|Location||Słonim, German-occupied Poland|
|Persecution||Imprisonment, forced labor, starvation, mass killings|
|Organizations||Schutzstaffel (SS), Einsatzgruppe C, Belarusian Auxiliary Police, Wehrmacht|
|Victims||22,000–25,000 ghettoized Polish Jews.|
The Słonim Ghetto (Polish: getto w Słonimiu, German: Ghetto von Slonim, Yiddish: סלאנים) was a Jewish World War II ghetto established in 1941 by the Schutzstaffel (SS) in the prewar Polish city of Słonim located in the eastern region of Kresy (now Slonim, Belarus), occupied by Germany after the launch of Operation Barbarossa. Before the joint Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939 Słonim was a seat of the Słonim county in the Nowogródek Voivodeship of the Second Polish Republic. The invading Soviets annexed the city along with the entire region to the Byelorussian SSR in an atmosphere of terror, and renamed it as Сло́ним (Slonim). All inhabitants including Jews born in sovereign Poland were declared Soviet subjects by the NKVD. Less than two years later the city was captured by the Wehrmacht. The killings of Polish Jews by mobile extermination squads began almost immediately.
The first mention of the Jews in Słonim originates from 1551. The community began to flourish in the first half of the 16th century. Jews specialized in the trade of lumber and grain; some, in the brewery business, others in numerous cottage industries. In 1635–42 the Baroque style Grand Synagogue was built in Słonim. In 1766 the local Qahal counted 1,154 members. Jewish cultural life thrived under the patronage of the Ogiński family from the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. They built the Oginski Canal between the Neman and the Dnieper rivers. Following the military Partitions of Poland perpetrated by Russia, Prussia, and Austria, Słonim became part of the Russian Empire in 1795. It was the home of Rabbi Avraham Weinberg, founder of the Slonim Hasidic dynasty. There were seven synagogues in operation. In 1897 the total population of Słonim was 72,5% Jewish, but many young people emigrated. After the rebirth of sovereign Poland at the end of the First World War, and according to Polish census of 1921, there were 6,917 Jews in the city. Ten years later, the Jewish population grew again to 8,605 or 64% of the rapidly expanding population of 16,251 with 4,899 Catholics. There were 10 new Jewish schools in Słonim, including the Yiddish high school.
1939 invasion of Poland
During the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939 Słonim was taken over by the Red Army. Within days, the new Soviet administration began the liquidation of the Jewish religious, cultural and political institutions. The Zionists were accused of being counterrevolutionaries and targeted first. A communist apparatchik Novikov serving with the NKVD pronounced that Zionism was a fascist movement, and in April 1940 sent 1,000 Jews to Siberia in a wave of mass deportations of Polish nationals. The Zionists were accused of anti-Soviet activities, nevertheless, within months the Bund members were also arrested based on a prescribed list, and deported to the Gulag.
At the same time, Słonim turned into a major destination for Polish-Jewish refugees attempting to escape from the German-controlled territory of western Poland. Living conditions became very difficult. While the number of refugees in the fall of 1939 was around 2,000 by local count, their total had grown to 15,216 just one year later. The oppressive conditions of the Soviet system made the majority of newcomers unable to find work. Others collaborated; chiefly the young men with nothing to lose. Calel Perechodnik who temporarily reached Słonim in 1939 mentioned that the Jewish communists were disarming Polish divisions hand in hand with the Soviet invaders. By the time Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa against the Soviet forces in eastern Poland, the number of Jews in Słonim had grown to 22,000 comprising around 70% of the total population.
