Koidanov Massacre and One Survivor’s Remarkable Tale


On this day 68 years ago, Alex Kurzem‘s mother, sister and brother were brutally murdered by the Nazis on the outskirts of their village in Belorussia. In fact, approximately 1,600 Jews were murdered and buried in mass graves in Koidanov, outside Minsk. CBS News told the incredible story of how Alex, a six-year-old orphan, survived the Nazis’ final solution and kept how he survived a secret for more than 50 years. “The Mascot” aired on 60 Minutes in February of this year (see video link above) and is retold in “The Youngest Corporal in the Nazi Army” on their website. The Mascot is also the title of a book written by Alex’s son, Mark, who tells his father’s story of escape, survival, and remarkably, his life as a Nazi mascot. Read a review of Mark Kurzem’s book on Tracing the Tribe.


Memorial to the 21 Oct 1941 Koidanov massacre

The Koidanov shtetl was renamed Dzyarzhynsk (or Dzerzhinsk), Belarus. The Vanished World of Lithuanian Jews (p. 285) tells how the 12th Batallion of the Lithuanian Schutzmannschaft, an auxilliary police batallion recruited by the Nazis, committed mass murder in the Minsk region in October 1941 (see also Richard Breitman’s paper, titled “Himmler’s Police Auxiliaries in the Occupied Soviet Territories” at the Museum of Tolerance).

Of the three million Russian Jews murdered in the Holocaust, 800,000 of them were Belorussian. Ninety percent of the Jews in Belorussia were murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators (Source: The Jewish Virtual Library).

I found this tragic story on the blog This Day in Jewish History and stumbled upon Alex Kurzem’s story while searching “Koidanov, Belarus” on Google. Never Again! pauses to remember Kurzem’s family and the other 1,000 – 1,900 Jews murdered this day 68 years ago.


13 Responses to “Koidanov Massacre and One Survivor’s Remarkable Tale”

  1. nikolaykotev Says:

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  2. celeste simms Says:

    Good cause.

  3. Kenneth Waltzer Says:

    Alex Kurzem’s tale of the Koidanov massacre does not match the historical record. The massacre occurred in one day, not two, it was not raining, and the killings are estimated at 1920 Jews. An Extraordinary Commission took witness depositions in October 1944.

  4. Jeffrey Shallit Says:

    Kurzem’s account may not exactly match the historical record, but he was a very small child at the time, and it is now 60 years later. The main lines of of the story are well-documented in the book – it is hard to dispute the photos.

  5. Lee Levitz Says:

    I read the book that tells Alex’s story. I think in English its called “The Charm” or something like that. Its horrible and I dont know the ending becuase I am still reading the book but I cried a few times. I am Israeli and only 14 but i read alot of holocaust book for some reason and this one is one that I will remember…

  6. @Lee Levits The book in English is called “The Mascot”. I’m 15 and recently finished reading it, its one of the best books i’ve read

  7. Bob Peskin Says:

    My grandmother was born in Koidanov, in 1895. Emigrated with her mother, older sister and younger brother to the US in 1902. Her father and two older brothers had already emigrated.

  8. Jiawei Hsu Says:

    Just finished the book “Mascot”, great one!
    Can’t imagine what Alex had gone thru as a young child and all the way until this day!
    Never again!

  9. Sandi Breman Says:

    My father emigrated from “Koidanov” around 1917. The Ellis Island officials spelled his name as above, though my father protested it was not correct. My father was known as Israel (Ike) Koidanov. After a brief stay in Long Island, N.Y. lived and died in Uniontown, PA.

  10. Coming late to this book, I have just read it and have been deeply moved by it, despite the oddities of Alex’s memory. I had even thought to trying to contact the writer, Mark Kurzem, only to find at this late date that he had died young in 2009.

  11. Kimutai Keitany Mr. Says:

    I read with shock and disbelief the story of Alex in THE MASCOT. It is very hard to believe that a human being can survive under such adverse conditions…..i kept praying after every page wondered how this world can be so cruel. I have a 15 year old son and when i narrated the story to him, he cried. The tale of Alex is not a hoax, God kept him alive so that he could tell. I hope a film about the MASCOT will one day be made. May Alex live for 110 years…….

  12. Yelena Shifman Says:

    My grandfather, Samuel Fraynt, was born in Koidanov and moved to Minsk in late 20th or early 30th. His entire family, including parents, brothers and sisters with children, was killed at that day. My grandfather was drafted to the army in the first days of the war and cannot help them to survive. I remember as a kid I went to the Koidanov couple of times in every year to visit that mass grave.

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