The small Jewish Community of Sobotnik numbered about 15 families. They probably first moved here at the end of the XIXth century. In 1891 a fire broke out in Iwje, in which 100 houses burned down. A large Jewish community ( 804 persons in 1847) lived there. After the cataclysm, many of them left for nearby towns, probably also to Sobotniki (but perhaps the first Jews came ealier).
Jews lived among Poles and they lived with them without conflicts. Their children played and they were taught in Polish together. Today it is difficult to describe this group, because almost everyone was murdered during the liquidation of the ghetto in Iwje. Little remains. Bejba (Bela) Helczyk died four years ago in Israel. She was a young girl during the war and remembered a little from that period.
The Jews had built a wooden synagogue (in Polish boznica - small house, not a synagogue which is bigger), in which the rabbi lived with his wife and two sons. They were mainly merchants, operating some shops in Sobotnikach, which was mostly at Church St.. I collected stories about them from the older generation of occupants of our town.
Arkin (Horczyk) – had a large house with a porch. His house was next to that of Usinowicz. Entry to the flat was on the left, to the right to the iron shop, which was run by Ryfka with her sister. They were both short and plain. Horczyk married a pleasant and intelligent Jewess from Dziewieniszki (14 km from Sobotniki, before War II it belonged to Poland, now it is in Lithuania). His sister married Tuvie Bielski, they had a drygoods shop near the Flaszman’s house.
Bielski, Tuvie - came from Stankiewicze, a village nearby. As was Jewish custom, he married Ryfka with the help of the mediator. During the war Bielski was commander of one of the squads of Jews acting as an underground army in the administrative district Nowgrodek. He saved over 1200 Jews from extermination: old men , women and children. This was this largest number of Jews saved thanks to their countrymen in II World War.
Borejkis - glazier, lived behind Szlomka’s house. They had daughter Fejga and son Nachman. Borejkis’ had a sister who was a dressmaker. She lived with them.
Cemach - they lived behind the granary, which stood on
Wileñska street., round the corner.
They had a modest shop, in which they sold herrings, needles and various inexpensive commodities. They had three daughters. One married one of Arczyk's sons, the second was named Henia, was a dressmaker and also married.
Daniel - they lived on Wileñska Street. Their house was on the road to Rybaki. Liba Daniel had a daughter Lorka who married a man from Sapoznik ( they had a daughter Dorothy and a son Lejba) and a son Mones. He had a shop selling skins and iron, which his brother-in-law from Lida provided. During the first Soviet occupation. Mones married Betty from Warsaw, beautiful Jewess. She worked as a cleaner in the hospital, they had a child. Lejba Sapo?nik ran away from the place of execution.
Flaszman - they lived in Adam Miksza’s home, they had two children, they had shop that sold various items: herrings, chocolates, shoe-laces, shoe-polish, sugar, flour. They had a reputation as very solid people.
Helczyk - Lejba, Nochim, Rachela and another sister, who was Heler Jedwab’s wife. Rachel kept a pub and she married military Soviet Jew. Helczyk and his brother-in-law had two smokehouses in Dziewieniszki and Mazule. There they produced turpentine from pine roots. The Jedwab family had two children: Sioma and Bejba. They were in Sobotniki during the German occupation. After the war Jedwab was shot near Zalesie. His wife went to Iwje, where Bejba walked to school. Then both left for Vilna, where their daughter joined her husband and in 1958 year they all left for Israel.
Lejba Ryfka - colonial shop( imported goods, but not from Europe) behind the blacksmith Lejzer Ulfka.
Lejba Beniamin - colonial shop behind Ryfka.
Lejzer Ulfka - was a blacksmith, lived behind the Horczyk house. He had a daughter whose husband had a smithy at Matruna (very small river). This son-in-law survived the ghetto.
Matuzicha - she lived opposite the church, she had a daughter Lejba and a small grocery shop. Lejba fell in love with a Jew from Lvov called Norwid . Just before the war, she returned to Sobotniki with her child for treatment. Lejba saved Motek from extermination - he lived on the end of Wileñska St. with a brother, they were called the Lejbki. They sold the best meat- particularly beef. Motek was a fireman, he was saved from extermination and he lived later in Moscow.
Rabbi - lived in the (small) Synagogue behind Cemach house and smithy of Ulfka, he had a wife and two sons.
Sinieñski, Noachim - lived behind the Po?niak inn, he had daughters Rachela and Ryfka, and a colonial shop.
Szlomka - lived behind the Pozniak inn and had children. He was not very tall. He was a barber and was saved from the ghetto.
Zeidler - pharmacist employed in Czejdo’s drugstore, married to a Russian Jewess from whom Regina Jarmolinski learned Russian, they had one son.
During the first Soviet occupation there were in Sobotnikach Jews
who had run away from Warsaw ahead of the Germans. Lonia and Motek were
among them. She was daughter of a rabbi the Nazis had executed. He
went Gawja, from where he was deported at an unknown time.
Residents remembered he was married and had two daughters, which dusts
of difficulty[?] in science of Russian language also.
After the outbreak of the German – Soviet War, Germans occupied Sobotnikach and they ordered local Jews to collect at the market. They chose Bielski, son-in-law Ulfki, Helczyk and son Matuzicha from them. They forced them to dig trenches supposedly at the front, but they pretended they ran away from them. The Germans created a ghetto in the center of Iwje later, to which Jews from Subotniki were also sent. At first they were allowed to leave, for example, to get food for one’s family. Children did this, because their classmates from school felt obligated to help them.
The first Jews were executed by firing squad in Iwje on 2 August 1941. Liquidation of the ghetto followed on 12 May 1942, three days after the slaughter of Jews from the ghetto in Lida. About 2500 persons were executed by firing squad in Stoniewicze near Iwje, by Germans with Lithuanian assistance. In order to survive, a few pretended to be dead. A commemorative monument stands at the place of extermination.
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