Recalling those who survived the Keidan massacre

By Aryeh Leonard Shcherbakov

Preface

When talking of the Jews of Keidan, the first who naturally come to mind are those who were murdered: our grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins lying in the mass grave on the outskirts of town. Some of their names are engraved on the memorial plaques installed by the mass grave.

Not all however; only those names that Rimantas Žirgulis, director of the Kėdainiai Regional Museum, with the help of some Keidan descendants, was able to collect. They were found mainly on testimony pages held at the Yad Vashem Memorial Museum in Jerusalem. More than half of the victims were not memorialized; no memory of them remained, as entire families were erased with no one able to testify to their existence in pre-war Kėdainiai. Continue reading

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‘Good Morning, Lithuania’

Each summer, one of Lithuania’s most popular TV shows, called “Labas Rytas Lietuva” [“Good Morning Lithuania”] highlights different towns across that country. This year its focus was on Kėdainiai, and on July 4, the show aired a walking tour through the town’s Jewish quarter. Audronė Pečiulyte, director of the Kėdainiai Multicultural Center, gave the interview. Kėdainiai teacher Laima Ardavičienė shared the video on Facebook, and, very graciously, agreed to transcribe and translate the interview into English. Continue reading

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The Printed Version

Much of the material on this website got here via a project initiated several years ago by David Solly Sandler, a native of Johannesburg and Litvak descendent, who has compiled an impressive print library of material on Lithuanian Jews, there and in the diaspora. I had worked on and off for many years to try and make the Keidan Yizkor Book available in English, but the project only really took off after David offered to finance and publish a full translation.

Continue reading

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Another Day to Remember

Recently, Jews around the world commemorated Yom HaShoah. Yet even if the Holocaust had never happened, however, this would be a season for remembering the suffering, death and displacement inflicted on the Jews of Eastern Europe by war – World War I.

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A Comment on Hirsh Bloshtein

After reading my post about Hirsh Bloshtein, and the memoir “A Return to My Birthplace, Keidan,” posted here, Aryeh Shcherbakov submitted the following commentary, which I have edited. Shcherbakov, of Tel Aviv, was born and raised in Vilnius, Lithuania. The family of his mother, Guta Kagan, was among those murdered in Keidan on Aug. 28, 1941. He serves as secretary of the Association of Keidaners in Israel.

by Aryeh Leonard Shcherbakov Continue reading

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Yudel Ronder

Yudel Ronder in 1995, with his “black book” containing notes about Lithuanians he identified as murderers of Jews. Photo by Laurence Salzmann

I first heard of him in 1994, from Laurence Salzmann, a Philadelphia photojournalist who was documenting Jewish survivors of the Holocaust in Lithuania. At the time all I knew about Keidan came from my grandfather’s articles, which predated World War II. I was eager to learn more, and so I sent a letter off to the address I had been given. Not long after, the following arrived, handwritten in Yiddish: Continue reading

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Coming Together for Passover

“Getting together for Passover” used to be one of those second-nature ideas, an assumption for families and groups of friends every year about this time. This year, of course, the phrase has become bitterly ironic. With everyone more or less quarantined at home, getting together, if it happens at all, will be virtual, with makeshift seders conducted over Zoom and Facetime.

It isn’t the first time that Passover has occasioned concerns about getting together, however. Continue reading

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A Century in Photographs

This website – and everyone interested in Keidan – owes an enormous debt of gratitude to the Kedainiai Regional Museum, whose director, Rimantas Zirgulis, has been the driving force behind efforts to preserve and commemorate the history of  this complex, multicultural community.

Among the museum’s recent achievements is a book of photographs, titled (in Lithuanian) “Kėdainių šimtmetis fotografijose. 1918-2018,” which translates at “The Centenary of Kėdainiai in Photography. 1918-2018.” Rimantas recently put selections from the book on the Museum’s website, and has graciously permitted us to reproduce some here. To order a copy of the book, email the museum at kedainiumuziejus@gmail.com. Continue reading

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The Problematic Hirsh Bloshtein

Hirsh Bloshtein, with grandchild, in 1965.

Among the pages I’ve added to the Keidan archives this week is this 1958 article from the Yiddish newspaper Morgen Freiheit by the Keidan-born poet and novelist Hirsh Bloshtein. Morgen Freiheit was a publication “affilitated with the Communist Party USA” according to Wikipedia, and Bloshtein himself was a dedicated Communist, who spent most of his life in the Soviet Union, living in what is now the Ukrainian city of Chernivtsi (but was once a leading center of Yiddish culture and literature called Czernowitz.)

Bloshtein is a fascinating and troubling character. Continue reading

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Locating Lost Tribes

On the “Roots in Keidan” Facebook group, Bruce Patt asks if there is any documentation about a Keidaner organization in Chicago. The answer is … yes!

In the 1930s, the Keidaner Association of New York published a monthly bulletin, filled with meeting notices, fundraising appeals, messages of congratulations or condolence, and much more. In the “much more” category were memoirs, anecdotes and correspondence, from back in the “alter heym” as well as various parts of the Keidaner diaspora. Continue reading

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