Nesvizh Research Update
The Nesvizh Study Group is an informal group of genealogists researching their ancestry in the shtetl of Nesvizh, Belarus. A small group that originally assembled at the Boston Jewish Genealogy seminar in July 1996 has expanded to a list approaching 40 to share Nesvizh information. As a cooperative effort, success relies on the input of information, ideas, and occasionally money to support joint projects. All the material and lists linked here were provided either individually or collectively by members of the group. The first major joint effort was the pooling of funds to hire a translator to prepare an English-language index to the Nesvizh Yizkor Book. Others with interest in this shtetl should get in touch with Steve Stein, Facilitator.
- Part I: SEFER NESVIZH YIZKOR BOOK
- Part II: INVENTORY OF MATERIAL ON NESVIZH
- Part III: ONGOING AND PROPOSED RESEARCH PROJECTS
- Part IV: NESVIZH INTEREST GROUP MAILING LIST
- Part V: MISCELLANY
Part I: SEFER NESVIZH YIZKOR BOOK
Linked to the homepage is the results of our first major cooperative venture, an English index to the Hebrew portion of Sefer Niesviez, the Nesvizh (preferred spelling) Yizkor Book. Big thanks go to Russ Chase (Los Angeles) who initiated the idea, developed the format, and conducted all business with the translator; to Brad Lakritz (San Rafael, CA) for volunteering to copy the 216 pages of the book; to Danny Rubinoff (Jerusalem) for a highly professional job of compiling, translating, and formatting the index; and to all the members who contributed to make this project possible.
With the completion of this work, and with contributions of important excerpts by our members, much of the contents of the book is accessible.
Brad Lakritz has a xerox copy of the Hebrew and Yiddish portion of the book. He is willing to copy articles in which you may find names of interest in the index. Please get in touch with him directly to make cost-reimbursement arrangements. See his e-mail address in the members list. Russ Chase also has the book and can make copy short selections. Steve Stein indicates his uncle in Florida and cousin in Israel have copies.
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Part II: INVENTORY OF MATERIAL ON NESVIZH
This is a description of all the resource information we hold. Please let me know if you acquire new material of interest. Get in touch privately with those listed for copies or other information.
A. Yizkor Book
The full citation to the Nesvizh yizkor book is: Sefer Nieswiez, edited by David Shtokfish (Tel Aviv, Israel: Nieswiez Societies in Israel and the Diaspora, 1976), 531 pages, Hebrew and English. Russ Chase has a copy; Brad Lakritz has access to a copy and a xerox of portions of it (see above). For library sources, see the Bibliography page Bibliography of Material on Nesvizh
B. Published Material
Amy Levinson has a copy of Documentary Sources on Jewish History in the Archives of the CIS and the Baltic States, published in 1994 by St. Petersburg Jewish University.
Ben Weinstock has two books:
(1) Cholawski, Shalom, Soldiers from the Ghetto: The First Uprising Against the Nazis (San Diego and New York: A.S. Barnes & Co., Inc., 1980), 182 pp. In English. A first-person account of the takeover of Nesvizh by the Red Army, Nazi invasion and ghettoization, and the escape of one its leaders to become a partisan commander. Names appearing in the book, Cholawski, Shalom, Soldiers from the Ghetto: The First Uprising Against the Nazis
(2) Cohen, Morris Rafael, A Dreamer's Journey (Boston, MA: The Beacon Press, 1949), 316 pp. In English, indexed. Two chapters of his autobiography cover his early life in Neshwies (Nesvizh) at about the turn of the century, and his later return. For a list of names and excerpts, see Names and excerpts from Morris R. Cohen, A Dreamer's Journey
Ben has copies of a page (in Russian) from Archival Material of the History and Genealogy of Jews in Russia in the 19th Century, by Genreich Deych, New York, 1992 listing names of four synagogue officials in 1853-1854.
Mike has xerox copies of the Minsk chapter (guberniya in which Nesvizh is located) of the Vsia Rossiia (VR) -- All-Russia Business Directory of 1895, 1897, 1899, in Russian, with English translations of the few 1895 and 1897 names (by Ben Weinstock). Nesvizh Entries in Vsia Rossiia, All-Russia Business Directories, 1895 and 1897.
The VRs have pretty good Minsk Guberniya maps, in Russian of course.
Judy Kunofsky has copy of Ayzenbud, Mosheh, Niesvisher yidn: dertseylungen (Melbourne, Australia, E.H. Gibbs & Sons, 1965), 246 pp., Short stories., which she received as a gift from Ben Weinstock (another Nesvizh researcher), who is a cousin of Mr. Ayzenbud's. The University of Chicago Library also has a copy; Mike can borrow.
