November 12, 1945
Mass Grave of Murdered Jews Discovered near Iwje, Poland, November 1945
On the eve of the Holocaust, some 3,000 Jews lived in the town of Iwje, Poland (today part of Belarus) located between Vilna and Minsk. Most of them were tradesmen, artisans and factory owners. Jewish political parties and youth movements were active in Iwje, as were religious and educational institutions, including the "Tarbut" school and a Yiddish school.
Iwje fell into German hands about one week after the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. In August of the same year, the Germans rounded up 224 of Iwje's Jewish intellectuals, among them rabbis and teachers, and shot them in a nearby forest with the help of Lithuanian locals.
A ghetto was established in the town, and by April 1942 hundreds of additional Jews had been transferred there from neighboring villages. On 12 May 1942, thousands of Jews from the ghetto were gathered in the market square. Following a selection, most of them – some 2,300 people including many women and babies – were taken to the same site in the forest, where they were murdered.
By September 1943, the ghetto's remaining Jews had all been deported to labor camps or death camps.