our visits in Vistytis
- our visits in Vistytis during the summer 2000 and 2003
My grandfather, elias Seidowky left Vistytis at the beginning of the
century, he was a brusher and emigrated to Leipzig in Germany, that
was at this time a great center for brushes. The brushers didn't
really make the brushes but washed the pigs hair. There very bad
working conditions are described in the book of nokhem Buchbinder
about brushers and tanners professional unions, (Geneva 1900 in
yiddish). My family was connected with the names Direktor or
Drekter, h(g)urashof and Povistaisky: the last name comes from the
neighbouring hamlet called Povistytis (under Vistytis). Some of them
emigrated to the USA and England. Since I had still family in the
area in 1940, albert Seidowsky, one of my uncles, running away from
nazi Germany, joined this place, where there were still, apparently,
personal connections. I was especially interested in the history of
the first half part of the 20th century.
I'm german, french and yiddish language teacher and know some hebrew,
russian and polish, I studied in France , England, Germany and
Austria history of east-european culture and judaism. I apologize for
the poor quality of my english, and for the late transcription of the
notes I took with my companion.
2000 : we had the luck to meet with family zimmermanas; mariette and
leonas. They speak polish and their daughter reda is a german teacher
so we could understand us quite good , we could stay by them at home
before we found two alternative solutions : in the hotel in
pavistytis (the young manager speak english) and at the camping place
Victoria were we could rent a little wooden house (the elderly
manager speak only russian) don't forget to book , especially for
So could be organized a Vistytis-gathering of all the interested
friends of our yahoo-group!!
Leonas was 11 in the year 1941 and lived in Vistytis; he lives just
in front of the pharmacy , on Taikos Gatve, the main street running
down from the main place called Vytauto parallel to the lake. He is
retired but still working as a gardener with his wife.
2003 we could meet with inga from the regional office for tourism in
vistytis , who speaks german; she introduced us to different people:
birute mardosaite; an history teacher in the high school, that she
let us visit.
We visited the new regional tourism office, the public library,
catholic and protestant churches and cemeteries, we could buy in the
old soviet shops and even eat at a little "hidden" restaurant, swim
every day in the nice lake and walk in the forest, but couldn't meet
with the new major, Mr Bronius Polita. We could discover all these
possibilities by staying at three different times and several days.
The summer time is very nice.
Here are the informations we could collect principally about the last
years of the jewish life before the destruction; We don't give any
guarantee for the exactitude of the elements but would be happy to
get confirmations or corrections of the facts.
The second main source was mr vitalius Gaidys, who is a sport
teacher : (vistytis 4285, Juzapaviciaus 20, Vilkaviskyo r., Lietuva).
He's ready to help us more but needs some financial support since his
researches are connected with a lot of expenses and in a still very
critical economical situation.
He made a lot of researches and lead a school project organized in
all the land during the last years called "our jewish neighbors" his
group won the second price of the contest.
They wrote a very interesting booklet about the jews. He apparently
wanted to sell it He said us he had a lot more informations.
The jewish community exists since the 14th century; during the
history there were at least 5 communities in the village: russian;
polish; german; lithuanian and jewish and even 2 Karaite families
living outside of the shtetl.( members of a jewish fondamentalist
1897 there were 2463 persons 800 jews between them
immigration around the beginning of the century brush and leather
1912-13 60 children attended the jewish primary school
1923 1295 people lived in Vistytis between them 200 jewish
between 15 and 20%
there were 177 houses ; 40 of them were jewish ( these
figures are quite the same as quoted in berl cohens "yidishe
There were 4 religious houses: one of them was jewish; another source
signalized the existence of 2 synagogues: the old and the new one.
They became at soviet time storage places for the cereals of the
sovkhoz.The catholic church is still standing near the main place and
the temple on their right side at the entrance of the village on the
he road from Kalvaria. Beside catholics the lutherians came between
1820 and 1844 as german colonists; a lot of them lived in the
surrounding hamlets. 1842 the protestant priest of Vistytis H
Wernicke wrote a book "es führt mich zum frischen Wasser"; (it leads
me to fresh water)
Between the two wars:
some informations about the economical structure of the jewish
population at this time
The brush factories seemed to have disappeared since the workers
emigrated massively to west Europe and America at the beginning of
Some jews were still working as tanners with skins from different
animals like rabbits, cattle and pigs! they had commercial contacts
with the next place called Wijanny in Poland.
there were around 40 shops in town; 3/4 of them owned by jews.
