KARTUZ BEREZA 1993 YZKOR

 

Chapter VI H

 

The Destruction of Kartuz Bereza More Details

 

By Elyau Mote Bukshtein

 

The first Jewish victim of the German conquest was SHAUL RASHINKSY.  A farmer accused him of profiteering.  The Germans placed him, his wife and children up against the church wall and shot them. 24 Jews worked in the sawmill.  All were shot on suspicion of links with the partisans.  These events threw the Jewish population into a panic.  The members of the Judenrat calmed people down, saying there was one case of resistance. 

LEJZER BERMAN, who worked at the power plant, set the sawmill on fire after the slaughter of Ghetto B Jews, and he escaped.  The Germans pursued him; he wrested a rifle from a German's hand and killed him, but BERMAN was also killed.

At Brona Gora, at the place where the Jews of Ghetto B were killed, about 90,000 Jews from the area of Brisk and Bialystock were liquidated.  SHLOMO WEINSTEIN and GODEL PISCTZKI, Bund members, who refused to participate in the Judenrat, were also killed there. They marched in front of the Jews as they were led to death.

After the slaughter at Brona Gora, the wagons returned with the clothes of the dead.  The SS sat down to drink and distributed the blood-soaked clothes of the Jews to the peasants.  The floor of the wagons were littered with Polish banknotes and torn dollars...

On the night prior to the liquidation of Ghetto A, the Judenrat members, Dr. LICHTIKER, Dr. SHAPIRA and all their families committed suicide. 1,800 people were killed in Ghetto A. Before the war, the Bereza children used the spot where they were killed for Lag Baomer walks.

A few Jews prepared an underground tunnel that led to the Aryan side and tried to escape.  Later, the peasants found the bodies of 180 Jews, some of whom had been choked and some burnt to death.  A few were saved and are in Israel but most of the survivors were killed in the forest at the hands of the partisan groups or the Germans.

When I returned to Poland in 1946 I visited Brona Gora, the death valley of Kartuz Bereza and vicinity, where the Germans murdered about 100,000 Jews.  It then became clear to me that, at the end of 1943, the Germans dug up the mass graves, took out the bodies and burnt them.  The Russians surrounded the spot with barbed wire with an inscription stating there was a mass grave at the site.  The place where 1,800 Jews of Ghetto A were killed was covered with weeds.  There was no fence, no inscription, and no one coming to weep. 

The Jewish cemetery was also destroyed.  The gravestones were uprooted and served as steps for streets of the Gentiles.  There was no sign of any Jewish life in Bereza.