By Elyahu Mote Bukshtein



At the end of  XIXth Century in our town, the Russian army was settled down in camps. On one side of the main route, buildings rose for the soldiers’ regiments. The camp included two fortified houses of three floors and many wooden houses. They also had stables and deposits of ammunition, clothes and groceries. On the other side of the route fortified houses of two floors rose for officials, surrounded by trees and flowers. 


During the year 1915 when Germans conquered the place, they installed a military hospital there, and they located German pilots in the houses. Near the town there was a small airport. In the year 1920 during the battles between Russia and Poland, the buildings were set on fire. After the Poles expelled the Russian, they set armed guards. There was a school for officials, a navy school and one for armored troops that belonged to the ninth regiment installed in Brest. In the year 1934, when the power in Poland shifted from Marshal Pilsutzky to the group "Azan", Poles got up in the place a concentration camp, following the previous pattern by the German army.


Around the buildings a fence of spikes three meters high was lifted. A similar fence surrounded the buildings for prisoners, and they built prisons there. Some of these prisons were full with water and they contained diverse "study" instruments. The large square was the place for prisoner’s activities. There was also a work place in which prisoners manufactured concrete blocks to pave streets.


In the buildings there was a line of planks to sleep. The width of each plank was only 10 centimeters, and one or two centimeters separated a plank from the other. Inside the buildings were cells of approximately 4 squared meters each. There was a dining room for the guards who watched over the prisoners day and night.


At the beginning, this camp was dedicated only to communists, when the government still didn't have evidences to judge them and send them to jail. Therefore they were sent to the concentration camp by "administrative procedure". Then they began to concentrate criminal prisoners there as well, and the conditions of there was better than that those of political prisoners. They also had other people, in their majority, Ukrainians.


During the year 1939, in the eves of WWII, many Jews accused of "speculators", were arrested.  That is to say, seemingly, that they didn't fulfill the corresponding rules regarding the merchandises in stock in their business. For example, they were accused of hiding merchandise because they located them in non-visible places, and they hid prices. Jews were in prison together with their wives. When it was near to the war, they were sent to the German concentration camps of Silesia, accused of making propaganda against Poles. During that period, 500 women were incarcerated, and about 200 guards and officials watched over the camp. All this was watched over by the Minister of the District of Brisk, called Kastek Biernatzky of disastrous memory.

The prisoners received great punishments. During Catholic festivities they forced them to clean the main street in front of the church.  Guards, mounted and on foot,  watched over the work. The prisoners should make the work quickly because behind them came a cart drawn by other prisoners to pick up the garbage. Everything was carried out in quickly.  The prisoners that were liberated were afraid of telling what happened in the camp, and even leftist journalism did not publish even one word about the life in the camp. The prisoners never told about the bad feeding because they feared that, if they returned to the place, the guards would retaliate against them.


When during year 1939 Germans came closer to Bereza, the majority of the town requested ten volunteer firemen to watch over the place to prevent possible pillages from happening.