Residence List for Birzai District in July 1919 - Possible Jewish Returnees from WWI Exile #lithuania

William Yoffee


A list of 688 Jewish residents of the Birzai District who were registered
there during July 1919 has been added to the Panevezys District Research
Group's Shutterfly website in the form of an Excel spreadsheet. Birzai was a
separate district between the two World Wars and now is the extreme northern
part of the Panevezys District. The significance of this list is not
entirely clear, but it may well be significant in its historical context.
There are several indication that these may be Jews who have returned >from
the exile that was imposed on them by the Russian Army High Command on
April 15, 1915.

No notice of the expulsion order appeared in the local press. However, the
translation of a note that appeared in the St. Petersburg "Rechi" reads as

"Expulsion of the Jews. The administrations of the uezds of Kaunas Gubernia
received the following order: 'According to the order of the Army Command,
all Jews must be expelled who are living west of the line Kaunas, Jonava,
Vilkomir (Ukmerge), Rogovo (Raguva), Panevezys, Pasvalys, Salata
(Salociai), Bauska. The aforementioned places must also be cleared of Jews.
With respect to the Jews Living in territory currently under German
occupation, this order must be carried out as soon as possible following the
clearing of these places of enemy forces and their capture by our troops.
The expelled Jews must go to live in one of the following districts (uezd):
Bakhmut, Marijupol (Zhdanov), and Slavianoserb districts of Ekaterinoslav
Gubernia, and Poltava , Gadiach, Zenkovo, Kobeliak, Konstantinograd,
Lokhvitsa, Luben, Myrhorod, Romen and Khorol district of Poltava Gubernia...
The time limit for the expulsion is [12 p.m. on] the 5th of May...' "

This order applied, in fact, to the Gubernias (Provinces) of Suwalki, Kovno
(Kaunas), Courland and Grodno. A resident of Pasvalys reported that on April
28, 1915, the residents of that town were given 8 hours to prepare for the
expulsion and spent the next 10 days confined to railway freight cars with
little or no food and water. Evacuations occurred for Courland (25 April),
Kaunas City (3 to 5 May), Panevezys and Zeimelis (3 to 4 May), and Kaunas
Gubernia >from which an estimated 150,000 Jews were expelled (6 May).

This list consists of 206 households, mostly headed by males, consisting of
husbands and wives, and in some cases also an elderly parent or a sibling.
Relatively few households were headed by females and some persons listed
were single or pairs of either sex. The median age was 47 and the ages
ranged >from 20 to 90. No children are listed. They were registered in 10
towns of which 6 were in the Birzai District: Birzai (415), Papilys (15),
Panemune (5), Svidziai (2), Nemunelio Radviliskis (39), and Vabalninkas
(166). Lebeniskiai (Lipnishki) (4) was in Belarus , and Salamreski
(Sulmierski) (5), which is south of Lodz, was in Poland. Two towns, Runikiai
(10) and Kupreliskis (28), could not be located.

It is not clear whether any of these towns were the original homes of those
on the list. But if they were, it is odd that only one of the towns was
known to be west of the line mentioned in the expulsion order. That line, if
drawn >from Bausk in the north to Kaunas in the south with major intermediate
points Panevezys and Ukmerge, is roughly between 24 and 25 degrees of East

The Jewish Chronicle of the United Kingdom on 5 November 1920 estimated that
between 10,000 and 20,000 persons returned >from the exile. Another source
estimates that in Kaunas the number of returnees was approximately 9000.
While it may be true that many of the exiled Lithuanian Jews returned to
their original residences, the realignment of borders after the war resulted
in their returning to three countries: Lithuania, Russia (Belarus) and

Anyone interested in learning more about this event, may want to read three
articles in the LitvakSIG Online Journal at written by
Anatoli Chayesh and translated >from the Russian: The Expulsion of the Jews
from Lithuania in the Spring of 1915, (February 2000), a description of the
political events leading up to and accompanying the expulsion based on
contemporary press accounts, and On the Front Line in Lithuania, 1915 (Part
1, August 2001 and Part 2, August 2005) containing Jewish eye-witness
accounts of occurrences during the expulsion. An alphabetical list of 250
Jewish surnames on this Excel spreadsheet is available to ANYONE on request
to me at the email address below.

This Excel spreadsheet is available to participants in the Panevezys
District Research Group on its Shutterfly website. To become a participant
necessitates contributing a total of at least $100 to the Panevezys District
Research Group. This entitles the participant to have access, for a period
of 5 years, to its Shutterfly website and to examine not only this
spreadsheet but also the Vital Record Translations and any new or
previously translated data that are displayed in the Excel format,
exclusively, for at least 18 months before the new data are included in the
All Lithuania Database (ALD). Contributions can be made by credit card to or by check to the address listed at that
site. Remember that all contributions are used to support more data
translations and are income tax deductible for US citizens.

Bill Yoffee
Panevezys District Research Coordinator

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