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The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive

Translation of the above plaque:

Monument
More than 50,000 Soviet citizens and citizens of Eastern Europe primarily of Jewish nationality were brutally murdered by the Fascists during the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945.

Note on the Monument

This monument was erected at Bronnaya Gora, near Baranovichi, about halfway along the railroad line between Brest and Minsk in Belarus.  It is an early post-Soviet monument, which is why the plaque is in Belarusan and admits the fact that the victims buried at the site were "primarily of Jewish nationality."  In Soviet times, the plaque would have been in Russian (the required lingua franca of the Soviet Union) and it would have been silent about the Jewish ethnicity of the victims, instead referring to them only as Soviet civilians.  The use of the term "Jewish nationality" is a survival of Soviet practice when Jewishness was viewed officially as a nationality.  Nationality was entered into the internal passports (identity cards) that citizens 16 years and older were required to carry with them at all times.

Probably all the estimated 50,000 people shot and buried at Bronnaya Gora were Jewish, victims of the Holocaust.  About 20,000 of them came from the town of Brest (formerly called "Brześć nad Bugiem", in Poland between the wars; and "Brest Litovsk", in Russia before that), now in the independent country of Belarus, on the border with Poland.  The victims from the Brest Ghetto were rounded up on October 15, 1942 and trained to the massacre site to be shot and buried in previously prepared pits.  The monument above recalls the central role that trains and railroads played in the massacres at Bronnaya Gora and at many other massacre sites throughout the former Soviet Union.

At 6:00 am on the morning of October 15th 1942, one of the non-Jewish neighbors informed the Jews of Brest that the ghetto was completely surrounded by the Nazis.  Some of the Jews tried to hide in predetermined hiding places, but they were found by the soldiers and taken to the Brest train station at gun point, loaded into cattle cars and transported to the village of Bereza Kartuzka (68 miles, 114 km northeast of Brest).  Upon arrival, the Jews were unloaded and marched to an area where a large trench had already been excavated.  The entire group was forced to remove their clothes.  They were then pushed into the trench and machine gunned by the Nazi soldiers who surrounded the trench.  The action continued all day and it is estimated that 50,000 Jews were killed that day, most of them from the city of Brest.

In 1944, when the Russians recaptured Brest, there were only nine Jews (two men and seven women) left alive.  They had been hidden by non-Jewish friends.  We later located one of the two men living in Israel through his daughter who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma USA.

There are 12,260 people listed in this archive, and because of a mistake on the part of the scribes there are only 12,258 actual names and some of them are duplicated.  All of these people lived in the Brest Ghetto.  They were brutally murdered October 15, 1942.

Introduction to the Brest Ghetto Passport Archive

The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive represents the first phase of the Phoenix Project, a multi-year effort, directed by John Garrard (Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Arizona) to computerize data on the Holocaust drawn primarily from newly opened archives in the former Soviet Union.  The data was digitized by Phillip Hammonds, a University of Arizona graduate student, and has been re-engineered by Michael Tobias for JewishGen.  Many of these archives have been microfilmed and may be studied at the The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, and at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.  However, many important Soviet and captured German documents remain unexamined in the newly independent states that have emerged from the former Soviet Union.

The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive reflects the purpose of the Phoenix Project as a whole, which is to recover as many names as possible of those Holocaust victims who perished in Nazi-occupied Soviet territory.  The names will be contextualized with the addition of explanatory notes, background materials, eyewitness and survivor accounts, still photos, and video film.  Every effort will be made to determine when and where the victims died.

The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive consists of documents prepared at the order of the Nazi authorities after the capture of Brest in the summer of 1941.  All Jews of 14 years of age and above living in the Brest Ghetto were required to obtain and sign for identity papers, which included their names, ages, and the names and dates of birth of their parents.  A photo of each person was taken and all those receiving these internal passports were required to sign for them.

A total of over 12,000 people received the passports.  These passports survived in the archives captured by advancing Soviet troops in 1944.  Also captured among many other valuable documents was a ledger recording the distribution of passports and again the signature of all those receiving them.  By the time Brest was liberated, all the people living in the Brest Ghetto had been murdered, including many children under the age of 14.  Only a very few former Jewish inhabitants of Brest survived the Nazi occupation.

The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive appears to be a unique collection of biographical details about victims of the Holocaust.  There is no evidence that other victims in the Soviet Union or elsewhere in Europe were photographed by the Nazi authorities.

Guide to the Use of the Archive

To see an example of the original text, click here.

As you can see, the original archive consists of documents written in Polish.  As a result of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (1918) the new Bolshevik government ceded large amounts of formerly Russian tsarist territory to the victorious Germans.  The western portion of Belarus (including Brest itself) became part of Poland, which had defeated a Bolshevik incursion during the Civil War that followed World War I.  Most of the population in Brest, including Jews, spoke Polish.  However, you will see that in some cases people signed for their identity papers in other languages, for example, in Yiddish.

Instructions for using the search engine:

You can search for surnames using Daitch-Mokotoff Soundex, and you can also search for surnames starting with a particular spelling.  Finally you can do a 'Global Text' search that searches for a particular word anywhere in the record.

Note: The last column 'Signature Info.' is of little value in searching for a particular person, but may help researchers because it describes the signature of the person.  The possibilities are: the first name was written out along with the last name; the first initial was used with the last name; only the last name was written out; nothing was written ('niepismienna'); and the name was written in either Latin, Hebrew or Cyrillic script.

We would be most grateful for information about people who were living in Brest prior to the Nazi invasion of June 1941, whether or not you find their names in this archive.  We want to make our list of victims and background information as complete and accurate as possible.

For more information regarding documents, the database and/or errors, please write to us.  John and Carol Garrard, Russian Department, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721.

Acknowledgments

Several people and institutions were essential contributors to this initial phase of the Phoenix Project.

We are particularly grateful for moral and financial support to the Louis and Ruthann Pozez Philanthropic Fund of the Jewish Community Foundation in Tucson, Arizona.

Special thanks to The Department of Slavic Languages at The University of Arizona and the Department Head, George Gutsche for their support and the use of the web server.

We owe a debt of gratitude for financial support to the following institutions: the American Philosophical Society; IREX (International Research and Exchanges Board); the Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies (at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, DC); and the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in England.  Members of the Research Institute at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC were also extremely helpful.


Searching the Database

This database is searchable via the JewishGen Belarus Database and JewishGen Poland Database.


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Last Update: 13 July 2013   MT
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