The Białystok Ghetto (Polish: getto w Białymstoku) was a World War II Jewish ghetto set up by Nazi Germany between July 26 and early August 1941 in the newly formed Bezirk Bialystok district within Nazi occupied Poland. About 50,000 Jews from the vicinity of Białystok and the surrounding region were confined into a small area of the city, which was turned into the Bezirk's capital. The ghetto was split in two by the Biała River running through it (see map). Most inmates were put to work in the forced-labor enterprises for the German war effort, primarily in large textile, shoe and chemical companies operating inside and outside its boundaries. The ghetto was liquidated in November 1943. Its inhabitants were transported in Holocaust trains to the Majdanek concentration camp and Treblinka extermination camps. Only a few hundred survived the war, either by hiding in the Polish sector of the city, escape following the Bialystok Ghetto Uprising, or by surviving the camps.
Liquidation of the Białystok Ghetto, August 15–20, 1943. Jewish men with their hands up, surrounded by German security unit.
|Location||Białystok, German-occupied Poland|
|Date||July 26, 1941 – September 15, 1943|
|Incident type||Imprisonment, mass shooting, forced labor, starvation, deportations to death camps|
|Perpetrators||SS, Order Police Battalions, Trawnikis|
Before World War II, the population of Białystok (with over 91,000 inhabitants according to 1931 census) was 43 percent Jewish. There were two Jewish cinemas in the city, several Jewish dailies, sports clubs, prominent political parties and a Jewish library with over 10,000 books. Cultural life was booming. Białystok was overrun by the Wehrmacht on September 15, 1939, during the German invasion of Poland, and one week later handed over to the Red Army attacking from the East, in accordance with the Nazi–Soviet agreement. On November 1–2, 1939, the prewar Białystok Voivodeship along with over half of the Second Polish Republic were annexed by the Soviet Union. According to the terms of the German-Soviet Pact signed earlier in Moscow, the city remained in Soviet hands until June 1941, annexed to the Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Thousands of Jewish refugees flocked in from the German zone of occupied Poland.
During the Soviet occupation, Jewish companies and shops were closed, and Jewish social, educational, and political institutions were considered illegal. In addition many Jewish and Polish "capitalists" were deported by Soviet authorities to Siberia.
The Wehrmacht attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941 and took over Białystok on June 26–27, 1941 in Operation Barbarossa. On the same day, the Police Battalion 309 arrived, tasked with inflicting terror upon the Jewish community. The first mass murder of Polish Jews was carried out during the so-called "Red Friday" of June 27, 1941, claiming the lives of up to 2,200 victims. The Great Synagogue was splashed with petrol and set on fire with approximately 700, up to 1,000 Jewish men locked in it; and burned down with a grenade thrown inside. The killings took place inside the homes of the Jewish neighborhood Chanajki (pl) and in the park, lasting until dark. The next day, some 20–30 wagon-loads of dead bodies were taken to new mass graves dug up on German orders along Sosnowa Street outside the city center. Major Ernst Weis of Battalion 309 got drunk and later claimed to have known nothing about what had happened. The official report submitted by his officers to General Johann Pflugbeil of the 221st Security Division (Wehrmacht), to which the battalion was subordinated, was promptly falsified. The Aktion was followed by the murder of about 300 Jewish intellectuals who were trucked to the Pietrasze fields on July 3. Battalion 309 left for Białowieża, and was replaced by Orpo Police Battalion 316 and 322 of Police Regiment Centre and were ordered to round up more Jews. On July 12–13, 1941, a mass shootings by the two battalions dubbed "Black Saturday" took place on the outskirts of Białystok. It is estimated that over 3,000 Jews herded into the municipal stadium – visited by Erich von dem Bach-Zelewski himself – were taken away and killed in antitank trenches. The total of over 5,500 Białystok Jews were shot in the first weeks of German occupation in the summer of 1941.
