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ILYA (Pol. Ilja), village in Molodechno district, Belarus; birthplace of *Manasseh b. Joseph, who founded a yeshivah there. It is assumed that the Jews settled in Ilya in the 17th century. They exported timber westward via the Ilya and Nieman rivers and flax and grain to the big cities. In the 19th century few Jews remained exporters; most were small merchants and artisans. A local Jew opened a big glass factory. In the mid-18th century the proselyte Avraham ben Avraham, whom the Catholic Church claimed was the lost son of Count Valentine Potocki, refused to return to Christianity and was burned at the stake. The Jewish population numbered 894 in 1847, 829 (58% of the total population) in 1897, and 586 (40.2%) in 1921. During World War I the Cossacks burned down most of the houses in the town and murdered one Jew. After the war, with the help of *YEKOPO, the Jewish stores and workshops were reopened. The glass factory was refurbished and a sawmill and pitch factory were opened. From 1922 a Hebrew school and library with 5,000 books were in operation.

Holocaust Period

On Sept. 17, 1939, the Soviets entered the area. On the outbreak of war between Germany and the U.S.S.R. on June 22, 1941, some Jews managed to escape eastward into the Soviet Union. In the first days of July the Germans set up headquarters in the town. On July 8, two Jews were shot as Communist activists. A ghetto was established in early October. In January 1942 the youth began to organize and make contact with the partisans. On March 14, 1942, Soviet partisans attacked the Chocienczyce estate near Ilya. Among them were a few Jews from Ilya, and 70 Jews who worked there joined them. The following day the SS arrived in Ilya and accused the Jews of cooperating with the partisans. On March 17 Jews were ordered to assemble in the city square. The head of the Judenrat, Josef Rodblat, was ordered to hand over those connected with the partisans but he refused to cooperate, and instead, with David Rubin, encouraged escape to the forests. The Germans murdered 520 Jews in the cold storage depot, and left about 100 essential artisans. On June 7, 1942, the Germans executed the artisans. A number of young Jews escaped into the forests and joined Soviet partisan units. Few of Ilya's Jews survived until the liberation in summer 1944.


Poland, Główny Urząd Statystyczny, Skorowidz miejscowości Rzeczypaspolitej Pólski, 7 pt. 2 (1923), S.V.; A. Kopelovich (ed.), Sefer Ilyah (Heb. and Yid., 1962); Yad Vashem Archives. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: PK Polin, vol. 8 (2005).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.