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Disna, Belarus

DISNA (Pol. Dzisna), town in former Vilno district, Poland, today Molodechno district, Belarus. It is assumed that the first Jews settled there in the 16th century, but an organized community was only formed in the late 18th century. The Jews numbered 412 in 1797, and many made their livings from the wholesale trade of agricultural products. The community numbered 1,880 in 1847; 4,617 in 1897 (68.3% of the total population); and 2,742 in 1921 (62% of the total). After WWI Disna was cut off from its markets in Russia (U.S.S.R.), the economy deteriorated, and the number of Jews in the town declined. Most children were enrolled in a Yiddish CYSHO school. Zionist youth movements were active, and many of their members made aliyah.

[Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

Holocaust Period

Between the outbreak of World War II and the German-Soviet war, Disna was under Soviet occupation. When the German army entered on July 2, 1941, there were 6,000 Jewish inhabitants in the city, many of them refugees from central Poland. Soon after the arrival of the Germans, the synagogues were burned down. On July 14, ten Jews were murdered. On August 3, a ghetto was set up. The main Aktion was carried out on July 14–15, 1942, when the entire ghetto was destroyed. The inhabitants were all taken to Piaskowe Gorki where they were murdered. During the Aktion about 2,000 persons broke out of the ghetto and sought refuge in the forests. The Germans hunted down the escapees, but some succeeded in organizing partisan units, while other Disna Jews joined the Fourth Belorussian Partisan Brigade. On Jan. 22, 1943, 17 Jewish craftsmen, the sole survivors of the Aktion of June 1942 to remain in Disna, were murdered.

[Aharon Weiss]

Sources:O. Hedemann, Dzisna i Druja (1934); B. Wasiutyński, Ludność żydowska w Polsce … (1930), 84.

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