The First World War


The First World War broke out in 1914 between Britain, France, Belgium, Russia and Italy on one side (the Allies) and Germany, Austria - Hungary and Turkey (the Axis), on the other.

It was the most brutal war that had ever been fought, with numerous front lines and millions dead. It heralded a new era of warfare and weaponry. It resulted in the collapse of three large empires, Germany, Imperial Russia, and the Ottoman Empire of Turkey. Millions of people were displaced through the fighting and as a result of the re-drawing of national boundaries after its end.

In 1915 as the war turned against Russia, Novogrudek was occupied by the German army. It became a frontline town, and as part of the occupation the Germans seized nearly all of the produce and goods in the town and surrounding area. Everyone in the town suffered, especially as hunger set in. All the community institutions began to fall apart, and there was widespread poverty. Men and women from all the communities were forced to work for the Germans as labourers in very difficult conditions.

In 1917 the new Bolshevik communist government of Russia made peace with Germany and the town was under Soviet control. But between 1918 and 1921 as the Russian civil war raged, poverty and hunger continued resulting in disease, illness and death. In 1921 peace came to the region and Novogrudek became part of a new independent Poland.