War outbreak

As Piotr Bajko - (the chronicler of the Białowieża village) writes: "A foretaste of the coming war was felt already in June 1939" - was recalled years later by Mr Michal Szpakowicz - Suddenly the atmosphere became anxious. People were encouraged to Jewish pogrom. On the door of Jewish shops, the inscriptions appeared 'Do not buy from the Jew'." [1].

German troops appeared in Białowieża twice. September 1, 1939, Białowieża was bombed by Luftwaffe. They dropped 16 bombs, two of them hit the church, damaging it severely. Bombs destroyed a merchants' stalls (Polish, Jewish and Belarusian) located on the corner of today streets Waszkiewicza and Sportowa, and shattered the 500-year old oak tree in the Palace Park, but without damaging the palace itself (some windows fell out). One person died [1].

The news about Białowieża bombings was carried to Shereshev by Leibel Feldbaum, a resident of Białowieża, the owner of the transport company. Moishe Kantorowicz from Shereshev, a survivor of the Holocaust, describes it in his book:

"The next morning Friday, September 1, 1939, the sun shone brightly in the sky. Everyone went about his or her business and did whatever they had to, but the lack of enthusiasm was visible all around. The men called up to the army were on the way to the railway station. I am sure That Their families did not sleep That night now, and Their womenfolk were sitting home in tears. My father went to open the store at eight as usual. My mother was busying herself in the kitchen and my sister Sheva was helping her. It was too early to start visiting us friends, so I walked out into the yard. A few minutes later, I saw our neighbour's son, Leibl Feldman, pull up to his parents' house on a bicycle, which was surprising. Leibl was a bachelor in his mid-thirties, broad-shouldered and robust man who at his age had a fair amount of life experience. He lived in Białowieża where he and his partner had a trucking business. There were rumours That he was well into it. He would visit his parents in Shershev every couple of weeks, but it was not his way to come on a bicycle. He would come in one of his vehicles. I went into the house and told my mother, who was also a bit puzzled. We did not have to wait long for the reason. Within minutes, our neighbour, Leibl's father, came in and in a quiet voice asked if any non-family members were in the house. When we assured him That there were not, he told us That his son just came from Białowieża, which was bombarded That early morning. When Leibl wanted to take one of his vehicles to go to Shershev, the police would not allow him. They had orders to confiscate all private vehicles for the army so he came on a bicycle." [2].

September 7, 1939, Bielsk Podlaski district authorities evacuated to Vilnius via Bialowieża, September 11, the Directorate of State Forests did the same. As Piotr Bajko notes in the Encyclopedia of the Białowieża Forest "September 12, about 12 o'clock, three German bombers flew south over the palace in Białowieża. Bombs have not been dropped, and the fire was not open to the aircraft." [3]. Following, Białowieża was occupied by the German Third Armored Division and shortly afterwards under the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was given to the Russians.


  1. Piotr Bajko, Białowieża zarys dziejów do 1950 roku, Białowieża 2011, p 133;
  2. Moishe Kantorowicz, My mother's bequest: from Shershev to Auschwitz is Newfoundland, 2004, p. 173-174;
  3. Piotr Bajko, September 1939 in Bialowieza [w:] Encyclopedia of the Bialowieża Forest, http://www.encyklopedia.puszcza-bialowieska.eu/index.php?dzial=haslo&id=566