Jewish community of Balbirishok remembered in solemn ceremony

A stone stele marking the site of the synagogue which once served the Jewish community in Balbirishok (Balbieriškis) was unveiled in the small Lithuanian town. 

Attending the unveiling ceremony were Lithuanian Jewish Community chairwoman Faina Kukliansky, Kaunas Jewish Community chairman Gercas Žakas, US embassy chief of mission William Kendrick, Israeli ambassador to Lithuania Hadas Wittenberg Silverstein, educational program coordinator of the International Commission for Assessing the Crimes of the Nazi and Soviet Occupational Regimes in Lithuania Ingrida Vilkienė, representatives of the Prienai regional administration and the Balbieriškis aldermanship and a large contingent of local residents and students from the Balbieriškis primary school’s Tolerance Center.

LJC chairwoman Kukliansky welcomed the audience and said she was impressed and pleased the truly significant role played by Litvaks in the history of the town was being remembered and appreciated.

The German army entered Balbirishok on June 22, 1941 the same day they invaded Lithuania. With its arrival groups of Lithuanians, composed of students and local activists, organized to attack and abuse Jews. At first, they arrested all the males and held them in the local administration building. There, they were constantly beaten and tormented by the local guards. They would also be beaten as they were led to their forced labor assignments, and at every other opportunity, some would be murdered.

On August 22, 1941, all the men, some 100 in number, and six women were force-marched to Pren (Prienai). It seems that all were murdered on August 27, 1941, (4 Elul, 5701), and buried in the northern part of Pren, on the left bank of the Neiman River. The remaining women and children, who numbered several hundred, were kept for a short while in Balbirishok and then transported to Marijampole. There, they were murdered with the Jews from that town and the surrounding areas on September 1, 1941, (9 Elul, 5701).


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