Smarhon (Smorgon), Belarus Yizkor Book

Project Name Translation of “Smorgon mehoz Vilno; sefer edut ve-zikaron” (Smorgonie, District Vilna; memorial book and testimony)

Project Coordinator
Marc D. Hodies

JewishGen Yizkor Book Project Manager: Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis

This project is being initiated in order to fund the translation of the 614 page Yizkor Book for Smorgon. The book is almost entirely written in Yiddish. The goal is to eventually provide a complete English translation of this book to JewishGen. A translation of the skeletal portions of the book (table of contents, name lists, and several chapters) already exist on JewishGen. Smorgon is located about halfway between Vilna and Minsk. In 1897, about 6700 Jews lived in Smorgon (about 75% of the population). There were over seven synagogues, and Zionist groups were active in the town. This ancestral town actually has a lot of key history associated with it. In 1915, major havoc of catastrophic proportions hit the town when Smorgon became a battle zone for armies. First the Germans and then the Cossacks invaded. Many lives were lost. This book was published in 1965 in Tel Aviv by the Association of Former Residents of Smorgonie (in Israel and USA) and contains much history (beginning in the 1300s), a detailed discussion and mention of the Rabbis of Smorgon, both wars, memoirs and personal anecdotes, stories of community and political life, the Holocaust. There are also various photographs and maps appearing in the book. Translated portions of the book are currently online at The original book is actually online at the NY Public Library at the following link:

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists seeking to trace their roots in Smorgon constitute the primary audience for the material. However, the material has the potential to be of broader appeal to scholars interested in the region or specializing in Jewish history and society.

Project Importance

Yizkor books are unique sources of information on once vibrant towns, primarily in central and Eastern Europe, whose Jewish populations were destroyed in the Holocaust. Written after World War II by émigrés and Holocaust survivors, Yizkor books contain narratives of the history of the town, details of daily life, religious and political figures and movements, religious and secular education, and gripping stories of the major intellectual and Zionist movements of the 20th century. The necrologies and lists of residents are of tremendous genealogical value, as often the names of individuals who were taken to extermination camps or shot in the forests are not recorded elsewhere.

Usually written in Yiddish, or both, these are not accessible to a wider audience. Thus, the translation of these books into English unlocks this information to many more researchers all over the world. The JewishGen Yizkor Book Project received the award in 2002 for outstanding contribution to Jewish genealogy by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

Currently, there is little information available to the English speaking world regarding Smorgon or its Jewish community. With the destruction of the Jewish community, the information in this yizkor book constitutes nearly all of its documented history. This project will result in the creation of the primary English language source of information for anyone doing research on the town and its Jewish community.

Project Description

This project is intended to result in the translation, from Yiddish to English, of the Smorgon yizkor book. The Project Coordinator will direct a fundraising effort for the translation and secure the services of the professional translators. The Project Coordinator will select the order in which to translate the book text and will work closely with the translators to ensure a grammatically correct and idiomatic translation. Specific tasks the Project Coordinator will perform include proofreading, editing, and preparing the work for submission to the Yizkor Book Project. The resulting translations will be posted, as they are completed, on the Yizkor Book Translations site.

Estimated Cost



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Updated 1 Feb 2012 by LA