official_name = Лахва Lakhva
map_caption = Location of Lakhva, within the Brest voblast
subdivision_type = Country Subdivision
established_title = First settled
established_date = 1500s
population_as_of = 2006
population_total = 2,100
timezone = EET
utc_offset = +2
timezone_DST = EEST
utc_offset_DST = +3
latd=52 |latm=13 |latNS=N
longd=27 |longm=06 |longEW=E
elevation_m = 108
Lakhva (or Lachva, Lachwa) (Belarusian and Russian: Лахва, _he. לחווא, _pl. Łachwa, _yi. לאַכװע) is a small town in southern
Belarus, with a population of approximately 2100. Lakhva is considered to have been the location of one of the first, and possibly the first, [Michaeli, Lichstein, Morawczik, and Sklar (eds.). "First Ghetto to Revolt: Lachwa". (Tel Aviv: Entsyklopedyah shel Galuyot, 1957).] Suhl, Yuri. "They Fought Back". (New York: Paperback Library Inc., 1967), pp. 181-3.] Jewish ghetto uprisings of the Second World War.
Lakhva is located in the Luninets district of the Brest
voblast, approximately 80 kilometres to the east of Pinskand 200 kilometres south of Minsk. It lies on the Smierc River, to the north of the Pripet Marshes.
The town is located within
Polesia, a marshy region that has historically been at the confluence of various empires and states. As such, Lakhva has, at various points in its history, been under Lithuanian, Polish, Russian, Soviet, German, and Belarusian control.
1500s to 1900s
The earliest mentions of Lakhva are contained in records from the late 1500s pertaining to the Estate of Łachwa, a large private estate in what was then the
Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The estate was held jointly by the Radziwiłłs and the Kiszkas, two powerful and significant Szlachta(noble) families of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.Siekierski, M. "The Estate of Łachwa of Prince Nicholas Christopher Radziwiłł (1549-1616): A Contribution to the Study of the Historical Geography and Economy of Southern Byelorussia", The Journal of Byelorussian Studies. (London: The Anglo-Byelorussian Society, 1981), Vol. V, No. 1, pp. 19-28.]
The tax receipts and registers from the era, pertaining to the estate holdings of Prince Mikołaj Krzysztof Radziwiłł, indicate that grain farming played an unusually small role in the economy of the estate, as compared to other parts of the Grand Duchy. Given the marshy and wooded terrain, the local economy was instead dominated by fishing, hunting and forestry.
On March 23, 1588, the Estate of Łachwa was formally divided between Prince Radziwiłł and
Jan Kiszka, with the village falling within the Radziwiłł holdings. It is known that Lakhva became a town at some point during this period. The 1588 agreement between Radziwiłł and Kiszka dividing the estate refers to Lakhva as a village, but a document dated February 23, 1593 refers to it as a town and to its residents as townspeople. After 1593, archival documents consistently refer to Lakhva as a town. A tax receipt from 1596 indicates that the portions of the town subject to tax consisted of 7 houses in the town square, 60 street houses, 20 "poor dwellings" ("chałupy nędzne"), 2 craftsmen, 4 tenants without cattle, 4 vendors and one mill-wheel.
Due to conflicting royal charters, Lakhva fell within the administrative control of both the
powiatof Nowogródek and the powiat of Pinsk. Prince Radziwiłł apparently preferred to deal with the administration in Nowogródek, leading to protracted legal proceedings by the authorities in Pinsk. In 1600, King Sigismund III settled the dispute by confirming that Lakhva belonged to Nowogródek.
The town remained within Poland until the
Second Partition of Polandin 1793, when it was absorbed into the Russian Empire. Russian dominion over the area lasted until the end of the First World War, when the region was briefly ceded to the German Empireunder the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. After the Polish-Soviet Warof 1919-21, Lakhva once again fell under Polish control, and was incorporated into the Polesie Voivodshipof the Second Polish Republic. Located only 18 kilometres from the boundary of the Soviet Union,Shworin, Aron. "The forgotten resistance in Lachva". B'nai Brith Canada. August 6, 2004. [http://www.bnaibrith.ca/article.php?id=598] (last accessed October 1, 2006)] the region was policed by the Polish Border Protection Corps.
Jewish settlement in Lakhva commenced in the latter half of the 17th century,Pallavicini, Stephen and Patt, Avinoam. "Lachwa", "An Encyclopedic History of Camps, Ghettos, and Other Detention Sites in Nazi Germany and Nazi-Dominated Territories, 1933-1945": United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. [http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10007233] (last accessed September 30, 2006)] "Lachva",
Encyclopedia Judaica, 2nd ed., Volume 12, pp. 425-6 (Macmillan Reference USA, 2007).] reflecting an eastward migration of Jews during that period. [Kriwaczek, Paul. "Yiddish Civilization: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation". (London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005).]
