gruzdžių, Gruzdzi, Gruzdi, Gruzdzhay, Grudzhyay, Gruzdzhyay, Russian: Грудзи. גרוזד-Yiddish. 56°06' N, 23°16' E, 12 miles N of Šiauliai (Shavl), 16 miles SW of Joniškis (Yanishok). 1900 Jewish population: 482. Słownik Geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego (1880-1902), II, pp. 880-881: "Gruździe". A few Jews living in Gorzd collected the border duties according to documents from the end of the 16th century. By 1639, a Jewish community existed proven by a charter that guaranteed them civil rights given by the Polish king. The synagogues and cemetery were exempted from taxes. Gorzd was a wealthy town from its trade with neighboring Prussia, a market for their own manufactured goods and for merchandise from other parts of Lithuania. The entire economy of the town was dependent on Prussia. Prior to 1842, the Vilieka Uyezd (District) as well as Lida, Oshmiany and Disna were part of the Minsk Gubernia. From 1842 to 1917 they were governed from Vilna Gubernia. After 1917, these uyezds were in current Belarus. Yizkor: Gargzdai is about 11 miles east of the Baltic port of Klaipeda (formerly known as Memel, Germany). On a river called "Minija" in Lithuanian (Minge in German), before WWI, Gargzdai was in Russia's Kovno Guberniya, Telsiai Uyezd, just east of the German border (East Prussia). In 1923, Lithuania obtained the strip of land between Gargzdai and the Baltic and south to the Nemunas River (Russ River and Memel River in German and Niemen in Russian). Memel was renamed as part of Lithuania. Germany seized the Memel Territory in 1939 again making Klaipeda into Memel. The Soviet Union annexed the remaining part of Lithuania in 1940, so the border between the Soviet Union and Germany again ran just west of Gargzdai making Gargzdai one of the first towns invaded when Germany attacked on June 22, 1941. Following WWII, Memel was again Klaipeda. Both Gargzdai and Klaipeda were inside the Soviet Union and as of 1990 part of Lithuania. [March 2009]

CEMETERY: photo. In Gruzdiai there is a cemetery at the edge of the town at one end of which is a mass grave. Many of the stones are legible, but many are missing. Source: Len Yodaiken: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it [date?]

MASS GRAVE: In Zagare town park; 90; pic. # 84-85 US Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad. and near the Jewish cemetery of Gruzdziai; 158; pic. # 263.

The Nazis from Memel arrived in Gorzd on June 22, 1941. All Jewish men were shot within the first few days. The women were dragged to nearby villages and killed a few months later. They set fire to the town and drove the whole population into the market-place. In the morning, the Lithuanians separated them. The Jews - men and women, young and old - were surrounded with machine guns and prepared for shooting. A motorcyclist arrived from Davli (Dovilai) and told them to delay the shooting. They were all taken to a garden where they were left without food or water until Tuesday morning when they took them toward Laugal (Laugaliai), they were shot on June 24 around 1 PM in the street not far from the barracks where trenches were widened by the men. They were shot in groups of twenty-five. The women and children were taken about 1 km away to Anelishke (Kalniske) where they did forced labor for a few months in the town with very little food. The children ate grass. Again, the women and children were driven to Ashmonishke Forest (Vezaitines Forest) where the children and the young were separated from the elders. Forced to dig their grave, when the pit was ready, all were forced to strip naked. Possibly elderly men were with them, not killed with the other men. This mass grave of the women and children is located in the Ashmonishke forest, not far from the road that leads from Gorzd to Kul {Kuliai}. Very few Gorzd Jews survived. [March 2009]

Last Updated on Sunday, 29 March 2009 10:28