Telsaiai

Historical Background

The Community of Telsaiai was well known for the great Yeshiva that was founded in 1880. The Telz Yeshiva soon became one of the largest and best known in Eastern Europe, with 400 students and with many of its graduates serving as Rabbis throughout the world. Telsaiai, like other Jewish communities, had a rich Jewish life with schools, a Zionist movement and other political and cultural institutions. In 1940 the Jewish population in town was about 2,800 – some 48% of the total population.

After the German invasion of June 1941, all Jews were evicted from their homes and taken to nearby Rainiai where they men were separated from the women and children. Conditions were terrible. They were housed in cowsheds and barns; the men were taken to forced labor and killed. The women and children were first put in a camp in Geruliai, then 500 were sent back to Telsaiai, and the others were shot. Some of the children were buried alive. The women taken to Telsaiai were housed in a ghetto and taken to forced labor, some with farmers who terrorized and raped them. On 24-25 December 1941, the women were taken again to Reiniai where they were killed. Only sixty-four managed to flee and survived the Holocaust.