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Łachwa Ghetto map
Ghettos in German occupied Poland (marked with red-gold stars)

Lakhva Ghetto or Łachwa Ghetto was a ghetto that existed from summer 1941 to summer 1942 in Lakhva (Polish Łachwa - a town now in Belarus, then in the German occupied Poland, and up to 1939 in the Second Polish Republic). Lakhva Ghetto is considered to have been the location of one of the first,[1] and possibly the first,[2][3] Jewish ghetto uprisings of the Second World War.

Contents

Establishment

Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, and German troops occupied Lakhva on July 8, 1941, two weeks after the start of Operation Barbarossa.[4] A Judenrat was established, headed by a former Zionist leader, Dov Lopatyn.[1] Rabbi Hayyim Zalman Osherowitz was arrested by the Germans, and his release was secured only after the payment of a large ransom.[5]

On April 1, 1942, the town's Jews were forcibly moved into a ghetto consisting of two streets and 45 houses, surrounded by a barbed wire fence.[3] [4] The ghetto housed roughly 2,350 people, which amounted to approximately 1 square meter for every resident.[5]

Development of resistance

The news of massacres throughout the region slowly spread to Lakhva, and Jewish youth organized an underground under the leadership of Isaac Rochczyn, the head of the local Betar group. With the assistance of the Judenrat, the underground managed to stockpile axes, knives, and iron bars, although efforts to secure firearms were largely unsuccessful.[3] [5] [4]

By August 1942, the Jews in Lakhva knew that the nearby ghettos in Luninets and Mikashevichy had been liquidated. On September 2, 1942, the local populace became aware that local farmers had dug pits outside the town, on the orders of the Nazis. Later that day, 150 German soldiers (the Einsatzgruppen) and 200 local police surrounded the ghetto. Rochczyn and the underground wanted to attack the ghetto fence at midnight to allow the population to flee, but others refused to leave behind the elderly and children. Lopatyn asked that the attack be postponed until the morning.[5] [4] [6]

Uprising and massacre

On September 3, 1942, the Germans advised Lopatyn that the ghetto was to be liquidated, and ordered that the ghetto inhabitants line up for deportation. In order to secure the cooperation of the ghetto's leaders, however, the members of the Judenrat, the ghetto doctor and 30 labourers (whom Lopatyn could choose) would be spared. Lopatyn refused the offer, reportedly responding: "Either we all live, or we all die."[3] [5] [4]

When the Germans entered the ghetto, Lopatyn set fire to the Judenrat headquarters, which was the signal to commence the uprising.[1] Other buildings were also set on fire, and members of the ghetto underground attacked the Germans as they entered the ghetto, using axes, sticks, molotov cocktails and their bare hands. This battle is believed to represent the first ghetto uprising of the war.

Approximately 650 Jews were killed in the fighting or the flames, and another 500 or so Jews were taken to the pits and shot. The ghetto fence was breached, and approximately 1000 Jews were able to escape, of whom about 600 were able to take refuge in the Pripet Marshes. Rochczyn was shot and killed as he jumped into the Smierc River. Although an estimated 120 of the escapees were able to join partisan units, most of the others were eventually tracked down and killed. Approximately 90 residents of the ghetto survived the war.[3] [4]

Lopatyn joined a communist partisan unit, and was killed on February 21, 1944 by a landmine. Lakhva was liberated by the Red Army in July 1944.[4]

References

  1. ^ a b c Lachva, Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed., Volume 12, pp. 425-6 (Macmillan Reference USA, 2007).
  2. ^ Michaeli, Lichstein, Morawczik, and Sklar (eds.). First Ghetto to Revolt: Lachwa. (Tel Aviv: Entsyklopedyah shel Galuyot, 1957).
  3. ^ a b c d e Suhl, Yuri. They Fought Back. (New York: Paperback Library Inc., 1967), pp. 181-3.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Lachva, Multimedia Learning Centre: The Simon Wiesenthal Center. [1] (last accessed September 30, 2006)
  5. ^ a b c d e Pallavicini, Stephen and Patt, Avinoam. "Lachwa", An Encyclopedic History of Camps, Ghettos, and Other Detention Sites in Nazi Germany and Nazi-Dominated Territories, 1933-1945: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. [2] (last accessed September 30, 2006)
  6. ^ This Month in Holocaust History: September 3, 1942. Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. [3] (last accessed October 1, 2006)

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