The Bialystoker Memorial Book - Der Bialystoker Yizkor Buch, the Bialystoker Center, New York 1982
(c) Copyright by the Bialystoker Center


 

 

 Death and Resistance

 

Table of Contents

Page

Pejsach Bursztejn

The Bialystoker Ghetto Uprising

109

 

During the Revolt

111

 

A Partial List of Martyrs

111

 

The City Destroyed

113

Awrom Szewach

Our Streets

113

 

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PEJSACH BURSZTEJN

 

THE BIALYSTOK GHETTO UPRISING

 

Bialystok was the second city after Warsaw to compile an impressive record of courage during the time of the martyrdom of East European Jewry. Bialystokís Jewish youth decided to wage an armed resistance against the powerful enemy.

It is difficult to recall those dark days and comprehend the scope of the tragedy, unprecedented in the history of mankind in its extent, the number of victims, the methods of annihilation and the terrible bloodbath ó all of the foregoing enacted by the most wicked regime on the face of the earth.

Against the background of inevitable extermination, in the midst of profound isolation and abandonment by God and by man, you found in the horrid ghetto, in overcrowding, filth and hunger ó the Jewish youth prepared for battle.

After an interval of thirty years, having become familiar with all of the facts, we can assert that no other nation that suffered under Hitlerís yoke demonstrated such heroism as did our Jewish people. Let us remember that almost none of the gentiles had been slated for complete extermination and none had lived under such horrifying conditions. Most had homelands and could rely upon the local inhabitants for help in their underground activities against Nazism. Throughout history, no other nation was so alone and deserted, so dependent upon its own limited resources than the Jewish people in World War II.

Under these circumstances, to organize an armed resistance was more than heroic. This was the dream of a people sentenced to death ó not only to save themselves but to preserve their honor as Jews.

Today everyone knows how difficult it was to obtain weapons in those days. Even the Partisans, including Jews and non-Jews, lacked adequate arms. For example, one of the engineers in the ghetto boiled dynamite on a tin stove heated with wood. Ordinary bottles filled with benzene served as the Molotov cocktails of the Jewish resistance fighters.

On August 16, 1943, the German army and the SS contingents, who had entered the ghetto to liquidate it, were welcomed by heavy gunfire. A self-defense organization had decided that the Nazis would have to pay dearly for Jewish lives. In the narrow ghetto streets, the following slogans reverberated: "Donít let yourselves be destroyed." "Die with honor." Unfortunately, only a few were armed because of a scarcity of weapons. Axes and crowbars were added to the Jewish arsenal and with these primitive weapons the Jews attacked the Germans, who were armed to the teeth.

The battle was fought along the perimeters of the ghetto. There was no other choice. The Germans had learned from the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto. They concentrated the Jews in those neighborhoods where it was impossible to conduct house-to-house combat, but rather in empty lots, open gardens and wooden buildings, which offered no protection.

The 55 soldiers stretched along the entire length of Jurowecki Street, cordoning off the denser section of the city from the ghetto. There was no way to escape. The battle had to be waged near a fence. Only there would the masses find a way to escape from the besieged ghetto.

A signal to begin the struggle was given. An explosive flare lit up the sky and, at that moment, the resistance fighters opened fire on the Germans at the ghetto fence.

At the same time, the other members of the resistance movement began setting fire to the factories in all parts of the ghetto. Loud explosions and dancing flames blended with heavy smoke. The first wounded German soldiers called for help, retreating behind the ghetto walls. They answered with fierce firepower. The battle engulfed this entire section of the ghetto.

"Advance! Advance!" The shouts of the resistance fighters and the masses were heard. "We have nothing to lose!"

The wooden buildings began to burn; the blinding smoke caused everyone to gag. Weapons were running out, but the battle continued.

The gate at Fabryczna Street, heretofore always closed, abruptly swung open and a tank entered, almost making it to Czepla Street. Suddenly it stopped dead in its tracks, a casualty of a Molotov cocktail. An airplane hovered over the heads of the resistance fighters, swooping down and firing upon them.

The ghetto burned for several more days after we were taken away to the large field outside. Several fighters who had hidden in the cellars destroyed everything that could be of use to the Nazis.

