Dzyatlava massacre

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The Dzyatlava massacres (Zhetel massacres in Yiddish, Diatłowo massacres, Dziatława massacres; or Zdzięcioł massacres in Polish) were two consecutive mass shooting actions committed three months apart during the Holocaust.[1] The local German gendarmerie (aided by a Lithuanian unit and the Belarusian Auxiliary Police battalion)[page needed] surrounded the village of Zdzięcioł (nominally Polish until the end of World War II, between 1939–1945) and ordered Jews to leave their houses.[2] The victims were then stretched out face down on the main square and at the break of dawn, transported by lorries out of town. About 1,000–1,200 Jews were murdered in the Kurpiesze forest on April 30, 1942. The second massacre took place on August 6, 1942 during the liquidation of the Ghetto. Some 1,500–2,000 Jews, possibly up to 3,000 by different source (perhaps a combined number),[3] were murdered at the Jewish cemetery.[1][4][5] The town of Zdzięcioł was located in Nowogródek Voivodeship of the Second Republic prior to the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland.

The massacres

The 1st massacre

On February 22, 1942, the German authorities put up posters around town announcing that all Jews had to move into the new ghetto, which was set up around the synagogue and the Talmud Torah building. On April 29, the Germans arrested the Judenrat and at dawn on April 30, the ghetto inmates were woken by shots inside the ghetto. The Germans announced through the Judenrat that all the Jews were to go to the old cemetery which was situated within the ghetto boundaries. At the same time, the Germans and their local Belarusian and Lithuanian collaborators began to drive the Jews out of their houses, beating, kicking and shooting those who were reluctant to obey.[2] A selection was then carried out: women, children and the old were sent to the left, the young skilled workers to the right.

About 1,200 of those sent to the right were marched along the streets to the Kurpiasz Forest on the southern edge of town, where some pits had been prepared in advance. There the Germans shot them in groups of twenty. During the course of the shooting the German district commissar appeared and released those who had a certificate stating their profession, as well as their families. Thus about one hundred returned to the ghetto. The massacre was conducted by the Germans and local Belarusian police force.[2]

The 2nd massacre

The second massacre started on August 10, 1942, and lasted for three days, as many Jews hid in prepared bunkers.[2] During the course of the clearance of the ghetto, some 2,000[6] to 3,000 Jews were shot into three mass graves in the Jewish cemetery on the southern outskirts of Zdzięcioł, roughly 1,000 people in each. Just over 200 Jewish craftsmen were transferred to the ghetto in Nowogródek. This was the end of the ghetto and the end of the Jewish community of Zdzięcioł. Several hundred Jews, including the Kaplan family, who had hidden, fled once the massacre was over, some forming a family camp in the Nakryszki forest, where they managed to survive until the liberation.

Word spread among the Jews in the labor camps of Dworzec (Dworets), Nowogródek and other towns, about the Zhetel partisan detachment formed by the Soviets. A number of Jews (about 120 people) joined them at the Lipichany forests after their successful escape from the German massacre of August 1942.[7] The Zhetler detachment commanded by Hirsch Kaplinski also in turn exacted revenge on local collaborators. One act of revenge took place in the village of Molery on September 10, 1942. After eliminating two collaborators, the Jewish partisans also informed the elder of the village and the local villagers about the precise reasons why they carried out this reprisal.[4] It is estimated that about 370 Jewish partisans from Dzyatlava survived the war.[8] Today, of the two Jewish cemeteries in the town, only one has some marked graves.[6]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Shmuel Spector, Geoffrey Wigoder (2001). "Zdzieciol". The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life: Before and During the Holocaust. NYU Press. p. 1498. ISBN 0814793568. Retrieved January 12, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Christian Gerlach (1999) Kalkulierte Morde: Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weißrußland 1941 bis 1944 [Calculated Murder: The German economic and annihilation policy in Belorussia 1941 to 1944] In German. Hamburger Edition, Hamburg
  3. "News from Abroad: Symbolic soil from USSR" (PDF file, direct download 3.32 MB). AJR Information, volume XXXVIII No. 1. Association of Jewish Refugees in Great Britain. January 1983. p. 4. Retrieved January 12, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. 4.0 4.1 Zdzięcioł (Zhetel) USHMM, Washington, DC. Source: The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933-1945. In the article "Zdzieciol (Zhetel)", the claim is made that the atrocity was committed by, quote: "German and local Polish police forces". It is based on a story told by a 12-year-old boy called Chaim Weinstein, who survived by hiding in a group of laborers. However, there were no such police forces in Dzyatlava. The child's recollections show his inability to distinguish between the non-Jewish assailants; nevertheless, it appeared in a collection published in 1957 by Baruch Kaplinsky in Tel Aviv, entitled Pinkas Zhetel (The Register for Zhetel) and reprinted from there.
  5. Holocaust Chronology of 1942
  6. 6.0 6.1 Virtual Shtetl. "Zdzięcioł History". Jewish community before 1989 – Białoruś / Гродзенская вобласць. Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw. Retrieved January 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Yitsḥaḳ Arad (2009). "Jews and Armed Resistance" (Google books preview). The Holocaust in the Soviet Union. University of Nebraska Press. p. 508. ISBN 0803220596. Retrieved January 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. The International School for Holocaust Studies. "Diatlovo" (PDF file, direct download 19.4 KB). Shoah Resource Center. Retrieved January 13, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Gutman, Israel. Encyclopedia of the Holocaust. Macmillan, 1990. Page 374.

External links