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Pre-1939: Lida, town and powiat center, Nowogródek województwo, Poland; 1939–1941: raion center, Baranovichi oblast’, Belorussian SSR; 1941–1944: Rayon and Gebiet center, Generalkommissariat Weissruthenien; post-1991: Lida, raen center, Hrodna voblasts’, Republic of Belarus
Lida is located 160 kilometers (99 miles) west of Minsk. In 1941, the Jewish population of Lida numbered about 8,500. German forces entered Lida on June 28, 1941. On July 5, 1941, Security Police units of Einsatzkommando 9, subordi- nated to Einsatzgruppe B, collected about 300 Jews in the school, selected 92 educated Jews, escorted them to a site about 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) outside of town, and shot them.1 On July 8, 1941, 120 patients from the psychiatric hospitals in Minojty and Maleikovshchina near Lida were murdered, including the well-known physician Dr. Rubinovich.
From mid-August of 1941, the German troops based in Lida comprised the 3rd Battalion of the 727th Infantry Regi- ment. In April 1942, a Gendarmerie motorized squadron and, from the summer of 1942, the 3rd Battalion of the German 217th Reserve Infantry Regiment were based in Lida. Two Lithuanian police battalions were also garrisoned in the town for a time during the occupation.
Lida became a Gebiet center, and Hermann Hanweg was appointed the Gebietskommissar. His deputy was Leopold Windisch, who as Chief of Staff and Director of the Politics, Race, and Nationalities Section was also responsible for Jewish affairs (Judenreferent). The latter was openly antisemitic, treating Jews as if they were not human beings.
During the first week of the occupation, representatives of the Jewish community were summoned to the military commmandant and ordered to set up a Judenrat. It consisted of 14 members and was headed by a teacher from the Jewish high school, Kalman Lichtman. The other senior members included entrepreneur Simcha Kotok and lawyers Israel Kreczner and Benjamin Cederowicz.2
At this time, all men aged 15 to 60 were registered for a special labor camp. The work was very hard, with beatings and little food, and many men fell sick. After seven weeks, the labor camp was abandoned, and the Judenrat was given the task of assigning Jews to forced labor. Women ages 16 to 40 were also registered for work. Every day Jewish labor detachments were sent to clear rubble, clean the streets, chop wood, and perform other similar tasks. Their daily ration was a plate of soup made from rotting potatoes and 125 grams (4.4 ounces) of bread. Meat, butter, and eggs were forbidden to Jews on pain of death. They were also forbidden to have contacts with the local population or to leave the town.3
In September 1941, an order was posted on the streets announcing that the Jews of Lida were to leave their houses within 24 hours and move into a ghetto. They were also required to wear yellow patches, 10 by 10 centimeters (4 by 4 inches), on the left side of their chests and on their backs.
The ghetto was established in three separate quarters of the town: the most important section was on Postawska and Chlodna Streets, including the Jewish cemetery; the second section was in Kosharowa Street and Gastello Street, close to the forest of Borowka; the third was in the “Piaski,” between the streets Jalowa, Zurawlinaja, and Orlicz-Dreszer. This section had been mostly Christian before and had to be cleared.4 Houses on both sides of Postawska Street near the river were surrounded by barbed wire. A sewing workshop was set up there, where the inhabitants of the ghetto made military uniforms. After the workshop was burned down, German forces killed a group of Jews right by the workshop.5
In early March 1942, Leopold Windisch, responsible for Jewish affairs within the civil administration in Lida, discovered that Jews from the ghetto were accused of having robbed an Orthodox priest. He demanded that the Judenrat hand over the thieves. The Judenrat surrendered four men, who in turn revealed that a number of Jews had escaped from the massacres in Wilno and found refuge in Lida at the end of 1941. These Jews asked for help from the Judenrat and were given the necessary documents.
All the Jews were driven from their houses by the German Gendarmerie and members of the Wermacht (3rd Battalion, Infantry Regiment 727) and were made to assemble in the square near the post office at 8:00 a.m. Numerous Jews were shot as they were being gathered together. After surrendering all their valuables, the Jews had to pass through a turnstile. During this procedure, the 4 Jews arrested for robbing the priest pointed out all those who had allegedly arrived in Lida from Wilno. Those selected, about 35 people, were then shot, along with the 4 Jews arrested previously, by the German Gendarmerie and Polish auxiliary police. About 200 of those who had stayed in the ghetto and were not subjected to being identified, mainly children and elderly people, were shot in their homes.
