Search
Print
Share
Your Selected Item:
Personality
Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions

Senior Sachs

Senior Sachs (1815-1892) Scholar.

Born in Kedainiai, Lithuania, he grew up in Zagare, Lithuania, where his father was a rabbi. Already as a boy he was interested in Hebrew literature and became acquainted with Haskala. About 1839, he went to Dubno where he earned a livelihood by teaching Hebrew, and spent most of his time reading scientific and philosophical works. For two years he taught in Raseiniai, Lithuania, where he was a friend of the novelist Avraham Mapu. In 1844 Sachs reached Berlin, Germany, where he entered the university and in 1854 was invited to Paris by Baron Joseph Guenzburg as his private librarian and tutor to his children. He became involved in many aspects of Hebrew literature but as his interests were so diffuse most of his works were unfinished. Sachs edited journals and pamphlets and wrote articles and studies in Hebrew.

Date of birth:
1815
Date of death:
1892
Place of birth:
Kedainiai
Personality type:
Scholars
ID Number:
217321
Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
Nearby places:
Related items:
SACHS, SAKS

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

Sachs, literally "Saxon", refers to an inhabitant of Saxony (eastern Germany), where Jews lived since the 10th century, Sachs and its variants were often adopted as family names to perpetuate the memory of martyrs, because the similar sounding Zaks is an acronym (a name created from the initial letters of a Hebrew phrase, and which refers to a relative, lineage or occupation) of the Hebrew 'Zera Kodesh Shemo' ("his name descends from martyrs"). A number of families trace their name to the martyrs of the German city Stendal, Saxony, where Jews were killed in the early 16th century ('Zera Kodesh Stendal') or to the martyrs of Speyer on the Rhine in western Germany, whose Jews suffered badly during the crusades ('Zera Kodesh Speyer'). Still others selected the name in honor of a martyr without specifying the city.

This family name could also be a patronymic, derived from a male ancestor's personal name, in this case of biblical origin. The names in this group could also be derived from the biblical Yitzchak, the second of the patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah, whose biblical name-etymology means "laugh" (Genesis 21.6). Various forms of the family name Sachs were widespread throughout Europe. Seckelin is recorded in the year 1200 in France. Sachs is documented in the 14th century, and Sak in the 15th century. Sack (literally "sack" in German) is found in 1498. Seckel, Seckelis and Seckeles are mentioned in Prague, Bohemia in 1677. Sachse is documented in 1678, the diminutive Sachselin 1694, Secklin in 1710, Sacksel in 1745 and Sax in 1761.

Distinguished bearers of the Jewish family name Sachs include the German master builder and author, Salomo Sachs (1772-1846), the Lithuanian Hebrew scholar, Senior Sachs (1815-1892) and the German poet and playwright, Nelly (Leonie) Sachs, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1966.

Kedainiai

A provincial capital in central Lithuania.

Kedainiai was founded in the 14th century as a fishing village on the shores of the Nevezis and Smilga rivers. Jewish merchants first settled there at the end of the 15th century, invited to do so by the local landowners. More than once the Jews were driven out and later returned when there was a change of rulers. In 1590 Kedainiai was granted the privileges of a free town, its economic conditions improved, and it became a commercial center for the surrounding area. The Jews whose economic activity in the town was of interest to the local rulers, were granted religious freedom and full civil rights by the Polish Prince Radzivill. From the end of the 16th century until the close of the 18th, the Lithuanian principality was part of the Polish kingdom. New Jewish settlers were carefully selected, and were permitted to acquire land and given tax reductions. During the same period, Jewish men of scholarship and learning came to Kedainiai from Germany, and subsequently developed the town's Jewish community into a center of torah and scholarship.

The later princes of the Radzivill dynasty confirmed the privileges of the Jews. The Jews participated in the election of municipal employees, were given military training and organized into military units for times of emergency.

At the time of the decrees of 1648 and 1649 (the Chmielnitzki massacres of 1648), the Jewish community of Kedainiai which was not affected gave assistance to the victims. At the time of the Swedish invasion during the second half of the 17th century many Jews left the town. At the close of the 17th century a great fire broke out in Kedainiai, and at the beginning of the 18th century the town was completely devastated by the Russian and Swedish forces which swept through it during the Northern Wars. When the palace of the Radzivill Princes was also destroyed, the Jewish community was reduced to poverty, and began to recover only in the third decade of the 18th century when it was well-represented on the Lithuanian State Committee. Even after the committee was abolished (1764), meetings of representatives from the Lithuanian communities still took place in the town, the last held in 1782, and many other Jewish communities were under the jurisdiction of the Kedainiai community.

Kedainiai was renowned throughout Lithuania as a center of torah and spiritual learning for the Jewish communities of the region. It was the site of a large yeshiva, many hadarim and study houses, where learning went on both day and night. At the end of the 17th century, all the Jewish communities of Lithuania read the Selihot service composed by Rabbi Yosef of Kobrin, a native of Kedainiai, in memory of the persecuted Jews.

The Gaon, Rabbi Eliahu of Vilna was a student of Rabbi Moshe Margoliot also known as "Pnei Moshe" , while staying with Rabbi David Katznellenbogen who served as the rabbi of Kedainiai during the first half of the 18th century. The Gaon of Vilna's wife was a native of Kedainiai.

At the end of the 18th century, as a result of the partition of the Kingdom of Poland, Kedainiai came under the rule of Czarist Russia. The Jewish privileges were cancelled. At the start of the 19th century Jews who had been banished from the villages settled in Kedainiai. Approximately 400 Jews perished in a cholera epidemic which broke out in 1807.

