Gargzdai (Gorzd), Lithuania
Gorzd in the 1930's
Photograph courtesy of George Birman
||Name in Native Alphabet
(Newer Browsers Only)
|Gorzd; Gorsd; Gorzhd
- Other variants include Gorszdy; Gorjdy; Gorshdy; Gorshedy; Gorsdy;
View GARGZDAI via openstreetmaps.org
(Latitude 55°43´, Longitude 21°24´)
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Gargzdai should not be confused with two Lithuanian towns with similar
- Gardamas (Lat. 55°24´, Long. 21°40´ - also called "Gordom" or
German name "Garden") (about Gardamas on Wikipedia) (on openstreetmaps.org)
- Gruzdziai (Lat. 56°06´, Long. 23°16´ - also called "Gruzdi,"
"Grusdi" or "Gruzd") (about Gruzdziai on JewishGen) (on openstreetmaps.org)
|Andrees Handatlas (1881)
||Andrees Handatlas (1893)
Gargzdai is located about 11 miles east of the Baltic port of Klaipeda,
Lithuania (formerly known as Memel, Germany). It lies on a river called
"Minija" in Lithuanian, and "Minge" in German. Before World War I,
Gargzdai was in Russia, Kovno Gubernia (province), Telsiai Uyezd
(district), just east of the border with Germany. The area to the west of
the border was part of the German province of East Prussia. Prussia had
become part of the German Empire in 1871.
Following World War I, Lithuania became an independent country. In
1923, Lithuania obtained the strip of land between Gargzdai and the
Baltic, and south to the Nemunas River (known in German as the Russ
River and Memel River, and in Russian as the Niemen). This strip, which
included the city of Memel, was sometimes known as the Memel Territory.
It was also the northern part of the area sometimes called Lithuania
The city of Memel was renamed Klaipeda at the time it became part of
Lithuania. Germany seized the Memel Territory in 1939, and Klaipeda
again became Memel. The Soviet Union annexed the remaining part of
Lithuania in 1940, so the border between the Soviet Union and Germany
again ran just west of Gargzdai. As a consequence, Gargzdai was among
the first towns invaded when Germany attacked the Soviet Union on June
Following World War II, Memel was again renamed Klaipeda. Both Gargzdai
and Klaipeda were inside the Soviet Union, and as a result of
Lithuania's independence in 1990 are now part of Lithuania.
- 1631 - Mercator and Hondius (Dutch;
- 1655 - N. Sanson d'Abbeville (French;
- 1659 - N. Sanson d'Abbeville (showing
"Gorgzdy" or "Garsden")
- 1720 - J. B. Homann (German; showing
"Gargzdy" or "Garsden")
- 1735 - Homann Heirs (German; showing
- 1749 - Robert de Vaugondy (French;
- 1756 - George Louis le Rouge
(French; showing "Gorzdy")
- 1786 - F. A. Schraembl (Austrian,
- 1787 - M. Bonne (French; showing "Gordzy")
- 1789 - Joseph von Reilly (Austrian;
- 1794 - John Roberts (English; showing
- 1800 - John Payne (American; showing
- 1823 - Stieler's Hand-Atlas (German;
showing "Gorszdy" and "Garsden")
- 1826 - H. Kliewer (German; showing
- 1849 - Meyers Zeitungs-Atlas (German;
- 1856 - Stieler's Hand-Atlas (showing
- 1862 - Stieler's Hand-Atlas (showing
- 1865 - Society for Diffusion of Useful
Knowledge (English; showing "Gorjdy")
- 1872 - Meyer's Hand-Atlas (German;
- 1881 - Andrees Handatlas (German;
- 1933 - Lithuanian Army, showing
- 1940 - Soviet, showing "ГАРГЖДАЙ"
Gargzdai ca. 1910
Russian Military, Sheet N-34-7-?
1:50,000 (printed ca. 1939)
Map provided by Library of Congress
- Large Scale
- Maps on Other Websites
- Click here for links to offsite
maps which show Gargzdai or contain other information of interest.
- Animated Comparisons of Gargzdai Maps
Town Plan by George Birman
- George Birman's Plan showing streets, residences and businesses
during the 1930's
- For town plan, click here.
Photographs of George Birman
- Klaipeda Street, ca. 1932
- Klaipeda Street in Winter
- Minija River
- Swim at Minija River
- New Highway (1937)
- Dr. Oxman (1938)
- After the Fire (1939)
- Market Square: Three Men (1940); Textile
- Esperanto Class
- Directors of Jewish Bank (1936)
- Rachil Lam Wedding Party (1937)
- School or Zionist Group (1938)
- Truck Crash (1938)
- Soccer Players
- Friends in Park - Summer
- Friends in Park - Winter
- Chaim Javshitz (1939)
- Jewish Cemetery After Wartime Destruction
- Original Memorial at Men's Killing Site;
- Memorial to Gorzd at Holon Cemetery
Mr. Birman, who worked tirelessly to preserve the memory of Gorzd and
Jewish life in Lithuania, passed away in 2009. An article about
Mr. Birman, together with many of his historic photographs of pre-war
Lithuania, appeared in Doubletake Magazine, Spring, 1999, No. 16, Vol.
