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VERIFIED ARTICLE

Translator name :Magda Kuźmak

The dissolution of the ghetto started in February 1943. The first act was the murder carried out from 5 to 12 February 1943 on 1,000 to 2,000 people, who were shot dead on the spot while about 10,000 people were driven out from the Fabryczny (Poleski) Railway Station to the extermination camp in Treblinka. On 13 March 1943, 1,148 people from the dissolved ghetto in Grodno were brought into the ghetto in Białystok. During the dissolution process, members of the resistance movement started feverish preparations to put up armed resistance in case of future deportations.

During the nighttime between 15 and 16 August, German soldiers and the SS divisions supported by the Ukrainian divisions surrounded the ghetto. On 16 August, upon the announcement that an order was issued for the immediate deportation of 30,000 people from the Bialystok ghetto, the resistance movement called for the uprising to begin. The main aim of the action was to break the German defense line, which would have allowed the maximum number of people to escape the ghetto and head for the neighboring forests. Under the leadership of Mordechaj Tenenbaum and Daniel Moszkowicz, a small group – of about 300 to 500 insurgents armed mainly with handguns and home-made grenades fought against about 3,000 German soldiers, their tanks, bullet-proof cars and airplanes. Many lives were lost during the battle; leaders of the uprising - Tenenbaum and Moszkowicz, recognizing that their rebellion was doomed, committed suicide. About 150 combatants managed to run away to the Knyszyńska Forest where they joined the active guerrilla groups. Soon, they formed the Jewish guerrilla group “Kadimah”, which in turn, was incorporated into a Soviet guerrilla movement at the end of 1943. Today, historians refer to the uprising in the Bialystok ghetto as the second greatest Jewish uprising directed against Germans, in terms of both size and importance.

After the uprising had been suppressed, deportations continued on between 18 and 20 August. The Jews capable of working were sent to labor camps, such as the one in Poniatowa, in the Lubelskie district. Also then, some 12,000 people from the Bialystok ghetto were sent to the extermination camp in Treblinka (10 transportations) and to Auschwitz (2 transportations). Around 1,200 Jewish children from Bialystok were sent to the ghetto in Terezin (Theresienstadt), in the Czech Republic, where they were kept for about six weeks. In the mean time, Germans took up negotiations concerning the possibility of exchanging Jewish children for German citizens who had been imprisoned by the British. When the talks resulted in a lack of consensus, on 5 October 1943, 1,196 children and their 53 caretakers were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp; two days later all of them were killed in gas chambers.

As a result of these actions, there were only about 1,000 to 2,000 people remaining in the Białystok ghetto. They were placed in the “little ghetto” and employed in cleaning and manual work. The “little ghetto” was dissolved on 8 October 1943, and its inhabitants were sent to the labor camp in Poniatowa, in the Lubelskie district, or to the extermination camps in Bełżec, Auschwitz, or to the Majdanek concentration camp. Some of them died on 3 November 1943, during the “Ernfest” (harvest) action when Germans murdered about 42,000 Jews. It is estimated that of  50,000 to 60,000 ghetto inhabitanys, only 260 survived the war, mainly in camps and guerrilla divisions, some hidden away on the “Aryan side”[9.1].

After the war ended, about 1,085 Jews returned to Bialystok from the city and the surrounding areas. The Cytron Synagogue (Cytron Bejs-medresz), which managed to avoid destruction, became the community’s main synagogue, while in 1948 the Socio-Cultural Jewish Society was given a location for its headquarters in the former building of Piaskower Bejs-Medresz. On 16 August 1945, on the second anniversary of the ghetto’s dissolution, thanks to the initiative of the Białystok citizens that survived, a stone obelisk was erected at the cemetery at Zabia Street, bearing the inscription: “In memory of 60,000 Jewish Brothers from the Bialystok ghetto murdered by the Germans – who will live in the hearts of the few Jews who survived. The nation of Israel lives on.” In 1946, another monument was founded in memory of the combatants in the ghetto, and two years later, at the Jewish cemetery a mausoleum was constructed in memory of the Jewish insurgents. As a result of anti-Semitic attacks that took place in years 1967 - 1968, a large group of Bialystok Diaspora members emigrated from Poland until 1972.

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[9.1] Białystok, in: The Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, Sz. Spector, G. Wigoder (eds.), vol. I, (2001), 141; Białystok, in: Encyclopaedia Judaica, F. Skolnik, M. Berenbaum (eds.), vol. 3, (2007), 568–570.

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