At least four of our relatives traveling to Zagare met the “only surviving Jew” in the town. Why did he stay?
Four of our Blieden distant cousins each travelled to Zagare, Lithuania, in hopes of learning more about the early roots of the Blieden family.
One was Solly (Solomon) Kantor, uncle of the late Berry Neumann who sent me these photos. Solly visited Zagare in May of 1993.
Another is Peta Blieden who visited there in either June or July of 2007. Peta’s journey also took her to Bliedene i n Latvia and her entire trip reminded me of parts of the movie “Everything is Illuminated”.
Ruth Rabini and her husband also visited Zagare and met Isaac Mendelsohn, the “only Jew in Zagare”. He died in September of 2011.
Ariel Shapiro visited Zagare in 2017. Zagare was the last stop on his ancestor tour. He first visited Panewyzes, then Birzai.
How are Solly, Peta, Ariel and Ruth related to me? As of July 2022, we believe that Mordekhl and Isaac were brothers. Peta, Ariel, and Ruth are descendents of Mordekhel. Solly, like me and Berry Neumann, is a descendent of Isaac.
I want to thank them all for sharing their photos and trip details with us.
On their journey, Peta, Solly, and Ruth met Issac Mendelsohn, the “only Jew in Zagare”.
Peta said this about her meeting in 2007:
I MET WITH THE SOLE SURVIVING JEW, MR MENDELSOHN, WHO IS 85. HE LIVES IN ZAGARE AND WON’T LEAVE , NOT EVEN TO VISIT HIS KIDS. HE IS VERY OLD NOW AND LIVES IN A SMALL APARTMENT WHICH THE MUNCIPALITY PAYS FOR AND SOMEONE FEEDS HIM 2 X WEEK. HE MARRIED A LITHUANIAN AND HAD CHILDREN. HE ASKED ME TO TAKE HIM TO THE CHRISTIAN CEMETRY TO VISIT HIS WIFE GRAVE AS HE CAN’T GET THERE BY HIMSELF. IT WAS VERY MOVING TO SEE HIM TAKE OFF HIS HAT JUST BEFORE HE ENTERED. SO REPECTUFUL THIS JEW, WHO IN HIS TIME WORE A YARMIE TO HIS CEMETRY AND HERE HE TOOK OFF CAP AS HE ENTERED CHRISTIAN ONE. PICS OF HIM AT HIS WIFE’S GRAVE. NOTE THAT HIS NAME IS NEXT TO HIS WIFE WITH HIS BIRTH DATE IS ON. WHEN HE GOES THEY WILL JUS SLOT IN HIS DEATH DATE – THIS IS DONE TO SAVE COSTS . HE DOES NOT SPEAK ENGLISH SO THE TALKING WAS DONE THROUGH MY QUIDE I ASKED HIM WHY HE NEVER LEFT AFTER ALL THAT HAPPENED THERE AND HIS ANSWER WAS THAT ALL HIS LIFE HE LOVED ZAGARE SO MUCH IT WAS HIS HOME AND THE PEOPLE OF THE TOWN ACCEPTED HIM AFTER THE WAR AND HE HAS LIVED THERE QUITE HAPPILY .. HE WAS THE ONLY SURVIVER OF THE TOWN AS HE WAS AWAY FIGHTING WITH THE RUSSIANS WHEN THEY KILLED EVERONE. HE LOOKED AFTER THE CEMETRIES (AS THERE WERE TWO) ALL BY HIMSELF AND BUILT A FENCE AROUND IT WHERE HE WOULD WEED AND KEEP IT CLEAN.THEY ARE QUITE LARGE AREAS AND HE IS NOW TO OLD TO CARE FOR THEM. THE MUNCIPALITY IS SUPPOSED TO KEEP IT WEEDED BUT THEIR STANCE IS IF THE JEWS CAN’T MAINTAIN IT THEMSELVES WHY SHOULD THEY. THECHRISTIAN CEMETRY OF COURSE IS MAGNIFICENT AS YOU CAN SEE
For even more on Isaak Mendelsohn’s life, read this. Issak died in 2011.
Peta also mentioned that Zagare was the “most stuningly beautiful area”. She also travelled to Blidene to see the Blieden origins and this is what she had to say about that:
Went to Bliedene – it took 4 hours by car to get there from Lithuania and there is not much to see. All that remains are ruins of a church, a manor house as well as some soviet built apartments with storage huts.
The text bleow is from Ariel’s trip journal, Roots Searching Lita, written in 2017.
The first stop was a mass grave of 3000 Jews from Zagare and surrounding towns shot there one day in 1941.
There are two parts to the town (new and old Zarage) and the town sits on the Latvian border -about 100m from the end of the town.
Both sides have a Jewish cemetery but they are as hard to navigate and read as Linkuva was.
Another mass grave can be found on the ‘new’ side
We found the old shule in both sides of the town and a mikve building in the new side. One shule which is now a basketball-gym thing.
Regina’s ( the local tour guide) outlook was strange as she said that is better than if nothing was there because they look after the building.