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Lithuanian and Surrounding Towns Collection
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Darbenai Lithuania, "House owned by Toutz family"

Photograph of a house in Darbenai owned by the Toutz family with a sign. This house is one of a few on a street in Darbenai, most of which have some inhabitants standing outside the house looking at the camera. The Toutz family house has people standing on the front porch, with children sitting on the steps leading up to the house.

Photographer unknown

Darbenai Lithuania, "Jewish townsfolk"

Photograph of some Jewish townsfolk of Darbenai. The photograph includes approximately 50 people, comprising men, women and children, as well as a horse-drawn cart with people on the cart. The picture is taken outside a store or house, which can be seen in the background.

Photographer unknown

Darbenai Lithuania, "Street in Darbenai"

Photograph of a steet in Darbenai. The cobblestoned street has some trees on either side. There is a building visible that is either in the process of being built or that has deteriorated to be an incomplete structure. Other buildings can be seen along the street, some of which have people standing outside on the pavement.

Photographer unknown

Darbenai Photograph Series

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.

Jonava Lithuania, "Three Jewish residents of the town sitting in a motor vehicle"

Photograph of three people from the town of Jonava sitting in a motor vehicle, looking at the camera. There are two people seated in the back, with a man sitting further away from the camera on the right hand side of the backseat, and a woman sitting closer to the camera on the left hand side of the backseat. The woman in the backseat has her arm draped over the side of the car. The woman in front, named Sonia Berger, is sitting in the driver's seat with both of her hands holding the staring wheel and her left arm hanging over the edge of the car, smiling at the camera. A house can be seen in the background of the photograph, as well as some tall trees next to the house.

Photographer unknown

Jonava Photograph Series

The Jonava Photograph Series includes one photograph of some people seated in a motor vehicle, smiling at the camera. This photograph is taken with a house and some tall trees as the backdrop. The driver of the vehicle, Sonia Berger, is a relative of Mr Berger, who lived in Panevezys. Mr Berger moved to Johannesburg, where he donated this photograph in 1988, among other photographs in this Collection.

The chaotic pattern in Eastern Europe and nearby regions in the first half of the 20th century – mostly as a result of the two World Wars – consisted of sporadic occupation, independence, and reoccupation of territories. Following the same pattern as many shtetlach in Eastern Europe, particularly in Lithuania, Jonava was part of the Russian Empire until the First World War when it was occupied by Bolsheviks. Notably, this town was particularly large, and had a particularly large Jewish population, forming the majority of the residents. In the interwar years, the town was part of the Independent Republic of Lithuania, which was disrupted by Soviet invasion in 1940, and once again by Nazi invasion in 1941 at the start of the Second World War when Soviets and Nazis declared war. Aside from destruction of property and looting of citizens, the Nazi troops worked in tandem with Lithuanian Army units to massacre Jewish residents in two mass murders, one in August and one in September of 1941. [Source:].

The town of Jonava is named as such in Lithuanian, as Ianovo in Russian, as Janów in Polish, and as Yanove in Yiddish.

Kaunas Lithuania, "First team soccer group"

Photograph of 12 members of the soccer 1st team, who fell under the Jewish Athletics/Sports Club, taken in Kaunas in 1925. This photograph includes Mr B. Levenberg in the back row, second from the right hand side. These athletics and sports organisations were often points of social integration between and across Jewish communities in Europe, due to the widespread Antisemitic exclusion of Jews from mainstream sports clubs.

Photographer unknown

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