Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Zerach (Zorach) Orelowitz, Rokiškis (Lithuania), Nov 1939

The photo shows the celebration of Miron (Meir) Meller's (No 13 above) Bar Mitzvah in November 1939 at the home of Yudel Meller (No 11 above, co-owner of a factory and his father. Yudel Meller was the co-owner with his brothers Shmuel, Mordechai, and Khona of a business which encompassed a printery, a paperboard factory and a saccharin tablet factory. In addition, the family was involved in the Meller Candy factory in Rokiškis). No 5 above is Zerach (Zorach) Orelowitz, my grandmother's (Riva-Rachel Orelowitz) 1st cousin (please see my Memorial Page and my Family Tree). Zerach was a moneylender and owner of a newspaper kiosk in Rokiškis. Most of the people in the photo were either exiled to Siberia during the Soviet rule (please see my post "Lithuania under Soviet rule, 1940-1941") or murdered in Rokiškis in August 1941 in the aftermath of Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union. (Also, Jewish refugees from Poland presumably took part in the Meller family celebration).

If I am not mistaken, Zerach's father Shlomo (Shloime) Orelowitz served as staff member of the Yiddish Volksbank (Jewish People's Bank)1 in Rokiškis---please see picture below, Shlomo sitting first right (photo dated 1929?).
Shlomo Orelowitz (Šlioma Orelovičius) also served as a member of the City Council (miesto taryba) of Rokiškis. In 1934 the municipal council consisted of 12 members, 5 of them Jews (other Jewish members were: Abraomas – Vulfa Volpertas, Abraomas Charmacas, Mejeras Berkovičius and Chaimas Lekuchas).
Actually, Zerach Orelowitz, since the postwar period until his death, had always been very close to my Rachowitz family. In the early 1970s, Zerach together with us made "aliya" to Israel. My Dad, Aaron-Israel Rachowitz, took care of all his needs and was very sensitive to all his needs (Zerach had no close family). Zerach son of Shlomo, died of natural causes at age 94 on April 9, 1987, may He rest in peace.


 In pre-war Lithuania, many members of the Jewish middle class, especially the educated strata who had already experienced the establishing of Jewish autonomy to some extent, mobilized their resources in order to strengthen the social economic basis of the Jewish masses and their livelihood. With the blessing and initiation of the Economics Committee at the Ministry for Jewish Affairs and with the assistance of the “Foundation,” a national financial system of co-operative credit societies was established. By the end of 1920, these were already active in 44 cities and towns and were named “People's Bank”. In addition to making positive impact on local economic activity (extending loans, etc), they were also of importance in the social and cultural sphere. In a number of places, the community bodies and other organizations also used the bank building. There were also cases of the bank granting study scholarships and prizes for cultural activities. In order to co-ordinate and regulate the activities of the People's Banks in time of need and crises, a central institution was established in 1921, [in Kaunas -- D.R.], formally called the “Central Jewish Bank for the Encouragement of Co-operation.”[---please see picture below] 71 People's Banks throughout the country were linked to it, and the number of (dues paying) members reached 11,000. Over the years, the capital assets of the institutions increased, as did the amount of deposits and savings. Thanks to that, the conditions for granting loans to members and public institutions were loosened. In 1930, 85 People's Banks existed in Lithuania with 22,262 members. In that year, 11,953 loans were granted to them and to others in a total amount of 10,249,159 Lit (approximately one million Dollars). Although the People's Bank was open to non-Jews as well, the share of gentiles was no more than 5%. Work in the offices, correspondence and daily routine was conducted in Yiddish, and this was also true of the national conventions and conferences which took place every few years. This was, therefore, a Jewish banking system spread throughout the cities and towns of Lithuania. At the time, the total deposits amounted to 14,113,413 Lit (approximately $1.4 million), of which 46% came from members, 16% from institutions and [the rest] from non-members. Taking into consideration members' families and all others who required the People's Banks' services, and that of its associates, we can conclude that they served about two thirds of the Jewish population. Unlike similar Lithuanian banks, that enjoyed cheap governmental credit, the People's Banks had to depend on deposits only. In 1933, a special bank was established to assist Jewish farmers (Yiddisher Landwirten Bank)---please see en.15min.lt - news portal: "Lithuanian bank architecture: Symbols of wealth, power, and crisis."
Central Jewish Bank (Centrinis žydų bankas) building, Kaunas, Laisvės al. 106. The bank was built by the architects-engineers G. Mazelis and M. Grodzenskis.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vacation in Palanga (Polangen, Połąga) before the War

Before the war, the Rachowitz family used to spend their summer holidays in Palanga, a popular seaside resort at the Baltic sea, according to my Dad, Aaron-Israel Rachowitz. Below is a picture of Palanga beach on a sunny day

Source: I. Stropus, Palanga. Vaizdų albumas, 1936 m. via Facebook 

The following picture shows Palanga with its white sand beaches and marvelous dunes

The next picture shows the Palanga general beach as of 1901 (Palangos bendras pliažas 1901 metais)

 Source: Nemunas, here

The last picture shows the Palanga beach in the early 20th century and it was taken by Paulina Mongirdaitė, the first Lithuanian woman photographer of the Palanga resort

