The History of the Mir Community Before the Holocaust
The ancient village of Mir was founded in the mid-14th century. The first Jews settled in Mir in the 17th century. In his book, A Voyage of Mission from Moscow to Poland (1678), the diplomat Bernard Tanner wrote, "Mir is populated with a great many Jews."
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Mir became a commercial town with many fairs and horse and fur trading centers – including a station for merchants and travelers from across eastern and central Europe to switch horses and carts. The merchants included many Jews. The Jews of Mir traded in furs, produce, livestock, grains, wine, soap and tobacco. In the 18th century, the traders from Mir attended fairs as far away as Leipzig, and administered business in Koenigsberg, Klaipeda and Liepaja.
The Jews of Mir were protected by the town's proprietors, the family of the Radziwiłł princes, but despite this privilege they occasionally suffered from abuse by Prince Radziwiłł himself. Shlomo Maimon, a Jewish philosopher and author born in the 18th century in a village close to Mir, wrote:
"One time [Radziwiłł] came to the synagogue with his entire entourage… he smashed the windows and the heaters, broke all the dishes, threw the Sefer Torah out of the Holy Ark, among other things. One God-fearing Torah scholar who was present went to pick up one of the scrolls from the ground – and was rewarded with being wounded by a rifle bullet shot by His Highness the Prince himself. The procession then left for the second synagogue, where they carried out similar actions, and then to the Jewish cemetery, where they destroyed the buildings and burnt the tombstones." Shlomo Maimon, Hayei Shlomo Maimon: Katuv Beydei Atzmo, pp. 67-68
In the mid-18th century, some 600 Jews lived in Mir, and the community grew rapidly. Alongside the traders were weavers, tailors and silversmiths, and by the end of the 19th century, 3,319 Jews were living in Mir – more than half the settlement's total population. In 1815, the famous Mir Yeshiva was established and the Jews of the town earned their living renting rooms to the yeshiva students.
Until WWI, Mir was under Russian rule. Afterwards, with the establishment of Poland, Mir was included in the territory allocated to Poland.