“Biala Podlaska” - Encyclopedia of Jewish
Communities in Poland, Volume VII
(Poland)

52°02' / 23°08'

Translation of “Biala Podlaska” chapter from

Pinkas Hakehillot Polin

Published by Yad Vashem

Published in Jerusalem


 

 

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This is a translation from: Pinkas Hakehillot: Encyclopedia of Jewish Communities, Poland, Volume VII,
pages 84-89, published by Yad Vashem, Jerusalem


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(Pages 84-89)

Biala Podlaska
(Biala Podlaska District; Lublin County)

Translation from Hebrew by L. Marc Zell

YearPopulationJews
1748-~870
1827-1,091
18603,7862,394
18665,5393,456
189713,0906,549
192113,0056,874
193110,6976,923

Biala Podlaska is mentioned for the first time in the historical sources at the end of the 15th century as a private town belonging to the family of the Radzjwil princes. Its location on the highway from Lithuania to the Ukrainian regions in the South and to “Great Poland” in the west, influenced its development to a great degree. Biala Podlaska was a regional center for commerce and crafts; there were merchants and artisans, including the following occupations: shoemakers, furriers, tailors, carpenters, silversmiths, bakers, butchers, etc. However, its economic development was not continuous, but rather given to fluctuations, due to frequent wars, fires and epidemics. Almost every one of the houses in the town was built of wood, with the result that fires caused vast destruction. In 1706 Biala Podlaska was afflicted by a Swedish invasion and a plague that caused the deaths of many inhabitants.

In 1795 after the Third Partition of Poland, Biala Podlaska was placed under Austrian occupation; the Austrians made the town a district seat. In 1807 Biala Podlaska was incorporated into the “Principality of Warsaw” and from 1815 until World War I it belonged to Congress Poland. In 1915 the town was conquered by the Germans who occupied it until their retreat in the fall of 1918.

Jews were already residing in Biala Podlaska from the first part of the 17th century, having been drawn to the location in all probability by the commercial trading opportunities along the Polish-Lithuanian border. In 1621 Prince Radzjwil decided to formalize in an official document the relations between Jews and Christians with regard to the right of residence and to engage in commerce and craft. Jews were prohibited from living the center of town (where the market was located), and the number of Jewish homes was limited to 30; one family per house. As a consequence, there was a practical limitation on the number of Jewish families in the town. However, in reality the Jewish community in Biala Podlaska grew and the limitation on the number of houses and families was not observed. Jews were permitted to engage in commerce to earn a living.

In the first half of the 17th century there was already an organized Jewish community in Biala Podlaska, with a synagogue and a cemetery. At the outset the community was subordinated to the Jewish community in Brzesc Litewski (Brest Litovsk) in Lithuania. In 1705 a head tax of 510 gold z³otys was imposed on the Jews of Biala Podlaska. The community's freedom of operation was restricted and all of its actions were subject to the control of the Prince and his court. The community budget required court approval and the Prince had a decisive influence on the appointment of the Rabbi. A document from the year 1736, preserved in the family archives of the Radzjwil princes, gives some idea of the difficulties that arose in the relationship between the Jewish community and the Prince's court. That year Princess Anne ordered the Trustee, Szmuel ben Icchak (the “factor” or the “general treasurer”) to examine all the community's affairs and to prepare a budget of income and expenditures. R' Szmuel was authorized to discharge the elected administration of the community and to appoint a new administration in its stead, should the former not obey him. This same document shows something about the social disparities within the community. According to the Princess' directive, the community was required to prepare the budget in such a manner as not to give the rich any advantage over the poor.

As mentioned, in the first half of the 18th century the Jewish population in Biala Podlaska began to grow at a rapid pace. According to a certificate from the Radzjwil archives, 447 families were living in Biala Podlaska in 1742, more than one-third (37%) of whom were Jews. In the same year there were 354 houses' of which one third was owned by Jews. The growth of the Jewish population was connected to the economic success of the town, for which the impact of the Jews in commerce and trade was substantial. Jews resided in almost all sections of the town, even though the most lived in the town center. A large portion of the Jews supported themselves from small scale commerce or in maintaining public taverns. The rich engaged in the grain and timber trade and leasing the income of the town and court. Some of the Jews were suppliers to the court. Among the 53 Jewish artisans were 22 tailors and furriers and the rest were glaziers, engravers, bookbinders, tinsmiths, silversmiths, butchers and rope makers. A list from 1748 also mentions bakers, wagoners, stonecutters, barbers and musicians (klezmerim). It can be seen from the accounts that were preserved in the Radzjwil archives that the local nobleman was not exactly strict when it came to paying his debts to Jewish suppliers of the court. In 1780 the Prince owed the community 3,756 gold pieces for wax.