A Nesvizh map is available from The Four One Company, London, Ontario [this information is known to be obsolete. - Steve]. Here's the description:
Double-sided. Folded. Scale 1:15K. Scale in miles. Size 24 x 16". Belarussian, Russian, and English languages. Produced in Belarus 1993. DETAILS: This compact, highly detailed map covers the city of Nesvizh. Areas are marked as residential, industrial, and residential currently under construction. Architectural monuments are noted as are cathedrals and churches. Parks, woods, lawns, meadows, gardens, shrubs and cemeteries are also noted. Canals and ditches, swamps, reed beds, quarries are shown. Roads are shown according to type - numbered highways, improved dirt, dirt, European road numbering, paths in parks. Distances are indicated in kilometres. A list of memorials is included. Also shown on the map are accommodations, restaurants and cafes, canteens, markets, consumer services, libraries, post offices and telegraphs, legal advice offices, department stores, children's goods, fabrics, radio products, sports items, books, stationery, optical, furniture, liquor stores, and more. Public restrooms are noted as are sports facilities, service stations, pharmacies and medical facilities.
The reverse side includes a planimetric map with important buildings marked. Detailed descriptions of these structures are included alongside. "Nesvizh, a district Center in the Minsk region, is one of the most ancient historical and cultural centres of Byelorussia, a memorial town. The exact date of its foundation has not been ascertained yet. Signs of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, classical styles indicate that construction was carried out in many stages. The architectural monuments in Nesvizh are a valuable contribution made by the Byelorussian and other European nations to the common treasure-house of world cultural legacy."
FOUR ONE COMPANY LTD, MAPS & ATLASES [this information is known to be obsolete. - Steve]
523 Hamilton Road
London, N5Z 1S3, Canada
C. Unpublished and Archival Material: Vital Records, Censuses, etc.
Ksiega Adresowa Handlowa, Warszawa Bydgoszcz 1925 Nesvizh Entries in Merchant Business Book of Addresses in Poland 1925; all entries for the town of Nesvizh.>From the collection of Tomek Wisniewski of Bialystok, Poland. Excerpted by Stephanie H. Goldberg.
Revision lists for 1850 (which indicates changes from 1834), 1863-4 (FHL film #s 1,792,205-206 -- these apparently list no Jews), and 1873-4 (film #s 1,792,209-210). Details about all the FHL films for the Slutsk district (uezd) which includes Nesvizh are on the "by-rec" JewishGen infofile Jewish Records from Belarus at the LDS. (Note: The original survey was conducted in 1646, extending in stages to 1717. Subsequent surveys, or "revisions" continued from 1719 through the tenth in 1897, followed by the only universal census, in 1897. The first to cover Jews as subjects of the Czar was the fourth, in 1781-1787. Source: Robert Weiss' presentation at the L.A. Seminar, July 1998.)
- 1795 Nesvizh District (Polish Language) film no. 2,008,282 - 283 (only peasants and Polish nobility listed in FHL). This was the 5th revision.
- 1811, 1816, 1818 Slutsk District film no. 2,010,46 8 - 469. These were the 6th and 7th revisions.
- The 8th and 9th revisions have not been filmed. The 1850 revision indicates the changes from 1834.
- 1858-1864 Slutsk District film no. 1,792,205 - 206. This might have been the 10th revision or a supplement to it; this list apparently contains no Jews.
- 1869 Slutsk District film no. 1,792,213. Another supplement?
- 1873-74 films nos. 1,792,209-10.
Russ Chase had a private researcher to obtain the (unfilmed) 1850 revision list for his Eisenbud family from the Minsk Archives. Russ also has received information from the 1850, 1863-4, and 1873-4 revision lists from Gutman. Vitaly Charny, Birmingham, AL, is also searching this material and may provide translated extracts when he has time. Charny provided Steve Stein and Judy Kunofsky with surnames of interest from the 1873-4 lists and Judy Kunofsky with surnames of interest from the 1816 lists. Contact Charny at Vcharny@aol.com. UPDATE: Though records from the 1834 and 1850 revisions reside only in the Minsk archive and may not be filmed, the Nesvizh Study Group has obtained complete spreadsheets of transcriptions of those and related supplemental revisions which have been uploaded into the All Belarus Database on JewishGen.
FHL has filmed a list of males eligible for the draft in 1874 (covering what area? what film numbers?)
