Kupishok: The Memory Stronger
"Kupishok: The Memory Stronger" is a 74 page memoir by Stanley
Meyersohn, written in 1980. Meyersohn gives the history of the Jews in Kupiskis, and
describes his search for his relatives from the town. He details the death of the Jewish
community of Kupiskis in the Summer of 1941 at the hands of the specialized German killing
unit, Einsatzkommando 3, (part of Einsatzgruppe A), and their Lithuanian assistants. He
also interviews two Jewish survivors from Kupiskis, both now living in Israel. The book
includes three maps and several photos.
A number of
Kupiskis families are mentioned in the book, including
Meyersohn's relatives the Tubers and the Polins. Other family names mentioned include
Trapido, Glazer, Shapiro, Reznikovith, Resnikoff, Gershuni, Ash, Shusterman,
Levinson, Ginsburg and Traub.
An Excerpt from
Kupishok: The Memory Stronger (Chapter Two)
Kupishok (in Lithuanian, Kupiskis) is an old town in northeastern
Lithuania, situated between the Levuo River and its left tributary, the Kupa, which curves
from the east to the south of town. About two kilometers south of Kupishok is a station on
the railway which runs from the city of Ponevezh (Panevezys) northeast to the border with
Latvia, about 70 kilometers from Kupishok, and then east across the Russian border. Still
farther south somewhat, beyond the railway line, is the Shepata peat bogs. Surrounding the
town is thick forest and farm lands, interspersed with tiny church-villages and
Historical sources mention Kupishok from 1510 onwards; Jewish settlement
began more than 300 years ago, evidenced by grave markers in the Jewish cemeteries dated
in the seventeenth century. The first member of the Trapido family came to Kupishok from
Holland in 1816, and the Polin family was already there. In the eighteenth century the
town and the surrounding area belonged to the Tyzenhaus (Tiesenhausen) family of magnates
and later to the Prince Czartoryski. In 1817 its population was 3,742 of which 2,661 were
Jews. During World War 1, in May 1915, most of the Jews left Kupishok to become war
refugees, and only part of them returned there after the war. During the ensuing years
many of the Jewish youth emigrated to South Africa and to Eretz Israel.
Nevertheless, by 1941 about 3,500 -- perhaps 4,000 -- people lived in
Kupishok including 400 families of Jews who lived mainly in the center of the town and
approximately an equal number of Christians who lived in the area surrounding the core.
Relations between the two groups had always been peaceful; there is no historical record
of a pogrom there until June - July, 1941.
Kupishok was one of the few towns in Lithuania with a considerable
community of Hasidim. There were two officiating rabbis in 1941, the Hasid, Rabbi Israel
Noah Khatzkevitz, and the Mitnagid, Rabbi Zalman Pertzovsky. The community had three
synagogues, a yeshiva, a talmud torah, and three schools (Yavneh, Tarbut and a Yiddish
school). Many of the Jewish children attended the secular Lithuanian high school (the
gymnasia) and the public school for lower grades.
In the center of Kupishok was the
Turgahs, the Market Place, and from it
radiated the main streets. The street north was Tifle Gahs (Church Street) on which stood
the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, built by King Sigismund
South from the Market Place ran Bahn Gahs (Train Street), also called officially Gediminas
Street after the fourteenth century King of Lithuania. A small bridge carried the Bahn
Gahs over the Kupa and to the train station. On this street was the city hall and the town
jail, very near to the Kupa before the bridge, the houses of the Polin, Shavel and
Sneierson families. The Sneierson house, at number 49 Gedeminas, was across the street
from the city hall. Nearby was a small hotel or inn, the Viesbutis. On the east side of
town, on the other side of the Kupa not far from the Hasidic cemetery, was a small
barracks (kazarmis) and firehouse. Adjoining the Market Place at the northwest was the
area of the synagogues next to which was a small street, Pozarna Gahs which ran the short
distance from Matuliones Gahs to Vilna Gahs. Pozarna Gahs became the temporary ghetto for
a few weeks in the summer of 1941.
Reprinted with the kind permission of the author.