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Rachmilewitz, Naḥman

(1876–1941), politician and public figure. Naḥman Rachmilewitz (Nachmanas Rachmilevičius) was born in Volkovysk, close to Hrodna (now in Belarus). In 1896, he graduated from classical secondary school in Bensheim, south of Hessen, Germany, and from 1896 to 1900 studied humanities and sciences at universities in Königsberg and Heidelberg, receiving his doctorate. After graduation he settled in Vilna, where he was active in Jewish public life.

The peak of Rachmilewitz’s public activity came during World War I with German occupation. Rachmilewitz was appointed by the German authorities to conduct a population census in Vilna in 1916. To assist refugees, he and a group of prominent individuals set up the Hilfs-komitet, which was soon renamed the Zentral-komitet. By early 1917, the organization represented the entire political and social spectrum of Jewish society in Vilna.

Soon Rachmilewitz became active in politics. He reached the apex of this aspect of his career immediately after the foundation of the Lithuanian Republic. On 11 December 1918, with Shimshon Rosenboim and Jakub Wygodzki, he was admitted to the Lithuanian Council (Taryba) where he represented the General Zionists. In the cabinet of Augustinas Voldemaras, he served as deputy minister of trade and industry, a position he held for nearly two years (1918–1920).

In 1920, with five other Jewish politicians, Rachmilewitz was elected to the Lithuanian Constituent Assembly, representing the Jewish electoral bloc. At the same time, he became a leading figure in Jewish autonomous politics and was elected vice chair of the Jewish National Council in Lithuania. During the crisis of autonomy institutions, he supported the Aguda candidate, Bernard Friedman, for the position of minister without portfolio for Jewish affairs. As a result of this stance, Rachmilewitz lost the support of various secular Jewish political parties in 1923 and did not run for election. Later on he remained unaffiliated with any of the Jewish political parties.

Rachmilewitz was also an influential figure in the Lithuanian business community. Among other positions, in 1920 he became a founder and a permanent board member of the Central Cooperative Lithuanian Jewish Bank. In 1935, he immigrated to Palestine and was appointed consul general for the Republic of Lithuania in Tel Aviv; he held this position until his death in 1941.

Suggested Reading

Egle Bendikaite, “Sionistinio judejimo ideja ir politika Lietuvoj, 1906–1940” (Ph.D. diss., Universitas Vytauti Magni, Kaunas, 2004); Šarūnas Liekis, “Lithuanian Taryba and Jewish Ober-Ost Politics,” Lithuanian Historical Studies 4 (1999): 62–82; Šarūnas Liekis, A State within a State?: Jewish Autonomy in Lithuania, 1918–1925 (Vilnius, 2003), p. 241.