5, No. 2 (which has one of his photos on the cover, showing a 100 meter
race in Klaipeda, 1937). The full article and photos are no longer
available online, although some of Mr. Birman's captions (without the
photos) may be available at this archive
site. The magazine may still be available for purchase at
sites such as this
one. Three of Mr. Birman's photographs of Gorzd are on
display at the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin. His papers have been
donated to YIVO. YIVO
News, Fall, 207, p. 26.
As a teenager living in Gorzd, Mr. Birman started photography as a
hobby. Before the War, he took photos not only in Gorzd, but in
surrounding areas which he visited by bicycle. He was in Kovno at
the time of the German invasion. He was imprisoned in the Kedahnen labor
camp, which was a satellite camp to the Kovno ghetto. As the
Russians approached, he escaped from the camp, leaving his photos
behind, buried in the camp for safekeeping. He later was able to
retrieve the photos. Following the war he worked as an engineer in
New York. He generously made many of his photos and other
materials available for the use of this site.
George Birman at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Full copies of Mr. Birman's four photo albums are available online as
part of the digital collection of the United
States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He took some of these photos
upon his first return to Gargzdai after his escape from Kedahnen. The
hand printed notes in the photo album establish the date of this trip as
April, 1945. Mr. Birman had returned as soon as he could, taking photos
which document the horrors he saw.
"Album 2, 1944-1946, Item
8" contains the following photos. Although none of the photos are
labelled, they appear to have been taken in the following locations
(although some of the identifications are not certain):
Ruins of new masonry Beit Midrash
Entrance road to NE killing site for women and children (road
heading to left)
camera view looks SW towards Vezaiciai
Bluff at west side of Jewish cemetery
view from east side of Minija River
Camera view looks west across river, towards large palace of
former noble estate, at north end of estate lands
NE site of killing of women and children
Palace of former noble estate, at north end of estate lands
Gravestone in Jewish Cemetery
The top row of
Album 2, 1944-1946, Item
9 shows the following:
View from site of Olshwanger home, where Mr. Birman
had previously lived, looking east towards town center.
Location of the home is shown on Mr. Birman's town
View from south end of Men's killing site, looking north
Remnants of Olschwanger home
Jewish Cemetery showing wartime destruction
(same picture as on the present website)
of how these sites were identified above, see:
Item 8(1) is the
only known ground level photo of the new masonry Beit Midrash. Items 8(6)
and 9(2) are pictures of the killing sites, before construction of any
memorials. These are the earliest known ground level photos of these
It is difficult
to imagine the emotions Mr. Birman must have felt on this visit.
Photographs - 2001
Buildings of the Jewish Community
Books on JewishGen
Posted as part of the Yizkor
Book Project. Use your browser's "Back" button to return here.
(M. Sudarsky et al., eds., N.Y. 1951)
Lita (Lithuanian Jewry)(Association of the Lithuanian Jews in
Israel) (1967; 1984)
Telephone Books, 1940 - 1925
- Hamagid - January 10, 1872 (No. 2)
(list of 90 donors)
- HaMelitz - July 30 [August 11], 1893
- HaMelitz - August 24 [September 5],
1893 (No. 192)
- HaMelitz - November 7 , 1894 (No.
- HaMelitz - March 9 , 1895 (No. 57)
- HaMelitz - March 16 , 1895 (No.
- HaMelitz - November 12 , 1895
- HaMelitz - June 12 , 1897 (No.
- HaMelitz - September 23 [October 5],
1898 (No. 209)
- HaMelitz - May 30 [June 12], 1903
Memories of Gorzd
Searchable Databases on JewishGen
Search for entries about Gargzdai or Gorzd in the following databases on
JewishGen. After searching, click your browser's "Back" button to return
here. Under "type of search," use Daitch - Mokotoff Soundex
rather than Exact Spelling. This will pick up entries listed
under variant spellings such as Gargzdiai rather than Gargzdai.
Lithuania Database (ALD)
The ALD contains Gargzdai records in:
- Revision List Database
- Tax and Voters Lists
- Yizkor Book Necrology
- Lithuania Census 1897
- JewishGen Family Finder
Ellis Island Database)
Note: Gorzd often appears in the Ellis Island records under its German
name "Garsden," but there are numerous non-standard spellings (for
example Gazdin, Gasden and Gorst). Town names in the Hamburg Passenger
Lists include Gadsden, Garsd, Garsden, Garsdi, Garsdy, Garzd, Garzden,
Garzdy, Gazdin, Gorsd, Gorsden, Gorsdy, Gorst, Gorszdy, Gorzd, Gorzdy,
Other Sources of Information
Jewish Communities Collection, 1860-1941 at YIVO.
