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[Page 143]

The Holocaust


The Jews of Slutsk during the German Occupation

by Steiman

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Reported by Daniel Mlodinov, 17 years old, the son of Binyamin Mlodinov, the shoemaker. He was born in Slutsk and escaped from there during the liquidation. He lived as a Christian and hid in the forests around Slutsk and arrived in Bialystok.

At the outbreak of the war, approximately 13,000 Jews lived in Slutsk. Among them were refugees from Poland, who arrived in 1939.

On July 5, 1941, the German occupiers entered Slutsk. Rumors were spread that they would exterminate all the Jews. There were also cases where the Germans shot Jews who uttered words that displeased them.

For seven months the Jews lived in their apartments. The Germans required them to work in all kinds of hard work, in the construction of roads, in the construction of buildings and barracks, etc.


A Nazi tank division advances from the direction of Minsk, Slutsk goes up in flames, fire and smoke according to description of a German from Berlin.
(photo-radio from “New York Times”, July 22, 1941)

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During the work, they beat them to death with whips, rifle butts and tortured them with unusual cruelty. The tombstones of the cemetery were moved from their place and laid as foundations for four German residences.

One Sunday, in November 1941, a Lithuanian regiment arrived in Slutsk to exterminate Slutsk Jews. Some of them surrounded the city and the rest went from house to house looking for Jews. A Jew who happened to be on the street, or was found in a house, was shot on the spot, the property of the Jews was looted.

In just a few hours, about 500 Jews were exterminated that day. The majority managed to hide and escape. After this action the Lithuanian regiment left the city.

In January 1942, Slutsk Jews were imprisoned in two ghettos. In one ghetto, children, the elderly and the unqualified for work were put. A total of 1,000 Jews. This ghetto was outside the city. The other ghetto, where 5,000 people and their families were put, was in the center of the city and surrounded about 40 houses. Both ghettos were fenced with three electrified wires.

In May 1942, the first ghetto was liquidated. It was surrounded in one of the days, all the Jews were put on trucks and taken outside the city, to a place where they were shot, according to the information received from the local population.

Half a year later, on November 8, 1942, the second ghetto was also liquidated. On November 7, the ghetto was surrounded by a reinforcement guard of Lithuanians. On the morning of the 8th of November, the Lithuanians entered the ghetto and began to take the Jews out of the city in trucks. They abused them. Small children were taken out of their mothers' arms from their hiding place and were shot. Many were thrown to the ground and brutally murdered. At the same time, a group of ten Jews (who had hidden weapons in their hands) opened fire on the Germans.

The Germans, wanting to prevent a Jewish uprising, decided to set the ghetto on fire and burn the Jews alive. They poured gasoline on the houses and set them on fire. Almost all Slutsk Jews perished in this fire. About 25 Jews managed to break through the wired fence and joined the partisans around the city. Among the survivors were the 18-year-old Galansan and his mother who was 35 years old.

Written by Steiman

Signature of the witness Mlodinov from, Bialystok, 31.5.1945. Written and recorded in the protocol by the chairman of the historical committee.

(Translated from Yiddish to Hebrew, from the Yad Vashem Archives, no. 11/317 m).

Slutsk after World War II

by Morris Hindus

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

Morris Hindus, writer and journalist was born in Slutsk and was the first American Jew, who was allowed in 1944 to travel as a journalist, with the Red Army and to enter Slutsk after the Nazis withdrew from the city. At the same time, he printed his reviews and impressions in a series of articles in the “New York Herald Tribune”. This article was written by Mr. Hindus especially for the Slutsk's book.

In the middle of November 1944, I made my way in an old and squeaky Ford from Minsk to Slutsk. Some Soviet officials from Minsk, who knew Slutsk, joined me on this journey.

We passed through desolated areas. From both sides of the road, black smokestacks stood out, crushed and sooty parts, remnants, which were left from the towns and villages, which were previously inhabited by masses of residents. In their retreat, the Germans destroyed everything and set on fire everything they encountered on their way.

We drove for hours and never saw Slutsk again. When my companions to the journey noticed that I was impatient, the comforted me and told me all the time that we will arrive soon, because there is no way to skip it. Slutsk was a big city and even though the landmarks and traffic signs were destroyed, they were sure, that we will see it stretched on both sides of the road.

But we didn't see it. We continued our journey, unaware of the fact that we were already far away from our destination. We delayed a villager, an old bent woman, who was carrying heavy load of firewood and we asked her what was the distance between us to Slutsk. We realized that we had already passed the city by 10 kilometers.

I mention this event in order to point out that during our journey, we could not get to know the city for a simple reason: the destruction and devastation were terrible and horrible, more than all the ruins I saw in ruined and desolated Russia. And I, after all, also saw Stalingrad in its ruins.

