Although Linków was founded in the 16th century, a Jewish community was established here not before 1721 and 1752. The settlers were attracted by fairs, organised three times a year in accordance with the privilege granted by King Jan III Sobieski. The parish register from 1752 shows that there were 29 Catholic and 27 Jewish houses in the town. A house of prayer already existed then.

Over time, the Jewish community outnumbered other communities. At the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, there were a synagogue, mikveh and cemetery in Linków. The Jewish district developed around the market square and around the synagogue, located slightly north of the market square. Only the mikveh was located outside the town.

From 1856, fairs were prohibited. Probably, the exodus of Jews from Linków took place at that time, although in 1858, 125 Jewish families were still recorded there, with a total number of 469 people. Later descriptions mention the fairs if the town again - according to the archives, the community grew substantially: in 1868, there were 1,070 Jews (79.1%) in Linków; in 1883 - 1,248 Jews living in 212 families (73.4%); according to the census of 1897, there were 1,123 Jews (60,8%)[1.1].

In 1883, there was a huge conflagration in the town, which destroyed much of the wooden buildings, including the old synagogue and about 100 Jewish houses. In 1890, a brick synagogue was erected. It is known that apart from the synagogue, at the beginning of the 20th century there was also a wooden house of prayer in the town - a Hasidic kloyz. The function of the rabbi was held by the representatives of several important rabbinical families bearing the following names: Kacenelenbogen, Rabinowicz, Rewel. Rabbi Bernard (Dov) Rewel (1885-1940), founder of Yeshiva College in New York, the predecessor of today's Yeshiva University, and rabbi Yitzhak Elkhanan, later the first president of the Union of Rabbis of the United States, were born in Linków.

The main source of income at that time was trade. Apart from the mentioned fairs, many Jews earned money as shopkeepers or innkeepers. In 1898, there were 55 shops in the town, with an annual turnover of 49,159 roubles and an income of 6,055 roubles. It is known that there were Jewish potters among the craftsmen.

At the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, the number of the inhabitants of the Jewish community in Linków began to decline. World War I and the following years brought particularly significant changes - first, a large wave of emigration started, also abroad (South Africa, Palestine), and then, after the conflict ended, 124 people came, among others from Riga and Vilnius.

In the interwar period, the size of the Jewish community in Linkowo was more or less half of its pre-war size. Zionist circles such as: Gordonia, HeHalutz Hatzair and Maccabi were very active in Linków. In 1934, HeHalutz had its own farm, where settlers were being prepared for the journey to Palestine. There were also associations of small merchants (86 members) and craftsmen (23 members). There was an agricultural colony in nearby Pomush (Lithuanian: Pamūšis). In 1922, the people's bank was established; in 1927, it had 164 members.

During this period, the community traditionally made a living from trade (including homemaking) and crafts (shoemaking, tailoring). There was also a group of landowners who received income from rent. Two names are mentioned here: Dawidson and Bar. Dawidson also owned a large shop located opposite the church, while Zalman Lurie ran a butcher's shop. The development of trade in the interwar period was fostered by scapular indulgences organised at that time by the local Carmelites. Jews also initiated the electrification of the town. Electricity was installed on the initiative of Peresman, who was later in charge of extending the network. When it comes to services, it is worth mentioning a dentist named Klein, who also ran a hotel and a music teacher of the same name. In 1931, Jews owned 23 out of 24 shops in the town and 8 out of 17 small businesses, including a power plant, mills and a bakery.

The memoirs of Yosif Lurie, born in 1926, tell about living in Linków between the wars, especially its educational situation:

“I went to school when I was six years old. It was a Hebrew school [probably founded by Zionists]. Although only Jewish children attended, it was not a religious school. We were taught only secular subjects at school - arithmetic, anatomy, Hebrew literature in Hebrew, and history, geography and Lithuanian literature in Lithuanian. We spoke Yiddish at home, but it was not used at school. All the Jewish children from Linków attended this school, which had only 3 classes [premises]. After 5 years [spent] in Hebrew school, there was a period of two years of preparatory school. The religious lessons, the Chumash [the Book of Moses] and the Tanakh [the Hebrew Bible] took place in the evenings in the cheder, where we were taught by a private teacher employed by the Jewish community. Yiddishkeit [Jewishness] played a big role in our lives. Every day, prayers were held in the school. We prayed and put on tefillin every day. My cousin came from America to study at the yeshiva. I was a very good student and my father, influenced by my cousin, wanted me to become a rabbi. In 1938, after the holiday of Sukkot, we went to Szadów. My father rented a room for me; I was also provided with food. In the yeshiva, there was a very nice rabbi who I liked, but I did not feel happy, learning was not on my mind. A preacher sometimes came to the yeshiva to read sermons. Once, on Saturday, after lunch, a very energetic preacher came in. He talked about how God punishes the wicked and helps the good. I was a naive eleven-year-old boy. The next day at the yeshiva, I asked the rabbi why God created the bad people, why he didn't make everyone good. He got angry and to my amazement slapped me. I was very saddened by this fact. For me it was the end of my yeshiva studies - I decided to go home. My father was not happy when he heard about my deed, but he understood and reconciled. I still attended preparatory school for some time”.

The last rabbis of Linkow were Natan Yerachmiel Litwin and Yekutiel Zalman Lewita (Levitas) - both of whom perished in the Holocaust. In the summer of 1940, Lithuania fell under Soviet occupation. The new authorities nationalised businesses and shops and prohibited any social and political activities.

When the Germans invaded the USSR in 1941, most of the Jews of Linków tried to escape to the east. However, not all of them succeeded due to poorly organised retreat and hostile actions of Lithuanian nationalists. Those who remained in the town were locked up in the Lithuanian police station and then imprisoned in the stables belonging to Ick Kapuler, Aron Kahn, Saul Hirsh and Lejb Bar. There they were subjected to torments, having their beards cut off and being denied water and food. Ten young Jews aged between 10 and 18 were brought to the ditches near the Catholic cemetery where they were shot. Aron Kahn initially managed to escape; he hid for six months before being captured and murdered. On 23 July 1941, the remaining 700 Jews, hitherto held in the barns of David Davidson, were taken to the forest, about 3 km from the town, where they fell victim to genocide. The perpetrators of the crime were Germans and Lithuanian police.

Bibliography

  • Linkuva [in:] The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life before and during the Holocaust, ed. S. Spector, G. Wigoder, New York 2001, vol. II, p. 732.
  • Rosin J., Linkewe, [in:] Pinkas ha-Kehilot Lita, Jeruszalaim 1996, pp. 360–362.

 

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Footnotes
  • [1.1] Lithuanian State Historical Archive in Vilnius, Lietuvos valstybės istorijos archyvas, LVIA. F. 526. Ap. 8. B. 1814.