The Jewish Minority
The Government of Suwalki formed the westernmost corner of the Pale of Settlement where Russian Jews were forced to live by restrictive laws passed in 1795 and 1835. In 1882, 500,000 Jews living in rural areas of the Pale were forced to leave their homes and live in towns or townlets called shetels. 250,000 Jews living along the western frontier of Russia were also moved into the Pale. 250,000 Jews living east of this area were driven into the Pale by 1891. By 1885 there were over 4 million Jews living in the Pale. The Jews formed an economic and social class distinguished by its usages and customs.
The 1897 Census reported that there were 58,370 Jews in Suwalki, or 10.2% of the population. When the pogroms, the forced emigrations of the Jews, began in 1905, the Jewish exodus proceeded from the Government of Suwalki. When one daughter of an –at family from Suwalki Province, saw the movie Fiddler on the Roof, she remembered that her immigrant mother spoke of similar stories during her childhood in Russia. 1 By 1910 both the German and the Jewish minorities in Suwalki had considerably decreased to 4.3% and 7.9 % respectively. 2
1 Interview with family member who is now deceased.
2 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 756.
The Natural Increase of the Population
Suwalki was lowest among the governments with the rate of natural increase of population. 1 As the antithesis of other Governments within the Kingdom, Suwalki was “purely agricultural, full of small peasant holdings, whose population is sober, thrifty, rather distrustful of life, and half are of Lithuanian nationality.” 2
The German and Jewish people were more widely scattered and a minority everywhere. In the district of Wylkowiszki, for example, the Germans were 15.9 percent of the population, the highest percentage in the Government of Suwalki. The German colonists remained scattered in small groups increasing in size in several localities near the northern frontiers of the Kingdom—one of which was the district of Wylkowiszki. Although the –at families were certainly a minority, they lived with more Germans than many of their countrymen. All in all, the Kingdom of Poland contained “its tiny fraction of Germans.” The most substantial German groups were involved in large industries, but not all. The Jews were more distributed in the country with between 7.4% and 9.3% of them in Wylkowiszki. In the Government of Suwalki the number of Jews ranged from 10.3% to 11.8%. 3
The German Population in Suwalki
The seven categories are
1897 Census % Protestant
1897 Census % German
Wylkowiszki 16.2 15.9 14.7 17.2 -0.4 13,481 13,416
Maryampol 5.5 6.6 6.6 5.4 -0.1 6,109 5,640
For example, (to read the above statistics)
The 1897 Census reported the percentage of Protestants in Wylkowiszki as 16.2.
The 1897 Census reported the percentage of German Protestants in Wylkowiszki as 15.9
The Protestants in 1890 were reported as 14.7 percent.
The Population in 1893 was 17.4 percent.
The German population in 1893 had decreased -0.4 percent.
The 1910 increase was 13,481.
The 1910 Protestant population was 15,416.
The Maryampol data can be interpreted the same way.
The 1897 Census reported the percentage of Protestants in Maryampol as 5.5
The 1897 Census reported the percentage of German Protestants in Maryampol as 6.6.
The Protestants in 1890 were reported as 6.6 percent.
The Population in 1893 was 5.4 percent.
The German population in 1893 had decreased -0.1 percent.
The 1910 increase was 6,109.
The 1910 Protestant population was 5,640.
In the district of Wylkowiszki most Protestants were German.
The Maryampol district did not contain large numbers of Protestants in 1909. The Wylkowiszki district had numerous Protestants in three out of twelve “communes,” but the Protestant population did not increase. In the remaining communes, including Wylkowiszki, there were more than 500 Germans, and the chief town of the district, Wylkowiszki, had an 11.2 % of German population. The German minority was small indeed in the predominantly Polish Catholic Kingdom of Poland in the northern half of the heavily populated Lithuanian area of the Government of Suwalki. 4
1 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 375.
2 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 375.
3 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 375.
4 Polish Encyclopaedia of 1923, 712.