The Jews of Biala Podlaska bore a heavy burden of taxes and other types of charges. Besides the head tax they were required to pay the court rent for the land on which their homes stood; to furnish the local lords with horses and vehicles, light for the court watch and gifts for the holidays. On account of its hard-pressed condition, the community was forced to borrow money from the priesthood and when they were unable to repay the debt owed, they were charged high rates of interest. In addition the Jews of Biala Podlaska undertook to provide the churches and monasteries with funds to buy tallow and candles.

As mentioned, the Jewish community of Biala Podlaska was organized from the first half of the 17th century. The itinerant R' Aharon Szmuel Kajdnower (“Hamarsh”k”) served as town rabbi in 1658 until he continued his travels to rabbinical posts in Frankfurt and Krakow. Afterwards (1691) R' Eliyahu son of R' Szmuel, author of ”Yad Eliyahu”, (died in 1735) served as rabbi. R' Yosef son of R' Mordechai Siegel Horwitz is mentioned in 1728, followed by R' Ozer, son of R' Abraham Awisz of Frankfurt, and R' Yehuda Eidel. More detailed reports have been preserved about R' Cwi Hirsz son of R' Naftali Hirc (d. 1748), who served both as community rabbi and head of the local yeshiva (rabbinical college). He later left Biala Podlaska to become the Rabbi of Halberstadt. Among his better known rabbinical works are “Ateret Tzvi” and “Kos Yeshuot”. R' Icchak son of R' Meir Eisenstadt (d. 1775) served as rabbi in Biala Podlaska during the 1750s and participated in meetings of the Council of Four Lands at Konstantin in 1755. R' Icchak's name is mentioned in connection with a dispute between R' Yakov Emden and R' Yonatan Eibschuetz. R' Baruch of Greece also worked in Biala Podlaska and sided with R' Eisenstadt in his dispute with R' Yonatan Eibschuetz. R' Icchak was succeeded by R' Menahem Nahum Ginzburg (d. 1783) and from 1763 by R' Yosef son of Yakov, who was apparently was the author of “Kokhavei Yakov” (d. 1803). He in turn was succeeded in the position by R' Shabbtai Eisenstadt starting in 1790. In the beginning of the 19th century R' Abraham Abba Dawidson, son of Warsaw Rabbi, Chaim Dawidson, served in Biala Podlaska.

Accompanying R' Yehuda Chasid on his aliyah (immigration) to Eeretz Israel (the Land of Israel) in 1700 were two men from Biala. One of them, Yosef son of Pesach, was the only one who remained faithful to Eretz Israel and was still in Jerusalem in 1729. He is the grandfather of R' Chaim Yosef Dawid Azulai (“Hid”ah”).

With the coming of Hasidic movement, Biala Podlaska was transformed into the centers of Hasidism in Poland with a commensurate increase in its influence over community institutions. R' Moshe-Michal son of Fiszel Strirzber (d. 1856), who served in Biala Podlaska, was one of the disciples of R' Menahem Mendel of Kock, one of the leaders of the Hasidism. His successor in Biala was R' Nahum Zeew Bornsztajn (d. 1888), who too was a Koczker Hasid and is known for his book “Agudat Ezov”. In 1891 R' Szmuel Leib Z”ak (d. 1932) became the rabbi of Biala Podlaska.

Hassidic Rabbis R' Berisz Landau, son of R' Abraham rabbi of Ciechanow (d. 1876), R' Icchak Yakov Rabinowicz (the “Admor (our master and teacher, title of Hassidic rabbi) of Biala”, d. 1905), author of “Divrei Tvunah” and “Yishrei Lev”, and R' Aharon Landau (d. 1910), held court in Biala Podlaska. R' Yechiel Yehoszua Rabinowicz continued the Biala dynasty in Jerusalem. Three of his sons came to be called “Admor of Biala”. The Biala Yeshiva, one of Poland's most famous, was headed by R' Noah Shachor, father-in-law of the Gerer Admor R' Abraham Mordechai (from Gora Kalwaria).

