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SAJM Jewish Digital Archive Project (JDAP)
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Svedasai Photograph Series

The Svėdasai (English spelling: Svedasai) Photograph Series includes three photographs, one of which depicts the visit of President Antanas Smetona, and the remaining two include the Arsch family from Svėdasai in various scenarios and with different family members in each photographs.

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, Subacius was part of the Russian Empire until the First World War when it was occupied by Bolsheviks. The Russian declaration for all Jews to be driven out of their towns applied to Subacius, decreasing the population significantly. However, relations between Jews and Lithuanians in this town were relatively harmonius, with considerably minor looting of empty homes of Jews, so that when they returned from Russian exile their homes were in tact. In the interwar years, the town was part of the Independent Republic of Lithuania, under which even more Jews left as economic conditions declined, mostly immigrating to Israel due to the strong Zionist presence in this shtetl. Lithuanian independence 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. There were very strong nationalists in Lithuania who turned very cruel upon Nazi occupation, with some even acting before Nazi troops arrived, acting with extreme violence against Jews. This mass violence was carried out as a masscare within the town, including inside the shops owned by Jews, but also through extended massacre whereby Jews were transported under the pretense of going to work nearby in Rokiskis, where they were instead murdered. [Source: https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/lithuania6/lit6_327.html]

The town of Svėdasai (English spelling: Svedasai) is named as such in Lithuanian, as Sviadostse in Russian, as Świadoście in Polish, and as Svadushtsh/Shvidostch in Yiddish.

This Series was originally donated to the SAJBOD Archives by Ethel Aarons in 1988, after she moved to Johannesburg.

Klaipeda Photograph Series

The Klaipėda (English spelling: Klaipeda) Photograph Series includes photographs of two different youth organisations: Haesharah and Hechalutz. While this organisations differ slightly in the finer details of their aims, both are Zionist in ideology.

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. Jewish-Lithuanian relations before World War I were not overtly hostile, but Jews were unable to hold positions of community leadeship or government. In 1914, as part of being occupied by the Russian Empire, an order was given for all Jews in this town and others under the Russian Empire to be expelled, with Jews from Klaipeda being exiled to an island in the Baltic Sea. In the interwar years of Independent Lithuania, Jews were permitted to return and were given citizenship, however their activities and organizations were located in one part of town, not to be mixed with the rest of the town. Many German citizens lived in this town, giving its most wellknown moniker, Memel. This complicated the process of occupation when Nuremburg Laws were passed in Germany that restricted rights of Jews. In1938, an election in the local Seimas lead to Nazis holding the majority vote, and many Jews left in response to this, knwoing they were unwelcome. The last Jews left the town in 1939, having had property and capital confiscated, and being threatened. [Source: https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/memel/oldmemel/memel2.html].

The town of Klaipėda (English spelling: Klaipeda) is named as such in Lithuanian, as Klaypeda in Russian, as Kłajpeda in Polish, and as Memel in Yiddish and German.

Marijampole Photograph Series

The Marijampolė (English spelling: Marijampole) Photograph Series includes four photographs, with two including members of the Leibowitz family who are originally from Pikelai but who spent some time in Marijampole, and the other two of a Passover celebration and unnamed women posing for a photograph. The Leibowitz family photographs include one of Yaakov Leibowitz at his wedding celebration, and another of the Leibowitz men in a flax refinery factor.

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, Marijampole was part of the Russian Empire until the First World War when it was occupied by Bolsheviks. Importantly, Jews formed a crucial part of the economy in this town, with many involved in community positions, leading in the education field, and contributing meaningfully through the Jewish Folksbank. There was also a considerable Zionist and Bundist presence in the town. This explains immigration patterns being mostly to Israel. In the interwar years, the town was part of the Independent Republic of Lithuania, under which many Jews left as economic conditions declined, mostly immigrating to Israel and overseas. This independence 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. The treatment of Jews under Nazi occupation was decidedly cruel, with Lithuanians turning their backs on their neighbours to welcome German troops upon arrival. Jews were humiliated and made to defile their dignity and religion in many instances, with many being publicly killed almost immediately. Others were forced to march to barracks where they were made to do exercises including digging ditches, and later these same ditches served as mass graves for 8000 Jews and 1000 other victims who were murdered.

The town of Marijampolė (English spelling: Marijampole) is named as such in present-day Lithuanian (since 1989), as Kapsukas from 1956 to 1989 in Lithuanian, as Mariampol in Russian and Yiddish, and as Maryampol in Polish.

