Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


NN Theatre

Lunna - Cultural Heritage Card

Lunna is a village in Grodno region, Belarus. In 2005 it was transformed into an agrarian town.

A Jewish house with a trace of the mezuzah at 3 Grodzieńska street in Lunna
A Jewish house with a trace of the mezuzah at 3 Grodzieńska street in Lunna (Author: Filina, Natalya)

It is situated 26 km to the west from Mosty at the highway R41 and R44.   It is the center of Lunna village council of Mosty district, Grodno district to the south from Neman. Population of the village is 1,165 people (1997).

Geographic coordinates: 53°27'9"N   24°15'7"E

Historical and cultural memorials: Holy-Prichestenskaya church, Antoniy Bartashevich chappel-vault. 

HistoryDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

It is considered that this settlement appeared not later than in the 12th century. There is an idea that its name is of Baltic origin and was given by the Yotvingians. And now "lunas" in Lithuanian means swamps. It is not improbable that the name of the village is related to the name of a swamp bird harrier с (Slavic version is "Lun").

At the end of the 16th century the village was a part of Grodno district, Trokskoye voivodeship of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Rzeczpospolita) and was a state property. In 1546 queen Bona Sforza permitted to take an area for building an RC church in Lunna. For some unknown reason building of the church lasted for a very long time and was finished only in 1795 thanks to contribution made by the king Stanislav August Poniatovski. In 1872 there were 1999 in the parish. In 1895 restoration of the RC church at the cost of princess Drutskaya-Lubetskaya was organized. The restoration was performed according to the project of K.Nasilovskiy.

In 1795 the village was included to the Russian Empire. It became a volost center of Grodno district. In 1833 there were 90 houses in the village (one of the houses was made of stone and other were wooden). Population of the village was 828 people. There were 8 shops, 12 drinking houses (inns) and an RC church. In 1865 a public school was organized in the village. Matvey Yuditskiy was one of the first teachers of this school. He finished a course of study at Svisloch Teacher's Seminary. In 1886 population of the village was 1,392 (including 1,115 Jews). The following institutions were in operation: volost council, an RC church, a synagogue, 3 Jewish praying houses, an almshouse, 20 shops, 3 hotels, 2 eating houses, a bathhouse, 2 mills, a public school (89 pupils including 11 girls). At the house of volost council markets were organized, a wine plant was in operation. In the beginning of the 20th century population of the village was 2400. There was a parochial school, a feldsher's station, a post office etc. A mayontak (estate) Lunna bordered with the village (81 inhabitants).

During the war between Bolsheviks and the Poles Trotskiy came to the headquarters situated in one of the houses in Lunna.

In March 1921 the village became a part of Poland. The village was a gmina center of Grodno district, Belostotskoye voivodeship. In 1921 the village had 307 houses and its population was 1,884 people.  In 1939 the village was included to the Belorussian SSR. Since the 12th of December 1940 it is a working settlement and the center of the village council.  During years of the Great Patriotic War (from June 1941 and up to the 14th of July 1944) the village was occupied by the Nazis. And 55 villagers went to the front.  During the war fascists created a ghetto in Lunna. In this ghetto 1,549 people were imprisoned.

On the eve of the war in 1938 1, 671 Jews lived in Lunna (the total population was 2,522 people). That is the share of Jews was 60% (about 300 families).

Before occupation some Jews managed to leave for Eretz Israel and to other areas. Somewere mobilized to the Polish Army Krayova or to the Red Army, some were deported to the Soviet Union.

On Saturday the 28th of June 1941 village Lunna (Lunna-Volia) was occupied by units of Wehrmacht (in accordance with some other sources it happened on the 24th or the 25th of June). German soldiers started to plunder Jewish houses and to kill Jews: on the very first day several Jews were shot dead accused in relations with the Soviet reconnaissance service. Next after the troops the Einsazgroup penetrated the village.

In July 1941 Germans organized a Judenrat (Jewish Committee) in Lunna. Yaakov Welbel (the former head of the Jewish Community of the village) was appointed the chairman of the Judenrat. Also Germans forced Jews to create "Jewish Police" (6-8 persons) for maintenance of order inside the ghetto.

Yet before creation of the ghetto Jews were ordered to wear yellow stripes on the right hand.  A month later yellow stripes were substituted with six-pointed stars on the left side of the chest and the inscription "Jude" ("Jew") on the back. Jews were forbidden to take part in any cultural and educational activities. They were also prohibited from coming into big groups. Germans introduced closing time from 07:00 p.m. and till 06:00 a.m. And in addition to this Jews were prohibited from leaving the village without a written permission of occupation powers. Germans and policemen using complete impunity plundered and killed Jews hanging or shooting them dead for the smallest fault. There is eyewitness testimony that the military governor of Lunna shot a Jew directly in his office room.

