Zaśkiewicze chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume VIII, pages 350-351, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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(called Zeskovich by the Jews) District of Mołodeczno, Region of Vilna
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Zaśkiewicze was situated on the Usza river, about 50 kilometers east of Osmiana, and only 90 kilometers from Vilna. It was annexed to the Russian empire with the third partition of Poland in 1795. It was under German occupation during the First World War (from the autumn of 1915 until the end of 1918). Immediately afterward, the Vilna region served as an area of dispute, with the Poles, Bolsheviks, and Lithuanians ruling it in succession, until it was officially annexed to Poland in the autumn of 1922. Zaśkiewicze remained impoverished, small, and backward even after life in Poland settled down. During the Second World War, it was under Soviet rule from September 1939. It was conquered by the Germans in June 1941, and was liberated by the Soviets in the summer of 1944.
Jews settled in Zaśkiewicze from approximately the middle of the 19th century, and formed the majority of the population at the end of that century. Their sources of livelihood included small-scale commerce, shop keeping, peddling, and various trades. Most of them earned their livelihoods in a meager fashion. The community had a Beis Midrash, a cemetery, a mikva [ritual bath]. The following rabbis served the community from the second half of the 19th century: Rabbi Eliezer the son of Menashe (in 1860); Rabbi Shmuel Zaskowicer (at the end of the 19th century); his son Rabbi Yosef Zaskewicer; and Rabbi Yehoshua Klowanski-Klein (from 1910). Jewish education was based on the cheders of the melamdim.
The front approached Zaśkiewicze in the autumn of 1915. Many of the houses of the town, including 28 Jewish-owned houses, were burned as a result of the bombardment. Many residents escaped to Russia in the wake of the Russian Army. Some returned to Zaśkiewicze when the German occupation began, and most of the rest returned at the end of the war.
At the end of the First World War, the Jews of Zaśkiewicze were left bereft of everything. Most of those who returned from Russia were homeless, so they were housed in the Beis Midrash, and epidemics spread among them. The YEKOPO organization brought a physician and pharmacist from a nearby town to Zaśkiewicze, provided medicine for the sick, built new houses for the homeless, and renovated the Beis Midrash. The American JOINT also helped, especially with shipments of food. Most people received support from relatives who had previously immigrated to the United States. Business activity in Zaśkiewicze was restored in stages. YEKOPO set up a charitable fund in 1927, which gave out interest free loans, designated primarily for small-scale merchants and peddlers.
The Jews began again to work in shop keeping, trades, and peddling, as in previous times, but their livelihood was more difficult than previously. The economic depression in the town deepened, and simultaneously several government edicts were proclaimed that primarily affected the Jewish business sectors. Among the Jews of Zaśkiewicze there were many peddlers, who made the rounds to the villages with their products all week, some on foot with their merchandise on a sack over their back, and some by wagon. Most of the products were self-produced. They sold soap, haberdashery, kerosene, salt, and other merchandise to the villagers, and purchased from them pig bristles, grain, and other agricultural products. At the end of the 1920s, the government of Poland banned barter, and all businesses large and small had to register for tax assessment purposes. Another edict obligated the transport of merchandise on large wooden wagons that meet proper standards, the price of which was expensive. Jewish tradesmen, who primarily served the population of farmers prior to the war, lost most of their customers both because of the general impoverishment in the villages as well as the appearance of local tradesmen who pushed them out. In 1928, a one-time annual fair took pace in Zaśkiewicze. It only enjoyed a minor success, and was closed early. The small farms that the Jews tended to next to their houses small vegetable patches, several fruit trees, and at times several fowls, a goat, or a cow gained greater economic importance for the families during that period. Some of the produce was also sold, and the income enabled several Jews to purchase a horse and wagon to transport their merchandise.
Communal activity continued as previously despite the increasing poverty, and even developed somewhat. Rabbi Yehoshua Klowanski-Klein continued serving until the Second World War. At that time, children of the community studied in the government public school, and the melamdim of the cheder became religious studies teachers who taught the children during their free time. We have no information on Zionist activities in Zaśkiewicze, even though it is almost certain that such activity existed there, as in other places.
In August 1939, a few days before the outbreak of the Second World War, several Jewish youths from Zaśkiewicze were drafted into the Polish Army. The Red Army took control of Zaśkiewicze and vicinity on September 17, 1939, and remained there until the end of June 1941
With the German invasion of the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, the Soviets retreated in haste, and Zaśkiewicze fell to the Germans. Persecution of the Jews began immediately. The Germans issued special edicts for the Jews the obligation to wear the yellow patch, the ban on leaving Zaśkiewicze and on coming in contact with gentiles, the obligation of forced labor, etc. Later, a ghetto was established in Zaśkiewicze and a Judenrat was chosen, which was obligated to manage the drafting for forced labor. In June 1942, the S.D. men and local policemen surrounded the ghetto and hauled its residents outside Zaśkiewicze. According to one version, the Jews were shot with submachine guns by the policemen and S.D. men, and were buried in large pits in the nearby forests. According to another version, they were sent to the Smorgonie ghetto (see entry), transferred to Osmiana (see entry) along with the local Jews in October 1942, where they were murdered in the action there.
Yad Vashem Archives M33/III.
Pinkas YEKOPO, pp. 54, 142, 176, 319, 473, 572, 638-639, 688.
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