The overwhelming majority of the ghetto fighters perished in the unequal struggle. Everyone fought until the last bullet. A few who were not killed retreated to a camouflaged bunker underneath an old well. Three days later, after all the Jews of Bialystok had been evacuated to the concentration camps, the combat shelter was exposed. Four-legged and two-legged dogs uncovered their tracks and led them to death on Jurowecki street, against a wall, where they were shot by the Nazi murderers.

After Bialystok was liberated, we found the mass grave of the resistance fighters. They had been buried in a landfill near the ghetto cemetery. We carried out their exhumation and reburied them in the Jewish cemetery.

We found their corpses with clenched fists, with rolled up sleeves, still grasping pliers to cut the ghetto fences. These were our sons and daughters, and they died for our honor.

Near the garbage dump where we found the seventy ghetto heroes, we came upon a second pit in which lay the remains of the women and infants the Nazis removed from the hospital and shot. One woman was killed while she was in labor. One half of the child had already emerged and the second half was still inside the birth canal. Later on, Polish pathologists established that a number of these women and children had been buried alive.

We interred them in one mass grave together with the ghetto heroes. Furthermore, we erected a monument over their grave that pays tribute to their heroism and to their eternal sacredness. Alas, their grave and monument remain unvisited, for there are no more Jews to be found in Bialystok.

Moreover, the white granite stone with the golden menorah engraved on it also stands alone, on which are inscribed the following words:

"These 60,000 Jews of Bialystok, the 200,000 Jews of its provinces, the nationalistic city, the mother city of Israel, the citadel of Jewish culture, a city famed for its national, religious, social, economic and health care institutions, the city with its network of schools, Talmud Torahs and yeshivas, the Sholem Aleichem library, Jewish newspapers and theaters, the city of the aggressive Jewish proletariat, prominent writers, scientists and entertainers. Bialystok, with its courageous ghetto uprising against the Hitler murderers, followed the example of Jewish heroism throughout its generations of existence. May the horrible murders forever remain a stain on the German people and may the sacred memory of our Jewish martyrs serve as a beacon of light for us and for succeeding generations. We, the remnants of Bialystok, will always cherish their memory and continue the revered traditions of our beloved hometown.

The echo of the battle in the Bialystok ghetto reached the mountains of Israel and reverberated throughout the world: No more murders of our people. Never again will we ascend to the heavens in smoke!

(Editorís note: In a book titled Jewish Resistance During the Holocaust, published in 1971 by Yad Vashem in Jerusalem, the following interesting glimpse is given of how Efrajim Barasz viewed the Jewish resistance.)

 

When Chajke Grosman (today a member of the Israeli Knesset) was active as a representative of Hashomer Hatzair in the underground resistance movement in Bialystok, we met several times with the Chairman of the Judenrat, Efrajim Barasz. In one of their discussions, Ms. Grosman told him about the terrible slaughter the Nazis had carried out at Ponary, a desolate village ten kilometers from Wilno. Barasz answered her: "I canít believe that what occurred in Wilno will also happen in Bialystok. I know the Germans. They wonít dare conduct themselves in the same way here. They are only carrying out orders issued from Berlin ó and should they receive such orders, surely they will let me know beforehand.

"They will not use the methods at Wilno here because they need us. In any event, we can enjoy peace of mind for the time being. I am afraid that our own youth will do something foolish. Will you accept the responsibility for their actions? I will always know in advance if anything is going to happen."

Barasz several times warned the Jewish youth not to organize and carry out resistance against the Nazis because this could threaten the lives, not only of the fighters but also of the tens of thousands of Jews in the Bialystok ghetto. Nevertheless, Barasz did assist the resistance groups in their activities, as is revealed in numerous documents found after the ghettosís destruction.

