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Skuodas

Skuodas, Kretinga County, Lithuania

To enlarge the map click here Building that housed a Jewish elementary school and the Jewish community committee in Skuodas Building that housed a Jewish elementary school and the Jewish community committee in Skuodas YVA, Photo Collection, 3238/23

Jewish settlement in the village of Skuodas started in the 17th century. A synagogue was built there at the beginning of the 18th century was one of the three oldest synagogues in Lithuania. At the end of the 19th century the Jews of Skuodas numbered 2,292, comprising about 60 percent of the total population. By 1923 the Jewish population had dropped to 1,310 (30 percent of the total) due to Jewish emigration from Lithuania, especially to South Africa and the United States. However, by the eve of World War II the number of Jews had risen to 2,200.
During the period of Lithuania’s interwar independence the majority of Skuodas’ Jews earned a living from crafts, agriculture, transport, or small industry. The village’s Jews were involved in a wide range of social and political activity and established Jewish educational institutions, youth groups, sports clubs, and a library. The annexation of Lithuania to the Soviet Union in 1940 seriously affected the economic situation of the local Jews, much of whose property was nationalized. All Zionist activity was banned at this time.
The Germans occupied Skuodas on June 22, 1941. Since the village was close to the Lithuanian-German border a German garrison with 100 soldiers was stationed there. Most of the Jews who had attempted to flee returned home because the roads were blocked. Less than a week later, on June 28, parts of the battered Red Army tried to attack the German forces in the town but after two days of fighting, when fires broke out that destroyed a large part of the town, the Soviet forces surrendered.
The fighting in Skuodas was followed by extremely brutality on the part of the Germans and Lithuanians directed toward the local Jews, who were accused of aiding the Soviet forces. This was expressed in a series of murder operations directed against Jewish men and, after several months, against Jewish women and children also.
Skuodas was liberated by the Red Army in the summer of 1944.