|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
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
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.