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BRASLAV (Pol. Brasław ), small town in Belarus; in Poland until 1795 and between 1921 and 1939. A small number of Jewish families lived there in the 16th century and numbered 225 in 1766. The community grew to 1,234 in 1897 (82% of the total population), and 1,900 in 1926. There was a *Karaite settlement in Braslav and its vicinity. Jews traded in flax and grain, exporting them to other parts of the country. In 1905 a pogrom was staged. During the Polish period most of the children studied in a Yiddish school. In September 1939 Braslav was annexed by the Soviet Union and all Jewish organizations and parties ceased their activities.

[Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

Holocaust Period

In 1941, on the eve of the Holocaust, there were 2,500 Jews in Braslav. The city was captured by the Germans on June 28, 1941, and on the following day the German army and police removed all the city's Jews to the nearby swamp area, where they were held for two days. Meanwhile, all Jewish property had been stolen by the local population. On August 2, 1941, a "contribution" of 100,000 rubles was demanded of the Jews. At the beginning of April 1942, a ghetto was established, and, in addition to the local Jewish population, Jews from Dubinovo, Druya, Druysk, Miory, and Turmont were interned there. The population of the ghetto was divided into two parts: the workers and the "nonproductive." In the first Aktion – on June 3–5, 1942 – about 3,000 people were killed; local farmers actively helped the Germans in this Aktion. After some of the Jews went into hiding, the German commander announced that those Jews who came out of hiding of their own free will would not be harmed, but the handful who responded to this call were executed on June 7. In the autumn of 1942, the ghetto was turned into a work camp in which the remainder of the Jews from the entire area were concentrated. On March 19, 1943, the Nazis began to liquidate the camp, but this time they met with opposition. A group of Jews, fortified in one of the buildings, offered armed resistance. Only after their ammunition ran out did the Nazis succeed in suppressing the opposition. The fighters fell at their posts. There were 40 survivors of the Braslav community, some of whom fought in partisan units in the area. After the war a monument was erected to the Jews killed there by the Nazis. In 1970 there were 18 Jewish families with no synagogue.

[Aharon Weiss]


J.J. Kermisz, "Akcje" i Wysiedlenia, 2 (1946), index; Yad Vashem Archives.