Stanislav Gorbulev reported to Judy Kunofsky that, in film no. 1,920,795 containing some 1882 and 1895 birth records for Minsk, he found several people who had moved to Minsk from Nesvizh. They are found on records #480 (the reverse of page 138). He identified the following surnames
1882: Perelman, Malyavsky, Shastak, Zaturensky, Mnaker (2)
1895: Velkes, Katzler (2), Braver, Bashinkevich, Lipovsky, Blekher (2), Zaturensky, Getzov, Goldberg, Borukhov, Tsodikovich, Gertzik, Krasnoselsky, Lifshitz, Novogrudsky, (2) Fridberg, Pogoreltzev, Epshtein, Bursky, Kholyavsky, Rubin, Sragovich.
Mike has copy of the report of the Soviet Extraordinary Commission on Nesvizh (4 pages), received from Yad Vashem in 1994, including a translation from the Russian.
Vitaly Charny reports that Slutsk uezd voter lists data is available for 1905, 1906, 1907 and he can extract Nesvizh Jewish names. There are hundreds of records. Some entries don't have patronymics. They were published as supplements to Minsk official newspaper. The information from the 3 voter lists do not always overlap since voter qualifications kept changing. Charny provided Judy Kunofsky with surnames of interest from the 1906 and 1907 voter lists. Some of the information included the value (in rubles, of course) of individuals' property.
Pinkassim (by Ben Weinstock): A "pinkas" is a communal record book. Supposedly, the word derives from the Greek word "pinka," meaning "desk," referring to the writing down of important events. In the past ten years a collection of pinkassim from many Jewish communities was found at the Vernadsky Library of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences. Since 1994 the Jewish National and University Library (JNUL) has been microfilming these books. Based upon my correspondence with Mr. Benjamin Richler of the JNUL, it appears that the three pinkassim for Nesvizh have not yet been microfilmed.
This is a brief description of the Nesvizh pinkassim (Source: Yohan Petrovsky, "Obzor Kollektsii Pionkasov v Otdele Rukopisei Tsentralnoi Nauchnoi Biblioteki im Vernadski Natsionalnoi Akademii Nauk Ukraine," Evreiski Arkhiv, Moscow, 1996; see also Petrovsky's article in Avotaynu, Summer, 1996):
PINKAS KEHILAT NESVIZH: 2nd half 18th century to approximately 1st quarter of the 19th century. 211 pages, 49 of which are blank.
TAKKANOT VE-PINKAS NESVIZH: Statutes; not dated. Number of pages not listed.
PINKAS KHEVRAH KADISHA: Burial society, 1774-1903. 181 pages. A stamp on page 181 reads "Stamp of the Society to Help Poor Jews in Nesvizh."
D. On-Line Sources
More information coming soon . . .
To add your online resources send E-mail to the Nesvizh web site coordinator.
E. Landsmanshaftn Information
Names appearing in several of the Nesvizh landsmanshaftn incorporation papers can be found at Nesvizh Landsmanshaftn Incorporators.
Russell Chase and Gerry Sanders have copies of the NY State incorporation papers for a number of Nesvizh landsmanshaftn copied from the American Jewish Historical Society (AJHS) at Brandeis University, soon to be moved to the Center for Jewish History in New York. Here are references to the index to incorporation at the NY Supreme Court, Division of Old Records for Nesvizh organizations, with file numbers. (a) Nieswish Unterstitsing: 0457-88C (1888); 0448-91C (1891); 0495-93C (1893). (b) Nesviser Young Men's Benevolent Association: 01064-42M (1942). "C" means fiche or film; "M" means original hard copy. These probably are the same materials that are on file at the AJHS. Copies can be ordered for $10 per file, payable ONLY by postal money order. Mailing address is 60 Center Street, New York, NY 10007 (or write to Russell or Gerry).
Gerry and Mike have copies of the 1938 banquet program of the Progressive Brethren of Neshwies..
F. Professional Researchers
Several people reported using the services of Yaakov Gutman, Brooklyn, to conduct research in the Minsk Archives. He travels there periodically, evidently has a good relationship with archivists, and his daughter, Olga, provides document translation (she's attending Cornell Univ.). He can be contacted through Olga via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Amy Levinson, Gerry Sanders, and Ben Weinstock also have used the services of Oleg Perzashkevich of the Minsk Genealogy Group and report satisfactory results. E-mail: email@example.com.
Ben Weinstock has used BLITZ for searching in the St. Petersburg Archives and recommends them highly. They identified all Nesvizh material in the Archives including a number of documents of possible genealogical interest.
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Part III: ONGOING AND PROPOSED RESEARCH PROJECTS
* Russ Chase can copy a limited volume of articles from Seyfer Nesvizh based on names identified in the various indexes. NOTE: This information is obsolete. The Yiddish pages are available online at the New York Public Library website, and the Hebrew pages will soon be also. Contact Steve Stein for more information.
* Judy Kunofsky is attempting to arrange for an oral history interview with her cousin in Israel, Sara Shabat, who grew up in Nesvizh.