It should be pointed out that the conditions in the Bialystok ghetto were very different from those in the Warsaw ghetto. Bialystok was not surrounded by a brick wall, but with wooden partitions. Its buildings were small and constructed of wood. All this made it more difficult for the Jewish resistance fighters to defend themselves, for they were afforded no protection from Nazi firepower. Nevertheless, the battles lasted several days. On the fourth day, German armored tanks and field artillery entered the ghetto, reinforced by about a thousand SS soldiers and Ukrainians. The Jews attempted to repulse them mainly with grenades and Molotov cocktails. They also had a few machine guns. Several hundred Germans and Ukrainians were killed. The Jewish fighters were captured and deported to Treblinka, Majdanek and Auschwitz. A small group succeeded in reaching the forests, where they united with the Partisans.

 

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 DURING THE REVOLT

 

Most of the weapons used by the Jewish fighters were obtained clandestinely from sympathetic Germans, who smuggled arms into the ghetto in various ways. A number of Poles and peasants also sold weapons, for ever-higher prices.

Some members of the resistance got their weapons by breaking into Nazi arsenals and police stations. Some women even hid bullets and other ammunition under their dresses.

The resistance consisted of about 500 courageous people, representing all political parties and persuasions. The Nazi enemy succeeded in uniting these previously fragmented groups.

Before the actual battle in August 1943, the underground resistance carried on a widespread indoctrination effort among the masses. Their main purpose was to encourage the people to resist and not to die passively. This helped keep the spirit of the people alive in the face of mounting adversity. There was even a secret radio program, broadcast twice a week, which disseminated resistance propaganda.

The appeal to fight the Nazis, issued by the underground on August 15, 1943, reportedly was written by Mordechaj Tenenbaum-Tamarof. This stirring call to arms galvanized the people to meet the enemy courageously.

From the outset, there were strong bonds between the resistance fighters in the ghetto and the Partisans in the forests. Weapons, food, clothing and medication were exchanged to the greatest extent possible. It would have been impossible for the resistance inside the ghetto to have accomplished as much as it did without assistance from the Partisans on the outside. In the end, thousand of Jews were transported to Treblinka by rail. Partisans lined the railroad track to help save those who jumped from the trains.

Tens of thousands of Bialystoker Jews were sent to Treblinka, Auschwitz and Majdanek in the summer of 1943, when the Bialystok ghetto was liquidated, and were exterminated. Other Jews were sent to the LublinPoniatow, Blyzin and other slave camps, where they were tortured. Thus many hundreds of years of Bialystoker Jewish history came to an end.

 

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A PARTIAL LIST  OF THE MARTYRS1)

 

Abelewicz, Nochum

Lewin, Chana

Abelewicz, Pejsach

Lewin, Ruwen

Abramowicz, Hersz

Lewin-Pat, Szejne

Ajzensztejn, Anjela

Lewinska

Ajzensztejn, Edzja

Lewinski, Ch. the Librarian

Alterwajn, Josef

Lewinson, Hanka

Arke, the baggage carrier

Lewitan, Liza

Aronczyk, Kalman

Lichtensztejn, Fejge

Babiker

Lichtensztejn, Josef

Bak, Fiszl

Lichtensztejn, Menasze

Bank, Jankel

Lifszyc

Baran

Ljoncze

Bas, Awrom

Ljonje die Schwarze

Basze

Lobzowski

Baszefkin, Boruch

Lunski, Grisza

Baszefkin, Lejb

Madajsker, Riwa

Baszefkin, Szmuel

Maimed, Izchok

Berkman, Sjome

Majzler, Awrom

Berlin, Dr.

Malarewicz, Lilke

Berman, Chaim Isroel

Maler, Tadek

Bersowicki, Kalman

Malinjak, Isroel

Biala, Chaje

Mandeiblit, Lejb

Biber, Tanje

Mandel, Hersz

Birman, Cypora

Manela, Hela

Birncwajg, Wacek

Mardecki

Bitenska, Eti

Margolis, Bronja

Blum, Chawe

Margolis, Isroel

Blumencwajg, Nojmi

Margolis, Josef

Bojmac, Simche

Marmorweg

Boraks, Elijahu (Edek)

Matus

Borowik, Judl

Melamed, Jakow

Borowik, Szepsel (fell fighting with the Partisans)*

Melman, engineer

Brodski, Njunje

Mendelson, Chawe

Brojde

Mersik, Basze

Bulgar, Chaim

Mersik, Cwi

Burak, Itke

Minc, Ljolek

Bursztejn, Lejb

Miodownik, Judl

Bursztejn, Szlojme

Mjetek

Celniker, Pinches

Mojsze, "Pop"