Towards the middle of the 19th century, the Jewish community recovered, its economy stabilized, and by 1847 the number of Jewish inhabitants in the town reached 4,987. At the end of the 19th century, at the time of the Jewish emigration from Russia, many left Kedainiai. In 1897 there were 3,733 Jews remaining in the town, 64% of its population. In 1915, during World War I (1914-1918), the Jews of Kedainiai were exiled into the interior of Russia and not all of them returned to the town after the war. The Joint Distribution Committee and overseas relatives helped in the rehabilitation of the Jewish community. In 1923, at the time of Lithuania's independence, there were 2,499 Jews in the town, 33% of its total population.

The Great Synagogue, built at the end of the 18th century, contained an ornate holy ark and a sundial bearing Hebrew letters.

Among the Rabbis of Kedainiai were Rabbi Moses Margolies (Moshe ben Shimon Margalit) also known as "Pnei Moshe", a commentator of the Jerusalem Talmud. The last rabbi to officiate in the town was Rabbi Shlomo Feinsilber. The community produced many intellectuals and supporters of the haskala (enlightenment) movement, among them the author Moshe-Leib Lillienblum and the historian of literature, Shneur Zakash.

From the end of the 19th century, secular studies were also taught at the local Talmud Torah school. In addition, at the beginning of the 20th century, Hebrew schools of the tarbut network were established, as well as a Jewish high school where the language of instruction was Hebrew. Jewish student’s also studied in the Polish gymnasium established by Prince Radzivill early in the 17th century. In the period between the annexation to Russia and World War I, Jewish students also attended Russian schools.

Weavers and craftsmen from Germany, who had settled in Kedainiai during the 17th century, aided in the development of the town's weaving workshops. In the 19th century this sector was entirely in Jewish hands. In 1648, Prince Radzivill built the first flour mill in Kedainiai, and leased it to Jews. In 1659 he set up a printing press, also managed by Jews, where the Book of Psalms was printed in Lithuanian for the first time, as well as many religious books. Subsequently, both holy and secular books were printed in Hebrew. The last Hebrew book printed there was in 1940.

In the days of the Polish kingdom the Jews leased land and collected taxes for the local rulers. At the end of the 18th century, when Kedainiai came under Russian rule, the Russian garrison in the town served as a source of livelihood for shopkeepers and craftsmen. The railway which was laid by the Russians helped increase the commercial ties with Russia. A flour mill set up by the new town ruler was leased to Jews.

In independent Lithuania, between the two world wars, the Jewish bank stood at the center of the town's economy. The bank, which was founded in 1921, had 360 members in 1929. From the beginning of the 19th century many Jews of Kedainiai (about 80 families) were engaged in growing and marketing vegetables throughout Lithuania. At various times there were commercial establishments in Kedainiai exporting agricultural produce to most European countries.

In the days of independent Lithuania following World War I, the Lithuanian cooperatives, which were supported by the government, began to undercut the Jews. Many Jews emigrated during that time.

The roots of the Zionist movement in Kedainiai go back to the days of Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) towards the end of the 19th century. In independent Lithuania the Zionist idea took hold of all the Jews of the town. The Zionist parties and their youth movements were established, and libraries containing many Hebrew books were opened. There was also much activity on behalf of the Zionist funds.

Not far from the town, a farm was set up to prepare young people for emigration to Eretz Israel. The youth in Kedainiai were concentrated mainly in Hashomer Hazair, Gordonia and Betar. Many worked in the training farm and in the 1930’s went to settle in Eretz Israel.

Prior to World War II, 3,000 Jews were living in Kedainiai.


The Holocaust Period

After the outbreak of World War II (September 1, 1939) and the occupation of Poland by the Germans, Lithuania came under Soviet rule and at the end of the summer of 1940 was annexed by the Soviet Union. The Soviet authorities nationalized private property, business firms and shops which were owned mainly by Jews. Community institutions ceased to function and the Zionist parties and youth organizations were dispersed. The Hebrew educational institutions were also shut down. Economic activity in the town decreased, and the standard of living of the inhabitants in general, and of the Jews in particular, steadily declined. Jewish refugees from Poland, now occupied by the Nazis, found refuge in Kedainiai.

When Germany attacked the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941) groups of Lithuanian extreme nationalists were organized. Many Jews who tried to flee with the retreating Soviet forces were shot by the Lithuanians. The Germans entered the town on the 24th of June and immediately issued decrees affecting the Jews. They were required to wear yellow armbands and to turn over their valuables. Night curfew was imposed on them, and all contact and trade with the rest of the population was forbidden.

Jews were taken for forced labor for the Germans. They were treated brutally by their guards, Lithuanian nationalists, who did not hesitate to murder some of them. At first most of the Jews were employed in clearing bombs and mines which the Soviets had left in the local airfield, and many were killed in the process.

On the 23rd of July 200 Jews were shot in the forest 8 km outside of Kedainiai. A few days later the Jews were ordered to leave their homes and move to a ghetto, bounded by several of the town's alleys. All the Jews of the surrounding towns were brought to the ghetto, 3,700 souls in all. The crowding was unbearable, and the food supply soon gave out.