In the second half of the 19th century the Jewish community of Biala grew significantly. It was at this time that the Jews of Biala built themselves new homes, workshops and small factories. According to partial data, at the beginning of the 1860's there were 344 houses, 66 of which were made of brick. The Jews then owned 145 houses and many industrial enterprises, including a nail factory, a tannery, a shoe factory, saw-mills, brick-making furnaces, flour mills, a soap factory, a brewery and small factories in various other areas. Dozens of Jewish workers earned their livelihoods in these factories. Jewish and Polish artisans were organized in guilds. By law every Jewish artisan was required to present a certificate at the offices of the local government showing that he had completed the necessary training stages and only then could he be admitted to a guild as an independent artisan. In 1841 there were in Biala 11 shoemakers who were members of the leather guild, seven of whom were Jews. There were 13 tailors and two hatters in the sewing guild. According to an 1841 estimate there were 127 artisans in Biala of whom 76 were Jews. The vast majority worked in the leather and textile sectors, but there were also bakers, builders, bookbinders, roofers, carpenters, blacksmiths, tinsmiths, painters, butchers, cobblers and watchmakers.

Many families lived in poverty and needed the support of the community's welfare institutions. Among the Jewish community welfare and philanthropic institutions were the burial society, known as “Gomlei Hesed shel Emet,” “Beit Lehem”, (founded in 1885), “Bikur Holim,” “Linat Tzedek,” and “Hakhnasat Orhim”. A few years before the First World War the “Ahiezer” Society was founded in Biala Podlaska, which provided medical assistance. In 1911 the Jewish Hospital was dedicated in Biala Podlaska. In 1908 the Jews established the “Savings and Loan Fund” with an initial capital of 7,000 rubles. The Fund's membership comprised some 500 small merchants and tradesmen. In 1911 some 100 Jewish merchants associated to form a credit union with an initial capital of 10,000 rubles.

Prior to the beginning of the 20th century most Jewish children learned in private cheders (religious school) and Talmud Torahs. Those that continued in their studies learned in the local yeshiva. In the second half of the 19th century, the influence of the Haskalah (Enlightenment) began to penetrate into the area of Jewish education. At that time a public municipal high school was established in Biala, where Jewish youth from Russia who were not accepted to high schools in their local communities due to the numerus clausus were able to study. Under their influence, local youths began studying secular subjects and reading Haskalah books. Some of them even registered to study in the local gymnasium.

One of the first maskilim (enlightened) in Biala was Dr. Dawid Kohen (b. 1889), who studied in the Biala Gymnasium and later went on to study medicine in Warszawa and Rostock. After World War I he worked in the Polish “Holy Spirit” Hospital and in the Jewish hospital on Czysta Street in Warsaw. Dr. Bucze Finklestein also graduated from Biala High School and completed the faculty of medicine in Vilna.

The presence of a working proletariat in town provided fertile ground for the flourishing of Jewish workers movements. In the beginning of the 20th century branches of “Poalei Zion” and the “Bund” were founded in Biala Podlaska. During the 1905-1906 revolution, the members of the Bund formed a self-defense society. During the reactionary period after 1905-1906 the authorities liquidated the “Bund” branch. Many of its members emigrated to the United States and England.

In 1914 with the outbreak of the First World War, many Jews from Biala Podlaska were conscripted into the Russian army, causing their families to lose their source of income. In the summer of 1915 the Russian army withdrew and with it many Jews of Biala Podlaska left for the Russian interior. Among them were merchants who had commercial relations with the Russian army. After Biala Podlaska was conquered by the German army, heavy taxes were levied on the local population and goods were confiscated leaving the city starving. Young men were conscripted for forced labor to build fortifications. In 1915 – 1916 a typhus epidemic broke out in Biala Podlaska and the Jewish Hospital was commandeered by the Germans. The Jewish patients were left without suitable medical care and many perished in the epidemic.

