The 1937 List of Jewish Residents of Butrimonys, Lithuania
Introduction by Olga Zabludoff
May 2003 I went to Lithuania on a mission to restore the old Jewish cemetery and
two mass graves in Butrimonys. During
a meeting with the mayor/elder of the municipality, Mr. Algirdas Jusas, he asked
me: “What was the family name of your relatives in Butrimonys?”
“Shapiro,” I answered, somewhat taken aback by this unexpected
question. The mayor began leafing through a stack of pages on the table around
which we were seated, and then rested his finger when he found the right spot.
“Shapira, Etel, 68; Shloma, 39 …” He was reading the names and ages
of my grandmother, uncle, aunt, and two girl cousins, all of whom are now in the
mass graves I had come to restore.
Through our local schoolboy interpreter the mayor explained to me that
he was reading from a 1937 list of Jewish residents of Butrimonys. This
census had been made by the parish priest four years before the inhabitants of
the shtetl were annihilated. The original document has remained in the church
archives for 66 years. Last year (in May 2002) it was “resurrected” by the
current priest, Stasys Ciupala.
“Would you like to have a copy of this list?” the mayor asked.
In my gratitude and excitement I offered to go to the larger neighboring
town of Alytus to make a photocopy since I didn’t think a copy machine existed
in Butrimonys – or, more realistically, I was skeptical about the results that
a Butrimonys copy machine might produce.
The mayor explained that his copy was rather “messed up” and out of
sequence and the original could not be removed from the church archives. He said
he would ask the priest to have the church secretary make a copy for me.
In a few days the copy was delivered, bound in a plastic protective
covering and quite legible.
What follows is the English translation of the cover page written in May
2002 by the current priest. While this document provides some understanding of
how the list came about and how it survived, it leaves one with many disturbing
questions. Was this list unique to the shtetl of Butrimonys, or do/did such
censuses exist for other former shtetlach? Was it commissioned by the church or
the municipality? And why? But not
until I had translated all the names on the list did the most stunning discovery
surface: The names of the rabbi and his family and the physician and his family
are missing from the census. Rabbi Avraham Moshe Vitkind and Dr. Abel Gabay were
the two most distinguished Jews in
the community. Why were they excluded?
Butrimonys, May 19, 2002
This list of the Jewish residents of Butrimonys,
compiled on March 21, 1937, was produced by the priest of the Butrimonys
Catholic Parish. It was copied into the lists of parishioners. (This list also
contains statistical data about the Tatars living in the parish.)
the change of the political situation in Lithuania in 1940, the list was not
returned to the municipality; and when the Fascists came to Lithuania in 1941,
in my view it was dangerous to keep such a list. Yet Juozapas Andrikonis, who
was the Butrimonys priest at that time, dared to keep it in the parish archives.
Upon the occasion of the presentation of a coat of
arms to the town of Butrimonys, I give this copy of the list to the
representatives of the Jews participating in the occasion. (The original must be
kept in the parish archives, according to the legal regulations of the church.)
Though it causes painful memories, I hope it will
help to memorialize the victims of the Holocaust in Butrimonys.
I also pray that the Lord may forgive the people of
the Butrimonys parish and its vicinity in that they did not protect innocent
people, and that some might even have participated in causing their tragic
The original Lithuanian document was translated into English by Vitalija Gircyte, chief archivist of the Kaunas Regional Archives, Kaunas, Lithuania.