On August 15, 1941 all the Jews of the ghetto were gathered in the courtyard of the synagogue and led to a horse farm, where they were held for 13 days without food. On August 25, 1941 the Jews were taken, group by group, to pits, which had previously been dug behind the catholic cemetery, and slaughtered by machine gun fire. The Germans supervised the massacre which the Lithuanians carried out. Prominent Lithuanian leaders of Kedainiai, the mayor, the principal of the gymnasium and other public figures, were invited to watch the murders as they were carried out. Only a few Jews managed to escape, hid in the forest and joined the partisans.

After the war, a monument was set on the mass graves by Jewish survivors of Kedainiai and of the surrounding communities.

Berlin

The largest city in Germany. The capital of Germany until 1945. After the Second World War and until 1990 the city was divided into West Berlin and East Berlin.

Jews are first mentioned in a letter from the Berlin local council of October 28, 1295, forbidding wool merchants to supply Jews with wool yarn. Jews lived primarily in a Jewish quarter, but a number of wealthier Jews lived outside this area. The Berlin Jews engaged mainly in commerce, handicrafts, money-changing, and money-lending. They paid taxes for the right to slaughter animals ritually, to sell meat, to marry, to circumcise their sons, to buy wine, to receive additional Jews as residents of their community, and to bury their dead. During the Black Death (1349-1350), the houses of the Jews were burned down and the Jewish inhabitants were killed or expelled from the town.

From 1354, Jews settled again in Berlin. In 1446 they were arrested with the rest of the Jews in Brandenburg, and their property was confiscated. A year later Jews again began to return there, and a few wealthy Jews were admitted into Brandenburg in 1509. In 1510 the Jews were accused of desecrating the host and stealing sacred vessels from a church in a village near Berlin. 111 Jews were arrested and subjected to examination, and 51 were sentenced to death; of these 38 were burned at the stake in the new market square together with the real culprit, a Christian, on July 10, 1510. All the accused were proved completely innocent at the diet of Frankfort in 1539 through the efforts of Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershom of Rosheim and Philipp Melanchthon. In 1571, when the Jews were again expelled from Brandenburg, the Jews of Berlin were expelled "forever". For the next 100 years, a few individual Jews appeared there at widely scattered intervals. About 1663, the court Jew Israel Aaron, who was supplier to the army and the electoral court, was permitted to settle in Berlin. After the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna in 1670, the elector issued an edict on May 21, 1671, admitting 50 wealthy Jewish families from Austria into Brandenburg for 20 years. Frederick William I (1713-1740) limited (in a charter granted to the Jews on May 20, 1714) the number of tolerated Jews to 120 householders, but permitted in certain cases the extension of letters of protection to include the second and third child. The Jews of Berlin were permitted to engage in commerce almost without restriction, but were forbidden to trade in drugs and spices, in raw skins, and in imported woolen and fiber goods, and were forbidden to operate breweries or distilleries. Land ownership by Jews had been prohibited in 1697 and required a special license which could be obtained only with great difficulty.

The Jews in Berlin in the 18th century were primarily engaged as commercial bankers and traders in precious metals and stones. Some served as court Jews. Members of the Gomperz family were among the wealthiest in Berlin.

During the reign of Frederick the Great (1740-1786), the economic, cultural, and social position of the Jews in Berlin improved. During the seven years' war, many Jews became wealthy as purveyors to the army and the mint and the rights enjoyed by the Christian bankers were granted to a number of Jews. The number of Jewish manufacturers, bankers, and brokers increased. In 1791, the entire Itzig family received full civil rights, becoming the first German Jews to whom they were granted.

As a concomitant of economic prosperity, there appeared the first signs of cultural adaptation. Under the influence of Moses Mendelssohn, several reforms were introduced in the Berlin community, especially in the sphere of education. In 1778 a school, Juedische Freischule (Chinnukh Ne'arim), was founded, which was conducted along modern comprehensive principles and methods. Mendelssohn and David Friedlander composed the first German reader for children. The dissemination of general (non-Jewish) knowledge was also one of the aims of the Chevrat Doreshei Leshon Avar (association of friends of the Hebrew language), founded in 1783, whose organ Ha-me'assef began to appear in Berlin in 1788. The edict of 1812 finally bestowed Prussian citizenship upon the Jews; all restrictions on their residence rights in the state, as well as the special taxes they had to pay, were now abolished.

In the 1848 revolution the Jews played an active role as fighters on the barricades and members of the civic guard, as orators and journalists, and the like. About one-fifth of Berlin's newspapers were owned by Jews. Berlin Jews played an important role in literature, the theater, music, and art. Their successes aroused fierce reaction among the more conservative elements and Berlin became a center of anti-Semitism. The "Berlin movement" founded by Adolf Stoecker incited the masses against the Jews by alleging that they were the standrad-bearers of capitalism and controlled the press.

From 1840 to 1850 a teachers' seminary functioned under the direction of Leopold Zunz. A teachers' training institute was established in 1859 under the rectorship of Aaron Horowitz. Aaron Bernstein founded the reform society in 1845, and later the reform congregation, which introduced far-flung liturgical reforms, especially during the rabbinate of Samuel Holdheim (1847-1860). At first, divine worship was held both on Saturdays and Sundays and later only on Sundays. The reform congregation was unsuccessful in its attempt to secede from the official community. The Berlin community was again violently shaken when many of its members pressed for the introduction of an organ and modification of the liturgy in the new synagogue. The appointment of Abraham Geiger as rabbi of the Berlin community met with strong opposition from orthodox circles, and in 1869 Azriel (Israel) Hildesheimer and his adherents left the main community and established the Adass Yisroel congregation, which received official recognition in 1885. Geiger founded an institute for Jewish research while Hildesheimer opened a rabbinical seminary. For about 80 years the liberals were predominant in the Berlin community. But liberals and orthodox worked together in full harmony in the central organizations in which, at least for a period, the Zionists also participated. The Berlin rabbi S. Maybaum was among the leaders of the "protest rabbis" who opposed political Zionism.

