What is Shtetl Shkud?
“Shtetl,” a Yiddish word meaning “small town,” refers to a village or town that had a sizeable Jewish population in pre-World War II Eastern Europe. “Shkud” is the Yiddish name for the town of Skuodas, a town in northern Lithuania.
On this site, we use the name “Shkud” to refer specifically to the Jewish community. “Skuodas” refers to the town as a whole.
In the years immediately preceding World War II, between 30% and 50% of Skuodas’s 4400 people were Jewish. This website is dedicated to the memory of that Jewish community, which was destroyed shortly after the German Nazi occupation of the town in June 1941. Almost all of Skuodas’s Jews – men, women, children, and infants – except for a few who left before the German occupation or managed to escape, were murdered.
I first heard the name “Shkud” when I was around 10 or 12, sometime after my father, Sender Mines, returned from the funeral of his brother Ben in Birmingham, Alabama. He brought with him a little book, written in Hebrew and Yiddish, which he explained was a history of his town, Shkud. Turning to page 24, he showed me a picture of himself standing in the back of a group of young men, members of his “Maccabi” football team.
Although I was curious about my father’s hometown, Skuodas lay “behind the Iron Curtain” of the Soviet Union – on Mars, as far as I was concerned. Not only that, but I assumed – wrongly, as it turned out – that all the records of Skuodas’s Jewish community had been destroyed in the Holocaust. So, for many years, I thought I would never learn anything more about Shkud or its fate.
All that changed in 2006, when I first visited Skuodas and began to research the town and its history.
The aim of this site is to bring together in one place the information I have discovered about Shkud. I hope it will be useful to Shkud descendants, present-day citizens of Skuodas and Lithuania, scholars, students, and others. I hope this site will be an inspiration for the living and a tribute to those who are no longer alive.
One Town, Two Communities:
While this site focuses on the Jewish residents of Skuodas, it’s important to remember that many non-Jewish Lithuanians also suffered imprisonment, deportation, torture, and murder during and after World War II. It is also important to note that some non-Jewish Lithuanians participated in the torture and murder of their Jewish and non-Jewish neighbours during the World War II. To what extent these collaborators were following German orders and to what extent they were acting on their own is not always clear.
One of the main differences between the Jewish and non-Jewish communities of Skuodas is that, while most non-Jewish residents survived World War II, the Jewish residents, regardless of age or political affiliation, were all murdered, aside from a few who managed to escape. Jewish language, culture, and the people themselves were utterly destroyed.
However, I don’t want to take the distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish Skuodas citizens too far. While the lives and fates of the two communities were very different, they share at least one important similarity: nationality. Therefore we should not distinguish between the two communities by referring to them, as many do, as “Jews,” on one hand, and “Lithuanians,” that is, non-Jewish Lithuanians, on the other. It is important to emphasize that the Jewish residents of Skuodas and other towns and cities in Lithuania were, in fact, Lithuanian citizens, many of them having roots in the country going back hundreds of years. The history of Jewish Lithuania is part of the history of all Lithuanians.
Special thanks are due to Langara College in Vancouver, Canada, for helping to fund this project. I would also like to thank Dr. Sharon Meen, whose website “Their Voices Live on: Jewish Life in Themar” inspired this project, and who has enthusiastically supported it; Joana Šleinienė at the Skuodas Museum; Aviva Tirosh and other members of JewishGen’s Yizkor Book project; and translators Indre Joffyte and Haya Newman.