Stowbtsy, Belarus Yizkor Book

Project Name. Translation of Memorial volume of Steibtz-Swerznie and the neighboring villages Rubezhevitz, Derevna, Nalibok

Project Leaders
Janis Friedenberg Datz

Melissa Rubin McCurdie

JewishGen Yizkor Book Project Manager: Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis

This project is being initiated in order to fund the translation of the one volume, 537 page Yizkor book. Entitled “Memorial volume of Steibtz-Swerznie and the neighboring villages Rubezhevitz, Derevna, Nalibok” (published 1964 in Tel Aviv, Israel). The online translation will appear at:

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists seeking to trace their roots in Steibtz or the vicinity 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

The prayer of Yizkor, or “May He Remember”, is recited in the Synagogue not only as a memorial to the deceased, but also as a rededication to the spiritual heritage of one's ancestors. Thus, after World War II, émigrés and Holocaust survivors authored Yizkor books in order to remember the towns whose Jewish populations were destroyed in the Holocaust. Yizkor books contain narratives of the history of the town, details of daily life and residents, religious and political figures and movements, religious and secular education, and stories of the major intellectual and Zionist movements of the 20th century. Many Yizkor books contain maps, photographs and illustrations and are unique sources of information of once vibrant towns, primarily in central and Eastern Europe. Stories of survival contain names of Righteous Persons yet to be documented. 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 Hebrew and/or Yiddish, these important books are not accessible to most users, who cannot read these languages. Yizkor books were printed in limited runs as the authors then felt that only the survivors or descendants from that particular town would be interested. Some of these Yizkor books are rare and difficult to obtain. The translation and on-line publication of Yizkor books into English unlocks all of this information to 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.

Stowbtsy, Belarus is located in Eastern Europe 45 miles Southwest of Minsk on the Neman River at 53.29 North latitude and 26.44 East longitude. Other names are Stolpce (Polish) and Steibtz (Yiddish). The region was part of Poland until 1793 when it became part of the Russian Empire. Following the Russo-Polish War in 1919 Stowbtsy again became part of Poland. In 1939 Stowbtsy became part of the USSR. The area was occupied by Germany from 1941 to 1944. After WWII Stowbtsy remained part of the USSR until 1991 when Belarus declared its sovereignty and independence. Jews began to settle there during the end of the 16th century Jewish merchants of Stowbtsy are referred to in legal archives of Minsk (1678) and in the supreme tribunal of Lithuania (1704) as traders in salt and salted fish. During the 18th Century Jews there engaged in the export of agricultural products, such as flax, and lumber, which were floated down the Niemen River to Konigsberg in East Prussia. Imported products were salt, spices, and cloths. The Jewish population numbered 259 in 1811, 1,315 in 1847, and 2,409 in 1897, which was 64% of the total population. In the second half of the 19th century, the Jews developed the timber trade, and in the 20th century founded sawmills, which employed some Jewish workers. Zionist activity commenced in the beginning of the 20th century. A Bund group was organized in Stowbtsy in 1905-06. In the same period Jewish youth and workers in Stowbtsy organized self-defense against pogroms by the population of the neighboring villages.

During World War I about half of the Jews of Stowbtsy left the city. Those remaining suffered severely from the struggle for control of the area between the Red Army and those who opposed it during the civil war in 1919-20. In 1921 Stowbtsy was incorporated within Poland as a border town. There were then 1,428 Jewish inhabitants (48% of the total population). The Jewish economy was severely affected as a result of the city being cut off from its previous markets, the hostile attitude of the anti-Semitic government, and organized Polish competition.

Holocaust Period. After the outbreak of World War ll, during the period of Soviet rule in Stowbtsy (1939-41), the Jewish community institutions were disbanded and all Jewish political activities were prohibited. In the spring of1941 Jewish youth were mobilized in the Soviet Army, and later fought against Germany. After the outbreak of war between Germany and the Soviet Union (June 22, 1941), groups of Jewish youth attempted to reach the Soviet interior, but were prevented by the Soviets. At the beginning of the German occupation there were more than 3,000 Jews in the town. As early as July 1941 about 80 of them were executed. A ghetto was established at the end of 1941. In February of1942, hundreds of Jews were murdered at the local Jewish cemetery. In the spring of 1942 an underground resistance group was organized in the ghetto, and attempts were made to acquire arms. On May 15, 1942, the first group left the ghetto for the forests to make contact with the partisans. In September 1942 most of the Jewish population was killed, with about 500 skilled workers remaining in the ghetto. Some were sent to the camps at Baranovichi and Minsk. A few Jewish groups escaped to the forests, joined the partisans, and carried out important combat operations against the Germans and their collaborators. Reference Cited “Encyclopedia Judaica”, Volume 15. “Stolbtsy” Stokes, Rose Pastor, pp.411-412. New York: Macmillan, 1972.

Project Description

As funds become available, all Hebrew and Yiddish pages will be translated. To accomplish that JewishGen will hire a professional translator. The project coordinator will select the order in which the chapters will be translated and will work closely with the translator 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.

Estimated Cost. $12,000


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Updated 18 Nov 2011 by LA