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Greetings from Mariampole

September 12th, 2008 by

mariampole
My maternal grandfather (you can see him on this post about my mother) came from a town in Lithuania called Mariampole (now spelled Marijampole). He left as a teen and came to America, to New York. As a young man he was sent to Russia as an American salesman; there he met my grandmother and married her. This postcard was sent from Mariampole in the 1928; it seems he had the opportunity to visit relatives.

He writes to his mother in New York:

My dear mother, I am writing to you on the train on my way back from Mariampole to Kovno(?). I saw Aunt Lydia and her family and they are all well. Will leave Kovno this afternoon and will be in Paris on Saturday. Will write from there. Trusting that you are well and hoping to see you shortly. Love to all. With love from Sol.

Unfortunately this story has a tragic ending. Soon after the Nazis came to Lithuania in 1939, the Jewish community in Lithuania was destroyed.

Masha Greenbaum writes in The Jews of Lithuania:

For centuries Jews had lived peacefully in Lithuania and considered it their homeland. They enjoyed its beautiful scenery, its mountains and forests, rivers and lakes. Lithuanian Jews, together with Lithuanian non-Jews, respectfully sang the anthem of the newly created independent state that was established after World War I…As early as the mid-1930s, however, Jews were given sufficient reason to understand that they had no future in Lithuania…General Lithuanian public opinion responded favorably to the rise to power of Hitler, and many Lithuanian nationalist parties lauded the National Socialism and official anti-Jewish policies of neighboring Germany. When Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, Lithuania clearly cast its sympathies with the former; after the Soviet occupation, Lithuanians fervently hoped for a German victory that would liberate them from the hated Communists.

Lithuanian Jewry was trapped between the warring powers, each of which had its own specific anti-Jewish policy and agenda. However, whereas the Soviets systematically destroyed Jewish religious and national institutions and forced Lithuanian Jews to adapt to a new economic order, the Germans committed unspeakable atrocities, causing endless pain and suffering to innocent men, women, and children, and systematically murdered all but 6,000-8,000 of Lithuania’s Jews. Countless Lithuanians played an all too willing part in this orgy of savagery.

My mother once told me that after the war, they never heard from those Mariampole relatives again.

More on Mariampole and its Jews:

A good site for Jewish genealogical research: The JewishGen Yizkor Book Necrology Database (thank you, Gail).

17 Responses to Greetings from Mariampole

  1. Ilana-Davita says:

    This is very interesting Leora. it is so sad to think of all those communities which have disappeared. I find it is important to remember the people who died and those who were never born because of those deaths.

  2. Robin says:

    How good that he had the chance to visit and create precious memories. My grandparents didn’t go back to Hungary for a family wedding because they were afraid of how bad the situation was getting. They never had another chance, their families were wiped out. My grandmother never forgave herself, and never spoke another word about her family until the day she died. Everything I know about them I know from my grandfather, who grew up in the same town and had dated my grandmother’s older sister back in Hungary.

  3. Gail says:

    I kept trying to post this to you on twitter, but it wasn’t working for me. My grandfather was from Rozhan, Poland, which I mentioned was destroyed in WW2. I found a lot of information about it at this site, including lists of people from the town that died in the Holocaust (we lost distant cousins) and stories of what the town was like before, during and after the war. If you scroll down, they have a listing for Mariampole as well: http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/Yizkor/

  4. frumhouse says:

    What an amazing post. I just love old postcards. What a treasure for you to have them and samples of your grandfather’s writing. Such a sad story…

  5. Leora says:

    Thanks, Gail, for the link. I added it to my post.

    Robin, thank you for sharing your grandmother’s story. I’m finding I’m posting about the family to preserve the stories. So now I’m preserving a bit of yours, too (and Gail’s).

    Thanks for reading, Ilana-Davita and frumhouse.

  6. Gail says:

    You’re welcome!

  7. Lori says:

    Thank you for sharing your ancestors with us.

    My paternal side came from a small Shtetl in Lithuania called Shilel/Silale. They were Scottish immigrants, and also British immigrants (my grandmother and my father were born in England).

    There was a mass killing of Jews in Shilel during WWII. They were taken to the forest, dug their own mass grave, and were murdered. They synagogue was burned.

    The website JewishGen.org has a wealth of information on it, with so many Lithuanian databases. But, I’m sure you know about it. They also have an online worldwide burial registry database. http://www.jewishgen.org/databases/cemetery/

    Thanks again for this lovely post.
    ~~Lori

  8. hihorosie says:

    Wow, amazing and tragic story. Thanks for sharing this bit of history. The old pic and postcard are great.

    You should post about your collard wrap/sandwich. It’s gotta be good stuff! I hope you didn’t think I was knocking anyone who eats meat and/or dairy. i believe one should do what is best for them. It’s just so many people don’t understand there’s more than one way to get protein and that anyone who chooses to not eat any animal products aren’t being robbed of protein or any other necessity. I’m not worried about you and your eating habits as you are one who is aware of what you put into your body and do your best to take care of it. It’s the others who don’t know moderation (I was one of them) that I tend to worry about. Always love your visits and comments. :)

  9. Michelle says:

    Another sad story. My MIL said that she and her family considered themselves to be good Germans and that nothing bad would happen. By the time they realized that was not true, only the children escaped. …

  10. Carra says:

    That town your grandfather is going to is Kaunas. I was born there, I know, the term he used was Russian. As for that historical thing it’s a little bit inaccurate and one sided (and don’t have a go at me, because my great-grandmother was Jewish and my great-grandfather paid some people to put her into prison to keep her alive).

    Lithuania was once the only country in Europe that did not have any laws against Jews (since 14the century to be exact, even the French during those days had laws preventing Jews from settling in their towns). The population of Jews in Lithuania prior to WWII was really huge, and when Hitler came into power, he was itching to lay his hands on all of Lithuania and not just Klaipeda (or Memel,) as geographically it was in a very good location for attacking Russia. Since early 30s Hitler was sending people to spread propaganda against Jews, it was partially successful especially in the South of Lithuania as it was tied to Hitler’s economic manipulations too as in 1933 in Germany sanctions were introduced against dealing with Lithuania shaking the countries economy to the core. Once Lithuania was occupied unlike any other Nazi German occupied territory it never had the Lithuanian – SS and prior to the occupation Lithuania was the first country in the world to try a Nazi criminal. I am obviously not justifying anybody’s actions, but to understand what happened there, you have to know the history of Lithuania very well, as well as look into the uninteresting facts related to the WWII. In Lithuania where Jews and Lithuanians lived together since 14th century, there were more Lithuanians saving Jews than killing them but no one is looking at that point in history.

  11. Ralph says:

    There is no justice, not complete anyway. You look at the Nazis, ‘der Juden’ were first, German citizens. Why try to destroy your own citizens? Same for Poland, the Baltics. The persecuted were citizens, yet to be destroyed. It must be “Never Again”.

    It is so good for you to offer the relics from the past. That irrational hatred of Jews only contribute to the culture’s downfall. You can see how thriving a culture was and how hatred diminished the grandeur, culture and life of a people. Hatred is the slow but sure decline of any civilization.

    A thoughtful (and bittersweet) post.

  12. Leora says:

    Lori, no, I haven’t done much research. So your link might come in handy if I’m ready to find out more.
    Michelle, thanks for sharing a bit of your MIL’s story.
    Carra, I only know what the historians say. I’ll let them discuss the history. Thanks for sharing your views.
    Ralph, thanks for reading. I find Jews are often the “canary in the coal mine,” and after persecuting Jews, others get persecuted as well.

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