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Zbytkower, Shmul

(d. 1801), merchant and court supplier; ancestor of the Bergson (Berekson) family. In 1756 or 1757, Shmul Zbytkower (also known as Shemu’el ben Ya‘akov Avigdor; Szmul Jakubowicz) arrived in Warsaw from the nearby village of Zbytki, where he was a leaseholder. He worked in commerce and by 1766 had received the title of purveyor to the court of the Polish king, Stanisław August Poniatowski, and from 1771 performed similar services for the Prussian monarch Frederick II.

In the early 1770s, Zbytkower supplied the Polish army and, from 1773, the Russian army as well. His provisioning of armies became the foundation of his financial success, but it was far from his only endeavor. He traded in cattle, horses, pigs, and hides; ran butcheries, mills, breweries, and weaving workshops; leased monopolies; and was involved in banking. When Zbytkower acquired property in 1781, he built it up as a district across the Vistula River from the center of Warsaw, joined to Praga. To this day, the area bears his name: Szmulowizna.

Zbytkower was a ruthless economic competitor, known for his violent and exploitative behavior toward poor Jews. His patronage and support for Warsaw’s Jewish cemetery gave him a position of influence over the Jewish community, a status that he sometimes abused. Despite his harsh actions, Zbytkower was remembered as a benefactor who saved dozens of Jews from Russian troops during the Praga massacre of 1794. During the Kościuszko insurrection, his property was confiscated and he sought protection in the Russian camp, recovering a part of his fortune only in 1797.

Zbytkower was married three times: to Sheyndl; to Eleanor Gabriela Leachen (1750–1836), whom he later divorced; and to Judith Levy-Bucci (Yehudis Halevi Jakubowicz; 1749–1829). In 1798, he and Judith were granted unrestricted rights of residence, trade, and manufacturing by the Prussian monarch. His children and widow continued the family business after his death.

Suggested Reading

Anna Michałowska, “Szmul Jakubowicz Zbytkower,” Biuletyn Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego 162–163 (1992): 79–90; Emanuel Ringelblum, “Shmuel Zbitkover: ‘Askan tsiburi-kelali be-Polin bi-yeme ḥalukatah,” Tsiyon 3 (1938): 246–266, 337–355; Jacob Shatzky, Geshikhte fun yidn in Varshe, vol. 1 (New York, 1947).



Translated from Polish by Bartek Madejski