Irrespective of mass-murder operations carried out directly in the city, the new district became an early theatre of Einsatzgruppen operations as well. Each death squad followed an army group as they advanced east. Himmler visited Białystok on June 30, 1941 during the formation of the new Bezirk and pronounced that there is a high risk of Soviet guerilla activity in the area, with Jews being of course immediately suspected of helping them out. The mission to destroy the alleged NKVD collaborators was assigned to Einsatzgruppe B under the command of SS-Gruppenführer Arthur Nebe; aided by Kommando SS Zichenau-Schroettersburg under Hermann Schaper, and Kommando Bialystok led by Wolfgang Birkner summoned from the General Government on orders from the Reich Main Security Office. In the early days of the German occupation, these mobile killing units rounded up and killed thousands of Jews in the district.
The Ghetto was officially created on July 26, 1941, by the order of German military authorities. The transfer of Jews to a designated area was handled by the Judenrat (formed on June 30). All Poles who lived there were ordered to move out. Up to three Jewish families were placed in single rooms divided by curtains. There were two gates leading out of the ghetto initially, one on Jurowiecka and one on Kupiecka street. The ghetto encompassed the streets of Lipowa, Przejazd, Poleska and Sienkiewicza. It was closed from the outside on August 1, 1941, with 43,000 people trapped inside. The Judenrat, composed of 24 Jews, held its first meeting on August 2, and set up 13 departments split into divisions. Ephraim Barash (or Efraim Barasz in Polish), a mechanical engineer age 49, was elected as an acting president. The Council was chaired by Rabi Gedalyah (Gedalia) Rosenman. The soup kitchens were set up, along with infirmaries, schools, Jewish Ghetto Police stations, bathhouses, and other amenities. The Judenrat promoted hard work as key to survival. Its main obligation was to provide quotas of laborers for the Germans. Within a brief period of time the Ghetto grew to over 50,000 Jewish captives. It was surrounded by a wooden wall topped by barb wire, with three entrances manned by the Jewish Police overseen by the Germans. Textile and armament factories were established with the help of the Judenrat. Food rations were strictly enforced.
In September 1941 the Nazi authorities proclaimed that the number of Jews in Białystok was too large, and ordered their partial deportation to nearby Prużany (now Pruzhany, Belarus). The Judenrat prepared the list of targets. Deportations began on September 18 and went on for a month. The weakest and the poorest Jews numbering over 4,500 were sent away, others bribed their way out of it, with exorbitant amounts of money paid to the Judenrat employees. By January 18, 1942 the number of the Council officials (of all levels) had grown to 1,600 and up to 4,000 in June, mainly because of special bonuses and vouchers received for meat, legumes, jam, soap, flour and large amounts of coal for the winter. At the same time, food rations for the overall population were reduced severely, first to 500 grams of bread per day, and then to 300 grams, resulting in rampant hunger. In the words of survivor Riva Shinder, the ghetto became synonymous with "humiliating oppression, shootings [and] hangings." The smuggling of food from the outside was punished by death. In December 1941 a Jewish resistance organization was formed. It was led by Tadeusz Jakubowski and Niura Czerniakowska. Riva served as its secretary. They listened to radio broadcasts, wrote communiques, and operated a duplicating machine. They also carried out acts of sabotage in the factories.
On February 5–12, 1943, the first group of approximately 10,000 Białystok Jews were rounded up by the mobile battalions for the mass 'evacuation' of the ghetto. They were sent aboard Holocaust trains to their deaths at the Treblinka extermination camp. Another 2,000 victims, too weak or sick to run for the wagons were shot on the spot. Meanwhile, approximately 7,600 inmates were relocated into a new central transit camp within the city for further selection. Those fit to work were sent to the Majdanek camp. In Majdanek, after another screening for ability to work, they were transported to the Poniatowa concentration camp, Blizyn, as well as Auschwitz labor and extermination camp. Those deemed too emaciated to work were murdered in Majdanek gas chambers. More than 1,000 Jewish children were sent first to the Theresienstadt ghetto in Bohemia, and then to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where they were killed. Only a few months later, as part of Aktion Reinhard, on August 16, 1943 the ghetto was raided by regiments of the German SS with Ukrainian, Estonian, Latvian and Belorussian auxiliaries (Hiwis), known as Trawniki-men aiming at the ghetto's final destruction. Faced with the final deportations, when all hope for survival was abandoned, the Jewish underground staged the Białystok Ghetto Uprising. In the night of August 16, 1943, several hundred Polish Jews began an armed insurrection against the troops carrying out the liquidation of the Ghetto.