Even so, despite the difficulties and suffering of the war years, Jewish social, culture and political life prospered. The Zionist movement renewed its activity and contributed greatly to the education of children and adults. A “Yavneh” Hebrew school was established in Biala Podlaska, as well as an orphanage that admitted 60 orphans. The “Yavneh” School existed until 1918. In addition a “Beit Ha-am” (popular cultural center) was established, which contained a library and which hosted a drama club, a choral group, a brass band and a gymnastics club. The Zionists in Biala Podlaska were assisted by Jewish German soldiers who were members of the Zionist movement in Germany and who helped with ideas and deeds. The various relief organizations also renewed their operations at this time and a public kitchen was opened which provided the poorest of the poor with hot meals every day.

The Jews between the World Wars

During the first years of the existence of the re-established Polish State, the security situation in the country was perilous. The town was liberated by Polish troops under the command of General Haler, who was infamous for his hostile treatment of the Jews. The soldiers terrorized the Jews, cutting of their beards and earlocks for pleasure and frequently engaged in looting. During the ensuing war between Poland and Soviet Russia a few Bund activists were arrested and sent to a concentration camp in Dabia. In early August 1920 Biala Podlaska was captured by a unit of the Red Army, which remained for eight days. After the Soviets withdrew, the Polish military authorities accused the Jews of collaborating with the enemy. Anti-Semitic pogroms and looting broke in and around the town. Peasants from the surrounding rural areas rushed to Biala to share with the soldiers in the spoils stolen from the Jews.

During this period many Jews of Biala Podlaska were left without anything of those not even a slice of bread remained. The Joint Distribution Committee assisted in setting up public kitchens which distributed meal to children for free. Packages of food and clothing were handed out to the Jewish population. Many Jews of Biala Podlaska, and especially the youth, saw no future for themselves in Poland in those years and immigrated to the United States, Argentina and other countries.

When the government was stabilized, the Jews of Biala began to rebuild their business-houses. During the inter-war period most of Biala Podlaska's Jews continued to support themselves through small commerce and artisanship. Some of the craftsmen worked as employees in small factories and workshops. When economic activity was renewed, local organizations and institutions strove to provide mutual help and assistance. 500 Jews who worked in workshops organized into unions by sectors – “Woodworkers Union,” (founded 1921); “Needle workers,” “Leather-Sector Workers,” etc. The small merchants organized into the “Small Merchants Society” (1924). At the initiative of small tradesmen and artisans, the “Savings and Loan Fund,” established even before World War I, was transformed into the “Small Trader's and Craftsmen's Cooperative Bank.” In 1925 the “Mercantile Bank” was established in Biala Podlaska and was closed during the years of the economic crisis (1934). Also the Charitable Loan Fund (“Gmiluth Hassadim”), established before World War I, continued granting loans to the needy. In 1926 the Small Traders' Society and the Craftsmen Society formed a new charitable loan fund with help from the Joint. Many of the Jews of Biala Podlaska, whose source of income had continued to dwindle during the economic crisis of 1928 – 1932, were rescued from the scourge of starvation with the help of these institutions.

During the early years of the independent Polish State, Jews too were elected to the Biala Podlaska City Council based on their proportion in the general population. In 1919 15 Jews were elected to the Council – 6 from the “Bund”, 4 from “Agudat Israel”, 2 from the “General Zionists”, 2 from the “Poalei Zion Left” faction and one independent. In the 1923 elections, 13 Jewish representatives were elected – 6 from “Agudat Israel”, 3 from the “Zionim Klaliim” (General Zionists), 2 from the Tradesmen Union; and 2 from the House owners' Society. However, as anti-Semitism increased in Poland, the authorities endeavored to reduce Jewish representation on the City Council, despite the relatively large proportion of Jews in the general population of the town. In 1934 five Jews were elected to the Council and in 1938 only three.

Between the World Wars a traditional religious mood prevailed in the community, although the Zionist movement also had a significant influence. In the 1924 elections to the Community Committee, 15 representatives were chosen – 7 from “Agudat Israel”, 4 from the Craftsmen Union; 3 from the “General Zionists”, and “Mizrachi” (jointly) and one independent.

The last Rabbi of Biala Podlaska, R' Cwi Hirszhorn, served in the position from 1938 (He perished in the Holocaust).

During the years 1920 – 1939, the Community Committee suffered from constant financial difficulties, yet was still able to initiate extensive activity in the fields of education, health and welfare. Some 250 pupils were studying in the local Talmud Torah, many of them from poor families. The Community purchased new equipment for the Jewish Hospital and from 1926 also maintained “Moshav Zkenim” - an old age home, which housed some 30 lonely seniors.

