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Brześć Ghetto
Date December 16, 1941 to October 15, 1942
Location Brześć, German-occupied Poland
Also known as Brześć Litewski Ghetto

The Brześć Ghetto or the Ghetto in Brest on the Bug, also: Brześć nad Bugiem Ghetto, and Brest-Litovsk Ghetto (Polish language: getto w Brześciu nad Bugiem , Yiddish language: ברעסט-ליטאָווסק) was a World War II Jewish ghetto created on December 16, 1941 in occupied Poland, six months after Nazi Germany overrun the Soviet occupation zone under the codename Operation Barbarossa.[1] Less than a year later, October 15–18, 1942, most of approximately 20,000 Jewish inhabitants of Brześć were massacred; over 5,000 were executed locally around the Brest Fortress on the orders of Karl Eberhard Schöngarth;[2] the rest in the secluded forest, after being sent in Holocaust trains to Bronna Góra (the Bronna Mount, Belarusian language: Бронная гара) mass killing site.[3]


Before World War II, Brześć nad Bugiem (known as Brześć Litewski before the partitions, now Brest, Belarus)[4] was the capital of Polesie Voivodeship in the Second Polish Republic (1918–39) with the most visible Jewish presence. In the twenty years of Poland's sovereignty, of the total of 36 brand new schools established in the city, there were ten public, and five private Jewish schools inaugurated, with Yiddish and Hebrew as the language of instruction. The first ever Jewish school in Brześć history opened in 1920, almost immediately after Poland's return to independence. In 1936 Jews constituted 41.3% of the Brześć population, or 21,518 citizens. Some 80.3% of private enterprises were owned by Jews. Before World War I, Brześć (then known as Brest-Litovsk) was controlled by the Russian Empire for a hundred years following the partitions of Poland,[5] and all commercial activity was largely neglected.[6][7]

Brest-Litovsk (Brześć Litewski) was renamed as Brześć nad Bugiem (Brest on the Bug) in reborn Poland on March 20, 1923.[8] Just before the outbreak of World War II, there was an anti-Jewish riot at the bazaar in Brześć on May 15, 1939. Some Jewish sources categorize it as Polish although ethnic Belarusians constituted 17.8% of the population,[6] and preached militant nationalism among its youth similar to local Ukrainians and Russians, under systematic indoctrination by Soviet emissaries.[9][10]

Ghetto history

Nazi German and Soviet military forces parade in Brześć side by side after their joint attack on Poland in 1939. Their secret Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact required Heinz Guderian to hand it over to the Red Army

In September 1939 during the German and Soviet invasion of Poland, the town of Brześć (Brest) was overrun by the German troops and handed over to the Russians during the German–Soviet military parade in Brest-Litovsk on September 22, 1939. The whole province was soon annexed by the Soviet Union following mock elections by the NKVD secret police among the locals. The mass deportations of Poles and Jews to Siberia followed.[11]

The Nazi German armed forces invaded the USSR, its own earlier ally, on June 22, 1941 and six months later, on December 16, 1941 established a Jewish ghetto in the city for some 18,000 Polish Jews who still resided there after months of deportations and ad hoc mass executions. For example, on July 10, 1941 the German Einsatzgruppe under SS-Obergruppenführer Karl Eberhard Schöngarth massacred 5,000 Jews including 13-year-old boys and 70-year-old men in a single nighttime "anti-partisan" raid.[2] In January 1941, first underground resistance organizations were formed among Jews in the ghetto.[12]

Old railway line near Bronna Góra (the Bronna Mount, now Bronnaya Gora in Belarus) with marked location of mass killings of Jews from the Brześć Ghetto among others

In Autumn 1942 the Germans demanded a large payment (money, jewelry) from the Jews under the threat of liquidating the ghetto. Despite payment worth 26 million rubles, the ghetto was liquidated soon afterwards. Most of the Jews were murdered over execution pits outside the town and at the Bronna Mount (Bronna Góra), the location of secluded massacres of some 50,000 Jews delivered by Holocaust trains from a number of ghettos including the large Pińsk Ghetto as well.[12]

Notes and references

  1. Memorial Museums. "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of the Brest Ghetto". Introduction, and History. European Sites of Remembrance. Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Brześć – History". Virtual Shtetl, Museum of the History of Polish Jews. p. 12.,history/?action=view&page=12. Retrieved July 15, 2011. 
  3. The statistical data compiled on the basis of "Glossary of 2,077 Jewish towns in Poland" by Virtual Shtetl Museum of the History of the Polish Jews  (English), as well as "Getta Żydowskie," by Gedeon,  (Polish) and "Ghetto List" by Michael Peters at  (English). Accessed June 3, 2014..
  4. "Pinkas Hakehillot Polin: Brest, Belarus". Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  5. Norman Davies, God's Playground (Polish edition), Second volume, p.512-513
  6. 6.0 6.1 Alice Teichova, Herbert Matis, Jaroslav Pátek (2000). Economic Change and the National Question in Twentieth-century Europe. Cambridge University Press. pp. 342–344. ISBN 978-0-521-63037-5. 
  7. Stosunki polsko-białoruskie pod okupacją sowiecką at the Wayback Machine (archived May 29, 2010), (Polish-Byelorussian relations under the Soviet occupation). (Polish)
  8. Kancelaria Sejmu RP (2013), Dz.U. 1923 nr 39 poz. 269 ISAP Archive. Link to PDF document.
  9. Klara Rogalska (Feb 18, 2005). "Oni byli pierwsi (They were the first)" (in Polish) (Internet Archive). Głos znad Niemna. 7 (664). Retrieved 2013-05-30. 
  10. Terry Dean Martin (2001). "Ethnic Cleansing and Enemy Nations" (Google Books). The Affirmative Action Empire: Nations and Nationalism in the Soviet Union. Cornell University Press. pp. 311–315. ISBN 0801486777. Retrieved 2013-05-30. 
  11. Alexander B. Rossino, Polish "Neighbors" and German Invaders: Contextualizing Anti-Jewish Violence in the Białystok District during the Opening Weeks of Operation Barbarossa (Internet Archive) Polin: Studies in Polish Jewry, Volume 16, 2003.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Pińsk - Virtual Shtetl. Elektroniczna Encyklopedia Żydowska. Retrieved May 27, 2014.

Coordinates: 52°6′N 23°42′E / 52.1°N 23.7°E / 52.1; 23.7

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