Vilkaviškis is one of the oldest towns in Suduva region
According to J. Totoraitis, who wrote the history of Suduva Suvalkija, Vilkaviškis emerged as a village of Prienai Forest in the 16th century. At the beginning of the 19th century near the Kaunas-Prussia road. As the linguist Alexander Vanagas has written, “the name of the city is a suffix of the river, which is the name of the river Vilkauja. The first gender of the name of the city was “Vilkaujiškis”, later it became more convenient to pronounce “Vilkaviškis”.
The oldest date, when the name of Vilkaviškis was first mentioned, is mentioned by A. Sajeta, the Mayor of Vilkaviškis. The book “Vilkaviškis Municipality 1918-1938” mentions that in the 16th c. In the middle of the 15th century (around 1561), when Balv Sforca was mentioned as the boundary of Alvita (Paširvytis), she also mentioned Vilkaviškis. However, the most common date mentioned in various literature is 1620, when Prienai elder Stephen Pac built the first church there. 1623 April 20 The Confirmation Privilege of Sigismund III Vasa says that the church of Vilkaviškis was built by the clerk of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the governor of Prienai and Birštonas, Stephen Pacas and his wife Ona Rudaminaitė near the Prussian border near Vilkaviškis to spread Catholic faith . For the maintenance of the church, the ruler appointed a village of Szelmy with 10 Valakian land, Lake Meksrinis, and approved parishes for the church and the parsonage, as well as six grosse from each homestead each year.
1633 June 18 Vladislav IV allowed Stephen Pac to transfer Vilkaviškis eldership to his son Christopher (though he was then 12). 1655 October 13 The Vilkaviškis district was received forever from Magnus de la Gardie by John Mierzenski. 1660 Vilkaviškis was granted city rights. The administrator of Vilkaviškis was Stephen Francis Medekša.
The Vilkaviškis Jewish community was very old and large. With the help of Ona Rudaminaitė, wife of Priest Elder S. Pacas, in 1623. In Vilkaviškis, Jews built a wooden prayer house – a synagogue. During the interwar period there were several smaller synagogues in Vilkaviškis. 1679 April 7th John III Sobieski granted the Jews the privilege of creating a free city and expanding trade there (the date of the town-building privilege is not specified, apparently 1660), and allowed the Jews of Vilkaviškis to enjoy the same freedoms as in the entire GDL. y. to sell drinks, both expensive and inexpensive, in their own homes, to have a school and 3 homes near it, without having to pay taxes to the city and the state, and to do their duty to the manor or the city. Jewish craftsmen, such as goldsmiths, tailors, tanners, tinsmiths and others, could work freely in the city, as in other cities. The townspeople could not force them to join the workshops or perform the duties of the workshops. The Jews were able to have their own cemetery and to bury the dead there in their custom. Similarly, for the baths they built and bought, the Jews did not have to pay any taxes, but they could not operate during the great Catholic holidays, such as the first days of Easter or Christmas. They were able to build a slaughterhouse and sell any meat there without hindrance. Those who held taverns, according to Chancellor Pac, had to pay a tax on drinks: one beer per grave, the same amount for mead, half a teaspoon for vodka.
The size of the city can be judged from 1699. July. a station wagon that shows how much a city or town pays for postal affairs in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. We will mention only some of the nearest cities and towns: from Prienai it was planned to receive 60 gold, from Virbalis – 65, from Naumiestis – 30, from Vilkaviškis – 25 gold. So it was the smallest of the surrounding towns.
1730 April 15 August II granted the right to life-long control of the Vilkaviškis eldership and the wife of the elder of Vilkaviškis, the Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and Mykolas Kaributas Vysniaveckis, General Regimenter of the Armed Forces, to Tekla Radvilaite-Vishniavecka. 1732 The inventory of Vilkaviškis eldership indicates that the following streets were present in Vilkaviškis town: Zamkowa, Gudelska, Kaunas, Kowienska, Wladyslawowska, Wysoka, Warszawsz and Grodno. . There were 25 shops in the city. Rural peasants’ taxes are also listed, as well as the area of cultivated land.
