Shtetl Life The presence of Jews in Anykščiai is undocumented prior to the 19th century, but there can be little doubt that Jewish traders and peddlers passed through the region from the earliest times.  According to the late Rabbi Ephraim Oshry (1908-2003), Jews first settled in Anykščiai   in the 16th century and by 1704 one of their earliest spiritual leaders was the rabbi, Rav Gershon ben Abbele Isserels. [Source: The Annihilation of Lithuanian Jewry, The Judaica Press, New York, 1995, p. 181 (translated into English from Rabbi Oshry's 1951 yiskor book, Churban Lita).   The Lithuanian town of Anykščiai and the Jewish shtetl Aniksht were one and the same yet different. They occupied the same physical space but were separated by religion, culture and language.  During peaceful times, relations between the Lithuanian townspeople and their Jewish neighbors were amicable. Each was tied to the other by business, commerce and place. Because so little information is available about the early history of Jewish Aniksht, we must look to the larger history of the Jews in Lithuania to gain some perspective. (See “Recommended Reading” in the left sidebar.) In 1847 there were 1,556 Jews living in Anykščiai and 2,754 by 1897 (69.7% of the population). [Source: Yahadut Lita (The Jews of Lithuania), Tel Aviv, 1967, published by the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel]    Until the First World War, Anykščiai was in Kovno Governorate [Guberniya]. It was destroyed during the First World War and its Jewish population was forced to flee into the Russian interior. World War One left much of Anykščiai in ruins. In 1920, the Jewish residents gradually began returning to their half-ruined homes, whose windows they stuffed with rugs. Many of them received aid from their [American or South African] relatives and support from the Joint Distribution Committee, thus enabling them to rebuild their homes and businesses. Construction, the flax trade, and mechanized manufacturing of stockings, shoes and fishing nets thrived. New homes were built, streets were paved and sidewalks laid. According to data published by Va'ad HaAretz (the Jewish National Council), there were 1,800 Jews in Anykščiai in 1921, or about 400 families (45% of the population). Jewish residents of Anykščiai made a living as traders, particularly in cotton. Some worked in the local manufacturing of felt slippers (100 workers), shoes (150) and stockings (40 women). Twenty Jews were involved in the manufacture of agricultural machinery. There were 166 craftsmen: sixteen tailors and seamstresses, 42 shoemakers, nine butchers, eleven bakers, nine metal workers, one carpenter, four watchmakers, one goldsmith and 74 other miscellaneous crafts people. About 50 Jews made their living rafting logs down the Shventa (Šventoji) and Niemen rivers to Germany. A rural district (valscius) was created and in 1922 wool combing and spinning workshops were established. That same year a Jewish elementary school, first created in 1910, was re-established, a winemaking workshop followed in 1926, and a four-year Lithuanian middle school. During the years of the Lithuanian Republic (1918-1940), Anykščiai was the township seat and an important summer vacation destination because of its picturesque countryside within a hilly and forested region dotted with many lakes and streams. Before World War II, its population stood at 4,000. (Source: Encyclopedia Lituanica, 1970, Vol. I, pp. 108-109.) Jewish public life in Anykščiai was vibrant. There was a drama club and two large libraries. One library belonged to the General Zionists, the other to the Yiddishists. During the tsarist regime, Anykščiai was one of the strongholds of the Bund in Lita [Lithuania] and during the inter-war years had branches of all the Zionist parties and movements, and a  branch of WIZO, the Yiddishist party and the Communist party. Among the youth organizations active in Anykščiai were Hashomer Hatsa'ir, Betar, Maccabee and other sports associations. As in other towns, many Jewish workers were pushed out of the trades and crafts by the "Warsleniks," who were supported by the Lithuanian government. Jews received assistance from the Jewish bank that was founded in 1920 by Pinchas Yevinson  and Raphael Eckerman and whose members numbered 275 in 1932. Around this time, many Jewish town residents emigrated to the North America and South Africa. Anykščiai was devastated during the years of Nazi occupation. In 1944, both bridges were blown up, the city center and Uzupis jurisdiction were destroyed and all economic activity was paralyzed. Nearly all its Jewish residents were tortured and murdered by the Nazis and Lithuanian nationalists. (For more information, view the “Holocaust” section of this website from the menu bar selections at the top of this page.) By 1962, virtually devoid of Jews, the Anykščiai population stood at 6,200. It was known for its felt and fruit wine industries. The town boasted a secondary school, a 100-bed hospital, a home for the aged, a theater and a public library. Over 200 hectares of town land had been designated as a rest and recreation area.  [Source: Encyclopedia Lituanica, 1970, Vol. I, pp. 108-109.] By 2007, the population had increased to 12,000 but remained devoid of Jews.  Because Anykščiai was so often devastated by fires in past years, few buildings of historical significance survive, although a few from the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries can be found in Baranausko Square and along Vilniaus, Geguzes and adjacent streets.  A few of these surviving structures are of Jewish origin, having been former homes of Jews and, in one case, a former synagogue - the old Shulhoif - on Saltupio Street which is now a bakery.  Sadly, the only part of contemporary Anykščiai that is easily recognizable as Jewish is the surviving remnant of the old Jewish cemetery. (Update: the old Shulhoif was razed in November 2011 to make way for a social services center.) Photo Credit: Selma Horwitz Jackson. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe/Lithuania”, published and made available online by the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York, New York. History of the Jews in Lithuania,” by Wikipedia.  The Expulsion of the Jews from Lithuania in the Spring of 1915,” by Anatolij Chayesh. Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Lithuania (Anykščiai, Lithuania), as translated by Shaul Yannai (posted on as part of its Yiskor Book Project) from the Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities in Lithuania, edited by Dov Levin, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem, 1996, pp. 151-155. Anykščiai Residents Reb Israel Sheinson, a scholar and Zionist who died in Israel Reb Elchanan Sheinson, who died in Israel Reb Avraham-Munes Hurvitz, graduate of the Volozin [Yeshiva] who gave a lot of charity to the poor Reb Baruch-Yitzhak Charne, head of the yeshiva Pinchas Yevinson, chairman of the Va’ad HaKehillah (community council) and founder of the bank Raphael Eckerman, the secretary of the Va’ad HaKehillah  and a co-founder of the bank Dr. Schumacher, a well-known physician in the region Rapoport and Diament families, eminent tradesmen in town Rabbi Meir Komaiko Rabbi and Scholar Louis Epstein Writer Wolf Schor [Source: Yahadut Lita (The Jews of Lithuania), Tel Aviv, 1967, published by the Association of Lithuanian Jews in Israel] Native Born Recommended Reading Aniksht Town History - Jewish Perspective History