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Słonim Ghetto Revolt Takes Place, 1942

Updated: Jul 1, 2021

On This Day in Jewish History: June 29, 1942



The Słonim ghetto, located in the town of Słonim in Western Belarus was initially part of the Second Polish Republic following the end of the first world war. Roughly 7,000 Jews lived in Słonim, according to the 1921 Polish census. From 1921-1931 Słonim’s Jewish population grew to 8,600, outnumbering the city’s Catholic population.


Following Germany’s invasion of Poland in September of 1939, the Soviet’s Red Army seized control of Słonim where it was converted into a location for Polish-Jewish refugees fleeing German occupied Western Poland. Between the fall of 1939 to the fall of 1940, the number of refugees increased by 7-fold to over 15,000. Refugees underwent intense abuse at the hands of the Red Army, making it difficult for the vast majority of new arrivals to find work. The following summer, German military units arrived at Słonim over a 2-day period from June 24-26 1941. The rights of Jews living within the ghetto were curbed immediately to enforce isolation measures. The Germans took men by the hundreds into the municipal stadium to be beaten and murdered amidst week-long interrogation sessions.


Soon, the Judenrat, the name for Jewish agencies created by Nazi Germany during WWII, was created following orders from Słonim’s German commandant, Gebietskommissar Gerhard Erren. The agency was equipped with eleven members assigned to carry out Erren’s orders. Wolf Berman was appointed president of the Judenrat and Erren demanded he collect 2 million roubles in the form of gold to be used as ransom. However, after it was learned that the roubles entered private hands, the Nazis executed every member of the Judenrat. This act stoked fear in the minds of other Jews living in the community and made them scared to join the Judenrat. Nonetheless, a new council was formed and tasked with securing and providing the ghetto with forced labor. The Nazis also established a Jewish Ghetto Police, comprised of 30 men. Jews had good reason to fear participation in the council. On November 14 1941 all of the members of the newly established Judenrat were executed.


The Nazis began killing the Jews of Słonim en masse on July 17 1941 following the arrival of Otto Badfisch. commander of the Einsatzgruppen’s Einsatzkommando 8 as well as the presence of Order Police battalion set up in Minsk. Pits were dug in preparation for the forthcoming massacre, just outside the neighboring Pietrolewicze. Of the 2,000 Jews that were rounded up, between 1,075 and 1,200 (estimates differ) were boarded onto vehicles for mass cargo and never seen again.


In October 1941, a new ghetto zone was established and the town’s remaining Jewish population was brought to the ‘Na Wyspie’ (translates to On Island) neighborhood. It was there in March 1942 that Jews from neighboring provisional ghettos were brought, with the Jews forced to march by foot to Słonim where they would be subsequently exterminated.


On November 14 1941 the “Second Sweep” or second mass extermination of Jews, began. The German authorities sealed off the ghetto and 9,000 Jews were taken by the same mass cargo vehicles (lorries), to the Czepielów village about 4 miles away, dropped into pre-dug pits and shot on the spot. For the ghetto’s remaining Jews that were able to avoid this fate, the success of the massacre was made aware by the returned presence of Jews that were able to escape and survive it. Following the mass killing in Czepielów, Słonim’s ghetto population was 7,000. On June 29 1942 the remaining Jews staged a revolt. Under the command of rebel leader David Ephstein Jewish members of the underground resistance began firing on German troops using ammunition and firearms located at the Beutelager. Resistance forces were able to kill 5 Germans, wounding others in the process. The Nazis retaliated by burning the ghetto to the ground. The SS blew up the ghetto’s Jewish Hospital and over the course of the next two weeks from June 29-July 15 1942 Jewish extermination continued until the ghetto was completely demolished. The revolt was tempered with the help of the Latvian, Lithuanian and Ukranian auxiliary police. During that 2-week period, between 8,000 and 13,000 people were killed either at home, or in the streets and killing fields.


August 20, 1942 brought the the 4th and final phase of ghetto extermination, with the remaining 800 people (700 men and 100 women) gathered and murdered. There were Jews that sought refuge in the woods, 30 of whom would establish Schtorrs 51, a self governing fighting force in close proximity to Kosovo and aided by Pavel Proniagin in opposition to Soviet demands.