1738 Vilkaviškis eldership was governed by Caribut Vishniaveckis, Grand Duke of Vilnius, voivodeship of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but was administered by Anastazius Danovskis, Treasury Clerk. According to the inventory of the eldership at that time, there were 19 yards of the eldership in Vilkaviškis town. The number of courtyards in the Magdeburg city itself is not stated, only it says that the city pays 290 gold for 14 acres for the land and shops, 400 gold for the cultivated land, and 1,800 gold for the land for the beverage tax and the mill.
Vilkaviškis eldership in 1747 In the inventory it was noted that there was a square market in Vilkaviškis town (4 plots in three sides, 3 plots in the fourth), Grodno (9 inhabitants), Warsaw (28), Jewish schools (Szkolna, 19 inhabitants, Jewish bath and synagogue), (Kiszeniszka, 41 inhabitants), Higher (20), Kaunas with cross streets (30), Gudeliai (26), Manor (16 inhabitants). There were 31 shops in the market place. City regulations were written. Thus, compared to 1732, two new streets and the streets of Kauno street were created. There were 204 homesteads.
During the Russian-Prussian War, when Russian troops marched unrestrictedly through Lithuania, Vilkaviškis and its environs suffered as well as other areas of Lithuania. 1757 The loss register mentions that the masquerade squirrels caused great losses to the eldership, and the Paežeriai courtyard was devastated.
1773 December 26th Privilege Stanislovas Augustas granted the right to life-long control of Vilkaviškis eldership, ruled by Grand Duke of Lithuania Grand Duke Mykolas Oginskis, to his wife (if her husband died) Aleksandra Čartoriskaite-Oginskienė.
1776 January 25th The list of taxpayers of the Kaunas County Smoke states that in Vilkaviškis parish there is 1 manor house of Vilkaviškis owned by Oginskiai, 39 farmer yards and 96 yards in Vilkaviškis city, 5 ). The parish had a total of 809 peasants, 4 manors, and 7 nobility yards.
Vilkaviškis 18th c. burned several times at the end. Known in 1781 September and 1782. June and October fires, which burned 40 Jewish homes (106 residential houses remain unburned) and 7 Christian homes, as well as a manor inn, Jewish distilleries, warehouses, and property. 1782 As of 31 October 2003, the value of the burned buildings was 39 920 gold and 58 050 gold.
1790 According to the data, there were 5 taverns, 44 farmers ‘and 231 gardeners’ and cottage yards. Thus, the city had a total of 280 yards, in addition to the church, synagogue and other public buildings for which no fees were charged. 1791 December 9th privilege Stanislovas Augustas renewed city rights, approved the coat of arms and allowed to have a city brick.
1794 General Chlevinski fought against the Prussian army at Vilkaviškis, but was unsuccessful. 1795 Vilkaviškis was annexed to Prussia. 1800 There were 314 dwellings, 1804 inhabitants (mostly Jews). The town, which was on the trade road to Königsberg, was started to be tidied up, paved streets, construction of new houses. It housed a Prussian Hussar squadron with 219 people.
After 1795. Part of the third division of the Lithuanian-Polish state came under Prussian rule in the dioceses of Lutsk, Vilnius and Samogitia. 1800 According to statistics, “Vilkaviškis is a Catholic city with 7 streets and 305 yards (including 1 church). 56 meadows and soils – 5 valleys. There were 1 windmill, 28 taverns, 23 distilleries, 35 vodka factories, 65 wells. There were 2,077 people living (i.e. 550 hosts, 478 hosts; hired: 6 boys, 25 shepherds, 27 girls, 18 daily mercenaries); out of a total population of 1236 were Jews, 3 clergy, 10 merchants, 149 artisans, 3 magistrate clerks, 3 cops, 1 city dweller. Buildings: 12 houses covered with tiles, 294 with ghettos, 40 barns, 18 parcels uninhabited. The city paid 425 talers for 30 gr. Among the merchants mentioned the following: 4 traded in silk, 4 in cloth, 2 in woolen cloth. Craftsmen: 1 Pharmacist, 1 Shaver, 10 Baker, 2 Builders, 20 Brewers, 3 Bookbinders, 2 Windmills, 11 Slaughterers, 9 Glaziers, 2 Goldsmiths, 4 Blacksmiths, 2 Tinsmiths (10 Woolen Fur Tailors & Dealers), 4 Furs , 1 bricklayer with apprentice and shoemaker, 1 miller, 1 knitter (skirt underfloor adjuster), 1 pipe drill, 1 saddle, 2 locksmiths with apprentices, 30 carpenters with 2 apprentices, 1 carpenter (trench builder), 1 mil ” .