Moletai Photograph Series

The Molėtai (English spelling: Moletai) Photograph Series includes 13 photographs, with a photograph of a street in the town, some young Jews in the forest, Jewish men at the timber works office, mourners at a Jewish funeral, a few photographs of men outside the sawmill, some men near a river, a group photograph of some members of the Yiddish folk bank, and class photographs of Jewish students. The Jewish students are either part of the Yiddish folk shul school, including the pre-primary and primary school children, or from the Tarbut school.

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, Moletai was part of the Russian Empire until the First World War when it was occupied by Bolsheviks. The Russian declaration for all Jews to be driven out of their towns applied to Moletai, decreasing the population significantly, more so because Russians murdered many Jews on their way to Russia. In the interwar years, the town was part of the Independent Republic of Lithuania, with Jews contributing significantly to the economy via the Jewish Folksbank. However, the population of Jews decreased more since Jews left as economic conditions declined, mostly immigrating to Israel and South Africa. This independence 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. Germans and Lithuanians treated Jews with various kinds of cruelty and hatred, with some Jews being killed upon immediate arrival of Nazi troops, and others being forced to gather and wait without food and water to be killed three days later. [Source: https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/lithuania6/lit6_166.html].

The town of Molėtai (English spelling: Moletai) is named as such in Lithuanian, as Maliaty in Russian, as Malaty in Polish, and as Maliat in Yiddish.

Vainutas Photograph Series

The Vainutas Photograph Series includes two photographs, with one depicting the road entering the town and the other depicting a wedding celebration. The wedding photograph includes the newlywed Mr and Mrs Shefke (alternative spelling: Sefikel) with their wedding guests surrounding them.

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. 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, Ukmerge was part of the Russian Empire until the First World War when it was occupied by Bolsheviks. In the interwar years, the town was part of the Independent Republic of Lithuania. However, the population of Jews decreased more since Jews left as economic conditions declined, mostly immigrating to Israel and South Africa. This independence 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. Nazis made selections from the Jewish residents, whereby those unable to work were killed immediately, and those able to work were transported a short distance, afterwhich some were killed, and the remaining few were sent to the Heydekrug camp. This camp was emptied of prisoners in 1943, with transportation to Auschwitz resulting in murder of 100 Jews, including 10 from Vainutas and 90 from other towns. The surviving men were used for slave labour, including vacating ruins in the Warsaw ghetto, where many died of typhus. Only 3 men from this town survived WWII, being freed by the American army at the end of the war. [Source: https://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/lithuania6/lit6_371.html].

The town of Vainutas is named as such in Lithuanian, as Wojnuta in Polish, and as Vainute in Yiddish.

Vilnius Photograph Series

The Vilnius Photograph Series includes four sombre photographs throughout the town of Vilnius, including a photograph of a near-empty street, a painting of another city street, a young child in the street, and an elderly man on the side of the road. With these photographs being taken quite close to the end of the interwar period, the sombre tone is appropriate, since at the brink of war, Eastern European Jews were suffering severe poverty and exclusion from society. Aside from these, there are also three photographs of Jewish organisations and clubs, including one Haskalah school photograph, a scene from an inter-Jewish school athletics event and a Jewish football team. With ever-increasing anti-Semitism and exclusion, Jewish community members would form their own organisations, which served as meeting points for Jews who were largely shunned in other realms of society and therefore unable to join mainstream organisations of a similar kind. This exclusion, primarily based on anti-Semitism, made these organisations necessary if Jews were interested in taking part in these activities, but also promoted an in-group sense of belonging in a highly community-oriented group.

Jewish people in Vilnius made made up a considerable proportion of the population, and contributed significantly to the economy mostly through their role as merchants, tradesmen and manufacturing owners. Vilnius was also known for its strong 19th century Bundist movement, and later an even stronger Zionist presence in the early 1900s whereby this town housed the Zionist Committee of Russia from 1905 to 1910. Economics and politics aside, Jews were perhaps strongest in their cultural and educational contribution in Vilnius. The Haskalah movement (Jewish Enlightenment) spread through the town and outwards from there, it was the seat/centre of the Torah for many years, it was home to many progressive thinkers and writers and also attracted similar talents to its cultural haven, and was known to be a particularly vibrant hub for Hebrew literature. [Source: https://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/vilna/overview.asp].