Holocaust survivor and postwar historian Szymon Datner wrote: "The blockade of the ghetto lasted one full month and on September 15, 1943, after the last of the flames of resistance had been extinguished, the SS units retreated." The final stage of mass deportations commenced. Only a few dozen Jews managed to escape and join various partisan groups, including Soviet ones, in the Białystok area. The Red Army overran Białystok in August 1944.
AK member Marcin Czyżykowski brought food and medicine into the ghetto and on the way back took Jewish children to his and his wife Maria's home (up to twelve of them waited there at a time, for placement with Polish families).
Table 11. [M.] Białystok city. Population: 91,101 (1931). Catholic: 41,493. Judaism: 39,165.
Encyclopedia Judaica and Christopher Browning confirm the death of 2,200 Jews on June 27 ('Red Friday') as well as about 300 Jewish intellectuals on July 3rd, and over 3,000 Jews on July 12, 1941 ('Black Saturday'), for the total of over 5,500 Jewish victims of Orpo terror in the first weeks of Operation Barbarossa.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
Territory invaded by the Germans encompassed 188,700 sq km. The Soviets invaded a total of 201,000 sq km of Poland; of which 103,000 sq km were annexed to the Belorussian SSR; 89,700 sq km to the Ukrainian SSR; and 8,300 sq km of the Lithuanian SSR.
Chpt. 3. Note 8, p. 12 (29 in PDF) source: YVA, TR-10/823 (Landgericht Wuppertal, judgement 12 Ks 1/67): 40—
German occupation was from June 27, 1941, to July 27, 1944. At that time some 50,000 Jews lived in Bialystok, and some 350,000 in the whole province. On the day following the German occupation, known as “Red Friday,” the Germans burned down the Jewish quarter.[p.570]CS1 maint: Uses editors parameter (link)
Cited by Bogdan Musiał in: "Konterrevolutionäre Elemente sind zu erschiessen": Die Brutalisierung des deutsch-sowjetischen Krieges im Sommer 1941, (Berlin: Propyläen, 2000), pp. 32, 62.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
Text from USHMM has been released under the GFDL. The Museum can offer no guarantee that the information is correct in each circumstance.
Abraham Adolf Behrman (; also spelled Bermann; July 13, 1876 – August 1943) was a painter of interwar Poland best known for his outdoor paintings of Jewish shtetl life as well as landscapes and group portraits. He spent most of his life in Łódź and died during the liquidation of the Białystok Ghetto in the Holocaust.Anti-Fascist Bloc
The Anti-Fascist Bloc was an organization of Polish Jews formed in the March 1942 in the Warsaw Ghetto. It was created after an alliance between leftist-Zionist, communist and socialist Jewish parties was agreed upon. The initiators of the bloc were Mordechai Anielewicz, Józef Lewartowski (Aron Finkelstein) from the Polish Workers' Party, Josef Kaplan from Hashomer Hatzair, Szachno Sagan from Poale Zion-Left, Jozef Sak as a representative of socialist-zionists and Izaak Cukierman with his wife Cywia Lubetkin from Dror. The Jewish Bund did not join the bloc though they were represented at its first conference by Abraham Blum and Maurycy Orzech. According to Hersz Berlinski and Izaak Cukierman, the Bund did not join because they were waiting for a general socialist organization to be formed which would encompass non-Jewish Poles.
The organization was active in the ghettos of occupied Poland, in the General Government, and in Silesia. It served as a basis for organized resistance against the Germans. It also published underground newspapers.
