KARTUZ-BEREZA 1993 YZKOR
By David Bekler
Before WWI the Jewish population of Selcz was about 500 families. Most of them immigrated to the US and Latin America. In Selcz were some 50 families that were supported by trade, manufacturing and agriculture. The inhabitants earned their living with dignity. In year 1939 Nazis conquered our city and, upon their entry into Selcz, they plundered the only existing Soviet business of our city which was located in our house, as were our inventory of goods.
After a short time a local council was organized and the Jewish population's representative was named REUBEN BEKLER, my father. Their task was not easy, especially when, due to a severe decree, our population had to pay a large amount of money and also to surrender without compensation our domestic animals. We were force to put on the yellow patch in front and behind our clothes, to walk in the middle of the street and not in the pathway, etc.
Germans imposed all kinds of works on us. They made us go on foot to the nearby train station of Bluden, a distance of about 7 Kilometers. There we had to load boxcars with the goods that they plundered from the local population and also to unload groceries for their army. In winter we cleaned the ice accumulated from freezing snow on the train rails. Several times we returned from work with wounds on our head due to blows received from Germans. Also many times friends fainted due to the heavy load they were forced to carry.
On May 25 1942 the population of the city was transferred to the Ghetto of Kartuz Bereza, and were moved into various homes there. When we arrived, my father (blessed his memory) was invited to be a member of the Judenrat of Bereza, and to represent our city in the Council. He rejected the proposal because he knew about the cruelties perpetrated by the members of the Judenrat.
Life in the Ghetto was unbearable. The population obtained their sustenance by smuggling food and other products which were brought into the Ghetto. This system of life remained until July 14, 1942. That day the soldiers of the SS, Belarus police and the Ukrainian police surrounded Ghetto B. The residents of the Ghetto that had a work certificate were transferred to Ghetto A which was considered a productive Ghetto. The morning of the first day of the month Av, or July 15, 1942, the Nazis removed the Jews from their houses in Ghetto B and they were taken to their final destination. The manner in which the Nazis prepared for this operation was so cleverly hidden that the people did not imagine that they were being sent to be slaughtered. They were told that they were to be transferred to the Ghetto of Byalistok, and they allowed them to take a quantity their belongings, not to exceed 5 Kilograms. Of course, people took objects of value like gold , silver and dollars. The Ghetto residents were transferred in two groups; youths (some of them had formerly been in Eretz Israel for a long time) were loaded on trucks to prevent them from escaping. The rest, as a group, were taken on foot to the rail station in Bluden, a distance of about 5 Kilometers. Some youths foresaw what was going to happen to them and they tried to escape, but German bullets hit their bodies and killed them.
The unfortunates were loaded in boxcars in the station and they were transported directly to the place of slaughter in Brona Gura. It was surrounded by barbed wire, and it was impossible to escape. My dear relatives were among them. The residents of Ghetto A listened the sound of the shootings that came from Brona Gura , but who imagined that the pure and innocent people of the Ghetto were being slaughtered? Only after some fool German soldiers told us what happened did those that were in the Ghetto begin to understand and believe them. Just before this slaughter, some were able to slip away and to join the line of the partisans. I was among them.
After the slaughter of Jews from Ghetto B, the partisans sent my friend ABRAHAM PELBOIM and myself to the Ghetto to communicate with our youths and give our opinion through printed material and also by word of mouth. They were told that they should be organized for sabotage activities in their work positions; to be connected with the partisan groups to pass weapons and radio recordings to the group in the forest. Our mission had its small successes because, after some days, youths were organized and they were active during their stay in the Ghetto. They also secretly introduced weapons into the Ghetto and they sent a reinforcement of men and weapons to the partisans. When they could abandon the Ghetto, eight people of Ghetto A joined us.
I am deeply sorry to say that none of them survived. Some returned to the Ghetto after the first attack by the Germans on August 1, 1942, or when we liberated the Kosovpolsky Ghetto. Some fell in the attack and others as heroes in different battlefields. Ghetto A remained open for some months after Jews of Ghetto B were liquidated and in autumn of 1942 it was surrounded by Nazis and Ukrainians.
Members of the defense were organized in several groups with hand weapons. They awaited for nightfall in their hiding places. It didn't make any sense to fight during the day because the only street in the Ghetto was full of people who were no longer allowed to leave to go to their work.
That night was Pesach for people in Ghetto A. The night began with the silence of death but, suddenly, the sky of the Ghetto was illuminated and a rain rifle and machine gun fire crossed the clean and dark air of the Ghetto. The heroes of the defense set fire to several houses of the Ghetto, they tried to escape the circle of death with their weapons, and to clear a road to freedom. The unusual movement in the Ghetto during the day made the Nazis suspicious, they reinforced their defense and, when the rebellion began, they started a huge firestorm in the Ghetto. The firing ceased slowly and, when the last of the heroes was killed, his face was pointed toward freedom and his machine gun was still in his hand.
The few Jews of the Ghetto who were alive after the terrible battle were found the following day dead in a common grave they dug by themselves near the place where the flags of blood of the first slaughter flamed . The blood of the Jews of Selcz mixed with the blood of the Jews of Kartuz Bereza and rose toward the heights together with those who sanctified HIS NAME.
This is the way this chapter of the life of our city in which I grew up and was educated finished,. It is a link in the chain of hundreds and thousands of small and big communities that after hundreds of years of existence, were erased from under the sky of G-d