Slonim ghetto formation
The Germans rolled into the city on 24–26 June 1941 amid bombing and shelling. No Jewish relocations were ordered, but anti-Jewish measures were imposed right away to ensure isolation. Hundreds of men were rounded up and brought into the municipal stadium where they were beaten and killed during interrogations which lasted for one week. Soon thereafter, Gebietskommissar Gerhard Erren, the German commandant of Słonim, appointed in August, ordered the creation of the Judenrat with eleven members, to carry out his orders. Judenrat president, Wolf Berman, an 80-year-old former bank director, was forced to collect a ransom of 2 million roubles in gold. The lump-sum payment went into private hands and the entire Jewish council was executed. Other prominent members of the community feared to join the Judenrat lest they share their fate. The new council was made responsible for organizing and supplying forced labour. The Jewish Ghetto Police was also created, with 30 uniformed men. As of 12 July 1941 Słonim Jews were ordered to wear the Star of David on their outer garments. All Jews living around the city centre were evicted, and moved across the bridge over the Szczara River to a brand new ghetto in the Na Wyspie (literally On Island) neighbourhood, surrounded by barbed wire and guards at both gates. Meanwhile, the second group of Judenrat members were all, like their predecessors, executed on 14 November 1941. After each shooting, self-enrichment among the perpetrators began immediately. On one occasion, Oberleutnant Glück sent a full boxcar with Jewish valuables to his hometown of Rosenheim under armed escort, particularly fur coats and articles made from precious metals.
The first large-scale extermination of Jews in Słonim took place on 17 July 1941, as soon as the EG-B Einsatzkommando 8 killings squad of Otto Badfisch arrived in the town along with the Orpo police battalion stationing in Minsk. Just prior to the massacre, burial pits were prepared on the outskirts of the village Pietrolewicze nearby. Some 2,000 Jews were rounded up in the square, and 1,075 of them, or 1,200 by Polish estimates, were loaded into lorries never to return. The role of the collaborationist Belarusian Auxiliary Police (established on 7 July 1941) was crucial in the totality of procedures, as only they – wrote Martin Dean – knew the identity of the Jews. After that, the count of the Jewish population was ordered, and the selection of craftsmen and qualified labourers took place. The workers were issued Kennkarte and moved; in October 1941 a special ghetto zone was set up for them at the 'Na Wyspie' neighbourhood. Some hoped that over the long run the knowledge of German coupled with professional skills would save them from imminent death. More Jews were brought in from neighbouring settlements. In March 1942 the makeshift ghettos in Iwacewicze, Dereczyn, Gołynka, Byteń, and Kosów in the vicinity were liquidated. All inmates were marched on foot to the Słonim ghetto to perish there.
The second mass murder of Słonim Jews by Einsatzgruppe B took place five months later, on 14 November 1941. In the so-called second sweep, the ghetto was cordoned off and 9,000 people were taken by lorries to the village of Czepielów, 7 kilometres (4.3 mi) distance, where they were shot in the pits by rifle fire. The ghettoised Jews were fully aware of the progress of the massacre because a few prisoners escaped back. During the course of the operation, the Belarusian Schutzmannschaft-Einzeldienst (formed by Max von Schenckendorff) forced the Jews out of their homes and convoyed them to Czepielów under armed escort. They also took part in the shooting by the SS, aided by the Latvian and Lithuanian auxiliaries. After the mass killings, they actively searched for the Jews in hiding. By 13 November 1941 only 7,000 skilled workers remained alive inside the ghetto, all bound into the forced labour process. The testimonies, written by the Jewish-Polish survivors, are currently held at the Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.
On the morning of 29 June 1942 the Jews staged a revolt to defend themselves from further deportations. All families descended into the secret bunkers. Tunnels were also dug leading outside. Members of the underground led by David Epshtein shot at the arriving troops using stockpiled firearms refurbished at the Beutelager. At least five Germans were killed and many others wounded. The Nazis set fire to the ghetto in retaliation. The Jewish hospital with patients inside was blown up by the SS. The extermination actions leading to subsequent ghetto complete eradication continued between 29 June and 15 July 1942. For two weeks, the fugitives were hunted down and trucked from Słonim to the killing fields near the village of Pietrolewicze by the SS, Orpo, and Belarusian police. The revolt was crushed with the help of arriving reinforcements which included Latvian, Lithuanian and Ukrainian Schutzmannschaft. Head of the Jewish Arbeitsamt, Gerszon Kvint, was shot point blank by Rittmaier. Between 8,000 (Kube) and up to 13,000 people were murdered in their homes or out in the streets and in the killing fields. Saved by the Polish nuns in a Catholic convent 62 miles from Słonim, Oswald Rufeisen remembered: "I did not see Poles there murdering Jews, although I did see Poles being murdered." The size of the Słonim Ghetto was greatly reduced after that. One month later, on 31 July 1942, Generalkommissar for Weissruthenien Wilhelm Kube, delivered a report to Hinrich Lohse summarising the Ghetto liquidation action and subsequent "Jew-hunts". According to him, in the preceding ten weeks some 55,000 Jews were exterminated in the region.
