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KELME: Kelme District, Šiauliai County PDF Print E-mail

Alternate names: Kelmė [Lith], Kelm [Yid, Ger], Kelmy [Rus], Kielmy [Pol], Ķelme [Latv], Kelem, Kelmės. Russian: Кельмы. קעלם-Yiddish. 55°38' N, 22°56' E, 63 miles NW of Kaunas (Kovno), 26 miles SW of Šiauliai (Shavl), 20 miles NNW of Raseiniai (Rasayn).

Yizkors: Kelm - 'ets karut (Tel Aviv, 1993); Lithuanian Jewish Communities (New York, 1991); The Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry; Directory of former residents of Kelme (, 1998); and Lite (vol. 1) (New York, 1951).

ShtetLink A small and unremarkable town in NW Lithuania with a population of about 11,000, Kelme now serves as a market and administrative center for one of the country's 60 municipal regions. The Jewish community may have existed for several hundred years because the synagogue purportedly was 300 years old with its reconstruction financed by a Polish landlord, Graszewsky. A highway from Latvia (Riga) to Prussia was built across town during 1836-58. The Jewish population was 759 in 1847,and 2,710 (69% of the total) in 1897. The town became associated with the "Kelmer Maggid" Moses Isaac Darshan and was the center of the musar movement in Lithuania. Communal institutions included two Jewish elementary schools (Tarbut and Yavneh), a Jewish preparatory school, a Jewish high school, a bank, and a musar yeshiva.  Most Jews were merchants and traders and a few tanners and timber merchants. The town was renown for its markets and horse fairs.  A small local history museum in what was the mansion on the Grozhebiski estate has a framed two-page document in English entitled "The History of Kelme Town" at the entrance to the museum. Whilte it tells the story of the town from 1410 to the present, no mention is made that in 1905 95% of the town's population was Jewish or that their mass grave is only a few hundred meters away. [March 2009]

CEMETERY: Large cemetery with several hundred stones in varying condition. [October 2000]

UPDATE: website from Sonia and David Hoffman with photos and gravestone translations. Tumbled and fading headstones in the old Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of Kelme photo. [March 2009]

Photos. [October 2009]

The  Jewish cemetery of Kelme [May 2013]

MASS GRAVE: A memorial alongside an unpaved road, adjacent to what had been a gravel pit on the old Grozhebiski farm. In Hebrew and Lithuanian, the memorial says that this is the site of a mass grave holding the remains of the 483 Jews who were killed here in 1941. When German forces enterred in June 1941, some of the fled north and east, hoping to escape to the Soviet Union. Others remained, hoping that the cordial relations Jews had with Germans during WWI would continue. A small group of Lithuanian nationalists rounded up Kelme's remaining Jews, confining women in a barn on the Chaluzin farm and the men in a granary. On July 24, Lithuanian soldiers arrived and ordered the Jews to line up in rows in the farmyard and hold jewelry and contents of their pockets in front of them. The soldiers announced that all Jews capable of working would be taken to a labor camp. They were marched off and  shot. On August 22, Lithuanian soldiers announced that all of the Jews still in Kelme were to be taken to a work camp in the nearby town of Padubisis. They were ordered to load their possessions onto waiting wagons and to walk behind the wagons.Their destination was not Padubisis but the gravel pit on Grozhebiski farm where most of the remaining Jews of Kelme were shot and dumped into a mass grave. A few managed to escape the massacre. [March 2009]

At the beginning of July, all Zagre Jews were relocated to one neighbour­hood in Zagare that was declared a ghetto and cordoned off by an unguarded barbed wire fence. Surviving Jews were brought to Zagare from Kursenai, Papile, Tryskiai, Joniskis, Zeimelis, Kriukai, Radviliskis, Saukenai, Kelme, Tirksliai, Krakes, Joniskelis, Linkuva, Pakruojis, Laukuvas, Lygumai and other places. A total of seven thousand Jews were gathered in the ghetto during this period. [March 2009]

 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 11:56
 
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