After the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in January 1919, anti-Semitic propaganda in Berlin increased. The Kapp putsch (March 1920) had blatant anti-Jewish undertones. Walter Rathenau, the German foreign minister, was assassinated by anti-Semitic nationalists on June 24, 1922. In 1926, after the appointment of joseph Goebbels as Gauleiter in Berlin, anti-Jewish rabble-rousing increased. At the time the Nazis seized power, Berlin's organized Jewish community numbered 172,000 persons. In 1933 the Nazi boycott (April 1) affected Jewish shop owners; legislation against non-Aryans led to dismissal of Jewish professionals, while "Aryanization" of Jewish firms and the dismissal of their Jewish employees was carried out by the exertion of steady economic pressure. The Jewish officials not affected by these measures were eventually ousted under the provisions of the Nuremberg Laws (1935). In these initial years, when the members of the Jewish community were being methodically deprived of their economic standing and civil rights, Jewish religious and cultural life in Berlin underwent a tremendous upsurge. Until November 1938 Jewish newspapers and books were published on an unprecedented scale. Notable among the newspapers was the Berliner Juedisches Gemeindeblatt, a voluminous weekly published by the community. Zionist work was in full swing, especially that of He-chalutz, and in February 1936, a German Zionist convention was held in Berlin (the last to meet there), still reflecting in its composition the vigorous party life of German Zionists.

In June 1938, mass arrests of Jews took place on the charge that they were "asocial", e.g. had a criminal record, including traffic violations, and they were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. On November 9-10, Kristallnacht marked a turning point in the affairs of Berlin Jewry: synagogues were burned down, Jewish shops destroyed, and 10,000 Jews from Berlin and other places were arrested and imprisoned in Sachsenhausen. The "Bannmeile" was decreed, which restricted Jews to an area within a certain radius from their place of residence.

Jewish newspapers had to cease publication. The only paper was the new Das Medische Narchrichtenblatt which was required to publish Gestapo directives to the Jews.

After the outbreak of war, the living conditions and situation of the Jews worsened. Emigration was still permitted and even encouraged, and existing organizations and institutions (Kulturbund, Jewish schools) were able to continue functioning. However, Jews were drafted for forced labor at wages far below the prevailing rate and with no social benefits, but this at least provided them with a minimum income and delayed their deportation. In the spring of 1940 Heinrich Stahl was removed from his post in the Reichsvereinigung by the Nazi authorities and replaced by Moritz Henschel, a former attorney. In september 1941, a drastic turn for the worse came about. First the Judenstern ("Jewish star", i.e. yellow badge) was introduced. Two weeks later, on the day of atonement, in the middle of a sermon by Rabbi Leo Baeck, the president of the community was summoned to the Gestapo and told that the community would have to prepare for a partial evacuation from the city.

Between October 23 and the end of the year only 62 persons managed to leave, and in 1942 only nine Jews were permitted to go abroad. Then began five major phases in the process of deportation. Eventually, the deportations came to include groups of community employees, and from the fall of 1942, only those Jewish laborers who were employed in vital war production were still safe from deportation.

Those Jews who had gentile wives were taken to a special camp for onward deportation, but when their wives carried out violent street demonstrations, the Gestapo yielded and set their husbands free. On May 13, 1942, an anti-Jewish exhibition, "Soviet Paradise", was opened in Berlin, and was attacked by a group of Jewish communists, led by Herbert Baum. The group was caught and hardly any of them survived. Two hundred and fifty Jews – 50 for each German who had been killed in the attack – were shot, and another 250 were sent to Sachsenhausen and perished there. The community offices were closed down on June 10, 1943, and six days later the "full" Jews among the members of its executive council were deported to Theresienstadt.

At the beginning of 1946, the community had a registered membership of 7,070 people, of whom 4,121 (over 90% of all married members) had non-Jewish spouses, 1,321 had survived the war by hiding, and 1,628 had returned from concentration camps. The Jews were dispersed throughout Berlin, a third of them living in the Soviet sector. Several synagogues were opened, the Jewish hospital resumed its work (although most of its patients and staff were not Jews), and three homes for the aged and a children's home were established. There was no local rabbi or religious teachers, but American Jewish army chaplains volunteered their services.

There are four synagogues in Berlin. In 1959, the city of Berlin erected a large Jewish community center on Fasanenstrasse at the site of which one of Berlin's most magnificent synagogues had stood until 1938. In 1954 the Zionist organization and the Israel appeal renewed their activities in Berlin. There exists an active Jewish women's organization, a B'nai B'rith lodge, a Jewish students' organization, and a youth organization. In 1954 the community had a membership of about 5,000 and by January 1970 this figure had risen to 5,577. The demographic composition of the community is marked by relatively high average age (4,080 are above the age of 41), a low birthrate, and a great number of mixed marriages.

In 1997 there were 10,000 Jews living in Berlin, and it was the largest Jewish community in Germany.
our Open Databases
Jewish Genealogy
Family Names
Jewish Communities
Visual Documentation
Jewish Music Center
Personality
אA
אA
אA
Would you like to help us improving the content? Send us your suggestions
Senior Sachs

Senior Sachs (1815-1892) Scholar.