Members of the organization took part in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and the Białystok Ghetto Uprising, after being incorporated into the structures of the Jewish Fighting Organization. In Białystok the bloc function under the name "Anti-Fascist Combat Bloc". Before the uprisings, the Bloc organized escapes from the ghettos and accumulated arms.Anti-Fascist Military Organisation
Antyfaszystowska Organizacja Bojowa (Polish for Anti-Fascist Military Organisation), AOB, was an underground organization formed in 1942 in the Ghetto in Białystok by former officers of the Polish Land Forces. It took part in the Białystok Ghetto uprising.
Its tasks included organisation of escape routes for the people incarcerated in the Ghetto as well as gathering arms and equipment for the future fight against the Germans. Since February 1943 it carried over many attacks on German authorities and armed forces operating in the Ghetto. On August 15, 1943, the AOB members started an ill-fated struggle against the liquidation of the Ghetto, which is known as the Białystok Ghetto Uprising.Białystok Ghetto uprising
The Białystok Ghetto uprising was an insurrection in the Jewish Białystok Ghetto against the Nazi German occupation authorities during World War II. The uprising was launched on the night of August 16, 1943 and was the second-largest ghetto uprising organized in Nazi-occupied Poland after the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising of April–May 1943. It was led by the Anti-Fascist Military Organisation (Antyfaszystowska Organizacja Bojowa), a branch of the Warsaw Anti-Fascist Bloc.The revolt began upon the German announcement of mass deportations from the Ghetto. The main objective was to break the German siege and allow the maximum number of Jews to escape into the neighboring Knyszyn (Knyszyński) Forest. A group of about 300 to 500 insurgents armed with 25 rifles and 100 pistols as well as home-made Molotov cocktails for grenades, attacked the overwhelming German force with a great loss of life. Leaders of the uprising committed suicide. Several dozen combatants managed to break through and run into the Knyszyn Forest where they joined other guerrilla groups.Częstochowa Ghetto uprising
The Częstochowa Ghetto uprising was an insurrection in Poland's Częstochowa Ghetto against German occupational forces during World War II. It took place in late June 1943, resulting in some 2,000 Jews being killed.
The first instance of armed resistance took place on January 4, 1943, at the so-called Large Ghetto established by the Germans in April 1941. During the 'selection' of some 500 Jews to be deported to the ghetto in Radomsko, shooting broke out at the Warsaw Square (now, Ghetto Heroes Square) in which Mendel Fiszelewicz (Fiszelowicz) along with Isza Fajner were killed. 50 young Jews were executed in reprisal.Daniel Moszkowicz
Daniel Moszkowicz aka "Dawid Chone" and "Jerzy" (born 1905 in Warsaw - 1943 in Białystok, Poland) was a merchant, non-commissioned reserve officer of the Polish Army, communist and the co-leader of the Białystok Ghetto Uprising.
He was member of the Communist Party of Poland. During the German occupation of Poland he worked as a cobbler and baker in the ghetto of Białystok and was member of the Antyfaszystowska Organizacja Bojowa. (Anti-Fascist Military Organization). He was co-leader of the resistance during the first German attempt of liquidation of the ghetto in Białystok in January and February 1943. He also co-leading the Białystok Ghetto Uprising in August 1943.
Moszkowicz is believed to have committed suicide surrounded by German troops.Ghetto uprisings
The ghetto uprisings during World War II were a series of armed revolts against the regime of Nazi Germany between 1941 and 1943 in the newly established Jewish ghettos across Nazi-occupied Europe. Following the German and Soviet invasion of Poland in September 1939, Polish Jews were targeted from the outset. Within months inside occupied Poland, the Germans created hundreds of ghettos in which they forced the Jews to live. The new ghettos were part of the German official policy of removing Jews from public life with the aim of economic exploitation. The combination of excess numbers of inmates, unsanitary conditions and lack of food resulted in a high death rate among them. In most cities the Jewish underground resistance movements developed almost instantly, although ghettoization had severely limited their access to resources.The ghetto fighters took up arms during the most deadly phase of the Holocaust known as Operation Reinhard (launched in 1942), against the Nazi plans to deport all prisoners – men, women and children – to camps, with the aim of their mass extermination.Greater Poland uprising (1846)
The 1846 Wielkopolska uprising (Polish: powstanie wielkopolskie 1846 roku) was a planned military insurrection by Poles in the land of Greater Poland against the Prussian forces, designed to be part of a general Polish uprising in all three partitions of Poland, against the Russians, Austrians and Prussians.Haika Grossman
Haika Grossman (Hebrew: חייקה גרוסמן, 20 November 1919 – 26 May 1996) was an Israeli politician and member of Knesset. In her youth, she was a Zionist leader in Europe, a partisan, and a participant in the ghetto uprisings in Poland and Lithuania.
