Jakub Wygodzki

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Jakub Wygodzki
יעקב ויגודסקי
Jakub Wygodzki portrait 1933-8-2.jpg
Lithuanian Minister for Jewish Affairs
In office
December 11, 1918 – January 1919
Prime Minister Augustinas Voldemaras
Mykolas Sleževičius
Preceded by none
Succeeded by Max Soloveitchik
Personal details
Born (1857-06-03)June 3, 1857[1]
Babruysk, Russian Empire
Died August 1941
Vilnius, Reichskommissariat Ostland
Cause of death The Holocaust
Citizenship Russian Empire
Second Polish Republic
Nationality Jewish
Political party Constitutional Democratic Party
Bloc of National Minorities
Children Writer Aleksandra Brushtein (ru) (1884–1968)[1]
Alma mater Imperial Military Medical Academy
Occupation Doctor, political activist

Jakub Wygodzki (1856–1941; Lithuanian: Jokūbas Vygodskis, Hebrew: יעקב ויגודסקי‎‎) was a Polish–Lithuanian Jewish politician, Zionist activist and a medical doctor. he was one of the most prominent Jewish activists in Vilnius (Vilna, Wilno).

Wygodzki was born to a family of Hasidic Jews.[1] His family moved to Vilnius (Vilna, Wilno) in 1860[2] where his father was a merchant, supplying the local garrison of the Imperial Russian Army with clothes.[1] He was the eldest of seven brothers and received traditional Jewish education at a cheder.[1] He studied at Marijampolė Gymnasium and Imperial Military Medical Academy in Saint Petersburg.[2] He was arrested for anti-Tsarist activities and involvement with a revolutionary group.[3] Later he studied medicine in Vienna, Berlin, Paris.[2] In 1884, he returned to Vilnius and established his practice as gynecologist and pediatrician.[1] He published medical articles in Russian and German journals.[3]

He joined Jewish cultural and political life. He was one of the first Zionist activist in Vilnius and chaired their organization.[1] In 1905, he was one of the founding members of the Constitutional Democratic Party (Kadets) in Vilnius Region.[2] In 1908, he established and chaired the Union of Jewish Doctors. During World War I, he was a member of a Jewish relief committee[1] and established daily Yiddish newspaper Flugblat.[4] For anti-German protests, he was arrested by the German police in March 1917 and imprisoned in the Czersk POW camp until April 1918.[3]

He supported Lithuanian independence, and together with Nachmanas Rachmilevičius and Simon Yakovlevich Rosenbaum was co-opted to the Council of Lithuania on December 11, 1918.[1] The same day he became the first Lithuanian Minister for Jewish Affairs. He held the post briefly as he did not evacuate Vilnius with the rest of the government at the start of the Lithuanian–Soviet War. He was briefly imprisoned by the Bolsheviks.[1]

In 1919, when Poland captured Vilnius, Wygodzki was chairman of the Jewish community in the city.[2] He opposed the Żeligowski's Mutiny and the Republic of Central Lithuania and urged people to boycott the elections in 1922.[1] Nevertheless, he accepted the situation and became a member of the Bloc of National Minorities and was elected to the Polish parliament (Sejm) in 1922 and 1928.[2] In the Sejm, Wygodzki worked to improve Jewish education in Hebrew and Yidish languages. He was also a member of the Vilnius Council from 1919 to 1929.[2]

Wygodzki contributed to the press, publishing his articles in Tsayt, Vilner Tog, Haynt, Nasz Przegląd, and others.[3] He published three books of his memoirs: In shturm (In the Storm; 1921) on the German occupation during World War I; In gehenom (In Hell; 1927) on his imprisonment by the Germans; and In Sambatyon (1931) on his activities in the Sejm.[2]

After the invasion of Poland in September 1940, Wygodzki organized relief for the Jewish refugees.[2] In June 1941, Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union and occupied the city. Wygodzki joined pre-ghetto Judenrat on July 24.[5] He was arrested at the end of August and died in the Lukiškės Prison.[5]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Svarauskas, Artūras (2016). "Vygodskis Jakuvas". In Tamošaitis, Mindaugas; Bitautas, Algis; Svarauskas, Artūras. Lietuvos Respublikos 1918–1940 m. vyriausybių ministrų biografinis žodynas (in Lithuanian). Vilnius: Mokslo ir enciklopedijų leidybos centras. pp. 472–474. ISBN 978-5-420-01778-4. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Netzer, Shlomo (2010). "Wygodzki, Jakub". The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Translated by Rami Hann. Retrieved April 16, 2017. 
  3. ^ a b c d Abramowicz, Hirsz (1999). Profiles of a Lost World: Memoirs of East European Jewish Life Before World War II. Translated by Eva Zeitlin Dobkin. Wayne State University Press. pp. 302–304. ISBN 9780814327845. 
  4. ^ Koss, Andrew Noble (2010). World War I and the Remaking of Jewish Vilna, 1914-1918 (PDF) (Ph.D.). Stanford University. p. 134. 
  5. ^ a b Kruk, Herman (2002). Harshav, Benjamin, ed. The Last Days of the Jerusalem of Lithuania: Chronicles From the Vilna Ghetto and the Camps, 1939-1944. Yale University Press. pp. 57, 80. ISBN 978-0-300-04494-2.