After Napoleon Bonaparte defeated Prussia in 1806, the Germans withdrew from Užnemunė. The Napoleonic Constitution came into force. 1812 June 22 Napoleon Bonaparte visited Vilkaviskis.
1815 At the Vienna Congress, the Duchy of Warsaw was handed over to the Russian Empire. 1816 The Augustów voivodship, which belonged to Vilkaviškis, was formed.
1816 Mayor Jeziorkovsky prepared a city plan. 1817 cemetery plan prepared. 1820 March 20 Kulwiec drafted a regulation plan for the city of Vilkaviškis (3 copies), which was approved in 1824. October 6 1822 T. Rudzinskas prepared a project of wooden bridges. 1830 Kazimieras Vansovich prepared a project for the planning of the southern part of the city (from the bazaar), a brewery project. 1839 Mr Randau has prepared a scheme for the center. 1827 There were 293 houses and 2889 inhabitants in Vilkaviškis.
1842 Vilkaviškis counts 344 yards, 1845 yards. – 383 yards. 1851 According to statistics, in Vilkaviškis there were 2 brick government houses, 48 brick houses and 308 wooden private houses, 6 town-owned houses, and there were 5505 inhabitants (2969 men and 2536 women), including 4315 Jews, 23 Germans, 1 Russian. 1858 only 2 houses increased, and the population was almost the same – 5503, including 4659 Jews.
As the population increased, a number of new-purpose buildings were constructed in Vilkaviškis. From 1881 onwards. In 1895 the company started to take care of the installation of a telegraph station. it was allowed to open a drug store-pharmacy, soap-making factory. 1904 a livestock slaughterhouse was built. In Vilkaviškis, as the county center, there were central offices: the county governor and the county board, a peace court with a mortgage. There were units of the Russian tsarist army. About 1910 large red-brick brick buildings erected for spirits production and administration. Several oil presses were built.
During World War I, Vilkaviškis was occupied twice by the Germans. The second occupation began in 1915. In February, it took more than three years. At the beginning, many men aged 18 and over were taken to German civilian prison camps. The Germans took away more expensive things from the people, and various requisitions and contributions began. Pre-war businesses were closed, with the introduction of a permit system, trade restrictions and curfews.
1918 At the end of the 19th century, with the weakening of German occupation power, it was allowed to organize its administrative power. November 23 12 elected committee members met for the first Interim City Committee meeting. By the end of the year, around 20 meetings had been convened to discuss many important issues for the city. A militia was organized, a power station was purchased from the German occupation government, a slaughterhouse for animals, a marketplace, a garage for firefighters, and a fruit dryer were bought. The land of Vilkaviškis and Kisiniškės manors was distributed to the inhabitants. Construction of new houses began. 1929 compulsory primary education was introduced. 1935 The first elementary school was built in 1938 – and a second school of six sets. In 1926 Vilkaviškis Diocese was established with the center in Vilkaviškis. The first bishop is Antanas Karosas. 1930 The priest’s seminary was completed under the project of architect Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis, and it operated until 1944, when the Red Army occupied Lithuania.