A week later, seven members of the Judenrat and the Jewish police, including the chairman, Lichtman, were arrested and interrogated in jail. They were then beaten and shot after gruesome torture in the prison courtyard by German Gendarmes and Polish auxiliary police. Their bodies were sent back to the ghetto one week later in a frozen and mutilated condition.6
The Jews were ordered to elect a new Judenrat within 24 hours. No candidates could be found. Finally, Dr. Charny was designated the new chairman. This was followed by further new regulations: for example, electricity had previously been cut off in the ghetto, and now the Jews had to surrender all electrical appliances, such as lamps. On the suggestion of engineer Altman, a former director of the foundry “Benland,” the Judenrat received permission to open a number of light-industry workshops producing goods for local consumption and the needs of the Germans. The first workshops, for carpenters, tinsmiths, and cobblers, were opened several weeks later in the technical school building on Suwalska Street. Soon other workshops for producing electrical goods, clothes, knitted garments, toys, ropes, combs, and handbags and even for binding books were established. A large garage for repair- ing all types of cars and other vehicles was also opened. The workshops were run by Altman and Alperstein. Inspectors from Germany oversaw their work.7
On the evening of May 7, 1942, the ghetto was sealed. Altman was ordered to make a list of the able-bodied Jews, with their occupations. On the same day, three trenches were excavated by local villagers. The entire action was planned by the Sipo/SD from Baranowicze (commanded by SS-Obersturmführer Grünzfelder) together with Gebietskommissar Hanweg and his deputy Windisch.
On the morning of May 8, 1942, the Jewish quarters were cleared by German Gendarmes, the Sipo/SD units, and local auxiliary police. Those who did not go to the collection points voluntarily or could not keep up, owing to old age, sickness, or infirmity, were shot on the spot. The Jews from the Kosharowa quarter were driven for selection to the square near the northern military barracks. Those from the Postawska quarter were driven into Kosharowa Street and then selected further east at the railway underpass. The Jews from the Piaski quarter were driven westward in the direction of Grodno. The German selection of “useful” Jews was conducted at the barracks by presenting work certificates, and most of the skilled workers were separated out. At the end of the selection, however, following an altercation between Gebietskommissar Hanweg and Windisch, who carried out the selection, the last 150 Jews were simply sent for execution.
Those selected were driven in columns to the shooting site. At a distance of 60 meters (197 feet) from the graves, they were made to sit back to back in rows, waiting for their turn. They were directed in groups of 10 or 15 to the trenches and made to undress. Lithuanian or Latvian auxiliaries in SS uniforms, subordinated directly to the Sipo/SD, shot them with machine guns. The children were murdered first. They were torn from their parents, thrown into a separate trench, and killed with hand grenades. In some cases, children were tossed high into the air and shot. The last rabbi in Lida, Aaron Rabinovich, was among those murdered in this Aktion.
Abram Levin escaped from the convoy and managed to hide close to the killing site. Fishel Beloborodov and Mordekhai Gershovich were both wounded, but they managed to crawl out of the pit and escape. Among the escapees were also a young boy named Kamenski and the daughter of a poor tailor.
When the Aktion was over, the Judenrat was ordered to send a group of Jews to cover the trenches with quicklime and earth. Those who survived were ordered to kneel before Hanweg and Windisch and thank them for their lives. The clothes of the victims were collected and taken to a warehouse, where they were later sorted by a group of Jews. Worn-out clothes were sold to the peasants, and the better-quality items were sent to Germany. The next day the Germans drove about 500 peasants with horse-drawn carts to spread a deep layer of earth on the grave. Some 5,670 people were murdered in this Aktion.8
Following the action of May 1942, there were efforts to organize an armed group inside the ghetto. One of the group’s leaders was Baruch Levin, who ran a manufacturing workshop in the ghetto, though other heads of the workshops were among the main opponents of resistance activity. They still believed that the lives of “useful” Jews would be spared.
The chief aim of the group members was to provide themselves with arms, mainly rifles, to escape to the forest and join the partisans. Tuvia Bielski, the leader of a purely Jewish partisan detachment, sent emissaries into the Lida ghetto and even visited it himself twice to bring out Jews.9 Captured arms could be obtained from the storehouses in the former Polish barracks. Some arms were also purchased from the local Chris- tian population. The resistance group also managed to set up a small printing press and smuggle it out to the partisans.
From the autumn of 1942 until the liquidation of the ghetto in September 1943, hundreds of Jews fled to the forest. The doctors Kivelevich, Gordin, and Orliuk were brought out of the ghetto and served in different Soviet partisan detachments. P. Proniagin, the commander of the detachment named after Shchors, referred to Zorakh Kremen from Lida as the bravest of his partisans. Some escapees joined the de- tachment “Iskra,” but most of Lida’s Jews found their way to the Bielskis in the dense Naliboki Forest.