Chacki

Moskowicz, Doniel

Chalef, Chana

Mucznik, Meir

Chawes, Awrom

Mulje, "Kaczemoch"

Chazan, Awrom

Murawiec, Anjela

Cwi

Najman, Awrom

Cybulski, Szymon

Najman, Rochel

Czapke

Nirenberg, Helena

Czapnik, Grisza

Nowodworski, Mojsze

Datner, Mika

Nowogrucki, Jehudit

Datner, Roza

Objedrzynski, Ezra

Dawidowicz, Dora

Okon, Mordechaj

Dereczynska, Sora

Olsztejn, Adela

Deweltow, Sora

Olsztejn, Chaim

Dlugacz, Pola

Osjasz, Ruszka

Dlugacz, Sonja

Oskola, Aron (Artur)

Dorke

Osowicki, Szoul

Dorogoj, Fejtcze

Ostrow

Dowid from Wilno

Ozder, Dr., Lolek (fell in Berlin 8.5.1945)*

Drejer, Josef

Pacanowska

Dworecki, Zalje

Parazowski

Edelman, Miss

Pat, Amnon

Edelsztejn

Pelc, Henjek

Efros, Chonon

Perecka

Eisner, Hanke

Pereisztejn, Mojsze

Epsztejn, Wolf

Petluk, Gedaije

Etel

Plaskowska, Menucha

Etingold, Dobe

Pnina

Etingold, Szlojme

Pogorelski, Tanchum

Fajerkin, engineer

Polak, Rochel

Fajerman, Mojsze

Pomeranc, Owadja

Fajersztejn, Stela

Poporc, Szolem

Fanja

Potocki, Aron

Farber, Henach

Poznanski

Fel, Frida

Raclaw, Binjomin

Felder, Zalman

Rajzner, Lejzer

Fiszer, engineer

Rajzner, Szmuel

Flejszer

Raticki, Szalka

Flojmenbojm, Hersz

Ratker, Roze

Fogelman, Awrom

Rembiszewski, Hersz

Fradl

Reznik, Szlojme

Franek

Rijol, Szejne

Frenkel, Franke

Rogozynski, Kuba

Fride

Rotbard, Mojsze

Fridman, Chaim

Rotszyid, Hersz

Fridman, Gine

Rozen, Mila

Gaiter (single girl)

Rozenberg, Ruwen

Gaiter, Awrom

Rozenbiat, Sora

Garber, Awrom

Rozenblum, Felek

Gefon, Wladislaw

Rozenblum, Frume

Gersztenkorn, Leon

Rozenfeld, Sora

Gerszuni, Szlojme

Rozenszajn, Rochel

Glatsztejn, Jechezkel

Rozental, Hersz

Gliksman, Rochel

Rubin, Awrom

Gloz, Chaim

Rubin, Lejzer

Goczynski, Rochel

Rubinowicz, Zawel

Goladn

Rubinsztejn, Aron

Goldberg, Elje

Rubinsztejn, Bube

Goldberg, Izchok

Ruska, Mute

Goldberg, Mojsze (Misza)

Ruszke

Goldberg, Sjome

Ryba, Awrom Nachman

Goldfarb

Rybak, Chaja

Goldman, Jakow

Rybalowska, Frida

Goldsztejn, Arnold

Rybka, Josef

Goldsztejn, Henjek

Sane

Goldsztejn, Nosen

Sarewicz

Gordon, Dzek (Jakow)

Sawicki, Berel

Grajewer, Jankl

Schronis, engineer

Grosman (engineer)

Segal, Dr.

Grubliak, Cypora

Segal, Rojze

Grzechjen, Alek

Segal, Tanja

Gurewicz, Dr.

