Ruth Lazowski
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Ruth Lazowski

Ruth Lazowski Born: 1935, Present-day Belarus
Deported: 1942
Liberated: 1944
Immigrated to America: 1947

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Ruth Lazowski (nee Rabinowitz) was born in 1935 in the town of Dyatlova (or Zhetel in Yiddish) in present-day Belarus. Ruth (whose birth name was Rokhl) was the older daughter of Miriam and Moshe (Morris) Rabinowitz, and the older sister of Tanya (now Toby). Ruth’s mother was a pharmacist and had a drug store in the middle of town; her father was in the lumber business and knew many peasants in the countryside. At the time, the town was part of Poland; as part of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the town became part of the Soviet Union from 1939-1941. Under the Russian occupation, Miriam’s drugstore and Moshe’s lumber business were nationalized by the communist government and the family moved to nearby Novogrudek to live with other family members.

After the German invasion of the Soviet Union, Zhetel and Novogrudek were occupied by the Germans and a ghetto was established there in 1942. When the Germans invaded the Soviet Union, Novogrudek was bombed and much of the town was destroyed. The Rabinowitz family decided to move back to Zhetel to be closer to Ruth’s grandfather, Berl. With the esablishment of the ghetto in Zhetel, Berl became one of the first members of the Jewish council (Judenrat) but was soon murdered. During the round-up on April 30, 1942 Ruth and her mother and sister were separated from her father during the selection but Ruth’s mother managed to survive because she possessed papers as a pharmacist and skilled laborer. It was during this selection that Ruth’s mother also managed to save the life of young Philip Lazowski, who had been separated from his own family. Miriam Rabinowitz pretended Philip was her son and he was spared the fate of those sent “to the left” and death.

The second massacre started on August 6, 1942, and lasted for three days as many Jews hid in prepared bunkers. During the course of the clearance of the ghetto some 2-3,000 Jews were shot in three mass graves, in the Jewish cemetery on the southern outskirts of Zhetel, roughly 1,000 people in each. Just over 200 Jewish craftsmen were transferred to the ghetto in Nowogródek. This was the end of the ghetto and the end of the Jewish community of Zhetel. Several hundred Jews including Ruth and the Rabinowitz family, who had hidden, fled once the massacre was over, some forming a family camp in the Nakryshki forest, where they managed to survive for the next two years until their liberation by Red Army troops.

After the war, they remained in Poland for about six months, first traveling to Lublin, before crossing the alps and journeying towards Italy. There they lived in a Displaced Persons camp in Santa Maria d’Leuca and in a villa in Rome before leaving for the United States. The family settled in Hartford, CT; Ruth and Philip were married at Beth David Synagogue in December 1955. Ruth became a dedicated Jewish educator in Hartford and Bloomfield; Rabbi and Ruth Lazowski have three sons and daughters-in-law, as well as seven grandchildren.