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.
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.