Bialystok ghetto


Bialystok with its approximately 300,000 inhabitants is located in northeastern Poland, about fifty kilometres from the border with Belarus. Bialystok was occupied by the Germans for the first time on 15 September 1939, but according to the Molotov-Ribbentrop act of August 1939, the part of Poland where Bialystok is located was handed over to the Soviet union on 22 September. When Germany attacked the Soviet Union barely two years later, Bialystok was occupied by German troops for the second time. The area in which Bialystok is located was named Bezirk (district) Bialystok. The district was bordered by the State Commissariat Ostland to the northeast, the Ukraine to the southeast, the government of the general government to the southwest, and Great Germany to the northwest. At that time, there were about 300,000 Jews living in the district, of whom about 60,000 lived in Bialystok. Immediately anti-Semitic decrees were introduced against the district’s jews and the German Einsatzgruppen carried out murderous actions against the district’s Jewish population. In June 1941, about 2,000 Jews were burned in the large synagogue. A month later, about 4,500 Jews were murdered in the Pietrasze forest in eastern Bialystok. In August 1941, a ghetto was established in Bialystok for the city’s remaining jews and jews from nearby villages.

The ghetto consisted of two parts separated by the Biala River and surrounded by fences. Only with special passes could it move between the ghetto and the rest of the city. At most, there were about 50,000 Jews living in the ghetto. Most residents were forced to work in one of the industries placed by the Germans in the ghetto. In early 1943, the Nazis began deporting ghetto Jews to the Treblinka extermination camp about fifteen miles southwest of Bialystok. Jews who were too sick or too weak to be deported were murdered at the Jewish cemetery or in a place called Prage’s garden. Initially, Jews were deported who were not needed in industry. In august 1943, the nazis, in cooperation with Ukrainian voluntary units, began to dismantle the ghetto by gathering up the remaining jews. About 10,000 were sent to Treblinka, others were sent to Majdanek outside Lublin where some were murdered while others were forced to work in some industry. The resistance movement in the ghetto knew what decommissioning meant and therefore rebelled in an attempt to escape to the forests outside Bialystok and join the partisans. Most were murdered and only a hundred managed to escape and join the partisans. Some remained in hiding until August 1944 when the Soviet Red army recaptured Bialystok. After the uprising, the Nazis tore up the ghetto. Of the approximately 60,000 Jews who lived in Bialystok in June 1941, between 300 – 400 survived the war. The Nazis largely managed to annihilate the Jewish population within what was the Bialystok district.

Current status: Partly preserved/demolished with monument (2009).

Location: 53°08'17.43" N 23°08'58.84" E

Get there: Walk from central Bialystok.

My comment:

The monuments and houses are scattered around the city and the best way to visit them is with both a modern map and a ghetto map to make comparisons. Houses from the time of the ghetto remains mixed with post-war houses.

Follow up in books: Arad, Yitzhak: Holocaust in the Soviet union (2009).