“Subacius” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Lithuania
(Subačius, Lithuania)

55° 46' / 24° 45'

Translation of the “Subacius” chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Lita

Written by Dov Levin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem, 1996


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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 411-412)

Subacius

In Yiddish, Subotsh

Written by Dov Levin

Translated by Shimon Joffe

A county town in the Panevezys district.

Year General
Population
Jews Percentage
1833 322 .. ..
1897 840 376 45
1921 .. 250 ..
1923 680 349 51
1940 750 50 7

Subacius lies in the center of Lithuania, on the Viesinta River, 24 km north-east of the district town Panevezys. The town is mentioned in historic documents of 1590, when a catholic church was built. During the period of Russian rule (1795-1915), the town belonged, administratively, to the Vilnius province and from 1843 it became part of the province of Kaunas, Ukmerge district. For many years, including the period of Lithuanian independence, it served as a county town. In 1873, part of the Daugavpils-Radviliskis railway track was laid, and nearby a railway station established, bearing the town's name. Soon, a trade center developed around the station which concentrated most of the trade. In 1889 it had 107 residents, and at the beginning of the 20th century the post office, the county offices, the police, and the pharmacy etc. were transferred to the new township. Over time, the “old” town lost its importance and the “new” town grew and developed larger than the neighboring towns of Kupiskis, Raguva and Vabalninkas. Panevezys merchants too, came to the “new” Subacius to buy merchandise.

The Jews of “old” Subacius, whose community had been there for five generations had built a fine synagogue, a grave-yard and other community institutions, saw themselves as of high degree (and that may explain why they were called Subotcher Kuglen, namely Subacius' pastries). They would not accept the new reality, even though the rabbi had moved out of the “old” town after a lengthy struggle between the “new” and the “old” important men. At about the same time, emigration to South Africa increased.

At the beginning of the First World War approximately 100 Jewish families remained in the town. But in the summer of 1915, Cossacks of the Russian army drove them out of the town with great cruelty. A few managed to remain, having succeeded in avoiding the Cossacks and the banishment.

During the period of Lithuanian independence, the decline continued in the community. The number of Jews kept declining, some emigrated overseas and others to Eretz Yisrael.

The economic situation of Subacius Jewry was reasonably good. According to a survey made by the independent Lithuanian government in 1931 the following businesses were owned by Jews; a grocery shop, a food products store, a grain business, a textile shop, a heating materials shop, a used textiles shop, 6 general shops, a hardware and tool store and a flour mill. In 1937 13 craftsmen were active in town; 6 butchers, 2 bakers, 3 tailors, a cobbler, a watchmaker and a harness maker. In 1939 the town had 23 telephones, of these 8 belonged to Jewish merchants and businessmen.

The results to the Zionist congresses, as given below are indicative of the strength of the various Zionist parties.

Congress
Nr
Year Total
Shekelim
Total
Voters
Labor
Part
Revis-
ionist
General
Zionists
Grosmanists Mizrachi
Z”S Z”Z A B
18 1933 - 37 36 1 - - - -
19 1935 109 103 90 - 2 - 4 7
  National party
21 1939 100 93 84 - - 9

Two big fires broke out in the town during the 1930's, which caused great damages to the Jewish population. In 1932, the Bet Midrash, among other things, burned down, and in 1938, burned down the flourmill and the sawmill that belonged to the Ziv family, and the farm that belonged to the Sandler family.

Among the rabbis officiating in Subacius were; Rabbi Shmuel Sher, Rabbi M. Milstein and Rabbi Haim Yekhezkel Blitzstein, the last rabbi of the community.

Among the personages born in the town was Rabbi Efraim Frish (1880-1957), who became a reform rabbi in New York.

After Lithuania was annexed to the Soviet Union in the autumn of 1940, some Jewish owned shops and businesses were nationalized as well. All Zionist activity was forbidden. The Jewish population was reduced to some twenty families.

After the conquest of Lithuania by the Germans in June 1941, Lithuanian nationalists took control of the town. They imprisoned the Jews in the synagogue and plundered their homes and property. After that, the Jews were concentrated in a kind of Ghetto while being subjected to violence and brutality on the part of the Lithuanians. At the end of July the Jews were murdered in two phases, in the Ilciunai forests 3 km west of the town. In the first phase, before being killed, the victims were forced to dig pits which were to be their graves as well as the graves for the Jews killed a few weeks later in phase two. Only a few Jews managed to flee the slaughter.

Bibliography:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem, M-1/E-1311/1271.
Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, files 55/1788, 55/1701, 13/15/131, Z-4/2548.
Gotlieb, Ohalei Shem, p. 201.
Di Yiddishe Shtime [The Jewish Voice] - (Kaunas), 9.6.1922.
Folksblat [The People's Newspaper] - (Kaunas), 21.6.1938.
Masines Zudynes Lietuvoje (Mass Murders in Lithuania), Volume 2, p. 400.

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