Monument to the memory of Jews from Białowieża

16 June 2019

Avraham and Beila Bursztein_photo from Yad Vashem archive

August 11 at 12.00 we cordially invite you to Białowieża for the ceremonial unveiling of the monument dedicated to the memory of the Jewish community of Białowieża, to which the descendants of Jewish residents of Białowieża from the USA and Israel will come.

It has been 77 years since the Jewish inhabitants of Bialowieża disappeared from the town. Silence fell upon them for over 70 years. For the few years with the Jacek Kuroń Educational Foundation I have been trying to restore the remembrance of them together with the oldest inhabitants who have kept their Jewish colleagues and neighbors in their mind, together with youth who tell a story about them in the play “Neighbors Who Are No Longer Here”, through the website of the Virtual Museum of the History of Jews in Bialowieża, as well as finding the descendants of Jewish families who survived or left before.
The time has come to commemorate the life and death of the Jewish people in Bialowieza with a physical sign in the town – by a monument and a plaque. August 11, 2019 at noon there will be a ceremony of unveiling the monument dedicated to the memory of Jews in Bialowieza in the former gravel pit near Podolany (currently a district of Bialowieża).
The gravel pit is the largest place of execution from the German occupation (1941-1944) near Bialowieża. In 1941-1943, the Germans murdered 486 people of various nationalities and religions from Bialowieża and the surrounding area.
On the place of their extermination stands a memorial statue in the shape of an eagle, and the Orthodox and Catholic crosses. On August 11, we will supplement the existing monumental foundation with a monument dedicated to the memory of the Jews from Bialowieża.
In the same place on the 10th of August, 1941, German soldiers from the Battalion 322 shot 77 Jewish men and boys from 16 to 45 years of age, selected from among the Jewish community of Bialowieża arrested the day before. Women, children and elderly men were taken to the ghettos in Kobryn and Pruzhany. Those in Kobryn were murdered in the mass executions carried out by the Germans near Kobryn, especially in Brona Góra 1942; people moved to Pruzhany were deported at the turn of January and February 1943 to Auschwitz, where they were perished in gas chambers.

A few people survived, including David Waldshan, who I’ve found in the USA. David’s wife, children and grandchildren will come to the unveiling ceremony of the monument (David, due to his health, can not come). A total of 30 people from Jewish families of Bialowieza will come to the ceremony. There will be descendants of Lerenkind, Feldbaum, Krugman, Galpern and Reines, who emigrated to Palestine and the USA before the war.

On the main street of Bialowieża, Stoczek, where most of the Bialowieża Jews lived before the war, there will also be placed an information board showing the life of Jewish community in Bialowieza.

The day before the ceremony there will be a meeting of the descendants of the Jewish families of Białowieża with today’s inhabitants of Białowieża, also with the oldest ones. It was thanks to the Jewish names and surnames stored in their memory that it was possible to start retrieving information about Jews in Bialowieża.
In the evening, in the Theater in Teremiski a performance played by the youth from Bialowieza “Neighbors who are no longer here” will be presented.

I managed to get some funds for the project from the Forum for Dialogue and the Jewish Historical Institute Association, but it’s not enough to cover the all costs. I encourage you to support for my project through the crowdfunding campaign at: pomagam.pl/bialowieza

I will also be grateful for the dissemination of this information and encouraging others to make payments.
I believe that creating a place for the memory of the past also creates space for a better future.
Yours faithfully,
Katarzyna Winiarska