Grossman was born in Białystok, Poland. As a teenager she joined the HaShomer HaTzair Socialist-Zionist youth movement. As a leader of the movement in Poland, she was sent to the town of Brześć Litewski to organize the movement's activities there and in the surrounding region.
When World War II erupted, she moved to Wilno (now Vilnius, Lithuania), where she was active in the emergency underground leadership of HaShomer HaTzair. Upon the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941, she returned to Białystok, where she helped organize the underground movement in the Białystok Ghetto. She served as a courier between that ghetto and those of Wilno, Lublin, Warsaw and others. Using forged papers, she managed to pass as a Polish woman named Halina Woranowicz. Her Polish identity enabled her to assist the underground movements in numerous towns and ghettoes, as well as the emerging partisan units being formed in the nearby forests of Poland and Lithuania. Aided by Otto Busse she also purchased arms and helped smuggle them into the ghettoes. In 1943, she took part in the Białystok Ghetto Uprising, and helped to establish an underground unit of anti-Nazi Germans.
After the war, she served on the Central Committee of the Jews of Poland, and was awarded Poland's highest medal for heroism. She emigrated to Mandatory Palestine in 1948 and joined Kibbutz Evron in the Western Galilee. She also served in various capacities in the Mapam Party. From 1950 to 1951 she was the head of Ga'aton Regional Council.
From 1969 to 1988 (aside from a break between 1981 and 1984), Grossman was a member of Knesset for Mapam and the Alignment (an alliance which Mapam was part of). As a parliamentarian, she focused on social issues and the status of women. Among the laws she helped pass were the right to abortions, laws relating to at-risk youth, and the law against beating children.
In 1993, Grossman was invited to light one of twelve torches traditionally kindled in the national ceremony marking Yom Ha'atzma'ut (Israel's Independence Day). Later, at a party for the torch lighters, she slipped down a flight of stairs and fell into a coma, which lasted three years, until her death in 1996.Haim Goldberg (Haggai)
Haim Goldberg (Hebrew: חיים גולדברג; Yiddish: גאָלדבערג; 1888 or 1890, Łuków, Siedlce Governorate, Russian Poland – 1943, Białystok Ghetto), also known by the artistic name Haggai (Hebrew: חַגַּי), was a Warsaw Jewish-Polish graphic designer, photographer, illustrator and printer, as well as a Yiddish and Hebrew writer and poet.Icchok Malmed
Icchok Malmed (Yiddish: יצחק מאַלמעד; born 1903 in Brześć nad Bugiem - 8 February 1943 in Białystok, Poland) was a Polish Jew and fighter of the Białystok Ghetto during the German occupation of Poland in World War II.
On January 1943 German soldiers started the liquidation of the ghetto in Białystok. When they attacked the house at ul. Kupiecka 29 (Kupiecka Street), rounding up all of its residents into the street, Malmed threw acid in the face of one the SS-Soldiers. The sightless German fired his gun several times, hitting another SS-Soldier, killing him. In the melee Malmed managed to escape. For revenge Germans shot with machine guns one hundred men, women and children living in the area where the incident occurred.
The Gestapo commander Friedl issued an ultimatum for Malmed to surrender within 24 hours. Failing that, the entire ghetto would be destroyed. Malmed surrendered himself to the Germans.