Born in Kedainiai, Lithuania, he grew up in Zagare, Lithuania, where his father was a rabbi. Already as a boy he was interested in Hebrew literature and became acquainted with Haskala. About 1839, he went to Dubno where he earned a livelihood by teaching Hebrew, and spent most of his time reading scientific and philosophical works. For two years he taught in Raseiniai, Lithuania, where he was a friend of the novelist Avraham Mapu. In 1844 Sachs reached Berlin, Germany, where he entered the university and in 1854 was invited to Paris by Baron Joseph Guenzburg as his private librarian and tutor to his children. He became involved in many aspects of Hebrew literature but as his interests were so diffuse most of his works were unfinished. Sachs edited journals and pamphlets and wrote articles and studies in Hebrew.

Written by researchers of ANU Museum of the Jewish People
SACHS
SACHS, SAKS

Surnames derive from one of many different origins. Sometimes there may be more than one explanation for the same name. This family name is a toponymic (that are based on place names do not always testify to direct origin from that place, but may indicate an indirect relation between the name-bearer or his ancestors and the place, such as birth place, temporary residence, trade, or family-relatives.

Sachs, literally "Saxon", refers to an inhabitant of Saxony (eastern Germany), where Jews lived since the 10th century, Sachs and its variants were often adopted as family names to perpetuate the memory of martyrs, because the similar sounding Zaks is an acronym (a name created from the initial letters of a Hebrew phrase, and which refers to a relative, lineage or occupation) of the Hebrew 'Zera Kodesh Shemo' ("his name descends from martyrs"). A number of families trace their name to the martyrs of the German city Stendal, Saxony, where Jews were killed in the early 16th century ('Zera Kodesh Stendal') or to the martyrs of Speyer on the Rhine in western Germany, whose Jews suffered badly during the crusades ('Zera Kodesh Speyer'). Still others selected the name in honor of a martyr without specifying the city.

This family name could also be a patronymic, derived from a male ancestor's personal name, in this case of biblical origin. The names in this group could also be derived from the biblical Yitzchak, the second of the patriarchs, son of Abraham and Sarah, whose biblical name-etymology means "laugh" (Genesis 21.6). Various forms of the family name Sachs were widespread throughout Europe. Seckelin is recorded in the year 1200 in France. Sachs is documented in the 14th century, and Sak in the 15th century. Sack (literally "sack" in German) is found in 1498. Seckel, Seckelis and Seckeles are mentioned in Prague, Bohemia in 1677. Sachse is documented in 1678, the diminutive Sachselin 1694, Secklin in 1710, Sacksel in 1745 and Sax in 1761.

Distinguished bearers of the Jewish family name Sachs include the German master builder and author, Salomo Sachs (1772-1846), the Lithuanian Hebrew scholar, Senior Sachs (1815-1892) and the German poet and playwright, Nelly (Leonie) Sachs, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1966.

Kedainiai

Kedainiai

A provincial capital in central Lithuania.

Kedainiai was founded in the 14th century as a fishing village on the shores of the Nevezis and Smilga rivers. Jewish merchants first settled there at the end of the 15th century, invited to do so by the local landowners. More than once the Jews were driven out and later returned when there was a change of rulers. In 1590 Kedainiai was granted the privileges of a free town, its economic conditions improved, and it became a commercial center for the surrounding area. The Jews whose economic activity in the town was of interest to the local rulers, were granted religious freedom and full civil rights by the Polish Prince Radzivill. From the end of the 16th century until the close of the 18th, the Lithuanian principality was part of the Polish kingdom. New Jewish settlers were carefully selected, and were permitted to acquire land and given tax reductions. During the same period, Jewish men of scholarship and learning came to Kedainiai from Germany, and subsequently developed the town's Jewish community into a center of torah and scholarship.

The later princes of the Radzivill dynasty confirmed the privileges of the Jews. The Jews participated in the election of municipal employees, were given military training and organized into military units for times of emergency.

At the time of the decrees of 1648 and 1649 (the Chmielnitzki massacres of 1648), the Jewish community of Kedainiai which was not affected gave assistance to the victims. At the time of the Swedish invasion during the second half of the 17th century many Jews left the town. At the close of the 17th century a great fire broke out in Kedainiai, and at the beginning of the 18th century the town was completely devastated by the Russian and Swedish forces which swept through it during the Northern Wars. When the palace of the Radzivill Princes was also destroyed, the Jewish community was reduced to poverty, and began to recover only in the third decade of the 18th century when it was well-represented on the Lithuanian State Committee. Even after the committee was abolished (1764), meetings of representatives from the Lithuanian communities still took place in the town, the last held in 1782, and many other Jewish communities were under the jurisdiction of the Kedainiai community.

Kedainiai was renowned throughout Lithuania as a center of torah and spiritual learning for the Jewish communities of the region. It was the site of a large yeshiva, many hadarim and study houses, where learning went on both day and night. At the end of the 17th century, all the Jewish communities of Lithuania read the Selihot service composed by Rabbi Yosef of Kobrin, a native of Kedainiai, in memory of the persecuted Jews.

The Gaon, Rabbi Eliahu of Vilna was a student of Rabbi Moshe Margoliot also known as "Pnei Moshe" , while staying with Rabbi David Katznellenbogen who served as the rabbi of Kedainiai during the first half of the 18th century. The Gaon of Vilna's wife was a native of Kedainiai.

