Written by Yosef Rosin
Ligum is situated in the north-central part of Lithuania, on the left bank of the river Kruoja, about 27 km north-east of the district center Shavl (Siauliai). An estate with the same name is mentioned in historic documents from the 15th century. Nearby the estate, the village grew mainly in the nineteenth century, from 331 residents in 1841 to 801 in 1897, of them 482 (60%) were Jews. Until 1795 Ligum was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom, when the third division of Poland by the three superpowers of those times ( Russia, Prussia and Austria) occurred. Lithuania then became partly Russian and partly Prussian. The part of Lithuania which included Ligum, fell under the rule of Czarist Russia (1795-1915). From 1802 it was part of the Vilna province (Gubernia) and from 1843 it became part of the Kovno province.
During the period of independent Lithuania (1918-1940), Ligum was a county center in the Siauliai district, with it's own county, police and post offices. The town of Ligum also had several small factories for processing agricultural products, some workshops and shops.
The first Jews settled in Ligum during the 18th century. Until the beginning of the 19th century there were more Jews in Ligum than in Shavl, and the Ligum Jewish cemetery served Shavl Jews as well. Ligum Jews made their living from small trade, crafts and peddling. After several decades, they became the majority in town. At the beginning of the 19th century Ligum had a "Beth-Midrash", a "Kheder" and other Jewish institutions.
In 1876 a big fire occurred in Ligum which burnt down 60 Jewish houses. In 1887 another big fire burnt down 64 Jewish houses, including the "Beth-Midrash" and the Synagogue.
In the years before WW1 many of Ligum's Jews immigrated to America, England and South Africa and at the start of WW1only 60 families remained. During the summer of 1915 all Ligum's Jews were expelled to the inner regions of Russia. After the war only 50 families returned to Ligum.
During the period of independent Lithuania (1918-1940)
Following the autonomy law for minorities, issued by the new Lithuanian government, the Minister for Jewish Affairs, Dr. Menachem (Max) Soloveitshik, ordered elections to be held for community committees (Va'ad Kehilah) in the summer of 1919. In Ligum a committee of 5 elected members was formed. This committee was active in almost all fields of Jewish life until the end of 1925.
to the Government's first census, taken in 1923, 753 people lived in Ligum,
of whom 240 were Jews (32%). During this period most of the Jews
made their living from agriculture, craft, peddling and small trade. The
weekly market day which took place on Wednesdays, accounted for their main
source of income. Almost every family maintained an auxiliary farm and
owned a milking cow. Several Jews worked at Yosef Perkis' wool spinning
and dyeing plant.
elections took place in 1931 in the "Zionist Hall" and in 1939 in the "Beth
For a partial list of Rabbis who served in Ligum see Appendix 1.
During World War II
June 1940 Lithuania was annexed by the Soviet Union, becoming a Soviet
Republic. The new rule caused many changes in the economic and social life
of Ligum. Some of the Jews now found work in government economic institutions (like clerks etc. where Jews were
not previously accepted during the Lithuanian rule). The supply of goods decreased
and as a result prices soared. The middle class, mostly Jewish, bore most
of the brunt, and the standard of living dropped gradually. All Zionist
parties and youth organizations were disbanded and relations between
Jews and Lithuanians worsened. In 1940 there were about 120 Jews in Ligum.
For a partial list of personalities born in Ligum see Appendix 2.
Yahaduth Lita, (Hebrew) Tel-Aviv, Volumes 3-4
Yad Vashem Archives: Koniuchovsky Collection 0-71, Files 109
Yad Vashem Archives: File on Legum M-9/15(6).
Central Zionist Archives: 55/1788; 55/1701; 13/15/131; Z-4/2548.
Kagan Berl,. Shtet, Shtetlach un Dorfishe Yishuvim in Lite biz 1918 (Jewish Towns, Small Towns and Rural Settlements in Lithuania till 1918) (Yiddish) pages 251-251, New-York 1992.
Kamzon Y.D.-Yahaduth Lita, page 168
Dos Vort, Kovno (Yiddish): 25.10.1934.
Folksblat, Kovno (Yiddish): 14.4.1933; 19.6.1933
Di Yiddishe Shtime (The Yiddish Voice) Kovno (Yiddish): 23.7.1929; 14.4.1933; 19.4.1933.
Di Tseit (Time) (Yiddish) Kovno, 21.5.1939
Masines Zudynes Lietuvoje (Mass Murder in Lithuania) vol. 2, page 404, Vilnius 1941-1944 (Lithuanian).
Dov Levin- Ligum (Lygumai), Pinkas Hakehillot Lita (Encyclopedia of Jewish Settlements in Lithuania) (Hebrew), Editor: Dov Levin, Assistant editor: Yosef Rosin, Yad Vashem. Jerusalem 1996.
The Book of Sorrow, (Hebrew, Yiddish, English, Lithuanian), Vilnius 1997.
A partial list of Rabbis who served in Ligum:
Nahum Shapiro (1818-1902)
A partial list of prominent people born in Ligum:
Mordechai Bezalel Schneider
(1865-1941). After 1896 he lived in Vilna where he was a central personality
in education and Zionism, and wrote research articles in the Hebrew
language for Hebrew periodicals. (Hashiloakh, Hatekufah etc.). Published
two volumes of his comprehensive book "The theory of the Hebrew language
in its historic development" (Vilna, 1939-1940). The third volume was ready
to be printed, but the incoming Soviet rulers destroyed the printingmatrixes.
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Copyright © 2002, Yosef Rosin and Barry Mann