Ratne Old Jewish Cemetery
The cemetery was established in the early 18th century. According to the memoirs of Fishel Heler of Ratno, published in 1938, an old cemetery was founded during the reconstruction of the community after the Great Northern War between Russia and Sweden from 1706 to 1707. There was a mass grave of war victims on the cemetery. The cemetery was demolished by Soviet authorities after WWII and later overbuilt with residences.
The Jews of Ratne are first mentioned in 1516. During the Polish-Swedish war from 1706 to 1707, the majority of the town was destroyed. Many Jews were buried in the mass grave in the old cemetery, which was created around this time. According to local tradition, one of the first Hasidis, “miracle worker” Tzvi ben Dov from Mihnovka, known as the Maggid of Ratne, lived in the town. The illustrious Hasidic mystic Leib ben Sarah taught in the local beit-midrash. By 1897, the local Jewish population had reached 2,219 (71,8% of the total population). Neskhizh Hasids were present in the city, and by the early 20th century, Zionist movements were becoming active. WWI led to a halving of the local Jewish population to 1,554 (64,3% of the total population) in 1921. During the interwar period, a Tarbut school operated and Zionist youth organisations were functioning. By 1937, the Jewish population had grown to 2,140. At the end of June 1941, Ratne was occupied by the Wehrmacht. In July 1941, some Jews were shot by Nazis and others during a pogrom. In spring of 1942, 2,500 local Jews and the inhabitants of the surrounding villages were packed into the newly created ghetto. The partisans gained control of the city for one day on July 16, 1942. When the Nazis seized renewed control, they murder 120 Jews in retaliation for German soldiers killed by partisans. During the ghetto’s liquidation in late August 1942, around 2,000 Jews were executed. Several hundreds Jews managed to escape, though only a few survived. In 1989, a monument was set up on the site of the mass shooting.