|PANEVEZYS: Panevėžys City and County|
Alternate names: Panevėžys [Lith], Ponevezh [Rus], Ponevez [Yid], Poniewież [Pol], Panevēža [Latv], Ponewiesch [Ger], Panevezhis, Panevezio Velzis, Ponavezh, Ponevetz, Ponivez, Ponowitcz, Ponyevez, Pounivez, Punaviz, Yiddish: פּאָנעװעזש. Russian: Поневеж. 55°44' N, 24°21' E, 5th-largest city in Lithuania, 60 miles NNE of Kaunas (Kovno). 1900 Jewish population: 6,627. Yizkors: Mayn Ponewesh - Ponivez sheli (Tel Aviv, 1974) and Lite (vol. 1) (New York, 1951). ShtetLink.
This city in central Lithuania on the banks of the upper reaches of the Nevezis river often is called the capital of Aukstaitija, an important center of industry and culture. Settlerment began on the right bank of the river at the beginning of the sixteenth century. Later, the city expanded to the left bank or New City, becoming the center of the Upyte district. A Karaite settlement existed in Ponevezh on the right bank of the river at the end of the fourteenth century, long before Jews arrived. The Lithuanian Great Duke Vytautas brought 483 Karaite families from the Crimea of which 153 families settled in Ponevezh, making this later the center of the Karaites in Lithuania. The Karaites were treated as Jews despite their different language and customs. In 1863, Russian rule granted them full civil rights. They gradually avoided the Jews, intermarried with locals, and disappeared. In Independent Lithuania only a few dozen Karaite families lived in Ponevezh on the street next to their Synagogue. In 1932, 100 Karaites lived in the town.Jews settled on the left bank of the river at the beginning of the eighteenth century. In 1766, 254 Jews paid a "head tax". Their homes were near and around the Market Square. They developed trade in flour, yeast, and flax and engaged in skilled crafts and small industry. The main Jewish suburb was "Slabodka" in a swampy area where mostly the poor lived in wood houses that would burn down occasionally in big fires. Panevezys now has 132.000 inhabitants, but was first mentioned in 1503. The museum of local lore presents an exposition on the history of the city from its very beginning. Upyte has an interesting museum of linen. On the left bank of the Nevezis river the city is its oldest park called Skaistakalnis. photos. Ponevezh yeshiva. [March 2009]
MASS GRAVE: School project about the Jewish history of the town and cleaning the mass grave site.They cleaned the Jewish mass graves site with the Jewish community of Panevezys. On arrival, the children learned the history of the mass grave. They picked up litter, weeded the graves, planted flowers that they brought themselves to the monument. The day was warm and the children tired, but they were very proud of their work.
The German army entered Ponevezh on June 26, 1941.Before a single German soldier was in town, the Lithuanian nationalists started to abuse Jews including the principal of the high-school, the deputy district prosecutor, the secretary of the provincial court and others, who organized local students subsequently involved in the majority of the murders of Ponevezh Jews. On July 4, published in The Liberated Ponevezh Citizen was a call to "help the German army to clean our forests and groves of Jews, Bolsheviks, and other foreigners, including Lithuanian traitors as fast as possible. So your lives and properties would be saved." Pressed into forced labor to "dig peat" in the country, groups of men simply never returned. Daily, Lithuanian policemen would march groups of Jews through the streets of the town, beating them continually with whips and rifle butts before large crowds of jeering Lithuanians. Those who could still walk helped those who could not. Jewish men of all ages were brought to the local jail where they were forced to crawl around the yard in the gravel on their elbows and knees while the guards beat them with spiked whips. Eventually the wounded men were put on waiting trucks and taken either to the Kaiserling (Kaizerlingas) forest, 2 km SE of Ponevezh or Zalioji forest, 13 km NE from Ponevezh where they were murdered by their captors. In early July, the Jews were ordered to a Ghetto established in Klaipeda, Krekanava and Tulvicius streets by July 11 at six p.m. Fenced with barbed wire, Lithuanian auxiliary police guarded the perimeter. Lithuanians vacated homes in the streets set aside for the Ghetto and received the Jews' homes in return. Jews were transferred to the ghetto from Raguva, Ramygala, Krekenava and other towns. Seventy dignitaries were arrested and murdered. Theft, murder, abuse, humiliation, and torture continued unabated. Former employees appeared to rob former employers. Tortured abounded as the white-bands broke arms, Jews were forced to dig a garbage pit deeper, pushed Jews into a boiling lime pit, forced Jews to carry barrels of fuel weighing 440 lbs. each, all with screaming and beating. Torture victims were consequently taken to Pajuoste and murdered. In August, a Gestapo officer in charge of the Ghetto, offered the Jewish representative the empty military barracks near Pajuoste that purportedly would be less crowded and they could grow food. On August 24, Germans and Lithuanian Nazis led the Jews from the Ghetto to Pajuoste in groups of 200. When they reached the site, they were ordered to strip and get on the knees. Lithuanian guards with machine guns and automatic rifles mowed them down. Group after group were brought, some dragged by the guards who beat them with their rifle butts. Children wrenched from their mothers were thrown alive into the pits. Babies were tossed into the air and shoot before they landed on the ground. Most shooters were drunk and most missed so many babies were alive when they landed in the pits. Those who survived where lifted by their hair and had their heads crushed by pistols. The last group brought were the patients in the Jewish hospital with all the medical staff.The massacre continued into the evening. Several pits 330 feet and eight of 50 meters overflowed with corpses. The victims' clothes were piled up with the murderers rummaging through, taking whatever they liked. Soviet prisons of war filled the graves. They spotted a child still alive in one of the pits and tried to hide him in nearby bushes. The Lithuanian guards beat those involved. Some guards wanted to the the child escape but the commander said "Better to kill him and ensure that no one left to avenge the blood of the Jews". He aimed his pistol and shot the boy through the head. By evening August 26, 1941 (3 Elul 5701) the massacre was over and all the pits covered. 8,745 Jews were dead. After the war, the Soviets built a monument on the mass graves with a Magen-David, unique in Lithuania. Shmuel Feifert from Trashkun designed it after having served in the Lithuanian Division of the Red Army and returning to Lithuania. He devoted himself construction of the monument and to getting back Jewish children hidden by Lithuanian families to give to Jewish families ready to accept them. In 1948, while looking for a Jewish child in Riteve (Rietavas), he was murdered by Lithuanians. See photos and more details. [March 2009]
|Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 September 2011 11:32|