Lachva

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LACHVA

LACHVA (Pol. Lachwa ), a town in Polesie district, Belarus. From the middle of the 16th century it was owned by the Princess Radziwill. An organized Jewish community probably began after the *Chmelnicki uprising (1648–1650), and it was under the jurisdiction of Pinsk. It numbered 157 Jewish poll-tax payers in 1795, and the majority of the inhabitants were Jews. The local Jews engaged in retailing and traded in fish and agricultural produce. At the close of the 18th century the Jews of Lachva became involved in the struggle between Hasidism and its opponents. In 1817, in addition to the above occupations, the Jews engaged in tailoring, wax making, carting, and butchering. With the construction of the railroad Vilna-Luniniets-Rovno in the 1880s, the economy improved, and there developed export of lumber and farm products, and a furniture factory opened. Abraham Dov Berkowicz and his son Isaac officiated as rabbis of Lachva at the close of the 19th century. In 1897 the community of Lachva numbered 1,057 (c. 44% of the total population). At the beginning of the 20th century and especially between the two world wars, the Zionist parties and organizations were active in the town. There was also a Hebrew *Tarbut school, a *Maccabi society, and a drama circle. In 1921 the 1,126 Jews of the town formed 33% of the population, and their number increased to about 2,000 by 1941. Until 1939 there was a Hebrew religious school and a large Tarbut library. The last rabbi of Lachva was R. Eliezer Lichtenstein.

[Arthur Cygielman /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

Holocaust Period

The town was occupied by Soviet troops on Sept. 17, 1939, as a result of which all Jewish organizations virtually ceased to function. The Germans occupied the town on July 8, 1941. Many young Jews escaped into the Soviet interior, while others were drafted into the Soviet army. The *Judenrat was headed by the former Zionist leader, Dov Lopatin, aided by dedicated leaders. A ghetto was established on April 1, 1942, where 2,350 Jews were crowded in 45 small houses. In the months August–September about 30 young Jews were organized in the underground, headed by Itshak Rokhchin, but could acquire only nonlethal weapons. In August 1942 the community discovered that ditches were being dug on the outskirts of the city and realized the implications. The Jews of Lachva decided to resist. On the night of September 2–3, 1942, the Germans surrounded the ghetto. Dov Lopatin and the underground chose to fight. When the Nazis broke into the ghetto, the entire community took part in the struggle, some equipped only with axes or sticks. Lopatin set fire to the Judenrat house, and others set fire to the rest of ghetto. Six German policemen and six Belorussian policemen were killed. Between 600 to 700 Jews were killed fighting, enabling 600 to reach the nearby forests. Many of them perished, but 120 in the Gryczyn marshes founded a Jewish partisan unit or joined other partisan units. They participated in military operations against the Nazis, including sabotage and other acts of revenge and retaliation. The Jewish revolt at Lachva was an outstanding example of mass resistance against the Nazis and was one of the first Polish ghetto revolts. After the war, the remnants of the community did not rebuild their homes. The approximately 90 survivors settled in Israel and other countries.

[Aharon Weiss /

Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]

bibliography:

B. Wasiutyński, Ludnośc żydowska w Polsce… (1930), 84; H. Aleksandrow, in: Tsaytshrift, 2–3 (Minsk, 1928), 366; ibid., 4 (1930), 71; Rishonim la-Mered, Laḥva (Heb., and partly Yid., 1957); Meram, in: Le Monde Juif, 22 no. 11 (1967), 5–16.