The Community also supported several charitable and welfare organizations from its budget, like “Ezrat Holim,” “Hakhnasat Orhim,” and “Beit Lehem,” which provided hot meals to the poor. TO”Z (Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia Ludnosci - the Polish Jewish Health Organization existed between the two World Wars) took care of the medical needs of children from poor families. Every year some 200 children were sent to the society's summer camps. Among those active in TO”Z were several physicians who also worked at the Jewish Hospital – Dr. Hardman, Dr. Goldberg and Dr. A. Gelbard.

Several serious fires broke out in Biala during the inter-war years. In 1926 five Jews were burned alive in the court of Admor Landau and three Torah scrolls went up in flames. In 1938 the old Beit Midrash burned down.

Zionist activity in Biala Podlaska, which as it will be recalled began in the early 20th century, increased at the end of the First World War and spread quickly. Among the Zionist leaders in the town were: Advocate Apolinary Hartglas, who represented the Jews of Biala Podlaska and its environs in the Polish Sejm in the years after World War I and struggled for minority rights of the Jews in Poland. Just before World War II, Hartglas immigrated to Eretz Israel and after the establishment of the State of Israel he served as Director General of the Ministry of the Interior. Zionist parties who established branches in Biala Podlaska included: the “General Zionists”, “Poalei Zion”, “Mizrachi” (from 1916) and Revisionist Zionists (from 1927). In addition, a group of “Hechalutz” (Pioneer) was founded in the town as were branches of the youth movements of “Hashomer Hatzair” (1919), “Gordonia, “Dror” and Beitar.

The non-Zionist parties in Biala included “Agudat Israel”, which was based primarily on the Hasidim; the “Bund”, the majority of whose members came from employees at workshops and its youth group, “Zukunft” (the Future). A few Jewish young people belonged to the Communist Party, which operated illegally during that period.

During this period many Jewish children learned in religious educational institutions such as the traditional cheder and the Talmud Torah. Girls learned in “Beit Yakov” school of “Agudat Israel”. However, many also learned in the local Polish public schools. In 1919 a Jewish elementary school was opened in town and operated until 1923. There were two Jewish libraries in Biala Podlaska – the “Tarbut” Library, which had 2,500 volumes in Hebrew, and the Yiddish and Polish; and the Culture League Library (Kultur Lige”. Clubs for drama and literature functioned in the libraries, and drama and sports clubs operated at “Beit Ha-am”. During this period there were two Yiddish periodicals in Biala Podlaska: the weekly, Podlasier Leben (published 1926 –1927; 1932 edited by Glenberg); and the Zionist weekly, Bialer Wochenblatt, which appeared in 1932 under the editorship of Szmuel Wiesenfeld.

The last years of the 1930s were marked by the rise of anti-Semitism in Biala Podlaska and throughout Poland. The economic boycott declared against Jewish commerce and craftsmanship strengthened and persisted. The number of persons in need of welfare and who received support from public funds continued to rise. Jewish workers were not allowed to work at the new plants built by the Polish government in Biala Podlaska, and in particular the aircraft factory, even though the government made use of Jewish capital and knowledge in building these factories.

During World War II

On 1 September 1939 Biala Podlaska was bombed by German aircrafts who aimed their fire principally at the aircraft factory in the Wolia suburb. Many houses were destroyed by fire and residents of the district, Jewish and Gentile, were killed. Biala Podlaska was captured by the Germans on 13 September 1939 (on the eve of Rosh Hashana 5700). On 26 September 1939 the Germans withdrew from Biala Podlaska and a unit of the Red Army took their place. However, the Soviet force remained in town only a very short while, about two weeks. Thereafter, in accordance with the Molotov- Ribbentrop Pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, Biala Podlaska was included in the German zone of occupation. Following the departure of the Red Army troops on 10 October 1939, 600 Jews also left their homes and moved to eastern Poland, to the zone which under the Treaty remained under the control of the Soviets. R' Cwi Hirszhorn joined those fleeing east. He perished in 1943 in Lwow.

Starting from the earliest days of the occupation, the Germans began kidnapping Jews for forced labor and looting Jewish property. The acts of kidnapping were accompanied by abuse and degradation.

