Nesvizh

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NESVIZH

NESVIZH (Pol. Nieśwież ), town in Baranovichi district, Belarus; formerly in Poland. Jews are mentioned in Nesvizh in the early 16th century. In 1589 the Radziwill family, who owned the town, granted the Jews certain rights, and they were subject to the jurisdiction of the prince. The Lithuanian Council of 1623 (see *Councils of the Lands) assigned Nesvizh to the Brest-Litovsk province but in 1634 it was made capital of its own province. Nesvizh was a center for fairs, and dayyanim were sent there from all Lithuanian communities. The community wielded considerable influence in the Lithuanian Council, which convened there in 1761. According to a council decision of 1634, the Nesvizh representative was one of the five men who determined the amount of funds required "to wreak vengeance for murder," referring to a blood libel against the Jews. Of the 60,000 zlotys demanded as poll tax from the whole of Lithuanian Jewry in 1721, the council fixed the share of Nesvizh and the neighboring town of Sverzhen at 1,000 zlotys, as against 1,100 zlotys imposed on Vilna. In 1811 there were 716 Jews in Nesvizh; 153 of them were craftsmen, including 91 needleworkers, 21 tanners, and 13 barbers. The community numbered 5,053 (72.7% of the total population) in 1878; 4,678 (55.4%) in 1897; 5,344 (53%) in 1914; 3,346 (48.9%) in 1921, and 3,364 (out of a total population of 7,586) in 1931. Besides commerce and crafts the Jews of Nesvizh engaged in horticulture and market gardening, including marketing of agricultural products. It had a textile factory, a sawmill, and a cooperative Jewish bank.

Nesvizh was known for its talmudic scholars. Among the well-known rabbis who officiated in the community at various periods were Isaac Elhanan *Spektor and Samuel Avigdor "Tosfa'ah." The last rabbi was Yitzhak Isaac Rabinovitch. Joseph Baer *Soloveichik and Pinḥas *Rozovski were natives of Nesvizh. The community had a yeshivah, a Hebrew school and kindergarten, and a Yiddish school. A branch of *Ḥovevei Zion was founded in 1871 and revived in 1888. There was considerable Zionist activity and in the 1930s *Ha-Shomer ha-Ẓa'ir maintained a training farm in Nesvizh. An association of Jewish craftsmen originally known as Po'alei Ẓedek was founded in 1908, and there was also a branch of the *Bund and Jewish members of the Communist Party.

Among the outstanding personalities who originated from Nesvizh were the philosopher Solomon *Maimon; Eliezer Dillon, who was one of two "deputies of Jewish people" sent to St. Petersburg; Moses Eleazar *Eisenstadt, the *kazyonny ravvin in St. Petersburg; the authors and educators Nisan *Touroff and Falk Halperin; the authors Jacob Zalman Reizin and Mordecai Ze'ev Reizin; and Nahum Meyer Shaikevich (*Shomer), the Yiddish author.

[Dov Rabin]

Holocaust Period

During the period of Soviet rule (1939–41), the community institutions were liquidated and the activity of the political parties was forbidden. Zionist youth movements, however, maintained their frameworks underground. Large economic concerns were nationalized, small-scale trade almost came to a complete stop, and artisans were organized in cooperatives. The city was captured by the Germans on June 27, 1941. Looting and anti-Jewish incidents began. On October 19 a fine of 500,000 rubles and 2.5 kg. of gold was imposed. On October 29, 1941, all the Jews were ordered to gather in the market square and a "selection" was carried out. From among those gathered, 585 artisans were picked out and the others, about 4,000 in number, were executed near the city. The remnant of the community was concentrated in a ghetto that was surrounded by a wire fence.

At the end of December 1941, an underground organization was founded in the ghetto. It began with the acquisition of arms and the preparation of other means of self-defense. In July 1942 news of the destruction of nearby communities reached the ghetto and the underground prepared to fight. The chairman of the Judenrat, Magalif, a lawyer from Warsaw, cooperated with the underground. On July 17 the Germans surrounded the ghetto to carry out a selection. When the Germans broke through the gate, the Jews set their houses afire and defended themselves, with the few weapons they had and with knives, hatchets, and sticks. About 40 Germans were hit, but the Germans and their Lithuanian collaborators overcame the inhabitants of the ghetto. About 25 fighters fled into the forests. Some organized into a partisan unit and were integrated into the Chkalov battalion of partisans that was active in the forests of Volozhin. With the liberation of the city by the Soviets, Jewish life was not reconstituted. The survivors went to Poland, and from there some went to Ereẓ Israel and others migrated overseas.

[Aharon Weiss]

bibliography:

S. Dubnow (ed.), Pinkas… Medinot Lita (1925), index; H. Alexandrov, in: Vaysrusishe Visnshaft-Akademie, Tsaytshrift, 4 (1930), 67–73; Lita, 3 (1967); Sefer ha-Partizanim ha-Yehudim, 1 (1958), 545–55; Sefer Milḥamot ha-Getta'ot (1954), 478–80, 607.