Vilkomir (Lithuania)


Vilkomir came into existence in the 13th century, and Jews began to settle there at the end of the 16th century. During World War I the Russian authorities expelled the Jews from the town. Lithuanian sovereignty promised the Jews equal rights and improvement of their situation. But when the Jews held a “people’s assembly” in honour of the Balfour Declaration a riot broke out. Lithuanians shot at the Jews, killing many. In 1935 there were 8,000 – in a total population of 15 000.

They arrested about 200 Jews on suspicion of collaboration with the communists and murdered them. In the middle of July the Lithuanian arrested 12 Jewish girls, raped and murdered them. On September 5, 1941 6,437 men, women and children, the Jews of Vilkomir and its vicinity were murdered in the forest.

There were 12 prayer houses in the town, among them the Great Shul from the 17th century. The office of Rabbi of Vilkomir was one of the most important in the country. The community had a public pharmacy and its revenue was used for charitable purposes. The Jewish poor received their medicines without payment. Vilkomir Jews dealt in wood, wheat and flax. In the municipal elections between the two world wars, the Jews had a majority and Benzion Goldberg was elected mayor. Three days after the attack on Russia the Germans conquered Vilkomir. The town was full of Jewish refugees. Lithuanians broke into Jewish houses, looted them, and killed a number of Jews.