OZERY (Pol. Jeziory, Yid. Ozhor), town in Grodno oblast, Belorussian S.S.R. Formerly one of the royal estates where the Magdeburg *Law applied, the town was later the property of Polish nobles. Jews are mentioned in Ozery in 1667 in the pinkas of the Lithuanian Council (see Councils of the *Lands), in connection with a "revenge of murder" during an "assembly" in the town. In that century a wooden synagogue, widely known for its beauty, was built. In 1826 a siddur – Tefillat Nehora ha-Shalem – was printed at the press of Zimel Nochumowicz (of the *Romm family of printers). From 552 in 1847 the Jewish population grew to 1,892 (42.4% of the total population) in 1897, then declined to 867 (49.4%) in 1921. Ozery was known as a place for Torah study, attracting young men from the surrounding district. The main sources of Jewish livelihood were sawmills, lake fishing, tanning and other crafts, and trade. In 1937 about 89% of the 73 shops in the town were owned by Jews. Among the economic associations organized by Ozery Jews were a committee for Jewish crafts, an association of retail traders, a cooperative bank, and a free loan fund (Gemilut Ḥasadim), which had 170 members in 1924. In the mid-1920s an elementary school belonging to the CYSHO (Central Yiddish School Organization) functioned. Zionist activity started at the beginning of the century, and groups supporting the labor parties in Ereẓ Israel were active before World War II; Ozery had a center for training ḥalutẓim, and there was also some emigration to Ereẓ Israel. Jews from the town were among the pioneers of Jewish colonization in the Argentine.
During World War II, when the Germans occupied Ozery, the Jews were brutally treated: they were conscripted into forced labor and their property confiscated. A ghetto was soon established, enclosed by barbed wire and guarded by Jewish police and Belorussians. A Judenrat was also established. The inmates of the ghetto were taken to work in the forests and tobacco plantations, for a daily wage of one mark, half of which was deducted as "Jewish tax." Jews from nearby towns such as Eisiskes, Vasilishki, Nowy Dwor, and Porechye, were also concentrated in the ghetto of Ozery. On Nov. 11, 1942, all the Jews (1,370 according to a Nazi document) were transferred to the Kelbasin forced-labor camp near Grodno, and a few weeks later all were deported to death camps.
S. Dubnow (ed.) Pinkas Medinat Lita (1925); Institut far Vaysruslendisher Kultur, Tsaytshrift, 2–3 (1928), 370; KS, 8 (1931/32), 237; Grodner Opklangen (1950), 6.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.