The fourth and final ghetto extermination action took place on 20 August 1942, during which the last 700 men and 100 women performing various tasks (such as clean-up as well as mass burials) were rounded up and murdered. The Słonim Ghetto was no more. Many Jews had fled into the woods; 30 people formed an autonomous Jewish fighting group called Schtorrs 51 (Shchors) in the vicinity of Kosovo, helped by Pavel Proniagin in defiance of Soviet orders. Others had remained in hiding on the Aryan side. According to Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, 22,000 Jews in and around Słonim had been murdered.
Four months after the last ghetto massacre, during the night of 18 December 1942 Nazi forces raided the Catholic church and Monastery of the Sisters of the Poor, among other locations. The Nazis had obtained information, from the collaborationist Belarusian Central Council, regarding Poles harbouring Jewish fugitives who had managed to escape. The Jewish families were hiding in attics, and in stables, in storerooms, and in greenhouses.
The next morning, several hundred Christian Poles were trucked to Pietrolewicze, on the outskirts of Słonim. There, they were executed for sheltering Jews. Their priest, Adam Sztark (pl), was among those killed. The Poles died the same way their Jewish countrymen – whom they attempted to save had perished – in large open pits.
Three of the victims were beatified by Pope John Paul II on 13 June 1999 in Warsaw, among the 108 Martyrs of World War II. Two of the beatified were Polish nuns from Słonim, executed at Górki Pantalowickie hill on 19 December 1942: Ewa Noiszewska (pl), and Marta Wołowska (pl). They had helped and sheltered Jews. Also beatified was the priest, Adam Sztark, who was killed along with them. In 2001, Sztark became the first Jesuit ever awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations by the state of Israel. He had delivered food to the ghetto, purchased with cash donations. He also issued false certificates, personally sheltered Jewish refugees, and called upon all his parishioners to help to save the ghetto residents.
The Red Army reached Słonim in mid-July 1944 during Operation Bagration. After World War II, Poland's borders were redrawn, according to the demands made by Josef Stalin at the Yalta Conference of 1945. Słonim (Cyrillic: Сло́ним) was then incorporated into the Byelorussian SSR of the Soviet Union. The Polish population was forcibly resettled within the new borders of Poland before the end of 1946. The Jewish community was never restored. Since 1991, Slonim has been one of the district centres of the Grodno Region in sovereign Belarus.
- 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.
- 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.
- Bernd Wegner (1997). From peace to war: Germany, Soviet Russia, and the world, 1939–1941. Berghahn Books. p. 74. ISBN 1-57181-882-0.
- Norman Davies, God's Playground (Polish edition: Boże igrzysko), Vol. II, pp. 512–513. ISBN 8324006540.
- JTA, Jewish communities must submit daily quota of victims, June 26, 1942. LONDON: "In the city of Slonim, 9,000 Jews were massacred."
- Collections, Slonim, Poland. Prewar: The interior of a synagogue. – Google Cultural Institute.
- Aleksandra Bielawska, Anna Susak, Andriej Zamojski, Anna Mirkowska, Martyna Sypniewska (2011). "Jewish history of Słonim". Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN. Virtual Shtetl.
- Anna Susak, Andriej Zamojski, Anna Mirkowska, Martyna Sypniewska (25 October 2011). "Słonim early history". POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Virtual Shtetl.
- 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 (8 November 2010). "Jewish history of Słonim (Part 4)". Muzeum Historii Żydów Polskich POLIN. Virtual Shtetl.