According to the testimony of I. Kardash, at the beginning of March 1943, a small group of Lida Jews and more than 2,000 who had been brought from the surrounding towns of Woronów, Iwje, Radun, Yołudek, and smaller villages were collected in the square in front of the post office. They were led to the place called Borki (now a suburb of Lida) and shot there.10 Following the March Aktion, there remained about 2,000 Jews in Lida, according to an SS report from July 1943.11 In the summer some of the remaining Jews from Szczuczyn were brought into the Lida ghetto. On September 18, 1943, the ghetto was surrounded by police. The Jews were driven to the railway station, loaded into railroad cars, and sent on two separate trains to the concentration camp in Majdanek and to the death camp in Sobibór, where virtually all of them were annihilated.12
About 300 Jews from Lida survived the Holocaust. Legal in- vestigations were opened against Leopold Windisch by the authorities in Linz, Austria, in 1953 and again in 1964, but both were closed again shortly afterward, as the prosecution had no jurisdiction. Windisch was then located and tried by the West German authorities: the verdict issued on July 17, 1969, by the Landgericht (LG) Mainz sentenced him to life imprisonment.13
|SOURCES The yizkor book for Lida, edited by Alexander Manor, Sefer Lida (Tel Aviv: Irgun yotse Lida be-Yisra’el u-Va‘ad ha-‘ezrah li-Yehude Lida ba-Artsot ha-Berit, 1970),
contains several firsthand accounts. Published memoirs include those by Josef Judelevich, Lida—Town of My Early Years [in He- brew] (Kefar Saba, 1965); Baruch Levin, In the Forests of Ven- geance (Tel Aviv, 1968); Joseph Kuszelewicz, Un juif de Biélo- russie de Lida à Karaganda: Ghetto—Maquis—Goulag (Paris: L’Harmattan, 2002); and Eliyahu Damesek, Otiyot be-‘oferet: Be-Milhemet ha-‘olam ha-sheniyah, li-fene ha-milhamah ve- aharehah (Tel Aviv: Bet lohame ha-geta’ot, 1983). There is also a recent short article by Valeri Slivkin, “Elimination of the Lida Jews” [in Belarussian], Lidski Letapisets, no. 2 (18) (2002): 23–28.
The documents of the Soviet Extraordinary State Com- mission for the Investigation of Nazi Crimes can be found in NARB and GARF (7021-86-42); the files of the German trial of Leopold Windisch and Rudolf Werner for war crimes committed in the Lida District can be examined in BA-L; ad- ditional wartime documentation and the testimonies of survi- vors can also be found in BA-BL; USHMM (e.g., RG-02.133, RG-11.001M.01, and RG-50.030*0026); VHF; and YVA (e.g., 2838/207-A [Dr. Alpert]). Tamara Vershitskaya and Martin Dean
1. Eliahu Damesek, “The German Occupation,” in Manor, Sefer Lida, pp. 8–17, here p. 9, dates this initial Aktion in late June, noting that 92 Jews were shot. BA-L, B 162/14386 (202 AR-Z 94d/59, LG-Mai 3 KS 1/67, verdict in the case of Leopold Windisch on July 17, 1969 [Windisch Verdict]), p. 25, states that there were more than 80 victims and that bomb craters were used for the graves. See also the report opening the case against Kurt Schulz-Isenbeck issued by LG- Düss on 7.2.1970, available at www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/ Lida-District/si-rest.htm; and BA-BL, R 58/214 Ereigni- smeldung UdSSR no. 21, July 13, 1941. According the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission report dated August 17, 1944 (GARF, 7021-86-42, p. 3), 275 members of the Jewish intelli- gentsia were shot and buried in pits prepared for the storage of ammunition in Aktions on July 3 and July 8, 1941.
2. Leizer Engelshtern testimony, in Manor, Sefer Lida, p. 325, cited by Shalom Cholawsky, The Jews of Bielorussia during World War II (Amsterdam: Harwood, 1998), p. 252. The other members of the Judenrat included the bank clerk Sokolowski, schoolteachers Khaber and Zartsin, bookkeeper Shalatski, tay- lor Konopka, doctor Kantor, and shopkeepers Stolitski, Levin, Feinstein, Goldberg, and Sheiboim; see Slivkin, “Elimination of the Lida Jews,” in Manor, Sefer Lida, 23–28.
3. Damesek, “The German Occupation,” pp. 9–10.
4. Kuszelewicz, Un juif de Biélorussie, p. 44.
5. Testimony of Kshyshtof Malashkevich, “Memories of My Childhood,” article in the newspaper Prinemanskie Vesti, November 2, 2000.
6. Damesek, “The German Occupation,” pp. 10–11; see also testimony of Abram Kuszelewicz sent to the World Jewish Council, now preserved at the Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives in Cincinnati, OH, in box C210, file 4, pp. 25–27. A translation by Irene Newhouse can be found at www.shtetlinks.jewishgen.org/Lida-District/kushela.htm.
7. Kuszelewicz, Un juif de Biélorussie, pp. 48–49, 54–55. 8. Windisch Verdict, pp. 28–31.
9. Nechama Tec, Defiance: The Bielski Partisans—The Story of the Largest Armed Rescue of Jews by Jews during World War II (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 4, 40. ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CAMPS AND GHETTOS, 1933–1945
10. The precise grave site was not identified until 2001.
11. USHMM, RG-11.001M.01 (records of the RSHA, Ber- lin, Fond 500), reel 10, 500-1-769, file note on the expedition to Nowogródek on July 9, 1943, dated Baranowitsche, July 11, 1943.
12. Christian Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde: Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weissrussland 1941 bis 1944 (Hamburg: HIS, 1999), pp. 734, 740. Gerlach cites one survivor from Sobibór who was deported from Lida; see also Jules Schelvis, Vernichtungslager Sobibór (Münster: Unrast, 2003), pp. 263–264.
13. Windisch Verdict.