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The Holocaust in Bialystok
Shortly after the outbreak of the war, the Germans entered Bialystok, first occupying it from September 15th until September 22, 1939, when it was transferred to the Soviets. The second German occupation was from June 27, 1941, to July 27, 1944. At that time, some 50,000 Jews lived in Bialystok, and about 350,000 in the whole province.

Hell on earth for the Jews of Bialystok began on Friday June 27, 1941, which was known as “Red Friday”. When the Nazis entered the city they streamed into the Jewish neighborhoods, throwing grenades into Jewish homes and wounding many. With unbelievable brutality the Nazis dragged Jewish men from their homes, beat them over the heads and forced them into the Great Synagogue. The Nazis, armed from head to toe, hurled grenades into the synagogue, which immediately went up in flames. Crammed with more than 2,000 Jews, the synagogue burned for twenty-four hours until Saturday morning. Only then, came the order to extinguish the fire. The Nazis forced other Jews, beating and chasing them from their homes, to put out the flames. While 2,000 Jews were perishing in the synagogue fire, Nazi soldiers moved through the Jewish sections of Bialystok, hauling men out of their homes and shooting them in front of their wives and children.... This was only the beginning of the horrors to come.

For administrative purposes, Bialystok was incorporated into the Reich at the end of July 1941.

On August 1, 1941 60,000 Jews were segregated into a closed ghetto with the three gates guarded by armed guards.

The first year, there was relative quiet and order in the ghetto (except for the deportation of 4,500 of the poorest Jews to Pruzhany) as the Germans wished to exploit the ghetto to a maximum in industrial production for their army. Every Jew in the 15-65 age group was forced to work, and the Germans handed out physical punishment, including death sentences, to anyone attempting to avoid or resist forced labor. The only remuneration was a daily bread ration of 500 grams, which was later reduced to 350 grams. In addition, the Germans confiscated property, imposed forced “contributions”, and collected a head and apartment tax.

Many women and children, unable to tolerate the panic-provoking conditions in the ghetto, cried inconsolably. Old men, tears streaming down their faces, lamented the bitter fate of the Jews of Bialystok. But finally, people began to adjust to the new environment, comforting and reassuring one another. Inside the ghetto, wretched and miserable conditions prevailed. Many had no place in which to settle nor facilities with which to wash themselves, no place to eat or sleep. Entire families had to squeeze into cramped quarters. Formerly well-to-do citizens descended into the pit of poverty. Although life in the Bialystok ghetto produced anguish and uncertainty among the Jews, They refused to give up hope.

The story of the Bialystok ghetto and the heroic resistance fighters is very extensive. I have elected to outline below what is termed in the The Bialystoker Memorial Book as “The Yiskor Calendar of Bialystok.”

Between September and October of 1941, the Germans exiled 6,000 Bialystoker Jews to Pruzhany, for forced labor, where they were savagely tortured.

In November, 1942, 200,000 Jews in the cities and towns in Bialystok region were slain in mass executions.

On February 5, 1943 the first liquidation of the Bialystok ghetto was launched. 12,000 Jews were exiled to Treblinka.

During the period of August 16 - August 23, 1943, the final liquidation of the ghetto took place. In that sorrowful week, the ghetto was completely wiped off the face of the earth. There were no more Jews in Bialystok.
#1...Map of the Bialystok ghetto
#2...Bialystok Jews move into the ghetto
#3...Loading the Jews into cattle cars at the Bialystok Railroad Station
#4...Young girls of Bialystok being driven into railroad cars destined for Auschwitz