Documents are viewable online. Primarily from 1920's, and in Hebrew,
Yiddish or Lithuanian. Access collection with word search for "Gargzdai"
or "Gorzd," then link to folder.
- Records from Gargzdai are available which have not yet been
incorporated in the ALD. These may be obtained by joining the Telsiai
Group at LitvakSIG. Contact Jill Anderson,
Telsiai Uyezd Coordinator. Joining the group provides financial support
for ongoing translation of records.
- Y. Alperovitz, Ed., Sefer Gorzd (Tel Aviv: Gorzd Society of
Israel, 1980), NYPL: *PXV (Gargzdai) 88-463. This Gorzd Memorial Book is
posted online by the
New York Public Library. The JewishGen
site lists libraries where this book may be viewed; in addition,
it may be available at public libraries by interlibrary loan. If you are
interested in assisting the JewishGen project to make a translation of
the entire Book available online, please contact JewishGen's Yizkor Book
Project Manager Joyce Field.
- Janina Valanciute, Gargzdu miesto ir parapijos istorija,
Vilnius: Diemedzio Leidykla, 1998 (ISBN 9986-23-047-0). A history of
Gargzdai. In Lithuanian, with summaries in English and German. Many
photographs. May be available from Gargzdai Tourist Office.
- Kestutis Demereckas and Ruta Cirtautaite, Gargzdai, Klaipeda:
Libra Memelensis, 2003 (ISBN 9955-544-12-0). In Lithuanian and English.
Introduction by Janina Valanciute. Includes many historic photographs
not available elsewhere, as well as modern photographs.
- Ernestas Derkintis,
Dainius Elertas, Zita Genienė, Liepa Griciūtė, Egidijus Miltakis, Eglė
Vaitkutė, Janina Valančiūtė, Dr. Hektoras Vitkus, Garg˛dų
istorija LDK laikotarpiu, 2009
(ISBN 978-609-404-038-2). In Lithuanian. Many
illustrations, including early documents from Gargzdai.
Hebrew Day School Class Photograph, Gargzdai -Yad Vashem. [Note -
this photo is attributed to Gruzdziai in Preserving
our Jewish Heritage, Vol. II (2007).]
Jewish School, 1932-1933 at Vilna
Gaon State Jewish Museum
- Yad Vashem photo collection
- Gargzdai Area
- Jews in East Prussia.
Site by Dr. Ruth Leiserowitz, in German and English. Includes
information about emigration from Lithuania to East Prussia. Records
Jewish Families in Memel 1885-1901 and 1910
include families with Gargzdai connections. For an article about Dr.
Leiserowitz' location of Memel records, see Howard Margol, "Memel
Archives Records Located," Avotaynu, Volume IX, No. 1, Spring
2003, p. 19.
Memel - Klaipeda heute. Site about the history of
Memel/Klaipeda. Includes City
Directories for Memel for 1858, 1866, 1898, 1909, 1915, 1926,
1929, 1931, 1935 and 1942; and for Memelgebiet (Memel district), 1921.
- KehilaLinks sites for nearby towns
- Lietuva zemelapiuose - Lithuania on the Map - Catalog of
Exhibition at National Museum of Lithuaia (1999) (ISBN 9955-415-01-0);
reprinted 2002 (ISBN 9955-415-24-X). Color photographs of maps of
Lithuania. Descriptions in Lithuanian and English.
- Anatolij Chayesh, Box-Tax
their Personal Structure, posted at LitvakSig
Journal. Several references to Gargzdai (Gorzhdy), including fire
of August 25, 1895 (in Addendum 1).
- Herman Rosenthal, Courland,
article from Jewish Encyclopedia (1916) posted on JewishGen. Reference
to Charter of 1639 granting rights to the Jews of Polangen and Gorzhd.
- Yehudat Lita (Lithuanian Jewry: Its History in Pictures)
(Jerusalem: Moss Harav Kook, 1959). Pictures of "Gruzd," p. 167. These
pictures of Market St. and the cemetery appear in less clear versions in
the Gorzd Memorial
Book, on pages 48 [Image 453] and 78 [Image 423] (English
section), and page 36 [Image 40] (Hebrew/Yiddish section). Note: these
photos appear in the Siauliai section of Yehudat Lita , and may
indicate conflation of the towns Gruzdziai (n. of Siauliai) and Gorzd.
For further information about the old cemetery photograph, click here.
of Jewish cemetery in Gargzdai at wikimedia
- Exposition and Lectures in Ulm, Germany during 2008 commemorating 50th
anniversary of Einsatzgruppen Trials. Presentation of May 6, 2008, by
Dr. Christoph Dieckmann, regarding Einsatzkommando Tilsit.
Gargzdai Information on Other Websites
- Click here for links to photos of
Gargzdai, and information about Gargzdai available on other
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Updated by JSJ - April 26, 2021
Copyright (c) 2002 - 2021 John S. Jaffer
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