Jody chapter from
Pinkas Hakehillot Polin
Published by Yad Vashem
Published in Jerusalem
Published in Jerusalem
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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot:
Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume VIII, pages 363-364, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem
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Region of Dzisna, District of Vilna
Translated by Jerrold Landau
Jody is situated in the heart of the forests, 25 kilometers southwest of Braslaw and 150 kilometers northeast of Vilna. Its name is derived from the Lithuanian word juoda (black forest). In the middle of the 18th century, the nobleman Mikolaj Lupczinski cleared a large area of forest, and built a Pravoslavic church. A rural settlement sprung up around it. The district was annexed to Czarist Russia at the time of the second partition of Poland in 1793. The Germans conquered Jody in 1916, and remained until November 1918. At the end of the war, a political and military revolution overtook the District of Vilna, with the rulership passing between the Bolsheviks and Poles several times. The Poles returned in October 1920 and pushed the Bolsheviks out of the District of Vilna, and the district was officially annexed to Poland in 1922. With the outbreak of the Second World War, Jody was first under Soviet rule. It was conquered by the Nazis in July 1941, and liberated by the Soviet Army in the summer of 1944.
It is estimated that the first Jews settled in Jody in 1903, with the ending of the restrictions of settlement of the Jews in the villages of Russia. Several of them earned their livelihoods from lumber wholesaling and leasing, whereas the majority were occupied in small-scale commerce, shop keeping, peddling, and various trades. Jody became a town at that time, and a market day would take place.
The Jews set up a house of prayer and organized the community. There was no local Jewish cemetery, so the deceased were brought to burial in Braslaw (see entry). The number of Jews in the settlement grew slightly until the First World War, but many left Jody during the war.
Some of those who left Jody returned at the end of the war, and new Jews settled there as well. The community numbered several hundred. The war and unsettled years after the war paralyzed the local economy. However, when the government established itself, a process of reconstruction began. Stores, workshops, guesthouses, and inns reopened, and the weekly market day was renewed. Only one or two of the large lumber businesses remained. Several Jews owned windmills. The rest were small-scale merchants, peddlers, or tradesmen (tailors, shoemakers, two smiths, and a baker) who primarily served the residents of the villages. Several Jewish wagon drivers would bring travelers and merchandise to the railway station in Braslaw. A charitable fund was set up in Jody to assist the peddlers, stall-owners in the market, and tradesmen with small, interest-free loans. Most of the Jews maintained small, homestyle farms near their houses, with vegetable patches, several fruit trees, and at times also fowl, a cow, or a goat. Generators were attached to the local Jewish flourmills, which provided electricity to the town. Several Jews of means obtained the first radio receivers at that time.
The young Polish state suffered from economic difficulties at its inception. The economic politics promoted by the state greatly affected the Jews and their sources of livelihood. Heavy taxes were imposed on small business owners, whereas the Poles, who had recently entered this business sector, benefited from assistance and favorable conditions, competed with the Jews, and pushed them out. May young Jews moved to Vilna (see entry) to work or study, with the increased stress and unemployment, and some emigrated from Poland.
Communal life was restored after the war. A Beis Midrash was set up in Jody with the help of the Jewish assistance organizations. A Jewish cemetery was opened outside of the town at the beginning of the 30s, on land that the town council had allocated for the community. The children studied in the public school in Jody and completed their religious education with melamdim. Jewish farmers who were residents of the villages of Kizlowszczyzna, Rafalówka and Hustaty also belonged to the community of Jody. They would purchase matzos in Jody prior to Passover, and ensure themselves a place for prayer in the Beis Midrash in Jody prior to the High Holy Days.
Rabbi Kalman Pinczow and Rabbi Yosef Fiszer (both of whom perished in the Holocaust) served the community after the war. The Hechalutz, Young Hechalutz, and Beitar Zionist youth movements functioned in Jody. The Zionists founded a drama club, and a local maskil opened his library for the community in return for symbolic borrowing fees, which were used to purchase new books.
