KEDAINIAI: Kaunus county, Kėdainiai district Print

Alternate names: Kėdainiai [Lith], Keidan [Yid], Keidany [Rus], Kiejdany [Pol], Kedahnen [Ger], Kēdaiņi [Latv], Kedainai, Kaidan, Keydan, Kuidany, קיידאַן-Yiddish, Russian: Кейданы. 55°17' N, 23°58' E, 27 miles N of Kaunas (Kovno). 1900 Jewish population: 3,733.

In the inter-war period, Keidaner gardeners and fruit growers (fifty families) sold their produce as far away as Shavel and Kovno and beyond. The profit were small except for Jews who owned their land. The schools through high school struggled to stay open. Relations with Lithuanian were generally cordial. Kėdainiai has two synagogues. During 1940, the town housed about 300 students and teachers from the Mir Yeshiva. In July 1941, 83 Jewish men, 12 Jewish women, fourteen Russian Communists, fifteen Lithuanian Communists were executed in the town. [March 2009]

Jewish population iexisted in Kėdainiai (known to Litvaks as Keydan) in the 15th century, but no record of their activities at this time exists. In 1495 all Jews were banished from the town. They reappeared around the middle of the 16th century (the banishment repealed in 1503). Early Jewish settlers were granted the right to produce beer and spirits in 1652, and also had a monopoly on growing cucumbers. The town gained recognition as a yeshiva, helped in part because the Gaon of Vilna,married a local girl and studied there as a boy. On August 28, 1941, 710 Jewish men, 767 Jewish women and 599 Jewish children from the town were murdered by the Nazis. Many Jewish buildings survived the Holocaust including the yellow wooden building close to Senoji Rinka where the Goan of Vilna studied and two surviving synagogues on Senoji Rinka, of which one now functions as a multicultural center. town Jewish site photos. Jewish history. Jewish history. [September 2010]

CEMETERY: Kedainiai has two Jewish cemeteries, just outside town. The old one, founded in the 18th century, was destroyed, has no gravestones, only a monument. A few hundred yards away is the remaining cemetery.

Cemetery information. (Knapinsko Street) [September 2010]

Cemetery information. (Lakštingalų Street) [September 2010]

In June 1995, I visited the cemetery with a Keidan native who lives in Kaunas and who assiduously looks after both the old prewar community cemetery and the two mass graves where Nazis and Lithuanian partisans murdered the Jews of Keidan, Shatt and Zheim in 1941. The old cemetery, on a bluff over the Smilga River, is partially destroyed, but I estimate about 100 stones still stand. Their condition ranges from very good to eroded and illegible. The ad hoc caretaker, whose name is Yehuda Ronder, told me that more than half the cemetery was destroyed, partly by erosion when the Smilga flooded and partly by vandalism. Some stones have been carried off and used by local Lithuanians for front steps, etc. However, Ronder does an amazing job of keeping the remainder up, partly by harassing the local municipal officials. He has a number of contacts abroad and also acts as a conduit for money sent to local Lithuanians who acted to save Jews during the war. He can be reached at Mackeviciaus 93-3, 3000 Kaunas, Lithuania, phone 22-43-15. Regina Kopilevich has often visited this cemetery as well, and considers it one of the best preserved in the area. I have photos, some of which I am installing on my Keidan web site (see address below). Source: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and http://mywebpages.comcast.net/acassel/keidan/keidan.html [October 2000]

A comprehensive list of names and other inscriptions from the tombstones in Keidaner cemeteries [May 2004]

JOWBR burial list. [March 2009]

cemetery photos. "The one Jewish Cemetery that is still in existence ... containing 582 gravestones. Some of the tombstones have sunk into the ground and a shovel is needed in order to determine the date and in several cases, even t.he name." Source. photos. [September 2010]