At the end of the 18th century, as a result of the partition of the Kingdom of Poland, Kedainiai came under the rule of Czarist Russia. The Jewish privileges were cancelled. At the start of the 19th century Jews who had been banished from the villages settled in Kedainiai. Approximately 400 Jews perished in a cholera epidemic which broke out in 1807.

Towards the middle of the 19th century, the Jewish community recovered, its economy stabilized, and by 1847 the number of Jewish inhabitants in the town reached 4,987. At the end of the 19th century, at the time of the Jewish emigration from Russia, many left Kedainiai. In 1897 there were 3,733 Jews remaining in the town, 64% of its population. In 1915, during World War I (1914-1918), the Jews of Kedainiai were exiled into the interior of Russia and not all of them returned to the town after the war. The Joint Distribution Committee and overseas relatives helped in the rehabilitation of the Jewish community. In 1923, at the time of Lithuania's independence, there were 2,499 Jews in the town, 33% of its total population.

The Great Synagogue, built at the end of the 18th century, contained an ornate holy ark and a sundial bearing Hebrew letters.

Among the Rabbis of Kedainiai were Rabbi Moses Margolies (Moshe ben Shimon Margalit) also known as "Pnei Moshe", a commentator of the Jerusalem Talmud. The last rabbi to officiate in the town was Rabbi Shlomo Feinsilber. The community produced many intellectuals and supporters of the haskala (enlightenment) movement, among them the author Moshe-Leib Lillienblum and the historian of literature, Shneur Zakash.

From the end of the 19th century, secular studies were also taught at the local Talmud Torah school. In addition, at the beginning of the 20th century, Hebrew schools of the tarbut network were established, as well as a Jewish high school where the language of instruction was Hebrew. Jewish student’s also studied in the Polish gymnasium established by Prince Radzivill early in the 17th century. In the period between the annexation to Russia and World War I, Jewish students also attended Russian schools.

Weavers and craftsmen from Germany, who had settled in Kedainiai during the 17th century, aided in the development of the town's weaving workshops. In the 19th century this sector was entirely in Jewish hands. In 1648, Prince Radzivill built the first flour mill in Kedainiai, and leased it to Jews. In 1659 he set up a printing press, also managed by Jews, where the Book of Psalms was printed in Lithuanian for the first time, as well as many religious books. Subsequently, both holy and secular books were printed in Hebrew. The last Hebrew book printed there was in 1940.

In the days of the Polish kingdom the Jews leased land and collected taxes for the local rulers. At the end of the 18th century, when Kedainiai came under Russian rule, the Russian garrison in the town served as a source of livelihood for shopkeepers and craftsmen. The railway which was laid by the Russians helped increase the commercial ties with Russia. A flour mill set up by the new town ruler was leased to Jews.

In independent Lithuania, between the two world wars, the Jewish bank stood at the center of the town's economy. The bank, which was founded in 1921, had 360 members in 1929. From the beginning of the 19th century many Jews of Kedainiai (about 80 families) were engaged in growing and marketing vegetables throughout Lithuania. At various times there were commercial establishments in Kedainiai exporting agricultural produce to most European countries.

In the days of independent Lithuania following World War I, the Lithuanian cooperatives, which were supported by the government, began to undercut the Jews. Many Jews emigrated during that time.

The roots of the Zionist movement in Kedainiai go back to the days of Hovevei Zion (Lovers of Zion) towards the end of the 19th century. In independent Lithuania the Zionist idea took hold of all the Jews of the town. The Zionist parties and their youth movements were established, and libraries containing many Hebrew books were opened. There was also much activity on behalf of the Zionist funds.

Not far from the town, a farm was set up to prepare young people for emigration to Eretz Israel. The youth in Kedainiai were concentrated mainly in Hashomer Hazair, Gordonia and Betar. Many worked in the training farm and in the 1930’s went to settle in Eretz Israel.

Prior to World War II, 3,000 Jews were living in Kedainiai.


The Holocaust Period

After the outbreak of World War II (September 1, 1939) and the occupation of Poland by the Germans, Lithuania came under Soviet rule and at the end of the summer of 1940 was annexed by the Soviet Union. The Soviet authorities nationalized private property, business firms and shops which were owned mainly by Jews. Community institutions ceased to function and the Zionist parties and youth organizations were dispersed. The Hebrew educational institutions were also shut down. Economic activity in the town decreased, and the standard of living of the inhabitants in general, and of the Jews in particular, steadily declined. Jewish refugees from Poland, now occupied by the Nazis, found refuge in Kedainiai.

When Germany attacked the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941) groups of Lithuanian extreme nationalists were organized. Many Jews who tried to flee with the retreating Soviet forces were shot by the Lithuanians. The Germans entered the town on the 24th of June and immediately issued decrees affecting the Jews. They were required to wear yellow armbands and to turn over their valuables. Night curfew was imposed on them, and all contact and trade with the rest of the population was forbidden.

Jews were taken for forced labor for the Germans. They were treated brutally by their guards, Lithuanian nationalists, who did not hesitate to murder some of them. At first most of the Jews were employed in clearing bombs and mines which the Soviets had left in the local airfield, and many were killed in the process.

On the 23rd of July 200 Jews were shot in the forest 8 km outside of Kedainiai. A few days later the Jews were ordered to leave their homes and move to a ghetto, bounded by several of the town's alleys. All the Jews of the surrounding towns were brought to the ghetto, 3,700 souls in all. The crowding was unbearable, and the food supply soon gave out.