Mordechaj Tenenbaum described in his diary Malmed’s courage. Asked why he killed the German soldier, he replied: “I hate you. I regret I only killed one. Before my eyes my parents were murdered. Ten thousand Jews in Słonim were liquidated before me. I have no regrets.” Malmed was tortured and on the next day hanged near the square where the incident occurred. Germans soldiers riddled Malmed’s corpse with bullets after the rope broke and the body fell to the earth and re-hanged it for another 48 hours.
Malmed is considered as "Hero of the Białystok Ghetto", the ul. Kupiecka was renamed after the war in ul. Malmeda (Malmed Street).Jewish Heritage Trail in Białystok
Jewish Heritage Trail in Białystok is a marked foot trail created in June 2008 in Białystok, Poland, by a group of students and doctorate candidates, who participate as volunteers at The University of Białystok Foundation.
One of the goals of the project was to generate social capital by engaging cooperation between local institutions and social groups. Project included: planning the trail, publicizing an informative booklet and map in printed and electronic version, building an interactive website of the project, marking the trail sites and opening the trail to the public with a walk around the city, publicizing teacher's materials.List of Nazi ghettos
This article is a partial list of selected Jewish ghettos created by the Nazis for the purpose of isolating, exploiting and finally, eradicating Jewish population (and sometimes Gypsies) on territories they controlled. Most of the prominent ghettos listed here were set up by the Third Reich and its allies in the course of World War II. In total, according to USHMM archives, "The Germans established at least 1,000 ghettos in German-occupied and annexed Poland and the Soviet Union alone." Therefore, the examples are intended only to illustrate their scope across Eastern and Western Europe.Mass murders in Tykocin
The Mass murders in Tykocin occurred in August 25, 1941, during World War II, where the local Jewish population of Tykocin (Poland) was killed by German Einsatzkommando.Mordechai Tenenbaum
Mordechaj Tenenbaum (Hebrew: מרדכי טענענבוים; 1916–1943) was a member of the Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa (Jewish Fighting Organization) and leader of the Białystok Ghetto Uprising.Samuel Pisar
Samuel Pisar (March 18, 1929 – July 27, 2015) was a Polish-born American lawyer, author, and Holocaust survivor.Szymon Datner
Szymon Datner (2 February 1902, Kraków – 8 December 1989, Warsaw) was a Polish historian of Jewish descent, best known for his studies of Nazi war crimes committed against the Jewish population of the Białystok area (Bezirk Bialystok) after the German attack, across Poland, upon the Soviet Union in June 1941.Datner settled in Białystok in 1928. Before the outbreak of World War II, he worked as a P.E. teacher at a Jewish secondary school in Białystok. He lived in the city with his wife and two daughters throughout the Soviet occupation of eastern Poland and, after the German attack on the USSR, was forced to move with his family into a ghetto. He helped smuggle several people out of the Białystok Ghetto on 24 May 1943. However, his wife and daughters did not survive its liquidation.Timeline of Treblinka extermination camp
This article presents the timeline of events at Treblinka extermination camp during the most deadly phase of the Holocaust in World War II. All deportations were from German occupied Poland, except where noted. In most cases the number of deportees are not exact figures, but rather approximations.
Days are listed in chronological order, nevertheless, a number of dates are missing from the below tables which means only that no way bills survived for those particular dates. It does not mean that transports were not arriving or have not been processed from layover yards, when applicable.Transport of Białystok children
On 21 August 1943, during the liquidation of the Białystok Ghetto, about 1,200 Jewish children were put on trains and taken to Theresienstadt concentration camp, where they were held in isolation from other prisoners. On 5 October, they were told that they would be sent to Switzerland in exchange for German prisoners of war. Instead, the train went to Auschwitz concentration camp where all were murdered in gas chambers. The reason for the unusual route of the transport is still debated by scholars; it is believed to be connected to Nazi–Jewish negotiations ongoing at the time and the intervention of Mohammad Amin al-Husseini, who feared that the children would settle in Palestine.