Klykoliai – a small town in the North of Lithuania and belongs now to the Akmenė district municipality. It is situated at the river Vadakstis next to the border with Latvia. Now it is a village with just a bit over a 100 people.
Jewish people settled in then called Klikol (Klikul) around the middle of the 18th century. Soon they built a house of worship and set up a cemetery. The community grew, and in the 1866 town plan two Jewish houses of worship were already marked.
In 1897, during the census of the Russian Empire, 640 inhabitants were registered in Klikol, of which Jews comprised as many as 91% (582). During the First World War, Jews were expelled from Klikol, their homes were looted, and their property was wasted. After Lithuania regained its independence, Jews gradually began to return home and recover their property. Thus, in 1923, about 40 Jewish families lived here.
As it is described in Pinkas Hakehillot Lita Klykuoliai chapter , for many years the Klikol Jews made their living peddling in the neighboring villages, including those across the border. They used to leave home on Sunday and returned home for the Sabbath. In time, some Jews enriched themselves and lived off shop keeping and horse trading and had business dealings with Liepaja (Libau) and Riga in Latvia.
The Gavronski family stood out among them, its descendents spread out throughout Russia and emigrated to the USA and Southern Africa.
As tensions rose, anti-Semitism grew, emigration intensified, and the population shrank, the Jewish house of worship with study house next to gradually disappeared. Their few children were sent to study in neighboring towns. Small children were taught at home by the parents or by Melamdim brought in from outside the town.
The cemetery was neglected, but it still remained surrounded by a stone fence.
According to a survey conducted by the Lithuanian government in 1931, Jews owned 2 textile shops and a pharmacy. In 1937 there were only three Jewish artisans in town, a butcher and two others.
1939 the town was described as follows: Klykoliai was once a beautiful town: with scholars (Talmudists), respected people, and now barely gathered here for the Sabbath. Everything is scattered. Even officially it is now defined as a village. Before the outbreak of World War II, there were only 30 Jews left in the town.
FAMOUS PEOPLE FROM KLIKOL
Rabbi Eliahu Klikoller (XVIII cent.), the head of Beit Din, it was said that Vilna Gaon was fond with him. He spent all his life in Klikol while also worked as Rabbi in some other small towns. His sons were rabbis in Latvia. Rabbi Moshe (1816-1896) served as rabbi for 46 years. Rabbi Yakov Katz (1863-1933) also worked in the Yeshivas of Kelem, Telz and Slobodka, since 1920 to his death worked in Klikol.
Dr. Abale Lein (b. 1864) emigrated to the USA in 1876 and worked there as a translator. He wrote articles in Jewish newspapers. Dr. Benzion Shein, a doctor and Zionist leader in Capetown, was also Klikol native.
According to the Akmenė History Museum, in mid-July of 1941, the former border guard who led the local partisans took over the arrests of Jews in Klikol. The so called white armbanders divided into three groups and worked as follows: one group arrested, the other group guarded, and the third one checked and locked the empty remaining houses.
The detainees (21 people, including 4 children under 10) were imprisoned in a local house of prayer, they were expelled to Akmenė a few days later, and then to Mažeikiai. August 4, 1941, all the Jews of Klikol were transferred and imprisoned near Mažeikiai on the bank of the Venta river in a former barn together with the Jews from other near-by locations.
At the beginning of August 1941, the Jews of Klikol and the surrounding towns were shot and buried near the Mažeikiai Jewish cemetery.
Thus the town of Klikol remained without its’ Jewish people.
JEWISH HERITAGE IN PRESENT KLYKOLIAI
There is an old Jewish cemetery site in Klykoliai (Tulpių street). In the summer of 2020 the pupils from Akmenė and surounding districts schools cut the grass in the cemetery, tried to clean it and read the inscriptions on the surviving gravestones (matsevas). Currently, the Akmenė History Museum is conducting a historical study of the Jewish communities in the Akmenė district, including the Jewish community in Klikol. We will definitely update this article as we receive new information and photos.
- The research of Klikol Jewish community, conducted by Akmenė History Museum (in Lithuanian, by by Arūnas Ostrauskis)
- Josef Rosin Klykuoliai (in English)
- Schoenburg Nancy, Schoenburg Stuart. Lithuanian Jewish Communities. – New York: 1991. Klykoliai – 131-132 p.
- Holocaust Atlas of Lithuania (in English, made up by Jakulytė-Vasil Milda) The mass murder site of Mažeikiai and surrounding areas.
Litvak Shtetls is a private project, run by my personal initiative, time, funds and great wish. If you are willing to support, you can donate via Paypal. I will continue working on the project whether I get support or not.