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Jewish ghetto in Uzda

The Jews of the small shtetl Uzda, not far from Minsk, felt the threat of the approaching war as early as September 1939. Then several Jewish refugee families from the German-occupied regions of Poland arrived in the town. Feeling the attitude of the Nazis towards the Jews, they warned the Uzda people about the need to flee further to the east. Those who followed this warning were able to escape. A sad fate awaited the rest two years later.

With the outbreak of the war, in June 1941, some of the Jews of Uzda nevertheless decided to evacuate inland, but few managed to do this. Troops entered the shtetl and, having appointed an occupying power from local collaborators, the Germans began to carry out their sinister program for the "final solution of the Jewish question." An order was issued prescribing all Jews, regardless of gender and age, to leave their homes and move to a specially organized ghetto with a minimum of belongings. According to some reports, about 300 families of Jews from Uzda and other nearby villages were resettled in the ghetto. Both adults and children (from 10 years old) were required to sew and wear yellow stars (armor) on their backs and chests. Barbed wire surrounded the ghetto on all sides; prisoners were allowed to walk inside it only in the middle of the street, and if they stepped onto the sidewalk, they were threatened with immediate execution.

All adult prisoners, as well as children from 12 years old, were involved in work determined by the German commandant's office. Most often, these were heavy work on unloading wagons at the Uzda railway station or clearing territories. At 7 o'clock, regardless of the weather, a column of Jewish prisoners, driven by guards with dogs, went to work. Those who worked slowly were beaten with rifle butts. The prisoners were fed only once a day: a plate of gruel and one hundred grams of ersatz bread. Work lasted until 6 pm, and often longer.

The denouement came on October 17, 1941. The day before, the Jews were informed that they would be transported to another place, so they should put on their best clothes. Valuables and jewelry they should put separately. Many believed, because the chief of police Vitkovski, who also lived in Uzda before the war, told them about this. And although at night they were warned about the deception by a Jew who had made his way from the neighboring ghetto destroyed the day before in Shatsk, it was already impossible to change anything. At 5 am, the Uzda ghetto was surrounded by punishers, the prisoners began to be driven into tarpaulin-covered vehicles. Those who resisted were shot on the spot.

The Jews were taken to the outskirts of Uzda, to the trenches dug out the day before by prisoners of war. All of them were machine-gunned in a matter of minutes, the wounded and still alive were thrown to the corpses, and then buried. The exact number of Jews killed in the Uzda ghetto is still unknown, according to some sources, 1,740 people died there.