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Baronovichi, Belarus

BARANOVICHI (Pol., Baranowicze), capital of Baranovichi district, Belarus (from 1921–39 in Poland). After Baranovichi became a railroad junction at the end of the 19th century, Jews from the surroundings began to settle there without official permission (see *Russia ). In 1897 the Jewish community of Baranovichi, then still a village, numbered 2,171 (total population 4,692). Jewish domicile was authorized in 1903 and the community rapidly expanded. In 1921 there were 6,605 Jews (57.5% of the total population). They were employed in the lumber, resort, and food industries.

After World War I Baranovichi became the center of residence of the admorim (ḥasidic rabbis) of the *Koidanovo and *Slonim dynasties. Educational institutions included Hebrew and Yiddish schools and two large yeshivot. Six Yiddish weeklies were published in Baranovichi between 1928 and 1939. The Zionist parties and youth movements and the Bund were very active. A kibbutz training center, Shaḥariyyah, of the He-Ḥalutz movement, was established near the city. In 1931 the Jewish population was 9,680. Jewish communal and cultural activities ceased and the economy was nationalized when Baranovichi became part of the U.S.S.R. in 1939. Jewish party activists and wealthy industrialists and merchants were exiled into the interior of the Soviet Union.

[Yehuda Slutsky]

Holocaust Period

On the eve of the Holocaust, 12,000 Jews lived in Baranovichi. Under Soviet rule (1939–41), Jewish community organizations were disbanded and any kind of political or youth activity was forbidden. Some youth groups organized flight to Vilna, which was then part of Lithuania, and from there reached Palestine. The Hebrew Tarbut school became a Russian institution. A Jewish high school did continue to function, however. In the summer of 1940 Jewish refugees from western Poland who had found refuge in Baranovichi after September 1939 were deported to the Soviet interior. When Germans captured the city on June 27, 1941, 400 Jews were kidnapped, leaving no trace. A *Judenrat was set up, headed by Joshua Izikzon. The community was forced to pay a fine of five kg. of gold, ten kg. of silver, and 1,000,000 rubles. The ghetto was fenced off from the outside on Dec. 12, 1941. The ghetto inhabitants suffered great hardship that winter, although efforts were made to alleviate the hunger. The Jewish doctors and their assistants fought to contain the epidemics. On March 4, 1942, the ghetto was surrounded. In a Selektion carried out by the Nazis to separate the "productive" from the "nonproductive", over 3,000 elderly persons, widows, orphans, etc., were taken to trenches prepared in advance and murdered. Resistance groups, organized in the ghetto as early as the spring of 1942, collected arms and sabotaged their places of work. Plans for rebellion were laid, but the uprising never came to pass, partly due to German subterfuge. In the second German Aktion on Sept. 22, 1942, about 3,000 persons were murdered. On Dec. 17, 1942, another Aktion was carried out, in which more than 3,000 persons were killed near Grabowce. Baranovichi was now declared *judenrein . At the end of 1942 Jews were already fighting in groups among the partisans. A few survivors from the ghetto were still in some of the forced labor camps in the district, but most of them were liquidated in 1943. On July 8, 1944, when the city was taken by the Soviet forces, about 150 Jews reappeared from hiding in the forests. Later a few score more returned from the U.S.S.R.

[Aharon Weiss]

Postwar Period

In 1954 a monument was erected in the city as a memorial to the Jews murdered by the Nazis. Later it was destroyed and in its place a public latrine was built. The big synagogue was confiscated by the authorities, leaving a small one for the 3,000 Jews (1969 estimate). Most of the Jews emigrated in the 1990s. Societies of emigrants from Baranovichi function in Israel, the U.S.A., Argentina, Chile, and South Africa.


Bulletin of the Joint Rescue Committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine (April, 1945), 13–22; Baranoviẓ: Sefer Zikkaron (Heb. and Yid., 1953); Baranovich in Umkum un Vidershtand, 1 (1964); Ben-Mordekhai, in: S.K. Mirsky (ed.), Mosdot Torah be-Eiropah be-Vinyanam u-ve-Ḥurbanam (1956), 329–35.

Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.