All adult Jewish men 18-60 years of age were forced to perform hard works (construction of roads, new fortifications, disassembly of captured soviet military planes and saw timber production). Some Jews were ordered to perform agricultural works and repairing works in houses of Byelorussians and Poles in Lunna and neighboring villages. Jews didn't receive any payment for performing these works. Owners of houses paid a small amount of money directly to the German municipal administration.  Each Jew performing compulsory works obtained 1 kg of bread per day. They had to sell or exchange clothes and tools for food in order not to die of hunger performing such hard works.

On the 13th of October 1941 the Nazis issued an order about confiscation of all movable and immovable property from Jews in Lunna.

In September 1941 before Sukkot holiday Germans announced about creating a ghetto for Jews in the neighboring settlement Volia which in fact had merged with Lunna and that's why these settlements were toponymically called "Lunna-Volia". On the 2nd of November 1941 from 12:00 p.m. till 06:00 p.m all Jews in Lunna were resettled.  They were permitted only things they could carry themselves or in a small cart. Jews living in Lunna had to abandon their houses and to settle in houses of Jews in Volia or in synagogue and Yeshiva in Volia. Jews from a neighboring settlement Volia were also driven to this ghetto as far as this settlement was almost completely destroyed. Before resettlement Germans collected Sefers Torah and other holy Jewish books from synagogues of Lunna and Volia and burnt them in the yard of the synagogue in Volia.

Houses of Jews were immediately inhabited by other villagers. Jews of Volia remained in their houses but several Jewish families from Lunna were moved to each of these houses. During resettlement Jews were permitted to take certain personal demand items (for example beds, bed-clothes, kitchen-ware and photographs).

Ghetto was situated on both sides of the main road connecting Volia with neighboring villages. Germans didn't want to block this direction and that's why they embraced both parts of the ghetto with high fences of barbed wire and built a shaky wooden bridge over the road. Jews under penalty of death were prohibited to leave ghetto without permission.  

Conditions of life in Volia ghetto were really difficult. Houses and synagogues were overcrowded. There were not more than 3 sq.m. of living space per head.  Some Jewish families had to settle even in unheated household buildings and with an onset of cold weather several families had to dig dugouts in order to live there. There is information about an instance when at the electric mill in Lunna water cooling the engine was frozen and Germans ordered some Jews (despite the very cold weather) including women and children to carry water in buckets from Neman river situated at a distance of a kilometer from the mill (this work was performed during three days while repair of the engine was going on).

Commandant Skidler continuously pulled fear on Jews in the ghetto. In the beginning when Jews still had valuable things he demanded from the Judenrat to bring him gold and silver, bottles of wine, coffee and other valuable items in case of non-obedience he promised to shoot members of Judenrat dead.

After ghetto was created situation with food worsened significantly.  Non-Jewish population was prohibited to enter ghetto and Jews living in ghetto could buy food only underhand on their way to work. In order to bring this food to ghetto they had to take risks again.  The Judenrat managed to persuade Germans to bring ten confiscated caws back to ghetto. Jews had to feed these caws with potato peelings. Some families managed to grow some vegetables.

Another problem faced by Jews living in the ghetto was lack of firewood for heating premises and for cooking food. Once occupational authorities agreed to sell roots of trees to Judenrat (Jews stored these trees during performing compulsory works).

In summer 1942 the Nazis organized a Jewish labor camp near Berestovitsa. About 150 young Jewish men from Lunna and neighboring settlements were sent to this camp. In November of 1942 all prisoners were deported to Treblinka and were killed there.

On the night of the 1st - the 2nd of November 1942 using carts assembled in neighboring villages all prisoners of the ghetto were brought to a transit camp Kolbasino (not far from Grodno) where people were quickly dying of hunger, cold and diseases.

On the 5th of December 1942 within a program of Jews extermination, prisoners from Kolbasino camp were started to be moved to the death camp Auschwitz, they were made to go on foot during night time and sub-zero temperature to Lososno station.

The last Jews in Lunna were killed not later than on the 5th of March 1943.

According to archive documents during years of the Second World War 1,549 Jews from Lunna-Volia were tortured and killed. The overwhelming majority of them were killed by Germans upon arrival to Auschwitz on the 8th of December 1942. Almost all of those who were left alive died during the following several months. Only 15 persons of all the Jewish population of this village stayed alive.

The database of victims of Holocaust in the institute Yad Vashem in Jerusalem include archive lists of names of 265 Jews living in Lunna who were killed during the war period and names of  71 Jews from Lunna who were killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau during winter 1942—1943. This data is of fragmentary nature.