On August 15, 1941 all the Jews of the ghetto were gathered in the courtyard of the synagogue and led to a horse farm, where they were held for 13 days without food. On August 25, 1941 the Jews were taken, group by group, to pits, which had previously been dug behind the catholic cemetery, and slaughtered by machine gun fire. The Germans supervised the massacre which the Lithuanians carried out. Prominent Lithuanian leaders of Kedainiai, the mayor, the principal of the gymnasium and other public figures, were invited to watch the murders as they were carried out. Only a few Jews managed to escape, hid in the forest and joined the partisans.

After the war, a monument was set on the mass graves by Jewish survivors of Kedainiai and of the surrounding communities.

Berlin
Berlin

The largest city in Germany. The capital of Germany until 1945. After the Second World War and until 1990 the city was divided into West Berlin and East Berlin.

Jews are first mentioned in a letter from the Berlin local council of October 28, 1295, forbidding wool merchants to supply Jews with wool yarn. Jews lived primarily in a Jewish quarter, but a number of wealthier Jews lived outside this area. The Berlin Jews engaged mainly in commerce, handicrafts, money-changing, and money-lending. They paid taxes for the right to slaughter animals ritually, to sell meat, to marry, to circumcise their sons, to buy wine, to receive additional Jews as residents of their community, and to bury their dead. During the Black Death (1349-1350), the houses of the Jews were burned down and the Jewish inhabitants were killed or expelled from the town.

From 1354, Jews settled again in Berlin. In 1446 they were arrested with the rest of the Jews in Brandenburg, and their property was confiscated. A year later Jews again began to return there, and a few wealthy Jews were admitted into Brandenburg in 1509. In 1510 the Jews were accused of desecrating the host and stealing sacred vessels from a church in a village near Berlin. 111 Jews were arrested and subjected to examination, and 51 were sentenced to death; of these 38 were burned at the stake in the new market square together with the real culprit, a Christian, on July 10, 1510. All the accused were proved completely innocent at the diet of Frankfort in 1539 through the efforts of Joseph (Joselmann) b. Gershom of Rosheim and Philipp Melanchthon. In 1571, when the Jews were again expelled from Brandenburg, the Jews of Berlin were expelled "forever". For the next 100 years, a few individual Jews appeared there at widely scattered intervals. About 1663, the court Jew Israel Aaron, who was supplier to the army and the electoral court, was permitted to settle in Berlin. After the expulsion of the Jews from Vienna in 1670, the elector issued an edict on May 21, 1671, admitting 50 wealthy Jewish families from Austria into Brandenburg for 20 years. Frederick William I (1713-1740) limited (in a charter granted to the Jews on May 20, 1714) the number of tolerated Jews to 120 householders, but permitted in certain cases the extension of letters of protection to include the second and third child. The Jews of Berlin were permitted to engage in commerce almost without restriction, but were forbidden to trade in drugs and spices, in raw skins, and in imported woolen and fiber goods, and were forbidden to operate breweries or distilleries. Land ownership by Jews had been prohibited in 1697 and required a special license which could be obtained only with great difficulty.

The Jews in Berlin in the 18th century were primarily engaged as commercial bankers and traders in precious metals and stones. Some served as court Jews. Members of the Gomperz family were among the wealthiest in Berlin.

During the reign of Frederick the Great (1740-1786), the economic, cultural, and social position of the Jews in Berlin improved. During the seven years' war, many Jews became wealthy as purveyors to the army and the mint and the rights enjoyed by the Christian bankers were granted to a number of Jews. The number of Jewish manufacturers, bankers, and brokers increased. In 1791, the entire Itzig family received full civil rights, becoming the first German Jews to whom they were granted.

As a concomitant of economic prosperity, there appeared the first signs of cultural adaptation. Under the influence of Moses Mendelssohn, several reforms were introduced in the Berlin community, especially in the sphere of education. In 1778 a school, Juedische Freischule (Chinnukh Ne'arim), was founded, which was conducted along modern comprehensive principles and methods. Mendelssohn and David Friedlander composed the first German reader for children. The dissemination of general (non-Jewish) knowledge was also one of the aims of the Chevrat Doreshei Leshon Avar (association of friends of the Hebrew language), founded in 1783, whose organ Ha-me'assef began to appear in Berlin in 1788. The edict of 1812 finally bestowed Prussian citizenship upon the Jews; all restrictions on their residence rights in the state, as well as the special taxes they had to pay, were now abolished.

In the 1848 revolution the Jews played an active role as fighters on the barricades and members of the civic guard, as orators and journalists, and the like. About one-fifth of Berlin's newspapers were owned by Jews. Berlin Jews played an important role in literature, the theater, music, and art. Their successes aroused fierce reaction among the more conservative elements and Berlin became a center of anti-Semitism. The "Berlin movement" founded by Adolf Stoecker incited the masses against the Jews by alleging that they were the standrad-bearers of capitalism and controlled the press.

From 1840 to 1850 a teachers' seminary functioned under the direction of Leopold Zunz. A teachers' training institute was established in 1859 under the rectorship of Aaron Horowitz. Aaron Bernstein founded the reform society in 1845, and later the reform congregation, which introduced far-flung liturgical reforms, especially during the rabbinate of Samuel Holdheim (1847-1860). At first, divine worship was held both on Saturdays and Sundays and later only on Sundays. The reform congregation was unsuccessful in its attempt to secede from the official community. The Berlin community was again violently shaken when many of its members pressed for the introduction of an organ and modification of the liturgy in the new synagogue. The appointment of Abraham Geiger as rabbi of the Berlin community met with strong opposition from orthodox circles, and in 1869 Azriel (Israel) Hildesheimer and his adherents left the main community and established the Adass Yisroel congregation, which received official recognition in 1885. Geiger founded an institute for Jewish research while Hildesheimer opened a rabbinical seminary. For about 80 years the liberals were predominant in the Berlin community. But liberals and orthodox worked together in full harmony in the central organizations in which, at least for a period, the Zionists also participated. The Berlin rabbi S. Maybaum was among the leaders of the "protest rabbis" who opposed political Zionism.

