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MERKINE: Alytus County, Varena raj PDF Print E-mail

Alternate names: Merkinė [Lith], Meretch [Yid], Merecz [Pol], Merech [Rus], Meritz, Merch, Merts, Mertsh, Merkinės, Russian: Меречь. מערעטש-Yiddish. 54°10' N, 24°10' E, 52 miles SSE of Kaunas (Kovno), 45 miles SW of Trakai (Troki), 17 miles SSE of Alytus. Yizkors: Meretsh; ayara yehudit be-Lita (Tel Aviv, 1988) and Lite (vol. 1) (New York, 1951). [March 2009] ShtetLink. Formerly in Vilna guberniya.[October 2000]

One of the largest Jewish communities in Alytus uezd, the first Jews settled at the beginning of 16th century. 1897 Jewish population: 1,900 (73%), the majority engaged in crafts and trade. In 1930, 1700 Jews in Merkine had three synagogues because in 1924, Z.H. Fishel from the US, who went to Merkine to visit his father's grave, found the burnt Merkine synagogue and donated US$10,000 to build a brick one. During the inter-war period before WWII, seven primary schools, a bank with 325 Jewish depositors in 1929, a bookshop established in 1900, 145 shops (almost all owned by Jews), five pubs, one inn, a hotel, a brickyard, and different workshops served 300 Jewish families with no less than 1000 people, who were the majority of the town. Soviets had deported eight to ten of the richest and most educated Jews from Merkine to Siberia just before WWII. [March 2009]

CEMETERY: information. [September 2010]

MASS GRAVE: Germans troops occupied Merkine on June 23, 1941. The majority of buildings was burnt and shops looted. Eight to ten people were shot by German soldiers and local people. Passing German military units gunned down 24 alleged communists. During the first days of Nazi occupation, the German Military Commander's office, a provisional committee, a "partisan" squad of 75 persons, and a police station with five policemen were set up. During the first weeks of the Nazi occupation, remaining communists were persecuted. In mid-July, eighteen suspected communists were detained: 3 Jews, 1 Russian and 14 Lithuanians. 98 persons from Merkine uezd, mostly Lithuanians with fifteen Jews, were listed. The 84 year-old rabbi hid, but the commander wanted him. Fifty arrested Jews of Merkine and all the Jewish population was threatenened with execution unless he appeared. The rabbi appeared and was murdered sadistically. His chopped up body was buried in Merkine Jewish cemetery. In early September, police and white-bands drove the Jews to the synagogue and school, telling them they would be taken for labor, for 5-6 days; their selection was made there. First taken were men up to age 40. Younger women and girls were taken somewhere the following day. According to some witnesses, two large Jewish groups (one of 300 persons and the other of 400 persons) were driven to Alytus prison by local white-bands. The arrested Jews were starved. Lithuanians, who tried to help the Jews, were pushed away. More Jews were brought to Merkine from Leipalingis, Seirijai and Liškiava. Young men from Vilkiautinis, Papiškes and Navikas villages in Liškiava district were forced to dig ditches all night. A car with two Germans arrived in the morning and found no volunteers to shoot the Jews. Two cars full of soldiers in Lithuanian and German uniforms came from Alytus. On September 10, they and local white-bands took the Jews to the pine-tree grove behind the Jewish cemetery. Three policemen ran ahead up the hill followed by the Jewish men surrounded by drunken policemen and SS officers. Beaten by sticks and rifle butts, they were forced to run to the top of the hill where they were made to lie down and were beaten again. Finally, they were driven to the ditch. First, the Jewish men with tied hands were driven to the ditch. Undressed and forced into the ditches, they were shot from above. When they finished off the men, they came for the women, children, and elderly. Some Merkine white-bands took part in the shooting. Some of the victims' clothing were taken by the shooters. 854 Jews: 223 men, 355 women and 276 children were murdered in Merkine. [March 2009]

Last Updated on Friday, 24 September 2010 17:49
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