Ramygala Shtetle

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   Ramygala - a brief and tragic history


Ramygala   is a small city in Lithuania located 24 km (15 mi) south of Panevezys on the banks of the Upytė River, which is a tributary of the  Nevezis River.      

The name Ramygala literally means “quiet end”.    

It was first mentioned in the 13th century. In 1370 the place suffered from the Teutonic Knight attack.    

Sometime before 1500 the first church was built and in 1503 the name "Ramygala" was used to refer to a town. Since then Ramygala slowly grew. Few years later it had a manor, and at the end of the 16th century it received a privilege to host fairs. Unlike many other towns in Lithuania, Ramygala did not belong to a noble family but rather to Vilnius Cathedral and later to Vilnius University.   

In 1580 the town was granted the right to conduct three fairs per year as well as its large markets. 

Since the  second half of the 18th century, Ramygala  was administrative center of a valscius  (1)  .  

Until 1795 Ramygala was included in the Polish-Lithuanian Kingdom. It then became part of the Russian Empire, first in the Vilna Gubernia and from 1843 in the Kovno Gubernia.

During the period of independent Lithuania (1918-1940) it was a county administrative centre in the Ponevezh district. 

After the administrative reform by the Soviet authorities in 1950, the town became a capital of raion  (2)    (Lithuanian: rajonas). In 1957 it received city rights.    

In 1962 Ramygala lost the status of the capital of a raion.  Now it is a centre of an  eldership  (3)  , the smallest administrative division in Lithuania. It has a small hospital and a library.   

Jews began to settle in Ramygala as early as the end of the 16th century, according to headstones in the cemetry.  In 1766 there were 225 jews living in the town. The number of Jews in the town increased during the middle of the 19th century and by 1859 there was already a synagogue.   

In 1833 a fire destroyed 35 Jewish homes. About 60 families escaped in complete poverty and turned for help to other Jewish communities in Lithuania.    This was one of many tragedies to hit the town and its people.     In 1897 the population numbered 650

During WWI, (May 1915) the Russian military rule exiled the Jews of Ramygala from their town into the interior of Russia. After the war only two thirds of those exiled returned to the town.  

Aliya to Israel started in 1923 and at the outbreak of the Holocaust, less than 100 Jewish families lived there.

A second fire in the summer of 1929 caused the destruction of 62 Jewish buildings, homes and stables. The “Linat Zedek” (Hospice for the Poor) house, the library and its reading hall, the Beit Hamidrash and the Talmud Torah, were also burned. Most did not have insurance and all who lived there helped.  

From the middle of  the 1930's the number of Jews in the town decreased steadily. In 1939 there were 10 telephone subscribers; only one of them was a Jew.  

In 1933 the community inaugurated the new Beth Midrash that was built wher the original one had been burnt down. There were now two Batei Midrash with regular classes.

On August 24-25 1941, (1-2 Elul, 5701), the rest of the Jews remaining in the town were led by foot towards Panevezys and were murdered in the Pajuoste forest, about 8 kilometers east of Panevezys. The names  of  the Lithuanian murderers are  kept in the Yad Vashem archives


1)     Volost  (Russian:   во́лость);     was a traditional administrative subdivision in   Eastern Europe. 

2)     The term "raion" also can be used simply as a kind of administrative division without anything to do with ethnicity or nationality. A raion is a standardized administrative entity across most of the former Soviet Union   and is usually a subdivision two steps below the national level. However, in smaller USSR republics, it could be the primary level of administrative division.

3)     Eldership is the smallest   administrative division   of   Lithuania. An eldership could either be a very small   region   consisting of few   villages, one single   town, or part of a big   city. 

4)     For more information see:- http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/Pinkas_lita/lit_00640.html 




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Compiled by

Alan Nathan



 (C) Alan Nathan 2016