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General

Settlement of Jews in Mazeikiai began during the 1870’s, simultaneously with the flourishing development of transportation and commerce. Most Jews made their living from peddling and small trade in the surrounding villages. Jews also owned shops and storehouses and dealt in wholesaling and exporting goods. Some Jews also owned workshops and factories. 

Jewish residency in Mazeikiai, as well as in other towns and villages, was forbidden according to the "temporary regulations" of the Czarist authorities of 1882. This prohibition was annulled in 1903, but the law forbidding Jews to own property remained in effect until the end of the Czarist regime. Jews built their homes on land registered in the name of non-Jews.

In 1897, the Jewish population was 435. During World War I (1915), Mazeikiai Jews, among most of the Jews of Lithuania and Courland, were exiled to inner Russia and the Ukraine. Most of the town was set on fire and destroyed. After the war, when Jews returned to the newly independent Lithuania, they took part in the rebuilding and rehabilitation of the town.  During this period, Jews from surrounding towns, including Pikeln, Latzkova, Zidikai, Siad and others, settled there. In 1921, 300 Jews lived there.

The following table presents the development (and decline) of the general and Jewish population in Mazeikiai from 1886 on.

 

Year

Total Population

Jewish Population

Percentage of Jewish Pop.

1886

264

1897

1979

435

21

1921

300

1923

4281

682

16

1936

4960

750

15

1939

800

 

1940

Approx. 3000

Approx. 900-1000

Approx. 30-33

1959

7957

1

1996

46300

Jews worked mainly in trade, especially in the export of lumber and farm products to England and Germany. Jews owned 2 factories for processing flax, factories for making matches, furniture, tannery, tiles, cloth and also flour mills, wineries, etc.

Their geographical proximity to Latvia and the railway junction promoted economic prosperity. Jewish inhabitants were considered as relatively well-to-do and educated.

According to a survey, done by the Lithuanian government in 1931, 86% of businesses and 57% of light industry factories in Mazeikiai were owned by Jews.

[See details in “Yahadut Lita”, pp. 368-9].

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Compiled by Raymond Ravinsky
Updated: March, 2009
Copyright © 2009 Raymond Ravinsky

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