SIAULIAI (Ger. Schaulen; Rus. Shavli; Yid. Shavl), city in N. Lithuania. The Jewish settlement dates from the 17th century; in 1701 Jews received authorization to erect a synagogue. Trade with Germany and the establishment of a railway line fostered growth and economic prosperity, and by 1847 there were 2,565 Jews in the town. They built large factories, among them the tannery of Ḥayyim Frenkl (1879). In 1902 Jews numbered 9,847 (75% of the population); by 1914 this number had increased to 12,000. In 1915 the majority of Jews were, however, exiled to the interior of Russia. In independent Lithuania, Siauliai was the second largest city, and its Jewish community, numbering 8,000 in 1939, the second largest in the country. The economic and social influence of the Jews was widespread; they formed the majority of manufacturers of leather products – the shoe factory, Batas, was Jewish-owned – and were involved in the iron and chemical industries, as well as forming a large part of the force of clerks, laborers, and craftsmen of the town. The position of vice mayor of the town was held by a Jew. The Jewish community was outstanding for its organizational achievements and for its cultural and social institutions. The community supported a religious secondary school (Yavneh), a Hebrew secondary school, an elementary school, and a kindergarten, as well as several Yiddish schools. There were 15 synagogues, a yeshivah, and two libraries. Prominent scholars officiated there, among them Isaac Eisik Ḥaver (*Wildmann) and Joseph Zechariah *Stern. The kabbalist Solomon b. Ḥayyim *Eliashov was a resident of Siauliai. Before the arrival of the Germans in World War II, several hundred Jews had fled to Russia. Of those who chose to remain, several thousand were massacred by Lithuanians as well as Germans (mainly in the forests of Kuzhi) during the war. About 5,000 Jews (including 1,500 from surrounding areas) were interned in a ghetto. There were frequent Aktionen until July 1944, when the retreating Germans transferred those remaining alive to the concentration camps of Stutthof and Dachau, in Germany. Of the total number of Jews interned only a few hundred managed by various means to escape death. The remaining synagogue was closed by the authorities in 1960; the Jewish cemetery was destroyed and Jews were allowed to remove the bones of the deceased to the Vilna cemetery. In the late 1960s the Jewish population was estimated at about 4,000; in the 1990s Siauliai had a small Jewish community.
A. Yerushalmi, Pinkas Shavli (1958); Lite, 1 (1951), 942–70, 1767–831.
Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.