“Kapciamiestis” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Lithuania)

54°00' / 23°39'

Translation of the “Kapciamiestis” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Josef Rosin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1996


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Acknowledgments

Project Coordinator

Carol Hoffman

 

Our sincere appreciation toYad Vashem
for permission to put this material on the JewishGen web site.

This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot Lita: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Lithuania,
Editor: Prof. Dov Levin, Assistant Editor: Josef Rosin, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.


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(Pages 565-567)

Kapciamiestis

Written by Josef Rosin

Translated by Carol Hoffman

Kopcheve Kapciamiestis (in Yiddish Kopcheva and also Kopcheve; in Russian Koptsiovo)

Village in Sejny district.

YearTotal
Population
JewsJews as
Percentage
of Total
Population
18971,31452840%
192383518722%
1940 approx. 45 families 

Village in southern Lithuania, approximately 40 kilometers south-east of the city Lazdijai, founded in the beginning of the 17th century next to a large estate in forest heartland between two rivers, Ancia (white and black) which led to the Neiman river. The main road from Vilnius to Suwalk and Grodno passed through Kopcheve. Due to that main road large bazaars and markets were held in the village.

Jews settled in Kopcheve approximately at the end of the 18th century or the beginning of the 19th century. Lists of contributors to the Settlement of Israel were published in “HaMelitz” between the years 1899-1903; there are several names of Jews from Kopcheve on those lists. The delegate was Rabbi B.Z. Shimshlevich. The 1909 list of contributors includes 5 from Kopcheve, and that of 1913 lists 50 contributors affiliated with “Agudat Israel”.

During the period of independent Lithuania there were approximately 50 Jewish families. In the early 20th century when the Lithuanian government declared autonomy to Jews, a committee of Jews elected 5 members; this committee addressed Jewish issues and Jewish life.

The livelihood of the Jews in Kopcheve was based mainly on workshops and commerce. Three families made their living from agriculture, but almost all of the families had land next to their home where they cultivated vegetables and fruit. Three families owned land and orchards, making their livelihood from agriculture.

A survey conducted by the Lithuanian government in 1931 showed Kopcheve had 9 shops, all in Jewish ownership: 3 fabric stores, 2 butchers, one grocery store, and one pharmacy. Jews also owned a power station, 2 flour mills and 2 ironmongeries for cars.

In 1937 Kopcheve had 18 Jewish tradesmen: 5 tailors, 4 iron mongers, 4 butchers, 2 shoemakers, 1 baker, 1 glass maker, and 1 stitcher. In 1939 there were 20 telephones in Kopcheve, only one belonging to a Jew.

Kopcheve was famous for its educated students in Cheder. Jewish children studied in Cheder everything except Gemorra and the Hebrew language. In independent Lithuania there was a private Hebrew grammar school and next to it a library with an active drama circle. A few graduates of the Hebrew grammar school continued their studies in Hebrew high schools in nearby villages or in Kovno.

Many of the Jews from Kopcheve identified with the Zionist camp and were members of Zionist Parties, as listed in the below table:

Congress #YearShekalVotesEretz Yisrael LaborRevis-
ionists
Gen'l ZionistsStateEast
15192713 13 13  
161929271315    
17193114121 10  
181933 4238 4  
191935655930 26 3
211939323120  731

Of the Zionist youth movements the most active in Kopcheve was the “Gordonia” with 30-14 members. The leading Rabbis in Kopcheve were Rabbi Zvi Dirkdor, author of the book, “Tosefot Shabat” [Sabbath add-ons] Warsaw, 1888; Rabbi Abraham-Zvi Pinchas-Eliashberg (1887-1900), Rabbi Zvi-Aria Luria (1902-1913); Rabbi Meyer Stolvitz, author of “Mbeit Meyer” [From Meyer's house], Warsaw, 1908, and 3 additional parts: Jerusalem, 1930, 1940, 1947; Rabbi Menachem-Mendel Sher (from 1938), the last Rabbi who perished in the Holocaust.

Amongst famous Jews born in Kopcheve were the historian Elhanan (Edward) D, Kalman (1891-1939), Rabbi B.Z. Shimshlevich, a scholar and avid Zionist who published many articles in “HaOlam” [The World], [and] uncle of Israel's second President, Yitzak Ben-Zvi; Dr. Yitzak Kashiv (Kopchiovsky), economist and Chairman of the Board of Directors of Israel Bank Leumi.

With the annexation of independent Lithuania to the Soviet Union in the summer of 1940 the private workshops and stores of the Jews were nationalized. Supplies dwindled due to currency conversion, and the middle class, largely made of Jews, suffered considerably, and the standard of living lowered. All of the Zionist parties and ZionistYouth movements were dismantled.

The German army entered Kopcheve when the war broke out between Germany and t21he Soviet Union, on 22 June 1941. Only a few of the Kopcheve Jews who tried to escape reached Russia and were saved. When the Germans entered Kopcheve, Lithuanian nationalism broke loose. Property of Jews and their lives were endangered with anyone wanting destruction doing so. Jews were taken to humiliating jobs, were belittled and abused constantly. 15 September 1941 all of the Jews of Kopcheve were taken under high security to Lazdijai. There they were put into a ghetto established in Katkishes, one kilometer outside of Lazdijai, where Jews from neighboring villages were interned. On 3 November 1941 the Jews of Kopcheve were murdered with the rest of the ghetto inhabitants. A mass grave headstone was erected following the Second World War. Names of the murdered Lithuanians are held in the Yad Vashem archive.

Bibliography:

Aleph Yud Vav Shin [Archive Yad Vashem] Jerusalem. M-33/972, Konihovsky Collection 0-71, file 131.
Aleph Tzadek Mem [Central Zionist Archive] Jerusalem, file 1444
Gotlieb, Sefer Oheli Hashem, Pinsk, 1912, p.170
Dzuku Zinios (Lazdai regional newspaper), no 57, 29.7.1992.

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