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. Vilnius was part of the Russian Empire prior to World War I, whereby it flourished in many ways. In the year 1915, during the Yom Kippur period, Germany occupied Vilnius, bringing about widespread poverty and starvation, thereby eradicating the flourishing economy that existed here. Jewish folk were forced to work for Germans, and were treated with much cruelty, only inspiring further comraraderie among this community-oriented group. Jews supported one another in finding employment opportunities in the scarce market, and made strides in education and culture despite the harsh conditions. Immediately after WWI, there was a complex period of transition out of German rule when Germans retreated at the end of 1918. Polish citizens in Vilnius were given leadership roles, but this did not last long as the Bolshevik troops invaded and took control for a short period. In April 1919, Polish troops entered Vilnius, taking control and 'liberating' the town, although doing so with a fair amount of ill treatment of Jews. This 'liberation' saw the election of Jews to town council positions, but this was disrupted by another invasion by the Red Army in July 1920. Only one day later, Lithuanians entered the town and tried to occupy, but the Russians only handed over control to Lithuanians at the end of August 1920, with Lithuanians promising autonomy to Jews. Polish troops arrived and took control in that same year, conquering other leaderships and severing ties with Lithuania who had formed an Independent Republic by that point. Under Polish rule, the economy was stagnant and many Jewish community leadership positions were faded out, alongwith much emigration to America and other overseas countries. Throughout this hardship, Jewish education continued to thrive, with Jews fighting for rights and freedoms since only Polish high school diplomas were accepted initially, thus making it difficult for Jews to attend university, yet many Jewish students still managed to obtain a university education. Unfortunately, this tumultuous period lead to Vilnius losing its position as the home of Hebrew literature, but Yiddish certainly took an important position. Anti-Semitism was rife, worsened by internal divides between Socialist Bundists and Jewish Nationalist Zionists. At the beginning of World War II, as part of the agreement between Germany and the Soviet Union, a portion of Poland (including Vilnius) was occupied by the Soviet Union, who handed over control to Lithuania in October 1939. As war developed, the Soviet Union reoccupied Vilnius in August 1940, and Jews were treated with violence and exiled to Siberia in amny cases. Nazi Germany occupied Vilnius in June 1941, soon after which anti-Semitic measures were put into place. In collaboration with Lithuanian locals, Nazis orchestrated 5000 murders at Ponary forest in July 1941, and another 3500 there in August. The degree of local collaboration by Lithuanians speaks to the murderous anti-Semitism present here. In September 1941, two ghettoes where established in Vilna, with ghetto 1 being for those able to work, and ghetto 2 being for those who were to be killed almost immediately in Ponary, leading to around 40000 total deaths in that forest by the end of 1941. Ghetto 1 occupants were forced to work, and were periodically terrorized by killing sprees in the forest, or by transfers to other labour camps nearby. The large majority of the ghetto occupants were murdered, with only a few Jews left by September 1943 when the ghetto was liquidated. Those too sick to work were killed in Ponary or sent to Sobibor death camp, men who could work were sent to labour camps in Estonia, and women were sent to labour camps in Latvia. Similarly to the strength in culture and community before the Holocaust, there were instances of resistance in the Vilnius ghetto, inspired by organized movements that existed pre-WWII. [https://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/vilna/vilna.htm]

The town of Vilnius is named as such in Lithuanian, as Vilna in Russian, as Wilno in Polish, and as Vilne in Yiddish. This town also has the moniker of being the "Jerusalem of Lithuania" according to a large proportion of East European Jewry, which seems appropriate considering the strides in Jewish culture and thought that Vilnius was home to.

Max Raysman Collection

  • Collection
  • 2014-

The Max Raysman Collection includes South African Yiddish theatre programmes, flyers, newspaper clippings and photographs obtained from his scrapbooks.

Whenever possible research has been conducted to enrich the information in these collections. If you would like to add any additional information please contact us.

Jews and the struggle for human rights interview Series

This collection of oral history interviews were conducted by Journalist Jonathan Ancer with 7 Jewish community members, all of whom contributed towards the fight against the Aparthied government in South Africa.

In this collection you will find 6 minute audio clips with the interviewees, as well as transcripts from all the interviews.

Whenever possible research has been conducted to enrich the information in these collections, if you would like to add any additional information please contact us.

Benjamin Pogrund Collection

  • Collection
  • 2012-

The Pogrund Interview Collection contains digital footage. It contains a single interview with Benjamin Pogrund in 2012. It is a wide ranging interview covering various topics including his family history, childhood, career in journalism, activities during Apartheid, and his Judaism.

Whenever possible research has been conducted to enrich the information in these collections, if you would like to add any additional information please contact us.

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