- Joshua D. Zimmerman (2015), The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939–1945. Cambridge University Press via Google Books, p. 260.
- Alexandra Garbarini (2011). Jewish Responses to Persecution: 1938–1940. AltaMira Press. p. 182. ISBN 0759120412.
- 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.
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- 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.
- Waitman Wade Beorn (2014). Marching into Darkness. Harvard University Press. pp. 153–154, 162. ISBN 067472660X.
- 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)
- Eilat Gordin Levitan, Słonim Ghetto map with legend in Polish and Yiddish. Source: Nachum Alpert, ISBN 0896041379.
- Headland, Ronald (1992). Messages of Murder: A Study of the Reports of the Security Police and the Security Service. Associated University Presses. p. 74. ISBN 0838634184.
- Peter Longerich (2010). Holocaust: The Nazi Persecution and Murder of the Jews. OUP Oxford. pp. 198, 238, 347. ISBN 0192804367.
- Einsatzgruppe B (19–24 July 1941), Operational Situation Report No. 27. Addressed to the Chief of the Security Police and the SD, Berlin: "It has been repeatedly observed that Jews escape into the forests now and try to hide there. The employed White Russians have shown little activity so far. It has been explained already to Dr. Tschora what is expected from their support, particularly concerning the cooperation in the apprehension of Communists, officials, commissars, intellectuals, Jews, etc." – OSR 27. Holocaust Research Project.org 2007.
- Ilya A. Altman (translation from the Russian). "Getto w Iwacewiczach". Virtual Shtetl. Museum of the History of Polish Jews.
- Sid Resnick Historical Archive (2016). "June 29: The Slonim Massacres". The 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.
- 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.
- Jewish Calendar: 20 August 1942. Diaspora; Date Converter.
- University Center for International Studies (1982). Histoire Russe, Volume 9. University of Pittsburgh.
Up to 15 December 1942, Einsatzgruppe B reported executing a total of 134,298 persons (pp. 68–69).
- 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.
- 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.
- Rev. Tadeusz Krahel (2016). "Ksiądz Adam Sztark (19 XII 1942)". Czas Miłosierdzia Magazine Online. Białostocki Biuletyn Kościelny. Pismo Kurii Metropolitalnej.
- Sister M. Angela Zagrajek (23 September 2007). "Błogosławione s. Marta i s. Ewa" [Beatified Sisters Marta and Ewa]. Szymanów: Siostry Niepokalanki, opiekunki Sanktuarium N.M.P.Jazlowieckiej.
- Mark Paul (2007). Wartime Rescue of Jews by the Polish Catholic Clergy. The Testimony of Survivors (PDF). Toronto: Polish Educational Foundation in North America. With selected bibliography; pp. 83–84, 178, 201, 204, 210 – via Internet Archive.
Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary: Kazimiera Wołowska (Maria Marta of Jesus, the superior of the convent), and Bogumiła Noiszewska (Maria Ewa of Providence, a doctor), were arrested in Słonim on December 18, 1942 for sheltering Jews in the convent and executed the following day in a mass execution of several hundred Poles along with Fr. Adam Sztark, chaplain, who had also brought Jewish children to the convent (Entries 463 and 702 in: Moroz and Datko, Męczennicy za wiarę 1939–1945, pp. 385–86 and 390–92).
- Marta Żyńska (2003). "Prawda poświadczona życiem (biography of Sister Marta Wołowska)". 30. Tygodnik Katolicki 'Niedziela'.
- Marta Żyńska (2003). "Prawda poświadczona życiem (biography of Sister Marta Wołowska)". 30. Tygodnik Katolicki 'Niedziela'.
- Catholic Online. "108 Polish Martyrs". Searchable database of information on Catholic saints. Bakersfield, Ca. USA: COL.
- Rev. Vincent A. Lapomarda, S.J. (2008). "Catholic Martyrs of the Holocaust". College of the Holy Cross. With extended Bibliography.