Source: via Facebook

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Lithuania under Soviet rule, 1940-1941

A picture above (taken in 1941 and found in my grandfather's/Hirsch-Meir Rachowitz's photo collection) shows a pro-Soviet rally. People carry posters with Soviet leaders, Lenin and Stalin, as well as flags and banners in support of the Soviet regime -- with political slogans such as "Tėvas Stalinas" in Lithuanian, i.e., "Father Stalin."
With the outbreak of World War II and the return of Vilnius/Vilna (Vilnius and its surrounding area) to Lithuania, about 70,000-80,000 Jews were united with their relatives and friends from whom they had been cut off for 19 years (Vilnius was occupied by Poland in 1920 and Kaunas then became the temporary capital of Lithuania. Poland and Lithuania had no diplomatic relations until 1938 because of the Vilnius conflict!), while the number of Jews in Lithuania substantially increased and reached 240,000-250,000 (in 1940), including Jewish refugees from Nazi- or Soviet occupied Poland. Actually, the Soviet Union seized Vilnius in September 1939 in accordance with the secret Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, then in October 1939, it returned the city to Lithuania, but annexed the whole country in June-August 1940, according to my Dad, Aaron-Israel Rachowitz. Lithuanian President Antanas Smetona and his family fled the country and a new pro-Soviet government was installed with Vilnius as the capital of the newly created Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic (SSR). The Sovietization of country caused huge harm to Jewish culture. Everything that had been created in Hebrew was banned: all Hebrew schools and gymnasia (children/students were transferred to Yiddish or Russian schools. My Dad, Aaron-Israel Rachowitz, who had studied in the Hebrew Real Gymnasium in Kaunas/Kauno žydų realinė gimnazija---please see my post "Hebrew Real Gymnasium in Kovno/Kaunas, Lithuania before WWII"---was transferred to Yiddish school, while his classmate, Eli Stoupel, to Russian school); institutions; yeshivas (an Orthodox Jewish school, college or seminary), all public organizations; all parties; etc. Jewish leaders, politicians, scientists and wealthy Jews were arrested or deported. Menachem Begin, pre-war head of Betar (a Revisionist Zionist youth movement) in Poland (later becoming the 6th Prime Minister of the State of Israel and Nobel Peace Prize laureate) was arrested by NKVD (predecessor of KGB) and detained in 1940-1941 in Lukiškės Prison, Vilnius, whence he was deported to the Pechora forced labor camp in north Russia.      

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lithuania, 1927

A picture of my grandfather, Hirsch-Meir Rachowitz, when he was 29 years old 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Gershon Orelowitz and His Family, Lithuania in the 1930s

A picture (by courtesy of Fay Oppenheim) of Gershon Orelowitz, his daughter Riva Orelowitz Rachowitz and his grandsons, Nathan Rachowitz and Aaron-Israel Rachowitz (my father; the third from the left). Gershon son of Judah Leyb Orelowitz was born in 1872 in Tsarist Lithuania. He was very religious. Gershon went to San Francisco in 1904, stayed there for three years and came back because it was not religious enough for him there. Gershon married Bassia/Basye Joffe and they had five children: Riva-Rachel (above), Kazriel, Joseph/Joe, Shmuel and Berl/Berke. The family lived in Rokiškis, Lithuania. Gershon and his wife Bassia/Basye Joffe Orelowitz, died of sorrow, from the passing of their son Shmuel, according to Fay's father Joe.  

Monday, March 26, 2012

Kaunas (Lithuania), 1940

A picture taken of my father (second from the left), his parents, Riva Orelowitz Rachowitz & Hirsch-Meir Rachowitz and his younger brother Nathan. The Rachowitz family's new home of the 1930s was located at Mishko Street (Miško gatvė), not far from the building of the Polish gymnasium (A. Mickevičiaus privati lenkų gimnazija).

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Kaunas (Lithuania), 1939 -- EuroBasket

The Kaunas Sports Hall (Kauno sporto halė), above, was completed before the 3rd European Basketball Championship in 1939 (Eurobasket 1939). A prominent Lithuanian construction engineer of Jewish origin, Anatolijus Rozenbliumas, has designed the Sports Hall. My Dad was among the spectators in the hall. Below is a sample of a championship game ticket.

The Lithuanian national basketball team won the European Basketball Championship in 1937 (in Riga, Latvia) and in 1939 (when Lithuania was the host country). My Dad told me a lot about Pranas Lubinas (Frank John Lubin), an American-Lithuanian basketball player. Lithuania won the European Basketball Championship in 1937, using American-born players of Lithuanian heritage. When Lithuania hosted the EuroBasket in 1939, it again won the title, this time with Lubin playing and coaching. He is often called the "Grandfather or Godfather of Lithuanian basketball" (Lietuvos krepšinio Krikštatėvis). Also, Lubin had played for the gold medal United States national basketball team at the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin.

Please see below Youtube Video: Europos Krepšinio Čempionatas/EuroBasket 1939 (Kaunas, Lietuva) (In Lithuanian)