Some jews were employed as workers in the by a lithuanian "boss"
some worked in the textile factory owned by mr Cornelis and exported
A jew owned the chemist's and other Jews worked as bakers.
Some were tailors; one of them, mr Lachmann was living as a
glazier.Some other Jew earned his living by working as a wellmaker.
There were 4 Jewish peasants. and 2 Karaite families living in a
place called Lukiaiu.
The rabbi lived with his wife and two daughters (one of them called
Esther) on Taikos Street, next to the house of the present pub, miss
Salenson sold "bread for everybody and matses for free " and lived
in a brick house on Taikos Street too like the two sisters Reich-
Rudelitis selling sweets and ice on plates (they hide themselves in a
barrack to escape their murderers but were denounced and killed) such
as mr Abolowitch (Abolovicius) in a wooden house, he had a factory
for textile. Andriewski was working as a hairdresser. Mr Markaus
worked in Vilnius as a lawyer, he emigrated to Israël and and came
back on a visit to Vistytis after he emigrated.Mr Zimmermann was a
carpenter. The family Budwetskes with daughter Esther sold vessel
and ... their brother sold stationary.
In the school were two classes for lithuanian and Germans ; the
jewish children attended the german classes.
A family Rosenberg owned the blue house on the main place. (we knew
the Name Rosental; so could it be a mistake)
In the high school were two classes: for lithuanian and Germans ; the
jewish children attended the german classes.There are two jewish
cemeteries, the new and the old one, the old one is on the border and
even on Russian territory. One copper monument has been stolen. A lot
of graves were opened and robbed in the 60ies such as in the German
cemetery. The robbers were looking for gold and jewelery.
The destruction: In the next days after the attack of hitler-
germany on the soviet-union as a border place Vistytis was occupied.
The lithuanian soviet authorities disappeared running away toward
The nazis separated the men from women and children; the men were
kept all together apart in a barrack or cellars in the main place and
had to work ; this place was called "the little ghetto".
On the 14th of July 1941 at 9h30 they were brought through the main
street (today Taikos street) to the mill at the entrance of the
village. The Rabbi has been killed at 10h on the way, the inhabitants
had to shut their windows and curtains, then all men were killed and
buried down the hill hundred meters away, together with the political
soviet commissioners (representatives) and the komsomols (communist
On the 7th of September 1941 women and children were brought to the
same place and had the same fate, the wife of the rabbi was too weak
to walk and had to be carried. A young lithuanian boy hidden in the
mill could follow the scene and describe how the people had to
undress before they were killed and thrown in mass graves.
Afterwards, the bodies were removed to their present place beside the
mill ; among them lies the rests of the father of an important
soviet fonctionar, called Dzerzinskias. Around 40 families
disappeared (200-210 people) : between 70-75 men, between 130-147
women and children, some lithuanian people who wore white stripes on
their arms were involved in the murders with the Germans, but didn't
come from the area.
2 young girls could escape and were kept by the family Cuiprinskai.
These tragical reports fit with the description of the other mass-
murders in East-Europe and particularly in the Baltic areas.
The houses of the jews were attributed from the local authorities to
Here is the epitaph on the monument erected in 1964 near the mill
from yiddish :
" At this place are lying the bones of the Vistytiter Jews, children,
women, men, which the nazis murderers with their local assistants
have cruelly murdered, the 7th of September 1941",
The remains of children and women were buried there separately in
coffins in 1955.
Mr Gaidys told us that a women owns a list of the murdered people,
and would possibly "sell" it, such as his the booklet he wrote with
As a bitter irony of history; the only one jew that survived and came
back after the war was Abolovicius (abolovitch) he should have been
quite wealthy because he was as such deported in Siberia during the
one year soviet-republic 1940 -1941 together with the
(After Poland had been divided and occupied by the Germans and the
soviets.the 3 baltic republics became soviet-republics) . Ahter th
ewar Abolovicius emigrated to the USA.
he owned some houses and let one to miss mardosaite ; one of the
teachers we met.