Series - Darbenai Photograph Series

Darbenai Lithuania, "Man standing outside railway station" Darbenai Lithuania, "House owned by Toutz family" Darbenai Lithuania, "Jewish townsfolk" Darbenai Lithuania, "Street in Darbenai" Darbenai Lithuania, "Market square in Darbenai"

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Darbenai Photograph Series

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  • Photographic material

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  • 2013- (Custody)
    SAJM Jewish Digital Archive Project (JDAP)
  • 2013 (Donation)
    SAJBOD Archives
  • 1910-1963 (Collection)
    Lithuanian and Surrounding Towns Collection

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The Darbėnai (English spelling: Darbenai) Photograph series includes photographs of various locations throughout the town. These places range from public places such as a street typical of this town, public facilities such as the railway station or the market square, to more individually identifiable places such as the Toutz family home. The Series also includes one photograph of some local townsfolk.

Before World War I, Darbenai fell under the sprawling Russian Empire, which was dismantled as part of this conflict. Following that occupation and WWI, Darbenai celebrated under the somewhat Independent Lithuanian period between the wars, but during World War II suffered greatly at the hands of occupiers. Nazi Germany annexed the county that Darbenai was part of in 1939, followed by the whole of Lithuania being declared a Societ Republic in 1940. Not long after, on June 22nd 1941, the first day of war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, German troops entered Darbenai orchestrated a massacre that was met with no resistance and even some assitance from local non-Jewish Lithuanians. With many losses and much destruction, the shtetl was slowly rebuilt and repopulated following WWII under Soviet occupation until 1990, and some more while Lithuania struggled for independence, finally becoming a Republic in 1991. Despite changing hands and suffering losses by various occupying powers conducting massacres, the town maintained some Jewish meeting points such as a synagogue, some Jewish schools, a Jewish library, a Zionist office of sorts, and even some culture and sports clubs. [Source:;].

The greatest emigration losses from this shtetl are considered to be between 1914 and 1941. Darbenai, studied as a special area of expertise by Professor Eric Goldstein, is known to have been the root location for Diaspora of Jews to the United States, Palestine, the Maritime Provinces of Canada, and to Krugersdorp and Kroonstad in South Africa. Here in South Africa, as opposed to other sites of immigration, but in common with Palestine, immigrating Darbenai Jews tended to be young and single, therefore family networks and cohesion were weaker in the sense that they had not formed as strongly as they had in older Jews. This means that the Jewish people who live in South Africa and came from Darbenai were more likely to marry outside of their town of origin, forming new community networks and relationships with Jews from a variety of backgrounds. [Source:].

The town of Darbėnai (English spelling: Darbenai) is named as such in Lithuanian, as Dorbyany in Russian, as Dorbiany in Polish, and as Dorbian in Yiddish. The name of the town in Lithuanian originates from the nearby river Darba.

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Donated by The South African Jewish Board of Deputies Archive


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Unless otherwise stated the copyright of all material on the Jewish Digital Archive Project resides with the South African Jewish Museum.

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