With the outbreak of the Second World War, young Jews were also drafted to the Polish Army. On September 17, 1939, the Red Army entered Jody and instituted a Soviet regime. During the first years of the war, Jewish refugees from areas of Poland under Nazi occupation streamed to Jody. Private enterprise was liquidated in the wake of Sovietization. Private stores were nationalized or closed, and a government cooperative store was opened in Jody. Several
wealthy merchants were exiled to penal camps in the Soviet Union. Tradesmen organized themselves into work cooperatives, and Jews who were displaces from their previous workplaces were trained for new jobs. Jews who were unable to aspire to positions in government service under the Polish regime were now appointed to official positions in communal and government institutions. The youth were given opportunities to continue their education in high schools in big cities, and several youths studies in the teachers' seminary in Braslaw.
The German invasion of the Soviet Union began on June 22, 1941. The Soviets quickly retreated to their territory, and several local Jews accompanied them. As week or two passed between the retreat of the Soviets and the entry of the Germans to Jody. In the meantime, a militia of anti-Semitic Lithuanians was organized in the town. They set up their offices in the house of a Jewish family, and sent them out to the street. The Germans of Einsatzgruppen B entered Jody on July 21, 1941, but did not remain. Rather, they continued their journey eastward. The local government was placed into the hands of the Lithuanian militia. Before they left, they posted placards on the streets declaring the Jews as bloodsuckers and instigators of war, stating that it was required to crush them like insects and to clear the world of them. They issued anti-Semitic edicts such as the yellow patch, the ban on walking on sidewalks, and the ban on contact with gentiles. They edicts were put into action fully, and with great exactitude. Jews were drafted for forced labor. The good neighborly relations that pervaded between the Jews and gentiles in Jody in previous years did not withstand the test during the time of Nazi rule. Many locals assisted the militia and participated in the persecution of the Jews. One evening, local police brought 20 Jewish men to the police station. After beating them to the point of unconsciousness, they demanded ransom. One evening in August 1941, a pogrom broke out in the town. Some of the Jews managed to find hiding places, or to flee to the fields. At night, the locals broke into the houses of the Jews, destroyed property, pillaged, and beat the Jews indiscriminately. That summer, the authorities appointed a two-person Judenrat who were in charge of drafting people for forced labor and collecting ransom payments of cash, gold, and valuables for the Germans. Every morning, Jewish men were taken out in groups to forced labor outside the town, under the supervision of local policemen who tortured and beat them. At the end of August, rumors spread that the Jews of Jody were to be transferred to the Szarkowszczyzna Ghetto (see entry). The Jews hoped that their living conditions would improve in the new locale, however the evacuation did not occur.
On December 15, 1941, the Germans drafted farmers to dig pits at the entrance to the town. This matter did not escape the eyes of the Jews, and tens of youths and families fled to the forest and dug bunkers to hide, or found temporary refuge with farmers. On December 17, 1941, A large contingent of Lithuanian policemen from Braslaw and Miory (see entry) were brought to Jody under the command of two armed S.S. men. The Jews of Jody and the nearby villages were concentrated into the marketplace, from where they were brought to the pits in groups and shot to death by machineguns. Approximately 530 Jews men, women, and children were murdered in this aktion. Before being taken out to death, several Jews with vital professions were selected and sent to work in the Glębokie Ghetto (see entry). Some of them survived until the liquidation of the Glębokie Ghetto on August 20, 1943. See that entry for the rest of their story.
Only a few Jews of Jody survived until the liberation of the area in July 1944. They were youths who fought in the partisan ranks and the Red Army, as well as those who escaped to the Soviet Union on the eve of the Nazi conquest.
Yad Vashem Archives, M1E/1218
Emesh Shoah, Memorial book to the community of Braslaw, Ospa, Opsa, Okmianica, Dubina, Zamosze, Zarechye, Jesje, Jody, Slobodka, Paloshi, Rimsheni, and Kizlowszczyzna. Tel Aviv, 1986, pp. 405-444.
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