By the 20th century, Lakhva was a well-established
shtetlwith a rapidly growing Jewish population. At the end of the First World War, Jews constituted a third of the town's population, but by the late 1930s, the Jewish population had doubled to 2300 (out of an overall population of 3800). "Lachva", Multimedia Learning Centre: The Simon Wiesenthal Center. [http://motlc.learningcenter.wiesenthal.org/text/x14/xm1401.html] (last accessed September 30, 2006)]
On September 17, 1939, Soviet troops entered Lakhva, following the partition of Poland between
Nazi Germanyand the Soviet Union pursuant to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. As a result of the Soviet occupation, virtually all Jewish organizations ceased to function. Even though Soviet authorities closed or placed heavy restrictions on Jewish cultural and religious institutions, the Jewish population of Lakhva increased by 40% between 1939 and 1941, as Jewish refugees fled German-occupied areas to those lands incorporated into the Soviet Union.
Germany invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, and German troops occupied Lakhva on July 8, 1941, two weeks after the start of
Operation Barbarossa. A Judenratwas established, headed by a former Zionist leader, Dov Lopatyn. Rabbi Hayyim Zalman Osherowitz was arrested by the Germans, and his release was secured only after the payment of a large ransom.
On April 1, 1942, the town's Jews were forcibly moved into a
ghettoconsisting of two streets and 45 houses, surrounded by a barbed wire fence. The ghetto housed roughly 2,350 people, which amounted to approximately 1 square meter for every resident.
The news of massacres throughout the region slowly spread to Lakhva, and Jewish youth organized an underground under the leadership of Isaac Rochczyn, the head of the local
Betargroup. With the assistance of the Judenrat, the underground managed to stockpile axes, knives, and iron bars, although efforts to secure firearms were largely unsuccessful.
By August 1942, the Jews in Lakhva knew that the nearby ghettos in Luninets and
Mikashevichyhad been liquidated. On September 2, 1942, the local populace became aware that local farmers had dug pits outside the town, on the orders of the Nazis. Later that day, 150 German soldiers (the " Einsatzgruppen") and 200 local police surrounded the ghetto. Rochczyn and the underground wanted to attack the ghetto fence at midnight to allow the population to flee, but others refused to leave behind the elderly and children. Lopatyn asked that the attack be postponed until the morning. "This Month in Holocaust History: September 3, 1942." Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. [http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/month_in_holocaust/september/september_chronology/chronology_1942_september_03.html] (last accessed October 1, 2006)]
On September 3, 1942, the Germans advised Lopatyn that the ghetto was to be liquidated, and ordered that the ghetto inhabitants line up for deportation. In order to secure the cooperation of the ghetto's leaders, however, the members of the Judenrat, the ghetto doctor and 30 labourers (whom Lopatyn could choose) would be spared. Lopatyn refused the offer, reportedly responding: "Either we all live, or we all die."
When the Germans entered the ghetto, Lopatyn set fire to the Judenrat headquarters, which was the signal to commence the uprising. Other buildings were also set on fire, and members of the ghetto underground attacked the Germans as they entered the ghetto, using axes, sticks,
molotov cocktails and their bare hands. This battle is believed to represent the first ghetto uprisingof the war.
Approximately 650 Jews were killed in the fighting or the flames, and another 500 or so Jews were taken to the pits and shot. The ghetto fence was breached, and approximately 1000 Jews were able to escape, of whom about 600 were able to take refuge in the
Pripet Marshes. Rochczyn was shot and killed as he jumped into the Smierc River. Although an estimated 120 of the escapees were able to join partisan units, most of the others were eventually tracked down and killed. Approximately 90 residents of the ghetto survived the war.
After the Second World War
As a result of the
Tehran Conferenceand Yalta Conference, the Polish territories that had been occupied by the Soviet Union in 1939 were permanently annexed by the Soviets upon the conclusion of the Second World War. Lakhva and its surrounding region were located to the east of the Curzon Line, which largely formed the new border between Poland and the Soviet Union. As such, the town was incorporated into the Byelorussian SSR.
The survivors of the Lakhva ghetto did not return to the town, settling in
Israeland other countries. At present, there are few, if any, Jewish inhabitants in Lakhva, although a small memorial to the 1942 Jewish uprising was erected in 1994. ["Lakhva Holocaust Memorial". Belarusian News Agency. [http://www.belta.by/ENGL.NSF/ByDate/191DFBA77B4F419342256D6600548703?opendocument] ]
In 2000, Kopel Kolpanitsky, a survivor of the Lakhva ghetto, was one of six
Holocaustsurvivors invited to speak at Yad Vashemduring the state ceremonies for Holocaust and Heroism Memorial Day. Kolpanistky, who had been 16 years old at the time of the ghetto uprising and who managed to escape into the forest, recalled during the ceremony how his entire family was killed during the uprising. [Katzenell, Jack. "Israel Remembers Holocaust Jews". Associated Press. May 1, 2000.]
* [http://www.fallingrain.com/world/BO/0/Lakhva.html General Information on Lakhva]
* [http://www.watermargin.com/lenin/lenin17.html A visit to modern day Lakhva]
* [http://www.jewishgen.org/belarus/newsletter/luninets.htm A visit to Belarus (including Lakhva)]
* [http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/article.php?lang=en&ModuleId=10007234 Account of Izak Lichtenstein of the Lakhva Uprising]
* [http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/index.php?ModuleId=10007218 Resistance in the Smaller Ghettos of Eastern Europe]
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