In November 1939 a Judenrat was formed in Biala Podlaska. Icchak Pirzyc was appointed head and his colleagues were Jakob Aharon Rosenbojm, Dawid Kantor and others, most of who had been members of the previous Community Committee. As was the case in other locales, Biala's Judenrat was compelled to handle all assignments imposed upon them by the Germans, including finding manpower to fill the labor quotas demanded for forced labor and collecting contributions (money and valuables) for the authorities.

However the Biala Podlaska Judenrat saw itself and its activity as a continuation of the institution of the Community Committee and did everything in its power for the welfare of the Jews. A public kitchen was established which served cooked meals for the needy. Under the supervision of the Judenrat the Jewish Hospital continued to operate as well as the school for small children under the direction of Lyuba Tuchschneider. R' Mosze Otschen taught Talmud classes. The men of the Judenrat tried also to maintain the two Jewish libraries. Prayer for the public was held in minyanim in private homes.

On 1 December 1939 the Germans published a decree requiring all Jews from the age of 6 and above to wear an armband on their right arm bearing a yellow Star of Dawid (later the Germans changed its color to blue). At the direction of the Germans the Jews were concentrated in a separate zone on Grabanow, Janowa, Prosta and Przechodnia Streets, several families to a single apartment. The Jewish homes that were evacuated on other streets were confiscated by Mayor Antony Walewski and his deputies S. Szczypanski and Bajlcki, who collaborated with the Germans and turned them over to Christian “dreiers” (Yiddish: for people who took care of matters). At the direction of the Germans a Jewish Police was established, which was forced to carry out their orders.

At the end of 1939, the congestion in the Jewish quarter increased with the arrival of 2,000 Jewish deportees from Suwalki and Serock. The Jews of Biala Podlaska housed a portion of them in their homes while the rest found shelter in the synagogue and the Batei Midrash in the Jewish quarter. The Jewish quarter was open and its inhabitants were able to go and come as they pleased and to buy provisions from the peasants in exchange for clothes and house wares. However, due to the crowded conditions and terrible sanitation, typhus broke out in early 1940; many perished. At approximately the same time Jewish prisoners of war were brought to Biala Podlaska, many of them wounded, who had previously served in the Polish army. They too were housed in the Jewish quarter.

In July 1940 several dozen Jewish men were sent from Biala Podlaska to forced labor in Belzec. In the autumn of 1940 the Judenrat's employment office, which had been established at the direction of the Germans, began to conscript workers for the factories built by the Germans in Biala Podlaska and its environs. Work camps were built near the factories by the Germans. Hundreds of Jewish tradesmen worked – shoemakers, tailors, carpenters, cabinet makers, and tinsmiths in seven of the Judenrat's work camps, at the airfield, the train station at the Wineta camp in the Wolia district. Hundreds of other Jews worked in heavy manual labor paving roads, draining ditches and constructing sewage facilities or saw mills and building barracks. Many women worked at Duke Potocki's farm “Halas.” In the spring of 1941 the Germans began preparing for war against the Soviet Union. Many Jews were conscripted to build fortifications and an airport in the area.

The liquidation of the Biala Podlaska Jewish community began in June 1942. On 6 June a rumor spread throughout the Jewish zone that the Jews were going to be forced to leave Biala Podlaska to be evacuated to the West, and only workers at the forced labor camps employed at German factories as well as those possessing a labor permit would be exempt from the deportation. The Germans delegated the task of rounding up the Jews destined for deportation to the Judenrat and Jewish Police. On 10 June 1942 at 5 a.m. 3,000 Jews, among them the elderly, women and children were assembled in the synagogue courtyard. Many of the Biala Jews did not report and fled to the forests. German police led the assembled Jews to the railroad station. The next day, 11 June 1942, the deportees were herded into freight cars and were deported to the death camp at Sobibor.

After the first deportation the Germans further reduced the area of the Jewish residential quarter. On the night of 4 August 1942 gendarmes, German police and Poles cordoned off the Jewish zone, took the men out of their homes and concentrated them in the market square, where their labor permits were checked. Afterwards they were freed, but that same night 19 Jews were executed.

On August 12 German gendarmes and Ukrainian collaborators begun kidnapping Jewish men and concentrate them in a square in Wolia neighborhood. Among the kidnapped were also workers who worked in the Wehrmacht forced labor camps. The Judenrat complained to the German authorities and they released the workers. However after a few days the kidnappings were renewed. About 400 Jews, the persons of the Judenrat among them' were deported to Majdanek. 50 Jews were left there and 350 men were transferred to work in paving of railway in Golomb (between Lublin and Pulawy).