Sicz, Fanja

Gurnicka, Sima

Sirotkin, Hersz (fell fighting in the ranks of the Red Army December 1944) *

Gurnicki, Chaim

Siwowicz, Henje

Gutkowska, Manja

Siwowicz, Jentl

Gutman, Chaim

Slapak, Mojsze

Gutman, Ejdel

Sobol, Etel

Halpem, Sjome

Sokolowicz

Halpern, Fanja

Streblanski, Izchok

Halpern, Mojsze

Strykowska, Hinde

Herc, Adela

Strykowski, Chaim

Holenderski, Dr.

Strykowski, Misza

Iglewicz, Zelig

Suchaczewska, Fanja

Isroel the carpenter

Suchaczewski, Jojne

Jakubowicz, Szlojme-Lozer

Suchodnicki,Elijezer

Jandrza

Suraski, Hersz

Jankele the wagon driver

Szachnes, Cyla

Jaszke

Szajak, Gedaljohu

Jaworowski, Mojsze

Szajke from Czechenowce

Jedlina, Sora

Szapiro, Broche

Jehudit

Szczepjacki

Jofe

Szedler, Hersz

Josele der Griner

Sziajfer, Binjomin

Josem, 1st brother

Szienger, Marek

Josem, 2nd brother

Szlojme

Joskowicz, Zosze

Szlumijei, Lipe

Jurkowski (from Krynki)

Szmit, Sonja

Kac, Efrajim

Sznajder, Arje

Kaczalska, Basje

Szteper, Nachman

Kaczalska, Bina

Sztern

Kaczalska, Hinde

Szternfeld, Isroel

Kaplan, Mirjam

Sztifeid

Kaplan, Misza

Sztrojsberg, Chajcze

Kaplan, Zenje

Szurik, Bira

Kaplanski

Szurik, Hela

Kawe, Josef (Befell in the forests fighting with the partisans in November 1943) *

Szuster, Chaim

Kenigsberg, Chana

Szwarc, Chaje

Kirzner, Binjomin

Tajbel from Wilno

Kisler, Jojel (Fell fighting with the Partisans September 1943) *

Tanja

Klarfeld, Bela

Tartacki, Motil

Knapinska, Sora

Taub, Jochewed

Koczwarski, Mojsze

Tenenbojm (Tamarof), Mordechaj

Koitun, Hersz

Treger, Ljole

Kojfman, Bela

Wajcman, Jochewed

Kole from Krynki

Wajnberg, Awrom

Kon, Chaim (fell fighting with the Partisans in August 1943, buried in Lodz)*

Wajnsztejn, Jochewed

Kon, Nera

Wajnsztejn, Kopl

Korjanska, Dwora

Wajnsztejn, Lejb

Korjanska, Osne

Wajs, Meir

Korjanska, Rywka

Wajsenberg, Henjek

Kot, Bejbe

Wanaginski, Josef

Kozak, Nochum

Wanengeszykt, Josef

Kramarz, Monjek

Warszawska, Riwa

Kramarz, Ruwen

Widerman, Awrom

Krynski, Judil

Wiernik, Renja

Kucharewski (Sasza's brother)

Wilczynska, Gitl

Kucharewski, Sasza

Wloszezowski

Kuraza, Ester

Wolkowiski, Wolf

Kurte, Awrom

Wolowczyk, Jankl

Kusewicki, Sawke

Worne, Dowid

Kustin

Wysocki, Lejb

Kusznir, Sjome

Zaks, Dr.

Kwarc

Zapaczkowski, Tanja

Kwart, Jojne

Zejfman, Jechiel

Lajwent, Nechome

Zelazo, Sjome

Laks, Blume

Zelwianski, Lejb

Lapczynski, Chaim

Zieleniecka

Lebjed, Jakow

Zielonogura, Chanoch

Leningradec, Aljoza

Zonszajn, Rochel

Lerman, Ljola

Zylberberg-Zyskind, Zorach

Lerner, Jakow

Zylbersztejn, Hela

Lew, Chone (Stach) (fell fighting with the Partisans, May 1944 ) *

Zysman, Manja

Lewin, Awrom

 

 

 

 

1)  The list contains the names of those who fell during the revolt of the Bialystok Ghetto.  Deletion of some names who were erronously included in the list was made in June 2005 by Yosef Makowski and Ewa Kracowska, both were patrisans. Yosef Makowski escaped from the death train to Treblinka. Ewa participated in the uprising and miraculously saved.   Their comments:

 

First Name

SURNAME

Comments

Szebel

BOROWIK

Partisan, fell fighting in the forests.

