1662: There were 421
Jews recorded as living in Ritavas.
1765: A census conducted by the Grand
Duchy of Lithuania records 61 Jewish households in Ritavas and surrounding
1795: Russia annexes
large parts of Lithuania as part of the Third Partition of Poland,
and begins to establish the Pale of Settlement.
1816: The Russian
1816 Revision List
(which may not have been exhaustive) shows 71 Jewish households in
Ritavas, numbering some 188 persons. 22 of those households
are recorded as living in Andriava, a small village 9 miles away.
For all religious and cultural matters, they were regarded as part
of the Ritavas community. 16 families are recorded as having come
"from abroad", all but two of them in 1912. "Abroad" in this
context may mean from Poland.
Large scale emigration of Jews from Kovno
and northwestern Lithuania (Kovno guberniya) to South Africa
commenced, and this hit a peak in 1896. It tailed off during the Boer
War years (a number of Litvaks actually returned to Lithuania during
the war), but peaked again in 1902-3, after the war had ended.
There was virtually a transplantation of a large section of the
Jewish population from northwestern Lithuania to South Africa, a movement
that had no parallel elsewhere. In previous years, and in other
areas, the predominant movement was to America; the voyage was shorter
and the fares were cheaper. But from Kovno guberniya,
most of the emigrants went to South Africa, via London, where they
were accommodated while en route at the Poor Jews Temporary Shelter.
1895-7: The only All-Russian census which included
the Jewish population of the Pale od Settlement : The Jewish population
of Ritavas was now 1397, approximately 80% of the total
1910: A list of Jewish property owners shows 157 names.
Despite the large scale emigration, by 1914 the number of
Jewish inhabitants of Ritavas had grown to 2000 (400 families),
but after Lithuania became an independent state in 1918 the numbers
declined, and at the time of the Holocaust there were only 800
people left (about 200 families).
larger part of the Jewish community was exterminated in
June 1941, roughly a week after the German army entered the town,
accompanied by the Einsatzgruppen, units specially formed to execute
the Jews in Russia.