1931 May 2 the new Law on Local Self-government granted Vilkaviškis the privileges of the city. The municipality took care of the city streets, houses, industry and commerce. The streets and sidewalks, the exterior of the house, were tidied up. 1933 A reinforced concrete bridge over the Šeimena stream was built in the 19th century, costing about 90 thousand litas. Already in the first years of independence, the Apriak brothers firm supplied almost all Suwalki with imported goods. For a while Vilkaviškis traders took all sugar and herring imports. The “Ring” cooperative was strong, and the papyrus and tobacco factory “Bravol” was opened. At the end of the 1930s there were metalworking, dishware, glassware, oil, carbonated water, shoes, candy factories, soap cookers, bristle processing company operating in Vilkaviškis. There were two hotels in the city and several printing houses.
1940 15 June The Russians who occupied Lithuania nationalized private hospitals, factories, workshops, bookstores and other companies in Vilkaviškis. Vilkaviškis, as a frontier town, was filled with Russian troops. 1941 June 13-15 569 people were transported from Vilkaviškis county to Siberia in animal wagons.
1941 June 22 At 7 in the morning, German army planes bombed the city. About 11am The first German soldiers appeared in the town. They occupied the offices, captured all uniformed servants. In 1944, as the Germans retreated, fierce battles took place in Vilkaviškis. July 31 Soviet tanks began to invade the city. The city went from hand to hand several times until August 2. The 3rd Belarusian Front troops entered Vilkaviškis.
The war devastated Vilkaviškis. The city was in ruins. Before the war, there were 800 houses in the city, and in 1944, only 48 were left undamaged. During the post-war deportations from county (later district) to exile in 1948. 1205 people were deported in 1949; – 613, 1951. – 463 inhabitants.
Vilkaviškis Jewish community
It is claimed that Jews settled in Vilkaviškis in the 16th century, when Queen Bona Sforza in the 16th century. dedicated the forests and the Jews who lived there to build synagogues.  Settlement of Jews in the new area was a necessary privilege, so official mention of the Jewish community in historical sources can be found only in the 17th century. avg – Jews who settled here followed the rules of 1645 and 1648. The nobles of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania  confirmed the privilege, but in 1679 the Jews of Vilkaviškis provided themselves with a separate privilege, which allowed them to freely establish themselves in Vilkaviškis and profess their faith.
The 19th century saw a significant increase and prosperity of the Jewish community. Meanwhile, just before the Holocaust in 1939, There were 3,609 Jews living in and around the city, accounting for 45% of the total population.
Most Jews were engaged in trade and crafts, and a small proportion were engaged in agriculture and horticulture. There was a large brush-making industry in Vilkaviškis and many Jewish workers were employed in this area. The latter even had their own union, the Jewish “Brush Manufacturers Bund”, and since 1898 published a secret periodical called “Veker”.
1909 The building of the Jewish Retirement Home was begun in the 19th century, and today it is the Vilkaviškis Primary Health Care Center. Vilkaviškis Jewish community lived an active social, economic and cultural life, and there were separate Jewish educational institutions: elementary Hebrew school, vocational school, special Hebrew secondary school, which currently houses the Vilkaviškis District Municipality Administration.
The city Jews associated themselves with Lithuania and considered themselves Lithuanians – quite a few Jews served in the army of Independent Lithuania.
Interestingly, the Jew Bendet Rabinovich from 1915 to 1918 He was mayor and later deputy mayor of Vilkaviškis.
At the beginning of the German-Russian War, 1941 On June 22, Vilkaviškis was occupied by Nazi German authorities. Most of the Jewish homes around the center and the impressive wooden synagogue were destroyed. A few days later, on June 28, the massacre of the Jews began. First, 900 men of Jewish descent were separated and killed. Children and women were restrained in the formed temporary ghetto. The remaining Jewish survivors were killed just one day after Rosh ha-shana (Jewish New Year celebration) – 1941. September 24 – this was the end of the centuries-old Jewish community in Vilkaviškis. Of the several thousand, only a few survived the pre-war Jews.
Scattered throughout the world, Jews with roots in Vilkaviškis still feel a strong connection to the city, are interested in its present, keep in touch, and keep memories of the place where their roots originate, their parents, grandparents, and ancestors.
More information about Vilkaviškis Jewish can be found at: http://www.jewishvilkaviskis.org