The Jewish Community


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 small settlements.

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.

1893:     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  population. 

1910:   A list of Jewish property owners shows 157 names.

1914:     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). 

1941:    The  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.

Contemporary Records

History of the town

Site map
Contemporary Records

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Webpage compiled by  Sam Aaron  February 1999    Last Update: March 2020