Lejzer

CHOROSZUCH

Survivor lives in Hulon (EK)

Julek

JAKUBOWICZ

Survivor who lived in Kfar Saba and died a year ago. He lived in Russia and became , a new immigrant from Russia  to Israel in 1991 (EK)

Josef

KAWE

Befell in the forests fighting with the partisans (jumped from the death train) killed on November 1943 (EK)

Joel

KISLER

Partisan, found a bomb in the forest which was exploded in his hands, September 1943 (EK)

Chaim

KON

Befell in the forests fighting with the partisans, November 1943. After the war his sister made exhumation and transferred the body to burial in Lodz Jewish cemetery (EK).

Chawa

KRACOWSKA

Survivor, source of the information.

Chone (Stach)

LEW

Befell in battle in the forest. In the end of May 1944 he was sent by the Partisians for an action and killed by the Germans. Only 18 years old. ((EK).

Lolek

OZDER, Dr.

Fought with  the Partisans and in the Ghetto before that. Dr. Ozder fell on 8.5.1945(!) in battle near Berlin in the Red Army ranks. (EK)

Hersz

SIROTKIN

Fought in the revolt and the partisans, then taken to the Red Army, befell in 1945, fighting at the Red Army (EK).

 

 

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THE CITY DESTROYED

(Page 113)

 

On July 27, 1944, after fierce battles between Soviet and Nazi forces, the Red Army liberated Bialystok, which was a tragic scene of desolation and ruin.

What was once a citadel of vibrant Jewish life had become a wasteland. The energy and creativity of gen≠erations of Jews had vanished in a barbaric orgy.

Jewish neighborhoods in Bialystok, once ebullient and enthusiastic, were plunged into deep melancholy. The Nazi murderers had destroyed everything. It was incredible that such total devastation could result in so short a time.

Tens of thousands of Bialystoker Jewish men, women and children perished in Auschwitz, Treblinka and other Nazi concentration camps. Bialystok - a microcosm of Jewish life in Eastern Europe - disap≠peared, as though it had never existed.

Shortly after the Soviets liberated the city, a few Jews returned to the shattered remains of their beloved hometown, miraculously having escaped the fate of their six million brethren. The massive destruction they saw made them feel like branches torn from a tree, and they wept.

But they did not give up. As time went on, more Jews came back to the city. How they managed to sur≠vive is beyond human comprehension. Their reunion restored hope and they clung together like one large family mourning.

These few who emerged from Hitler's inferno - the camps, forests, bunkers, endless wanderings and dislocations - were immersed in their painful memo≠ries but resolved to begin anew.

Their goal was to rebuild Bialystok's Jewish community, and they were aided by generous landsleit in all parts of the world, mostly by the Bialystoker Center in New York.

They vowed never to forget thousands of their brothers and sisters who had perished in the Holocaust, nor those who had died resisting the Nazi enemy.

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AWROM SZEWACH

 

OUR STREETS

(Page 113)

 

O streets of Bialystok

You are no longer,

But streets of Bialystok

In me you will live forever.

 

Our homes are all gone,

Just a few walls still stand;

Young lads in tatters roam,

Just a few toddlers, who really knows?

 

Laughter in the night,

From couples in love

Singing to their hearts delight

Yet filled with trouble enough.

 

O  streets of Bialystok

You are no longer

But streets of Bialystok

In me you will live forever.

 

O  streets of Bialystok

How once you beamed with pride;

Now all that remains, O Bialystok,

Is a cemetery bonafide.

 

No more will we live in our homes,

Now surrounded by thorns and stones

Just heaps of ruin and pits abound

No one is any longer around.

 

Our Jewish neighbors run no longer

To the marketplace in order to barter

Singing no more Rozhinkes Mit Mandlen

All we loved has come to an end.

 

O  streets of Bialystok,

All trace of you has disappeared;

I shall always remember you O Bialystok,

Until my last breath, I fear.

 

 

 

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