|Boris Kletskin and a writer Jakob Dinezon|
Publishing houses had the strongest influence on the development of Jewish culture. In 1913 there were 43 publishing houses in Vilnius, which belonged to Jews (the total number of publishing houses in the city was 61). The most famous one was the Romm publisher, established in 1799. This house published mostly religious literature in Hebrew, which was read by Jews all around the world. Even today the Romm books can be found in Israel, USA, South Africa, France etc. Another renowned publishing house was owned by Boris Kletskin. Books, text-books and other literature in Yiddish were printed here and also distributed in the whole Jewish world. A typical fact - when in 1925 the house moved to Warsaw, it kept its original name "B. Kletskin's publishing house" - it was the best advertisement.
In the reading hall of the Strashun library
Jewish publishers printed a wealth of Lithuanian, Russian, Polish publications, thus contributing to Lithuania's culture in general. Professor Vytautas Merkys asserts that "the culture of Lithuanian polygraphy, the art of book and press printing was significantly developed by numerous Jewish publishers". Huge collections of books were accumulated in Vilnius. Its libraries were wide known in the whole Eastern Europe. The most famous among them was the Strashun library. It was a scientific library where scholars from many countries studied unique publications. In 1940 there were 5753 old books here, among them 5 incunabula. All in all library had 50000 volumes, of whom over 13000 were in Hebrew, around 5500 in Yiddish, over 3500 in German, Russian, French, Latin, English, Polish, Lithuanian, Spanish, Hungarian and Arab.
Several tens of thousand of books belonged to the library of Jewish Scientific Institute (YIVO). "Meficei haskalah" public library had 55000 publications.
The fact that the book was an inseparable part of Jewish essence is testified by the creation of a library in the horrible conditions of the ghetto. The library was situated in the premises of "Meficei haskalah", its books were taken from the latter's funds. In December 1942 the library celebrated a certain anniversary - since September 1941 they gave out 100.000 books.
During the Nazi occupation, and later during the Soviet times, a lot of books were destroyed. However, even the remnants that were rescued and that are now accumulated in M. Mazhvydas National Library's Judaica section, attract attention of scientists from the whole world..
© Jews in Lithuania, Vilnius, 1999-2000