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Encyclopedia Judaica:
Daugavpils, Latvia


Latvia: Virtual Jewish World| Modern Latvian Jewry| Ludza


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DAUGAVPILS (until 1893 Duenaburg; Heb. דינאבורג; until 1920 Dvinsk), city in the Soviet Republic of Latvia, on the banks of the Western Dvina (Daugava) River, in 1940–91; within independent Latvia between 1920 and 1940 and from 1991. A Jewish community was organized in 1750–60. There were about 750 Jewish artisans in the town in 1805 (compared with 393 non-Jewish artisans). The Jewish population was 1,559 in 1815, growing to 2,918 in 1847. The town developed extensively from the 1860s, with the growth of the grain, flax, and timber trade, and after becoming a railroad junction. Its factories included the Zaks match factory, which employed 600–800 (mostly Jewish girls), sawmills, distilleries, tanneries, and three button factories which employed 600 workers, most of them Jews, at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1898 there were 4,862 Jewish artisans, including 2,193 masters, 1,760 journeymen, and 909 apprentices. Many Jews were employed in building the garrison complex and in services connected with it, railroad workshops, and the garment industry which was a source of livelihood for several thousands of Jews. Jews played a prominent part in the city's commerce and industry. Dvinsk became a center of activities of the Jewish workers' movements, principally the *Bund and *Po'alei Zion . A strong *self-defense organization was formed by the workers in 1903 which succeeded in deterring pogroms. In demonstrations during the 1905 revolution 30 people were killed or wounded, mostly Jews. Dvinsk was known as a center of Torah learning, and had a number of yeshivot. Two of Jewry's most prominent rabbis officiated there, Meir Simḥah *ha-Kohen , rabbi of the Mitnaggedim (1887–1926), and Joseph *Rozin , rabbi of the Ḥasidim (1889–1936). The community numbered 32,400 in 1897 (46% of the total population) and 56,000 (43%) in 1913. During World War I the city was severely damaged and was abandoned by most of its inhabitants. There were 11,838 Jews living in Daugavpils in 1921 (40.8% of the total population) and 11,106 (about 25%) in 1935. Noah *Meisel , who became a member of the Latvian parliament, headed the Bund. The Zionist movement, which had adherents in Dvinsk at the end of the 19th century and sent a delegate to the First Zionist Congress, grew considerably in the 1920s and 1930s, principally in the *Ẓe'irei Zion movement. A large section of youth was connected with Zionist youth organizations and *He-Ḥalutz , which maintained a farm for hakhsharah. Most Jewish children (over 2,000 at the beginning of the 1930s) attended the six Jewish schools of which five gave instruction in Hebrew or Yiddish. There were also a municipal Hebrew secondary school with several hundred pupils, a vocational training school maintained by *ORT , and a local Jewish sports organization. Communal institutions included a hospital, pharmacy, old-age home, orphanage, library, and three peoples' banks. Under the Soviets in 1940–41, all Jewish parties, organizations, and institutions were closed. Many activists and well-to-do Jews were exiled to Siberia. Instruction at Jewish schools was only allowed in the Yiddish language teaching a Soviet curriculum. When the Germans occupied Daugavpils on June 26, 1941, the Nazis, with the collaboration of the non-Jewish inhabitants, organized a pogrom on the Jews of the city. The synagogues were burned down or requisitioned by the army. During the first week of July 1,150 Jews were murdered. At the end of July a ghetto was set up at the abandoned cavalry barracks and 14,000–16,000 Jews from the city and the surrounding area were concentrated there. The first victims were the old and the sick, followed by thousands of refugees. On August 8–9, in two Aktionen, thousands of nonessential workers with their families and 400 orphans were murdered. By August 21, 9,012 Jews were dead. On November 7–9, 3,000–5,000 Jews were executed, including about 1,000 children. Five hundred Jews were killed on May 17, 1942, leaving alive a few hundred artisans. They were sent to the Riga ghetto in October 1943 and later confined in the Kaiserwald camp, where the Soviet army found 20 Jews on liberation day.

A community was reconstituted after the war. In the 1960s a small Jewish amateur drama group was in operation. In 1970 there were about 2,000 Jews in Daugavpils and one synagogue was still functioning. By the turn of the 21st century their number had dropped to around 400 after emigration.


Sources:L. Berman, In Loyf fun Yorn (1945); M. Kaufmann, Die Vernichtung der Juden Lettlands (1947), 269–85; Yahadut Latviyyah (1953), 162–73, 225–32, 305–9, 335–6; P. Salzman-Frenkel, Heftling Numer 94771 (1949); L.M. Tsilevich (ed.), Evrei v Daugavpilse: istoricheskie ocherk (1993); Z.I. Yakub, The Jews of Dunaburg (1993); Y. Flior, Dvinsk, the Rise and Fall of a Town (1965); PK.

[Yehuda Slutsky /Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

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