THE FIRST SWEEP                      

Other than the Telechan Memorial Book I have found no references to Telechan and the tragic events that occurred there during World War II.  The path of Nazi destruction is well documented and the town of Telechan sat along the pathway.

The German invasion of the USSR known as Operation Barbarossa began June 22, 1941.  Within a week Minsk fell to Germans forces that were greeted with bread and salt by the residents whose ancestors had welcomed conquerors many times before.  Operation Barbarossa marked a new policy towards the Jews—‘systematic destruction of entire Jewish communities.’ [1]  ‘ town, no village, no hamlet was spared the search for Jews to be driven out of their houses, stripped, driven with guns and whips to the pits and shot.’ [2]

As the German armies moved eastward they were followed by designated SS detachments known as Einsatzgruppen (task forces).  “The Einsatzgruppen were special mobile formations charged with carrying out liquidations of communist officials, partisans, saboteurs, and Jews on the eastern front.”[3]  They were responsible for the deaths of two million of the six million Jews killed.  

Einsatzgruppen B, one of four such groups, followed the tanks of the Panzer units through Belarus.  The Einsatzgruppen would then split up into smaller mobile killing squads known as Einsatzkommardos who had developed standard killing routines.  Their job was to methodically exterminate Jews.  They were very good at their work.

"Jews were rounded up, shot on the spot, and dumped into common graves.  Extermination squads spread over the country, inciting the native masses to initiate pogroms and ‘spontaneous massacres.'  Jews were forced to assemble their brethren.  They were then herded into trucks and freight cars, taken outside the town to some ravine or ditch, stripped of valuables and even clothing, and then-men, women, and children-shot.  The countryside became one immense graveyard, the ground drenched with the blood of innumerable anonymous corpses.[4]                             

The killing was continuous, non-stop.  This 1941 action became known as "the first sweep," and sweep it did.

"The geographic distribution of Soviet Jewry determined to a large extent the basic strategy of the mobile killing units.  To reach as many cities as fast as possible, the Einsatzgruppen moved closely on the heels of the advancing armies, trapping the large Jewish population centers before the victims had a chance to discover their fate."

"With every day of the German advance into Russia, tens of thousands of Jews found themselves trapped behind the German lines.  So rapid was the advance that no one could outrun it."[5]

"As the Einsatzkimmando units advanced, several hundred Jewish communities, mostly those in villages and small towns, were destroyed completely."[6]

Telechan was just one of those places.

[1] Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust, Hall & Co. 1985, p. 154

[2] Ibid. p. 178

[3] John Loftus, The Belarus Secret, Alfred Knopf Inc. 1982, p. 18

[4] Abba Eban, My People Behrman/Random 1968

[5] Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust, Hall & Co. 1985, p. 154

[6] Ibid. p. 178