*Work is moving forward on preparing the name index for Yiddish part of Seyfer Nesvizh.
Other project to consider are:
* Ben reports that the BLITZ work he commissioned in June 1998: "gave us many sources for the history of the town. I cross checked them against the catalog of the New York Public Library; about half a dozen of them, including the newspaper Minskie guberniskie vedomosti, are at the NYPL. There might actually be more there, but have not been entered into the computerized database, and would therefore be listed in the old catalogs (books)." We need to decide whether/how to proceed. In addition:
- the memorandum books sound very interesting. We might want to get information from some sample years -- maybe one from each decade (they have them from 1860-1916). This might be helpful for the people whose families left Nesvizh early, in the 1880s. BTW, we don't have to order translations from BLITZ --we can just get copies (for $3.50 a page, I think) and translate them ourselves. This would keep the costs down as some of us can translate Russian a little (such as myself).
- the file about the reform of the Nesvizh town council in 1862 might have family info, as Jews were delegates.
- the large files about the abuses of the rabbis and other officials may have family history as well...scandals ? juicy details ?
- the file about the storage of the possessions of Jews in the Hermitage sounds very interesting (even though my family names are not listed). This may yield additional info about the interplay between our families and the Radzivills.
* Revision Lists: We can consider hiring someone of repute to review all the available lists for Nesvizh (see Part II, above: "Unpublished Material" to either (1) create a surname index (Oleg Perzashkevich did one for Bobruisk) or (2) we can provide surnames of interest to have records extracted. Several researchers are available (Charny, Perzashkevich, others?). Cost is unknown.
* Getting copies of the three Nesvizh pinkassim (perhaps filming?) at the Jewish National and University Library in Jerusalem. Along with the revision lists, these may be the single best source of individual family information, absent surviving vital records.
* Review all the available business directories (Vsia Rossiia) to see whether there may be Jewish Nesvizh names we may have missed. I (Mike) have copies of all Minsk pages from 1895, 1897, and 1899, and possible access to 1900. Other name books are listed in the BLITZ report.
* Continued review of Hamelitz newspaper to identify reference to Nesvizh and names of interest. Ben has found copies of many issues at the NYPL, circa. 18601904, and has provided citations to all articles referring to Nesvizh for 1880-1890.
*Prepare and upload to the Web lists for the three additional cemeteries known to have Nesvizh burials (per Ben Weinstock): (1) Mt. Judah: section 2, block 5 - Independent Brothers of Neshveis; (2) Wellwood: block 26, section 2 - Progressive Brethren of Neshveis; (3) New Montefiore: section 5, block 12 - Neshwiser Young Men's B. A. Stephen Stein notes that there are two Nieswizer society burial plot in Mt. Carmel Cemetery (NY). Are there any others? (Mike adds: Does anyone have plot/section numbers for any Nesvizh society burials, and a list of burials at these sites?)
* Purchase more Nesvizh images such as postcards and maps from Tomy Wisniewski. He can provide a list of what he has, but he's expensive.
* Translate Hebrew History of the Town from Seyfer Nesvizh - expensive, perhaps $1500 or more.
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Part IV: NESVIZH INTEREST GROUP MAILING LIST
The mailing list is no longer maintained. General discussion of Nesvizh research takes place in the Belarus Discussion Group. Contact the webmaster for access to JewishGen capabilities to email everyone in the Family Finder for Nesvizh.
Return to Nesvizh Page to see how to join the online discussion group.
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Part V: MISCELLANY
-- Josh Hart asks: I read Soldiers from the Ghetto by Shalom Cholawski (name index) and it said that artisans were selected from the general Jewish population on October 30, 1941, and the artisans lived in the ghetto after the massacre on that date. My question is: How did Jewish children manage to stay alive in order to live in the ghetto and take Hebrew classes? I suspect that the Nazis wouldn't have spared these children for their own purposes, so why did they remain alive after Oct. 30, 1941? [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sheldon Brown replies: For the 10/30/41 selection, the Germans did not kill all the artisans, but kept a number of artisans necessary for their purposes and let some of them live with their wives and also some of their children. At times it happened that some of the children from the same family remained alive whereas the other children were taken away to be murdered. Chowalski organized an underground school and found a number of teachers who taught the children. Chowalski also taught a group in his narrow room in the ghetto.
-- All of us should list all of the surnames we are researching on the Jewish Genealogy Family Finder (JGFF), for Nesvizh and anywhere. It's the best way to enable us to be found by other researchers and check it from time to time.
-- Does anyone know the status of access to the Minsk Archives and the compilation of an inventory to its holdings? Rumors have been circulating about it being closed, at least temporarily.
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