MASS GRAVES: In 1941 the Jewish population was 3,000 plus was a small group of HaShomer Hatzair refugees from Poland. When the Germans invaded, a group of Lithuanian nationalists who called themselves "partisans" formed. When the Jews recognized their hostility, some young people sought hiding places while others attempted to flee with the Soviets. Many were fired on and murdered, but a few managed to reach the Soviet lines. The Germans entered the town and immediately issued orders regarding Jews to wear yellow Mogen Davids, not walk on the pavement, and not to fraternize with Lithuanians. The white-bands rounded up 100 Jews whom they claimed were communists, plus Lithuanian Communists. Marched through the town in their underwear, they were taken to Haburi Forest, two kilometers from the town, and murdered by gunfire. The rampages against the Jews started when the Lithuanian white-band took control of the town. They beat the cinema owner to death. Random shootings occurred. After a few days, the Jews were rounded up to do forced labor, most at the airport working on removal of shells left by the Soviets guarded by Lithuanian police. A number of shells accidentally exploded killing ten Jews. Other Jews were taken to large government experimental farms, e.g. Palodnigi, Podbarg, Zairginiai. Young Jewish girls escorted to work at the German officer clubs were raped nightly. The town lived in terror.On July 23, the Lithuanians with some Germans loaded 200 Jews onto six transport vehicles, purportedly to do forced labor. They never returned. Their worried families paid a Lithuanian a large sum of money to investigate what had happened. He told them that  they were taken to Babenai Forest and shot. Some time passed when Mayor Povilios ordered the heads of the Jewish community that the Jews were to vacate their homes and congregate in Smilgia Street, which had been fenced off with barbed wire through to the Shulhof synagogue and the surrounding lanes to Gaidiminiu street. The ghetto of Kedainiai  established, the Lithuanians transported about 1,000 Jews from the villages of Seta and Zeimiai and those who had fled their homes in the first days of the war. Terribly overcrowded, food supplies were scarce. Mayor Povilios then imposed a fine of 10 rubles per Jews including children and threatened to eliminate the community if the fine was not paid. The Jews collected money and jewelry, hoping that this ransom would improve their situation. 3,700 Jews had paid 370,000 rubles. The Jews then were forced to give their last ruble. Some young people, realizing the situation, approached the community leaders to get permission to escape or at least concentrate in one area of the ghetto. Thy were refused on the grounds that it would endanger the entire community. The leaders still believed that the Germans only wanted a labor force. On August 15, their illusions were shattered when the Lithuanian police, white-bands, and a few Germans forced all the Jews into the Shulhof Synagogue and yard. They lined up all the men older than age 14 in fours and took them through the garden to the riding stables of the Totlavian Convert at Zirginas. The women, children, sick, elderly, and new mothers with babies were put on wagons.  Lithuanian intelligentsia came to view this spectacle. Lithuanian guards kept close watch over them for 13 days in horrid conditions. They only food given was coffee. The Lithuanians took their few remaining personal items. One Jew hid from the beginning and watched the massacre. Afterwards he fled to farmers and hid there. On August 28, railway clerks and police armed with rifles and hand grenades appeared at Zirginas. 10 small barrels of lime, 10 barrels of vodka, and some barrels of beer were trucked to the site. They separated all the young people and the strong men and moved them in groups of 60 behind the Catholic cemetery on the road to Datnuva near the Smilga stream. A Jewish cemetery was above on a hill. A long , wide, and deep pit had been dug over the previous five days by Soviet prisoners of war. The Jews were forced to remove their clothes and enter the pit. The Lithuanians opened fire with automatic weapons. Screams of the victims echoed through the forest so the Lithuanians revved the engines of their tractors. Many Jews fell into the pit wounded; some fell unharmed. The Lithuanians including the mayor and school principal approached and shot in unison. A young Catholic priest never left the massacre. Immediately after, the second group was brought to the pit. One Jew revolted, dragging a German into the pit and shooting him. As a result, the murderers started bringing smaller groups to the pit. After all the men had been murdered, the women and older children were brought in groups of forty. The next group of women, who were sickly, was pushed into the pit alive. The Lithuanians used the children as balls, passing them from one to the other and then threw them into the pit to be buried alive. The ground heaved afterwards with pools of blood. The murderers used a steamroller to subdue the movement. Murders continued until  evening. Of all the Jews held at the Ziginas stables only two survived by hiding behind some timber stacked in the Zirginas stables. After the massacre, the victim's clothing was brought to Zirginas and guarded. Better quality belongings were shared by the murderers and the remainder sold to the Lithuanian population. What happened on the day of the massacre according to the eyewitnesses was recorded in The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II. The lists of mass graves in the book The Popular Massacres of Lithuania, Part II, include the following:

Place - Babeniai forest, eight km from Kedainiai, and 300 meters from the main road from Kedainiai to Surviliskas. Date - July 23 , 1941. Number who perished - 125 men and women.

Place - Two km from Kedainiai on the left bank of the Smilga stream bordering the airport. Date - August 28, 1941. Number who perished - 2076 men, women and children. [March 2009]

Last Updated on Monday, 11 March 2013 22:52