Zalman Gradovskiy, inhabitant of Lunna (a former member of Lunna judenrat responsible for sanitary and medical matters) managed to survive in Kolbasino camp and was sent to Auschwitz where he lost all his family but before his death he managed to write about his experience (including information about Lunna ghetto) and to bury his writing in ash near the crematorium. These writings were found and published. Gradovskiy was one of heads of prisoners' rebellion in Auschwitz on the 7th of October 1944; he died during a shoot-out.

In 1951, 1953 and 1957 children of former inhabitants of Lunna organized in Tel Aviv "Memorial days of Lunna inhabitants" who died during the  Catastrophe (Holocaust). In 1952 the same meeting took place in New York. In March of 2006 almost 150 persons from all regions of Israel came for meeting of natives of Lunna which took place in Givataim.

On 16th of December 1955 this settlement obtained status of a village.  In 1972: it had 473 yards and population of 1,475 persons. As of the 1st of January 2001: 544 yards, 1,182 inhabitants, a forestry, a complex reception center of public services, a canteen, a bread-making complex, a trading enterprise Lunna retail company, 6 shops. 

ArcheologyDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

A stone drilled axe was found which is now in the school museum.

Samples of construction and architectureDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

(only existing objects)

Anna's RC Church: it is situated in the center of the village; it was built of bricks in 1782; in 1895 it was reconstructed; it is a memorial of late classicism architecture.  

Holy-Prichestenskaya church: built of wood in 1889; a memorial of architecture.

Memorial placesDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Within the territory of the ghetto itself in Lunna there are no memorials to killed Jews. And the memorial sign is situated aside. This sign set up in 2005 in street Kirova (earlier it was street Zagoryany) includes an inscription in Yiddish (but there is no direct testimony that it is referred to the Jews): "An imperishable memory of 1,459 inhabitants of Lunna who were guiltlessly killed during the Great Patriotic War". And in July of 2006 a memorial plate has been set up near this stone.

In September of 2006 in the cemetery "Kyryat Shaul" in Tel Aviv a stone was set up in honor of Jewish communities of Grodno region (including Lunna) exterminated by Hitlerites.

The common grave of soviet warriors in the square park near the school building 7 warriors were buried who had died in July of 1944 during releasing the village from the Nazis. In 1974 an overgrave plate was set up.

Monument to fellow countrymen: in 1967 a monument was set up the square park in the commemoration of people who died during years of the Great Patriotic War. 

The memorial sign: at the place of forced crossing Neman River performed by warriors of the 64th riffle division (At the place of crossing an arrow was set up). 

Monument of Ivan Grigoryevich Sheremet: in the yard of the school a bust of the hero of the Soviet Union I.G. Sheremet whose name was given to the school; the bust was set up in 1973.

Museums, archives, libraries, private collections Direct link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

A secondary school, a school of music, nursery school, a recreation center, a library.

ReferencesDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

1.    Адамушко В. И., Бирюкова О. В., Крюк В. П., Кудрякова Г.А. «Справочник о местах принудительного содержания гражданского населения на оккупированной территории Беларуси 1941-1944». — Мн.: Национальный архив Республики Беларусь, Государственный комитет по архивам и делопроизводству Республики Беларусь, 2001. — 158 с. — 2000 экз.

2.    Памяць. Мастоўскі раён. – Мінск ПК “ПАЛІГРАФАФАРМЛЕННЕ”, 2002

3.     Łunna // Геаграфічны слоўнік Каралеўства Польскага і іншых славянскіх краёў. Tom V: Kutowa Wola — Malczyce. — Warszawa, 1884. 830.

4.    Ганна Новікава. Лунна // Энцыклапедыя гісторыі Беларусі. У 6 т. Т. 4: Кадэты — Ляшчэня / Беларус. Энцыкл.; Рэдкал.: Г. П. Пашкоў (галоўны рэд.) і інш.; Маст. Э. Э. Жакевіч. — Мн.: БелЭн, 1997. С. 401.

5.    Соркіна І. Мястэчкі Беларусі ў канцы ХVІІІ — першай палове ХІХ ст. — Вільня: ЕГУ, 2010.

6.    Из воспоминаний членов зондеркоманды заключенных Освенцима. Рассказывает Элиезер Эйзеншмидт (Ч.2) // [Электронный ресурс] - Дата доступа - 05.07.14 г.

7.    Маркус Руфь. Было когда-то местечко под названием Лунно // [Электронный ресурс] - Дата доступа – 07.08.14 г.

8.    Jewish Cen ShtetLinks Łunna // [Электронный ресурс] Дата доступа - 13.07.14 г.

9.    Гетто в Лунно. Википедия // [Электронный ресурс]Дата доступа – 05.06.14 г.

10.                       Российская еврейская энциклопедия. Лунно // [Электронный ресурс] Дата доступа – 18.06.14 г.

Залман Градовский. «В сердцевине ада». - Изд. Гамма-Пресс, М., 2010.


Author: Irina Milinkevich