In September 1942 3,000 deportees from the towns of Janow [Podlaska] and Konstantynow [Nad Bugiem] were brought to Biala Podlaska. The crowding in the Jewish zone got very bad. Glätt, an S.D. man, took all the valuables of the Jews still had and imposed on them a ransom of 45,000 zlotys. The Jews sensed that Germans were intending to liquidate them soon. Many attempted to escape to the forests, to dig bunkers, and prepare hiding places for themselves or hide themselves in basements.

The second deportation of the Jews of Biala Podlaska began on 26 September 1942 and ended on 1 October 1942. Gestapo men, the Gendarmerie, the German and Polish police and soldiers from the nearby airport all participated in this Aktzia. The night before the Aktzia the Germans encircled the Jewish zone and in the morning drove the Jews out of their homes and concentrated them in the New Market Square. Jews who resisted deportation were shot on the spot. On the same day there were 15 patients and two nurses at the Jewish Hospital. They were shot on the spot by the Gestapo. A number of Jews were removed from the assembled and were sent to slave labor at the airport Malszewice near Terespol. Most of the people who were left in the market square were driven to Miedzyrzec Podlaski in wagons of peasants from the surrounding area. On the way many were murdered in the Woronica forest.

On 6 October 1942 the Germans deported about 1,200 workers from the work camps in the vicinity of Biala Podlaska to Miedzyrzec Podlaski. Only a few managed to escape to the forests. Upon their arrival at the Miedzyrzec train station the Germans joined most of those who had been deported a few days earlier to the group of workers and brought them to the local ghetto. All were deported to Treblinka death camp.

The fate of the remaining deportees from Biala Podlaska was the same as the rest of the Jews of Miedzyrzec. In July 1943 after several additional Aktzias at the end of 1942 and in May 1943, the Miedzyrzec Ghetto was liquidated and its inhabitants were deported to Treblinka where they were murdered. The Germans left in Biala Podlaska a group of Jewish workers to clear out the Jewish quarter and to destroy the synagogue as well as the small prayer houses.

Due to the hostile attitude of the Polish population, the possibilities of surviving in the forests or in organizing fighting resistance were negligible. Even though, there were not a few incidents of opposition to the Germans and escape from the Ghetto and the death trains. In August 1942 Gudya Steinman, a member of the “HaShomer HaTzair” was arrested by the Gestapo in Biala Podlaska and executed. She had contact with the Polish underground from whom she received illegal literature.

Many people from Biala Podlaska were drafted into the Red Army and the Polish People's Army that was organized in the USSR. Leon Pakman, Jakob Warszawski, Zemach Tuchmincz and Simcha Lieberman fell in battle.

Sources:

Yad Vashem Archives, Jerusalem 03/2240; 016/140, 203, 2236, 2791

YIVO Archives, New York, ADR”P 7; ADR”P 49

Central Archives for the History of the Jewish People, HM/2151, 3723, 3726, 6753, 6805

Central Zionist Archives, Jerusalem, Z4/3569/III; Z4/215/29; Z3/152, S-6/625

Sefer Biala Podlaska, Tel Aviv 1961

M.Y. Feigenbojm, Podlasie in Umkum. Notizen fun Khurban, Munich 1948.

Dos Yiddishe Tagenblat, 14 Dec. 1931; 25 May 1932; 27 Dec. 1932; 25 Oct. 1937; 6 Mar. 1939

Heint, 1910, 1916, 1919, 1920, 1921, 1922, 1923, 1924, 1926, 1927, 1928, 1930, 1931, 1933, 1935, 1938, 1939.

Hatzefira, 17 Aug. 1890.

Podlasier Leben, 17 Nov. 1933; 24 Nov. 1933; 19 May 1934; 8 June 1934; 15 June 1934

Glos Zydowski, No. 23, 29 June 1906

Note

More information about the Holocaust in Biala Podlaska is available from Adv. Meir Garbarz Gover, at email:   “mggover at bezeqint.net”, including his article: “Lomazy, Anatomy of Murder”). See his article posted in JewishGen Yizkor Book Database in the translation of “Konstantynow nad Bugiem”


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