Monday, July 24, 2006

Learning One's History And Geography ... In English, Belarusian, Polish, Russian, Hebrew, And Yiddish

"Lakhva (or Lachva, Lachwa) (Belarusian: Лахва) (Polish:Łachwa) (Russian:Лахва) (Hebrew:לחווא) (Yiddish:לאַכװע) is a small town in southern Belarus, in Brest voblast, approximately 80 kilometres to the east of Pinsk and 200 kilometres south of Minsk. The population is approximately 2100.

Before the Second World War, Lakhva was a shtetl in eastern Poland with a sizeable Jewish population of about 2,300. The Jewish population increased by 40% between 1939 and 1941, when Germany and the Soviet Union partitioned Poland, and 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. On April 1, 1942, the town's Jews were forcibly moved into a ghetto consisting of two streets surrounded by a barbed wire fence.

On September 2, 1942, the local populace became aware that the Nazis were digging pits outside the town. Later that day, 150 German soldiers (the Einsatzgruppen) and 200 local police surrounded the ghetto. Dov Lopatyn, the head of the local Judenrat, refused the German request for the ghetto inhabitants to line up for deportation. On September 3, members of the ghetto underground attacked the Germans as they entered the ghetto, using axes, sticks, molotov cocktails and their bare hands. This battle represented one of the first ghetto uprisings of the war.

Approximately 650 Jews were killed in the fighting, and another 500 or so Jews were taken to the pits and shot. The ghetto wall was breached, and approximately 1000 Jews were able to escape, of whom about 600 were able to take refuge in the Pripet Marshes [of southern Belarus/northern Ukraine]. 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.

Lopatyn joined a communist partisan unit, and was killed on February 21, 1944 by a landmine. Lakhva was liberated by the Red Army in July 1944.

At present, there are few, if any, Jewish inhabitants in Lakhva, although a small memorial to the 1942 Jewish uprising was erected in 1994."

Suhl, Yuri. They Fought Back. (New York: Paperback Library Inc., 1967), pages 181-3.


"Pinsk Marshes (Пинские болота) or Pripyat Marshes (Pripet Marshes, Припятские болота) is a vast territory of wetlands along the Pripyat River and its tributaries from Brest, Belarus (West) to Mogilev, Belarus (Northeast) and Kiev, Ukraine (Southeast).

The Pinsk Marshes mostly lie within the Polesian Lowland and occupy most of the southern part of Belarus. They cover roughly 38,000 sq. miles surrounding the Pripyat River. Drainage of the eastern portion began in 1870, and has been cleared for pasture and farmland.

During most of the year, the marshes are impassable to major military forces, thus influencing strategic planning of all military operations in the region. During World War II, the marshes divided the central and southern theatres of operation, and also served as a hideout for Soviet partisans.

At one stage during the war, the Nazi German administration planned to drain the marshes, cleanse them of their 'degenerate' inhabitants, and repopulate the area with German colonists. Konrad Meyer was the leader in charge of the Pripet plan. However, Hitler scuttled the project late in 1941, as he believed that it may entail dustbowl (Versteppung) conditions."

Blackbourn, David. (2006). The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape and the Making of Modern Germany. Jonathan Cape.

Map of the ghettos in occupied Europe, 1939-45, showing the location of Lakhva (south of Minsk, east of Pinsk).

Map credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.

Lakhva in 1926 (then Łachwa, Poland), ulica Lubaczyńska (Lubaczynska Street). Photographed by: Pracownia fotograficzna Poleskiej Brygady KOP (the photography lab of the Polish Border Protection Corps).

Photo credit: The former Polish Border Protection Corps via Wikipedia. With thanks.

Text source: Wikipedia. With thanks.


And with many thanks to friends, old and new, in Minsk, Pinsk, Lviv, Zhytomyr, Drohobych, Kyiv, San Francisco, Detroit, and Tel Aviv who generously offered me assistance in this inquiry.


Médecins Sans Frontières is an independent humanitarian medical aid agency committed to two objectives: providing medical aid wherever needed, regardless of race, religion, politics or sex, and raising awareness of the plight of the people they help. In 1999 Médecins Sans Frontières was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize 'in recognition of the organization's pioneering humanitarian work on several continents'.


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