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Joniškis

Joniškis, Ŝiauliai County, Lithuania

To enlarge the map click here Group Photograph: Girlfriends from the Maccabi [sports club], Joniškis, 1925 Group Photograph: Girlfriends from the Maccabi [sports club], Joniškis, 1925 YVA, Photo collection, 8515/10 On the reverse of the photo, in the background: the seal of Maccabi of Lithuania On the reverse of the photo, in the background: the seal of Maccabi of Lithuania YVA, Photo Collection, 8515/10

Jews probably first settled in Joniškis at the beginning of the 18th century. At the end of the 19th century 2,272 Jews lived in the town, comprising 48 percent of the total population. During the first decades of the 20th century, following mass Jewish emigration, mostly to South Africa, the number of Jews who lived in Joniskis decreased to less than one thousand people.
The main Jewish occupations in the town were commerce, crafts, light industry, and the export of flax. The Jewish community of Joniškis established a Hebrew school, a library, and a people's bank, as well as Zionists political parties and youth movements.
In the late 1920s the economic situation deteriorated and many Jews in the town fell upon hard times.
The annexation of Lithuania to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940 led to the nationalization of factories and shops, which were largely owned by Jews. The Hebrew school was closed, and Jewish political and cultural activities were banned.
The German army occupied Joniškis on June, 24 1941. Nationalists who took control of the town immediately started persecuting the Jews. The town's Jews, more than 400 men, women and children, were shot dead by the Nazi occupiers and their Lithuanians collaborators in two murder operations in July and August 1941. In 1943-44 the German authorities set up a forced labor camp which held more than 600 Jewish prisoners deported from the Vilna region.
In summer 1944 Joniškis was liberated from the Nazi rule by the Red Army.