Jews first began to settle in this small town in the 19th century. Before the First World War, about 80 to 100 families, a total of nearly 400 people, lived in Antalieptė. Like other towns in Lithuania at that time, the community of Antalieptė was deeply religious and held fast to traditional values. There was one wooden beth midrash and two Hasidic shtiebels in the town. The first records of a synagogue date to 1900 [1.1].
The town’s primary source of income was an Orthodox convent, home to about 100 nuns. Among the Jews who provided supplies to the monastery, were a grocery store owners (a total of 10 in the town), millers, builders and other craftsmen. At the turn of the 21st century, the town was inhabited by about: 2–4 shoemakers, 2–3 millers, 2–3 engravers, a tanner and tailor. There were also several door-to-door salesmen. Antalieptė had no factories, and most of the Jews lived in poverty. Local rabbis did not receive any pay. They made a living off selling yeast, lemons and other food products. The most prominent rabbi at the time was Jehuda-Judl, who performed his duties in the second half of the 19th century.
During a fire which devastated the town in May 1898, many Jewish homes were destroyed and the residents lost all of their belongings. Those who had suffered through the fire received help from Jews living in the nearby town of Dusetos who organised clothing and money drives for the victims. During the First World War, under Germany occupation, the economic situation in Antalieptė deteriorated further. The nuns from the monastery escaped to the East and the Germany army converted monastery buildings into barracks. Nevertheless, the town’s Jews remained with the exception of two families who left for Russia.
After the First World War, during Lithuania's independence (1918–1940), many Jews emigrated to South Africa, the United States of America and Uruguay [1.2]. Some also left for Palestine. Throughout these years, young inhabitants migrated from the town due to the difficult economic situation. Those who stayed lived off of small-scale trading. At the time, the town’s population included 367 Jews, 63% of its inhabitants [1.3].
During the interwar period, the community decreased in number and assumed a new character. Even though many boys still attended local cheders, many parents chose to send their children to secular schools in other towns.
Zionism began to grow in popularity furing the interwar period. In 1929, only two candidates participated in the elections of the 16th Zionist Congress. In 1933, during the elections to the 18th Zionist Congress, the number of participants grew to 15. The Erec Israel ha-Owedet party received 10 votes, the Mizrachi 3 and the General Zionists – 2 votes. Before the 19th Zionists Congress, in 1935, the number of Zionist voters increased to 114; 59 voted in favour of Erec Israel ha-Owedet, 55 in favour of the Mizrachi. The association of the Ha-Szomer ha-Cair Zionist youth began its activity in the town and in 1937 opened a Hebrew school.
According to records from 1931, the town’s Jews owned shops for fabrics and heating accessories. Some Jews were farmers, and one owned a local mill. There were 15 Jewish craftsmen in all: 5 butchers, 4 smiths, 2 woodworkers, two tailors and a shoemaker. In 1939, the town had 5 telephone lines, but not a single one belonged to a Jewish family. The rabbis of Antalieptė in the mid-war period included Zalman-Tuwja Markowicz (son of a shoemaker and bibliographer Mosze Markowicz), Icchak Nosel (Nasel) and Jehud Lewin. Rabbi Markowicz and his son Chaim Szimszon, also a rabbi known for his incredible memory and broad knowledge and as the author of the religious text Dewar ha-Chaim, were murdered by the Germans in the 9th Fort in Kaunas. Rabbis Icchak Nosel and Jehuda Lewin were also killed during the Holocaust.
In 1940, Lithuania was annexed by the USSR. Jews living in Antalieptė were forced to live under the rule of the Soviet system that suppressed all economic and social freedom. At that time, the town’s population numbered 300 people – a significant decrease from the 1923 numbers that was primarily due to emigration [1.1.3].
Antalieptė came under the Nazi Germany occupation on 26 June 1941. Jews were persecuted by Lithuanian nationalists, including by the son of a local ring-maker, Jonas Mausilauskas, who was noted for his cruelty. The Jewish community was robbed of its precious heirlooms and prohibited from appearing in public and contacting the rest of the community [1.1.3]. Eventually, the entire community was gathered together in the church square. Icchak Berleski, who had been a wealthy merchant before the war, was forced to run back and forth to the river with the buckets full of water until he fell down of exhaustion. Young and strong Jews were taken away by local farmers to serve Germany in the most intense agricultural occupations. One of the boys, who lived in a village just 2 km from the town, took several Jews and kept them in inhuman conditions, including starvation and torture. None returned alive.
On 26 August 1941, all Jews in the Zarasai District Municipality, which included Antalieptė, were herded into the Paziemiai forest [1.4], and murdered. The event may have occurred near the forest near the Pažemys village in the neighbourhood of Degucie. However, according to I.A. Krugłow, the crime was committed in the forest called Krakuni [1.1.3]. In sum, 2,569 men, women and children were killed. The names of the Lithuanian murderers was revealed in the files kept in the Yad Vashem Archives. Lithuanian sources also indicate that a few Jews banished from the town by the Germans received help from the inhabitants of the Padorc village [1.5]. Local residents, however, did not allow the victims to rest in peace. For years after the war groups of treasure hunters dug up the graves in search of valuables.
Ten Jews who survived the Holocaust and managed to escape from the Nazi Germans to the USSR joined the Red Army. Kalman Szur was presented with the title of the Hero of the Soviet Union, and left for Israel in 1979.
"Antalieptė", [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 47.
"Antalieptė", [in:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich (The Geographical Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom and Other Slavonic Countries), vol. 15, part 1, ed. F. Sulimierski, W. Walewski, Warsaw 1900, p. 36.
Krugłow I.A., "Antalieptė", [in:] Hołokost na tieritorii SSSR, ed. I.A. Altman, Moscow 2009, p. 24.]].
Yizkor-bukh fun Rakishok un umgegnt, ed. M. Bakalczuk-Felin, Johannesburg 1952, pp. 346–349.
- [1.1] Antalieptė, [in:] Słownik geograficzny Królestwa Polskiego i innych krajów słowiańskich (The Geographical Dictionary of the Polish Kingdom and other Slavonic Countries), vol. 15, part 1, ed. F. Sulimierski, W. Walewski, Warsaw 1900, p. 36.
- [1.2] Antalieptė, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p 47.
- [1.3] Krugłow I.A., Antalieptė, [in:] Hołokost na tieritorii SSSR, ed. I.A. Altman, Moscow 2009, p. 24.
- [1.1.3] [a] [b] [c] Krugłow I.A., Antalieptė, [in:] Hołokost na tieritorii SSSR, ed. I.A. Altman, Moscow 2009, p. 24.
- [1.4] Antalieptė, [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, vol. 1, New York 2001, p. 47.
- [1.5] A pre-war Polish map of the Military Geographical Institute does not show such place – editorial note