We drove first in the direction of the former Gutzeit flour mill. On the way to the market, I saw only a few buildings. The market, as I remembered, was crowded and noisy in the fall and now – it was deserted and empty. There was no squealing of geese, croaking of chickens, snorting of pigs, as it was accustomed during November in Slutsk on market days. Not even a single farmer carrying a full sack on his back, or holding in his hand a basket full of apples and pears, for which Slutsk and its surroundings were famous, was seen.

I will remember for the rest of my life the shock and grief that accompanied my steps on the broad street. I couldn't recognize that favorite street in the city. The avenue has disappeared completely. Out of revenge, the Germans cut down all the beautiful trees and left protruding roots and bushes with wild grass. The beautiful houses in the city were destroyed and demolished. The Lutheran church, which stood out with its Gothic spire and its ancient shape, was cracked and unstable - a collapsing building. The playground, that was nice and great, turned into a deserted wasteland.

Kapoli Street should be called the “Slaughter Street”. No traces of a street were seen at all, because all the houses were ruined. On this street, behind wired fences and corrals, Jews were rounded up and exterminated. No one was able to tell me how many Jews were murdered. The only thing I could find out was that out of a population of 23,000, a third of the residents were Jewish, and only a few escaped and survived the

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extermination. Tangled and rusted barbed wire, which they did not have enough time to remove, were silent witnesses to the terrible killing place it was.

Slutsk was occupied by the Germans three days after the outbreak of war. Several Jews fled on the first day of the war, when they heard the noise of the German planes, which flew over the city. With the silencing of the transportation of trains and automobiles, as they were recruited for the needs of the army, the only means of escape was walking. Three of my cousins: Raphael, Gershon and Shlomo Gindelwitz, gathered their families and walked from here to Russia. Gershon came to a village on the Volga and settled there. Raphael and Shlomo, who were members of the kolkhoz in Slutsk, arrived in a village near Kostroma and joined the kolkhoz there.

By escaping they saved themselves from certain death.

According to reports from Soviet officials, no more than a hundred Jewish families left the city and they managed to reach safe districts throughout Russia by walking. They could not tell me clearly who they were and where they sat down.

The rest of the Jews stayed in Slutsk. They could not imagine and believe that the Germans were corrupt and such cruel murderers. They hoped that they could somehow continue their lives even in the difficult conditions. It did not occur to them, that the Germans would organize a massacre of the elderly, women and children. This was the fatal mistake of our brothers and sisters of the people of Israel, not only in Slutsk but also in all of White Russia.

The Germans showed no signs of hatred with the occupation of Slutsk. The Jewish community received an order to choose a representative, who would appear as its proxy before the German commandant. Attorney Chipchin was chosen for this position. For several weeks it seemed that he was doing well with the new city masters. However, one day the Germans called a Jewish assembly, to give them an opportunity, so to speak, to express their claims and demands in public. Chipchin was the first speaker. But before he could say a few words, a German officer drew his pistol and shot him dead. He was the first victim in Slutsk.

The Jewish community was filled with fear and horror. For the first time, the Jews realized, that the devil is blacker than black and more terrible than they could have imagined. Again, they felt that they were helpless and had no power to prevent them from doing evil. Only a few of them planned an escape. One of the women, called Mishlov, risked her life and left the city with her two children. Her light hair and blue eyes, along with a fake passport, assisted her to escape from the hands of the Nazis.

Three old men, the Neimark brothers, managed to reach the Russian positions. A few more managed to escape, but none of those I talked to could call them by name. Slutsk was surrounded by strong partisan battalions and the Germans were so afraid of them that they rarely dared to travel and wander on the roads.

I visited the villages around Slutsk. Even the geese of the village farmers were not touched by the Germans. Those villages were far from the main road, and the Germans left them. They did not even risk themselves by taking geese, whose meat was very tasty. Other Young Jewish people from Slutsk managed to escape from the city and joined the partisans. During my stay in the city, these young men were recruited into the Red Army and were at the front and I did not have the opportunity to talk to them.

Why didn't the Jewish youth as a whole join the partisans? Common sense dictated that if they were among the partisans, their lives would be safe, except for the risk of being killed on the battlefield, or from an anti-Semite partisan bullet. And indeed, the residents said that a few anti-Semites were found among the partisans. The mayor of Slutsk, who was the chief commander of the partisan battalions at the time, told me that the Jews did not suffer from anti-Semitism under his command and he rebuked the anti-Semites and punished them severely. Besides that, the Jewish partisans were armed like Christians and could also defend themselves.

It was a fact that not only in Slutsk, but in all of White Russia, relatively few Jews joined the partisans. My friend Meir Hendler, a reporter for “Unites Press” in Moscow, visited the Pinsk district during my stay in Slutsk. When we met, we compared our lists. He brought from Pinsk the same horrifying and heart-wrenching news as from Slutsk, Minsk, Pohust and other communities. The question that arose was why?