 

Sources:

- Statistical Office (Poland) Główny Urząd Statystyczny (Central Statistical Office (Poland). "Ludność według płci i wyznania". Wikimedia Commons: Woj.nowogrodzkie-Polska spis powszechny 1931, p. 54 / 270 in PDF or 23 in document. “Table 11. Słonim city. Population: 16,251 (1931). Catholic: 4,899. Orthodox: 2,397. Judaism: 8,605. Other: 276.”


- Aleksandra Bielawska, Anna Susak, Andriej Zamojski, Anna Mirkowska, Martyna Sypniewska (2011). "Jewish history of Słonim". Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN. Virtual Shtetl. “Part III: 1921–1939.”


- Aleksandra Bielawska, Anna Susak, Andriej Zamojski, Anna Mirkowska, Martyna Sypniewska (8 November 2010). "Jewish history of Słonim (Part 4)". Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN. Virtual Shtetl.


- Martin Dean (2003). "The Ghetto 'Liquidations'". Collaboration in the Holocaust: Crimes of the Local Police in Belorussia and Ukraine, 1941–44. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 18, 22, 78, 93. ISBN 1403963711 – via Goggle Books.


- Eyewitness Statements (1941–1943). "Gerhard Erren: report on the actions of Einsatzkommando 8". HolocaustResearchProject.org.


- Robert W. Thurston & Bernd Bonwetsch (2000). The People's War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union. University of Illinois Press. pp. 36–37, 45–46. ISBN 0252026004. “Slonim Erren.”


- Shalom Cholawski (1998). The Jews of Bielorussia During World War II. Taylor & Francis. pp. 141–142, 146, 162, 253. ISBN 9057021935. “In the weeks that followed [the ghetto liquidation action], there were also further massacres in the area of Slonim with thousands of fatalities.(p. 347)”


- Hans-Heinrich Nolte (2000). Destruction and Resistance: The Jewish Shtetl of Slonim, 1941–44. The People's War: Responses to World War II in the Soviet Union By Robert W. Thurston & Bernd Bonwetsch. University of Illinois Press. pp. 29–53. ISBN 0252026004.


- Peter Longerich (2010). Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. OUP Oxford. pp. 198, 238, 347. ISBN 978-0192804365.


- Emil Majuk (ed) (2013). "Słonim – Karta Dziedzictwa Kulturowego" [Slonim – A Cultural Heritage]. Shtetl Routes. Jewish Heritage Places and Objects in the Cross-border Tourism (Obiekty żydowskiego dziedzictwa kulturowego w turystyce transgranicznej). “Home of Słonimer Awraam (1802–1884), the founder of Slonim Hasidic Dynasty.”


- Ilya A. Altman (translation from the Russian). "Getto w Iwacewiczach". Virtual Shtetl. Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Archived from the original on 2016-03-04.


- Emil Majuk (ed) (2013). "Słonim – Karta Dziedzictwa Kulturowego" [Slonim – A Cultural Heritage]. Shtetl Routes. Jewish Heritage Places and Objects in the Cross-border Tourism (Obiekty żydowskiego dziedzictwa kulturowego w turystyce transgranicznej). “Home of Słonimer Awraam (1802–1884), the founder of Slonim Hasidic Dynasty.”


- Sid Resnick Historical Archive (2016). "June 29: The Slonim Massacres". Jewish Currents. “Following some acts of armed resistance by Jewish partisans in the ghetto of Slonim, the Nazis set the ghetto on fire on this date in 1942 and spent the next two weeks laboriously murdering between seven and ten thousand Jews.”


- Waitman Wade Beorn (2014). Marching into Darkness. Harvard University Press. pp. 153–154, 162. ISBN 978-0674726604.


- Tadeusz Piotrowski (1997). Poland's Holocaust: Ethnic Strife, Collaboration with Occupying Forces and Genocide in the Second Republic, 1918–1947. McFarland. pp. 106, 222, 316. ISBN 0786429135. “To escape Nazi persecution, Oswald Rufeisen was hidden in a convent of the Sisters of the Resurrection for over a year.”


- Walter Laqueur & Judith Tydor Baumel (ed) (2001). The Holocaust Encyclopedia (PDF). New Haven & London: Yale University Press. 63–64 (104–105 / 807 in PDF). ISBN 0300084323.


- Jewish Calendar: 20 August 1942. Diaspora; Date Converter.


- Baruch Shub. "Jewish Partisan Units: Slonim, Schtorrs 51". Tel Aviv, Israel: Organization of Partisans Underground Fighters. Archived from the original on June 13, 2016 – via Internet Archive.

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