- Jonathan Luxmoore (14 June 1999). "Bravery behind beatification: Kazimiera Wolowska and Bogumila Noiszewska". Pope blesses Poles martyred by the Nazis. Warsaw: World news. The Guardian.
- Vincent A. Lapomarda (7 February 2008). "Sisters of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother Superior Kazimiera Wolowska (Sister Maria Marta) and Bogumila Noiszewska (Sister Maria Ewa)". 152 Jesuit Victims of the Nazis. College of the Holy Cross.
The Jesuits and the Third Reich, Inside the Vatican, May 2000.
- Adam Sztark: Biography and photographs. College of the Holy Cross. Internet Archive.
- Terry Jones, Listing of the names of all 108 martyrs beatified on 13 June 1999 by Pope John Paul II at Warsaw, Poland; CatholicForum.com website. Internet Archive.
- Rafał Harlaf, Oświadczenie złożone w 1946 r. dla Żydowskiego Instytutu Historycznego (Deposition from 1946 for the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw). Info.Kalisz.pl via Internet Archive.
- Sylwester Fertacz (2005), "Krojenie mapy Polski: Bolesna granica" (Carving of Poland's map). Magazyn Społeczno-Kulturalny Śląsk. Retrieved from the Internet Archive on 5 June 2016.
- Simon Berthon, Joanna Potts (2007). Warlords: An Extraordinary Re-Creation of World War II. Da Capo Press. p. 285. ISBN 0306816504.
- Martirologio Romano (13 April 2015). "Blessed Bogumila Noiszewska, Maria Ewa of Providence". Beatified 13 June 1999 by Pope John Paul II in Warsaw, Poland. CatholicSaints.Info.
- Martirologio Romano (13 April 2015). "Blessed Kazimiera Wolowska, Mary Martha of Jesus". Beatified 13 June 1999 by Pope John Paul II in Warsaw, Poland. CatholicSaints.Info.
- Wolfgang Curilla (2006), Die deutsche Ordnungspolizei und der Holocaust im Baltikum und in Weissrussland, 1941–1944. F. Schöningh. Google Books.
- Aron Dereczynski, Slonim, Poland. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
- The Jewish Currents, June 29: The Slonim Massacres
- Eilat Gordin Levitan (Los Angeles), Jews of the Polish Słonim before the Holocaust with over a hundred family photographs. Database.
- Mike Levy, A Visit to Slonim: July 2008. Cambridge, England.
- Anna Poray (2007). Saving Jews: Polish Righteous. Those Who Risked Their Lives. 404: Ewa Noyszewska,[sic] Mother Superior of the Convent of the Immaculate Conception with Sister Marta Wolowska, Slonim, shot for sheltering Jews in their nunnery. ISBN 0979221307.
- Slonim (סלאנים), Grodno oblast. International Jewish Cemetery Project
- Leonid Smilovitsky (2000), Jews and Poles Among Belorussian Partisans. Holocaust in Belorussia, 1941–1944. Diaspora Research Center of Tel Aviv University. Translated by Judith Springer.
- George Turlo, The Ghetto of Slonim. Transcription. University of South Florida Libraries Oral History Program.
- Yad Vashem (26 October 2011), Slonim, Poland, The ghetto in flames, 29/06/1942. Photo Archive.
- Omer Bartov, Cornelia Brink, Gerhard Hirschfeld, Friedrich P. Kahlenberg, Manfred Messerschmidt, Reinhard Rürup, Christian Streit, Hans-Ulrich Thamer (November 2000). Bericht der Kommission zur Überprüfung der Ausstellung "Vernichtungskrieg. Verbrechen der Wehrmacht 1941 bis 1944" (PDF). Report of the Review Commission, on the Exhibition: "War of Extermination. Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941 to 1944". Institut für Zeitgeschichte–Archiv. p. 67.
In Slonim standen die Liquidierungsaktionen von Militär und Reserve-Polizeibataillon 11 meist unter dem Befehl des Ortskommandanten, Oberleutnant Glück, der sowohl aus eigenem Antrieb als auch nach Weisung handelte.