In Slutsk I met a Christian carpenter called Popov. He told me that on one of the evenings during the occupation, the wife of a Jewish hairdresser named Melnik, entered running to his workshop and asked him to save her children. Popov went with her to her house and took her three children and brought them to his house. They were at his house for a week. Since he was afraid to keep them in his house, the mother came and wanted to take them home. Popov begged her to go with her children to the partisans. He was one of their secret agents. He offered to help her with the transfer to the partisan territory. She refused. Had I been alone, she emphasized, I would have tried, but with the children, I will not succeed and without them I will not go». She ignored his solicitations and pleas and kept with her refusal. A short time later, she was murdered with her children.

There were many cases when mothers, fathers, sons and daughters, could save themselves, had they transferred to the partisans separately, but they did not want to be separated one from the other. This is how parents perished together with their sons, sons and daughters with their fathers. The German horror united Jewish families until the last moment. They ended their lives behind the barbed wire fences on Kapoli Street.


Addendum by Rabbi Nissan Waxman

In a personal conversation with Mr. Hindus, after receiving his article, I asked him to remember and tell me something about the synagogues in Slutsk and especially about the large synagogue known as “Di Kalte Shul”.

This ancient synagogue was famous in White Russia and many legends circulated among the residents about it. I also asked him about the fate of the Jewish cemetery, the place where geniuses and famous Torah sages were buried.

Mr. Hindus told me, that he saw the cemetery and its stone fence abandoned and breached, but the cemetery was not completely destroyed. He did not have enough time to hear from the residents anything about the synagogues during the one day he stayed in Slutsk.

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Later on, I had a conversation with Rachel Picholtz, who was born in Slutsk, that was under the Nazi occupation from June 1941 to July 1942. She managed to escape from the city and joined the partisans. She told me about the fate of the synagogues. She said that even during the Soviet rule, before World War II, the synagogues were used for various purposes. The cold synagogue building was used as a bakery. The younger generation forgot their God and neglected the houses of prayer.

In June 1941, when the Germans bombed Slutsk with fighter planes, the synagogues were among the first buildings to be destroyed. It is possible that in Mr. Hindus' stay in Slutsk after the retreat of the Nazis, he did not have the opportunity to see the remains of synagogues.


The picture was drawn by the boy Haim Rusak, one of the survivors of the Holocaust (now lives in Kfar Avihayil). (His father, Avraham Yitzhak, was an officer in the Soviet army and was killed in a battle with the Nazis in the vicinity of Bobroisk).


From the partisan war
(Excerpts from Moshe Kahanovitz's book)

Translated by Mira Eckhaus

On April 10, 1942, a group of twenty or more people, led by Israel Lapidot, left the ghetto (in Minsk) to the Slutsk forests.

The combat organization in the Minsk ghetto sent two groups to the Slutsk forests in April 1942.

* * *

Misha Otsar (Maustrog Wahlin), a platoon commander in the “Zashukov” company, took a few Germans captive on the Minsk-Slutsk Road and killed them.

* * *

The young woman Falye Weinberg from Lodz, escaped in January 1943 from the labor camp in Swierzshani to the Zashukov company in the Kapoli district. She went to Slutsk several times, disguised as a farmer, to spy and find out a way how to blow up the large sawmill, which provided building materials for the front. She excelled in the performance of her duties and returned with a detailed plan of the sawmill.

In May 1943, she received the task of blowing up the electricity station in the sawmill in Slutsk. Dressed as a farmer, she hid a gun in her bag and among all kinds of vegetables she put a loaf of bread with a mine inside.

5 kilometers from the town of Haresk, one of the farmers recognized her and handed her over to the Germans. After suffering and various tortures, she was hanged in public in Slutsk.


Excerpts from the newspapers

The Central Office for the Investigation of War Crimes in Ludwigsburg, West Germany, turned to the World Jewish Congress and asked for its help in finding witnesses who could testify about the actions of the Nazis in Bialystok and Slutsk, in connection with an ongoing investigation against Nazis suspected of murders there.

* * *

The investigation of two people, who served as senior police officers during the Nazis regime, was opened today by the General Prosecutor of Kassel.

The suspects are a retired police lieutenant-colonel Franz Lechthaler, 70, and a police inspector Willy Papencourt, 52, who are accused of being responsible for the killing of 500 to 700 Jews in the city of Slutsk in White Russia on October 27, 1941, by two German police companies and a unit of the Latvian Guard.

The two suspects have been in custody for several weeks.

* * *

The chief prosecutor of this country, Afka, announced today that Franz Lechthaler, who was a police officer, and Willy Papencourt, who was a “Nazi chief commissar”, the former aged 69 and the latter aged 51, confessed to the shooting death of “several hundred Jews” in Slutsk, which is in White Russia, on October 27, 1941, claiming that they did so, “according to orders”.


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