The Shepshelevic Family - Zdzięcioł-Zhetel, Poland (today Belarus)

Avraham and Batya Shepshelevic were murdered with their daughters Bracha and Rachel in 1941 in the killing pits in Zdzięcioł, Poland. Their son Ephraim and their daughter Yocheved survived.

Avraham and Batya Shepshelevic lived in the town of Zdzięcioł, in the Nowogródek district of Poland (today, Dziatlava, Belarus), surrounded by family members.  They had four children: Ephraim (b. 1923), Yocheved, Bracha (b. 1926) and Rachel (b. 1929).  Avraham made a living driving a horse and cart.  In 1939, some 3,500 Jews lived in the town, 75% of the total population. Ephraim, who was a gifted student, was sent away to study accountancy in Vilna, but was forced to halt his studies and return home in September 1939 due to the outbreak of World War II.

On 18 September 1939, Zdzięcioł was occupied by the Red Army, and became known by its Russian name, Dyatlovo.  In the wake of the occupation, Jewish political parties were outlawed, Jewish schools and private shops were nationalized or closed, and cooperatives were set up in which the Jews of the town were employed.  Ephraim attended a Russian school.

On 30 June 1941, Zdzięcioł was occupied by the Germans.  Many young Jews followed the retreating Russians into the USSR, including Ephraim Shepshelevic and his two younger sisters Bracha and Rachel, who travelled in a horse-drawn wagon.  On the way, they were strafed by the Germans and had to abandon the horse and cart.  Ephraim and his sisters ran for cover from the bombing in a wheat field, and only found each other the next morning and started the return journey home to Zdzięcioł.

The Jews of Zdzięcioł were subjected to many anti-Jewish decrees, and in early 1942, a ghetto was established there.  Ephraim managed to leave town and reached Russia via Minsk.  Batya, Avraham and their daughters stayed in the ghetto.  On 30 April, an Aktion took place in the ghetto in the course of which the Jews were gathered in the old cemetery and a selection took place.  Some 100 youngsters and professionals were separated from the others, while approximately 1,200 Jews were shot to death in the forest, 2 km north of the town.  In August, the ghetto in Zdzięcioł was liquidated, and the remaining Jews were brought to the Jewish cemetery and shot.  Among the murdered were Batya, Avraham, Bracha and Rachel.  Several hundred young Jews from Zdzięcioł escaped to the forest during the Aktion, including Yocheved.

Ephraim and his sister Yocheved survived. After the war, Yocheved immigrated to Eretz Israel (Mandatory Palestine), married Mordechai Bushlin, a partisan from Zdzięcioł, and they settled in Zichron Yaakov.  In April 1947, Ephraim tried to immigrate too, but his boat was intercepted by the British, and he was detained in Cyprus.  There he met Miriam Razevski, also from Zdzięcioł, who had survived in the forest with her mother Liza.  Ephraim and Miriam immigrated to Israel, got married, and changed their family name to Shefer.

In 1999, Ephraim Shefer (Shepshelevic) submitted Pages of Testimony to Yad Vashem in memoryof his parents Avraham and Batya, his sisters Bracha and Rachel, his grandfather Zalman and other relatives.  Ephraim served for decades as secretary of the Association for Survivors from Zdzięcioł, and dedicated his life to commemorating his community.