After the murder of Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg in January 1919, anti-Semitic propaganda in Berlin increased. The Kapp putsch (March 1920) had blatant anti-Jewish undertones. Walter Rathenau, the German foreign minister, was assassinated by anti-Semitic nationalists on June 24, 1922. In 1926, after the appointment of joseph Goebbels as Gauleiter in Berlin, anti-Jewish rabble-rousing increased. At the time the Nazis seized power, Berlin's organized Jewish community numbered 172,000 persons. In 1933 the Nazi boycott (April 1) affected Jewish shop owners; legislation against non-Aryans led to dismissal of Jewish professionals, while "Aryanization" of Jewish firms and the dismissal of their Jewish employees was carried out by the exertion of steady economic pressure. The Jewish officials not affected by these measures were eventually ousted under the provisions of the Nuremberg Laws (1935). In these initial years, when the members of the Jewish community were being methodically deprived of their economic standing and civil rights, Jewish religious and cultural life in Berlin underwent a tremendous upsurge. Until November 1938 Jewish newspapers and books were published on an unprecedented scale. Notable among the newspapers was the Berliner Juedisches Gemeindeblatt, a voluminous weekly published by the community. Zionist work was in full swing, especially that of He-chalutz, and in February 1936, a German Zionist convention was held in Berlin (the last to meet there), still reflecting in its composition the vigorous party life of German Zionists.

In June 1938, mass arrests of Jews took place on the charge that they were "asocial", e.g. had a criminal record, including traffic violations, and they were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp. On November 9-10, Kristallnacht marked a turning point in the affairs of Berlin Jewry: synagogues were burned down, Jewish shops destroyed, and 10,000 Jews from Berlin and other places were arrested and imprisoned in Sachsenhausen. The "Bannmeile" was decreed, which restricted Jews to an area within a certain radius from their place of residence.

Jewish newspapers had to cease publication. The only paper was the new Das Medische Narchrichtenblatt which was required to publish Gestapo directives to the Jews.

After the outbreak of war, the living conditions and situation of the Jews worsened. Emigration was still permitted and even encouraged, and existing organizations and institutions (Kulturbund, Jewish schools) were able to continue functioning. However, Jews were drafted for forced labor at wages far below the prevailing rate and with no social benefits, but this at least provided them with a minimum income and delayed their deportation. In the spring of 1940 Heinrich Stahl was removed from his post in the Reichsvereinigung by the Nazi authorities and replaced by Moritz Henschel, a former attorney. In september 1941, a drastic turn for the worse came about. First the Judenstern ("Jewish star", i.e. yellow badge) was introduced. Two weeks later, on the day of atonement, in the middle of a sermon by Rabbi Leo Baeck, the president of the community was summoned to the Gestapo and told that the community would have to prepare for a partial evacuation from the city.

Between October 23 and the end of the year only 62 persons managed to leave, and in 1942 only nine Jews were permitted to go abroad. Then began five major phases in the process of deportation. Eventually, the deportations came to include groups of community employees, and from the fall of 1942, only those Jewish laborers who were employed in vital war production were still safe from deportation.

Those Jews who had gentile wives were taken to a special camp for onward deportation, but when their wives carried out violent street demonstrations, the Gestapo yielded and set their husbands free. On May 13, 1942, an anti-Jewish exhibition, "Soviet Paradise", was opened in Berlin, and was attacked by a group of Jewish communists, led by Herbert Baum. The group was caught and hardly any of them survived. Two hundred and fifty Jews – 50 for each German who had been killed in the attack – were shot, and another 250 were sent to Sachsenhausen and perished there. The community offices were closed down on June 10, 1943, and six days later the "full" Jews among the members of its executive council were deported to Theresienstadt.

At the beginning of 1946, the community had a registered membership of 7,070 people, of whom 4,121 (over 90% of all married members) had non-Jewish spouses, 1,321 had survived the war by hiding, and 1,628 had returned from concentration camps. The Jews were dispersed throughout Berlin, a third of them living in the Soviet sector. Several synagogues were opened, the Jewish hospital resumed its work (although most of its patients and staff were not Jews), and three homes for the aged and a children's home were established. There was no local rabbi or religious teachers, but American Jewish army chaplains volunteered their services.

There are four synagogues in Berlin. In 1959, the city of Berlin erected a large Jewish community center on Fasanenstrasse at the site of which one of Berlin's most magnificent synagogues had stood until 1938. In 1954 the Zionist organization and the Israel appeal renewed their activities in Berlin. There exists an active Jewish women's organization, a B'nai B'rith lodge, a Jewish students' organization, and a youth organization. In 1954 the community had a membership of about 5,000 and by January 1970 this figure had risen to 5,577. The demographic composition of the community is marked by relatively high average age (4,080 are above the age of 41), a low birthrate, and a great number of mixed marriages.

In 1997 there were 10,000 Jews living in Berlin, and it was the largest Jewish community in Germany.