Creating a World War I Time Line

By Ann Rabinowitz

Recently, I decided to create a military time line for my ancestral shtetl of Kupiskis, Lithuania, regarding what transpired in World War I.  Since many of the Jews were sent to the east during this time period, it was interesting to see what was happening in their shtetls whilst they were gone.

 Here is what I came up with and I hope to add to or correct as I find more resources.  You will note that I did not find information during the period of 1915-1918.


Eastern Front – Kupiskis, Lithuania

July 30-August, 7, 1915 - Battle of Kupiskis – Germans took Kupiskis.  Gustav Fritz Julius von Vaerst fought in the battle.  Later, he was a General der Panzertruppe in World War II.

Spring, 1915 - Riots in towns of Kupiskis, Kriukai and Vilkija, as Germans were pushed back and Russians accused Jews of signaling them.

August 3, 1915 – Kupiskis was taken by Russian Reserve Division after a major battle as they came up both sides of the railway leading to Kupiskis.

December, 1918 - Kupiskis was taken by International Division of Red Army (Bolsheviks).

March, 1919 – Volunteer Bolsheviks stationed in Kupiskis and Panevezys rebelled and were brought into line by Red Army Division from Latvia.

May 30-31, 1919 - Kupiskis was abandoned by Bolsheviks.

July 1, 1919 - Kupiskis was taken by Panevezys Group, 2nd Brigade (Kedainiai-Panevezys-Rokiskis), of the Lithuanian Army after departure of Bolsheviks.  General Silvestras Zukauskas was head of Lithuanian Army.

July 12, 1920 – Soviet-Lithuanian Peace Treaty signed and Russia recognized independence of Lithuania.

By happenstance, whilst I was creating the time line, I found a site one would not ordinarily associate with military information.  It was "Lithuanian Philately" which listed numerous towns and what transpired there during the war.  In addition to the stamp material or other post cards shown, the site discusses the creation of the postal system at that time.

Some of the shtetls discussed on the site are:

Ariogala, Baisogala, Gargzdai, Gruzdziai, Kaltinenai, Kavarija, Kazlu Ruda, Kelme, Kraziai, Krekenava, Kretinga, Kupiskis, Kybartai, Laizuva, Linkuva, Luse, Lydavenai, Marijampole, Naumiestis (Sakiai), Naumiestis (Taurage), Nemunelio (Naujas) Radviliskis, Pagiriai, Pakuonis, Pilviskiai, Raseiniai, Rietavas, Rokiskis, Sakiai, Seda, Seinai, Skaudvile, Sveksna, Taujenai, Taurage, Utena, Vainutas, Varniai, Veiveriai, Veliuona, Vieksniai, Vilkaviskis, Vilnius, Virbalis, Zeimelis.

As an example of what may be found in regard to these shtetls, I located a post card of Taurage which had been damaged during the War.  This is a rare view of the town for which we have few photos of this period:

Another interesting photo was from Marijampole of an envelope addressed to S. Goldstein, Cincinnati, OH.  When one looked up the name on, a Samuel Goldstein popped up who was born in Lithuania.  There are many other envelopes on the site that have Jewish names or firms that one can trace.

Another interesting item is a post card of Kelme’s main street.  The street is not paved and one can see the packed dirt which probably turned into a quagmire when it rained.  As can be seen, all of the buildings are frame structures.  The view is looking towards the Evangelical Church.


In addition, I found another Philately resource,, which had even more towns mentioned for the period of World War I.  It provided a post card of Kupiskis, Lithuania, in 1917, which was quite nice.  It focuses on the Catholic Church, but includes the windmill and other surrounding area which were Jewish-owned.

From the other resources I found during the creation of my time line, I noticed that very often the dates conflicted.  When preparing a military chronology, it may sometimes be difficult to be exact. This is also particularly true as the battles or conflicts may have stretched over several days or the fighting may have gone back and forth even over a day's period.

In any event, this particular exercise in information gathering was quite interesting as I learned many things I had not known previously, especially that philately sites are great resources.  This also allowed me to understand the situations that faced our ancestors when they returned to their shtetls at the end of the War and what followed not long afterwards when the Germans again invaded Lithuania under different circumstances.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Ann,

    Many thanks for visiting Lithuanian Philately website and posting your feedback here. List of towns mentioned above only includes post offices that used provisional (temporary) postmarks (total number is 135). There were more than 600 towns and localities in Lithuania between 1918 and 1940. Old envelopes and postcards from Lithuanian postal history collections are important source of information about the period.


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