LEJPUNY, Lithuania

Leipalingis(Lith) Sejny uyezd, Suwalki gubernia, Latitude: 54º14' Longitude: 23º31', now in Lithuania
Also known as Leipun , and Lejpuny (Pol) was formerly in the Kingdom of Poland

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In June 2005,  Carol Hoffman and I spent 5 days in the vicinity of Kopcheve (Kapciamiestis), Lithuania.    Having made our base at  Druskininki , we  travelled each day to Kopcheve via Leypuny.  We stopped for lunch there on a couple of occasions and took a few photographs.  From research we had conducted on our families , we were aware that Leypuny was a nearby shtetl and that the vital records for the Jewish residents were located in the same files and archives as for Kopcheve.  We also knew that some of the Kopcheve families had ties to people in Leypuny.

When we visited the museum in Kopcheve which is housed at the local school, we saw a photocopy of a photograph which required further investigation.  It came from the small ethnographic museum in Leipalingus and for some reason then unknown to me,  it became important to  visit to that museum and try to obtain a copy. We secured a copy of the original which had an inscription on the back on the back which when translated told us that the two couples were from Kapciamiestis and were relatives of the fifth person in the photograph, Yershanksi.  It was one of those strange moments when a major discovery has been made....for the man on the far right was my great uncle, Leib Kopciowski and the other man is Dov Leib Chazanowski.  Neither survived the holocaust. My great uncle Leib was sent to Dachau and then to Aushwitz in 1944 and Dov Leib Chazanowski , his wife and children were never heard from again after the Shoah.

Please contact me if you have any information you would like to add to this page. Old photographs of the town or its inhabitants would be very welcome.   Contact: Dorothy Leivers

 

    BACKGROUND

    Leipalingis is 116 kilometres  southwest of  Vilnius on the Seira River and 10 km north west of the Neiman. The earliest record of a Jewish presence in the town can be found in the 1784 census of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in which 14 families (55 people) were counted. A further 8 families are listed in outlying villages.   Jews settled there during the first half of the 19th century. Between 1795-1807 the town was ruled by Prussia, passing to the Russians in 1815 where it was included in the Suwalki Gubernia.  The Russian government provided the land to establish a  Jewish settlement  in 1847.  Some of the families  had come from  Meretch (Merkine) and links with  Kopciowo (Kapciamiestis) were close.  By 1897, there were  135 people in 25  Jewish families making their living from agriculture.  On 1 April 1915, the Jews were expelled by the Russian army.  Their properties sustained heavy damage and by 1919 there were only 18 families living there. Eight  families from Merkine  joined them.  The community was then ravaged by fire in 1920 when 12 Jewish houses burned. A fire department was established in Leypuny and all the workers were Jewish. By 1921, the Jewish population had grown to 38 families - 119 people. 

    A survey carried out in 1922 reported that there were 10 shopkeepers, 6 butchers, 4 fishermen, 3 cart owners, 2 peddlers,  2 tailors, 2 shoemakers, 2 glaziers and carpenters. Six families owned land, and 5 families worked leased land. The majority of the Jews’ commercial activities were based on  Thursday market days  and on 4 annual fairs.  A survey in 1931  showed almost all of the shops  were owned by Jews. There were 5 grocery stores, 3 haberdashers, one butcher, one inn, and one grain merchant. A factory for wool combing, a bakery and a flour mill  were owned by Jews.  In 1937 there were only 7 Jewish tradesmen: 3 shoemakers, 2 butchers, baker and barber. Of the 13 telephone listed  in Leipalingis in 1939, 3 were Jewish.  Following annexation to the Soviet Union in summer 1940, the economic situation of the Jews deteriorated. All Zionist activities were forbidden.

    Although there was a synagogue in Leypuny, there was no Jewish school and the children studied in the  nearby towns of Seirijai and Meretch
    In additional to the Zionist cultural and political activities Leipalingis had fund raising campaign
    s for the Karen Kayemit in Israel (Jewish National Fund). The Jewish Zionist youth group in Leipalingis was “Gordonia”, a nest of Bitar,  with 30-40 members 

     With the outbreak of war  between Germany and the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Jews tried to escape to the  Soviet Union but they were unsuccessful and returned to Leypuny where local Lithuanian nationalists were waiting for them and persecuted them. On 9 September 1941, 155 men, women and children were murdered close to the Catholic cemetery next to the Seira river. The Jews who survived were arrested on the eve of  Rosh HaShana  1941 and taken by Lithuanian guards to the town of Olkenik in the Vilnius region and with the Jews of  Olkeniki and Dekshna to Eishishok. En route the Lithuanian guards abused them terribly. Every half kilometer 2-3 were shot and  only 70 people reached Eishishok  where they confined in barns and severely maltreated.  Their valuables, boots, fine overcoats were stolen; women were raped. The abuse continued even when the Jews were taken from the barns to the horse market in town which was surrounded by a high wooden fence.  During the days until “Shabbat Shuva” (27.9.41) they were takengroup by group and were murdered in  the Christian cemetery in Eishishok. Amongst the murdered was the last rabbi of the community, Rabbi Isaak Stampfner.

    Adapted from Pinkas Hakehillot Lita: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Lithuania,Edited by Dov Levin and Yosef Rosin,  published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.  To read the entire article go to  http://www.jewishgen.org/Yizkor/pinkas_lita/lit_00357.html

    Jewish Population before the Holocaust: 155 

    YAHRZHEIT (MEMORIAL) DATES OF LITHUANIAN JEWISH COMMUNITIES

     

    YAD VASHEM

    The names  submitted by relatives and friends of those murdered during the Holocaust  are now available online  on   The Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names  at http://www.yadvashem.org/lwp/workplace/IY_HON_Welcome

 

 
 

 Webmaster: Dorothy Leivers

Compiled by Dorothy Leivers
Updated by DL May 2008
Copyright © 2008 Dorothy Leivers

 

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