Kupishok: The Memory StrongerKupishok: The Memory Stronger


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, Binbinder, 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 farm-viIlages.

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 Vasa. 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.

Hand drawn Map of Kupiskis

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