The Jewish Community in Subotniki

by Kazimierz Niechwiadowicz
translated by Jan Sekta

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.

Copyright © 2002, Kazimierz Niechwiadowicz, Jan Sekta
HTML by Irene Newhouse

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