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Bereza Kartuska

Bereza Kartuska, Pruzana County, Polesie District, Poland (today Belarus)

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The first reference to Jews living in Bereza Kartuska dates to 1662. The Jewish population of Bereza Kartuska increased significantly in the second half of the 19th century. During World War I the town was occupied by German troops. The Germans built several sawmills where numerous Jews worked. During the interwar period about 2,200 Jews lived in Bereza Kartuska, accounting for about two-thirds of the town's population. Many Jews made their living by felling timber, working at sawmills, making furniture, or trading in lumber and wood products. Jewish educational institutions in Bereza Kartuska included a Yiddish–language school, a Hebrew–language Tarbut school, and a Talmud Torah. Zionist youth movements and parties and the Bund were all active in the town.
Following the secret annex to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, the Red Army occupied the town in September 1939. All independent political and social institutions, including Jewish ones, were closed by the Soviet authorities, while the Tarbut schools were transformed into Soviet Yiddish-language Schools.
Bereza Kartuska was occupied by the Germans on June 23, 1941. An eleven- member Judenrat and a seven-member Jewish Order Service were established in the town. During the early days of the occupation the Germans burned down the prayer house of the hevrah kadisha (the Jewish burial society). A Jewish family accused of black marketeering was murdered next to the church wall. According to some sources about 100 Jews were shot in the town on August 28, 1941. The Jews were forced to wear yellow patches on the chest and on the back. Ransoms were demanded, goods, tools, and clothing were periodically confiscated, and forced labor was imposed. The Jews obtained their food via the Judenrat and by trading with peasants in the vicinity. From August 1941 until late May 1942 Jews from nearby places such as Chomsk, Sielec, Bluden, and Malezs were brought to the town, raising the Jewish population to about 2,500. In early July 1942 the Jews were concentrated in two ghettos, referred to as Ghetto A and Ghetto B. The former was designated for "useful" people – members of the Judenrat and the Jewish police, and for workers whose occupations were in demand and their families. The rest of the residents were interned in Ghetto B, whose inmates were murdered in mid-July 1942 in the area of the Bronnaya Gora railway station. After the massacre two survivors returned to the town and reported the shooting. A large number of the remaining Jews fled to the forest, but many of the were caught and murdered by hostile peasants or robbers. A number of Jews escaped to the Pruzana ghetto, where the conditions were slightly better because it was located in the area annexed to the Reich. The inmates of Ghetto A were murdered in the vicinity of Smolyarka village in mid-October of 1942. According to some sources an unknown number of Jews from Brest (Brześć nad Bugiem) were taken by truck to Bereza Kartuska, where the children were thrown into a pit and killed with grenades, while the adults were buried alive. Bereza Kartuska was liberated by the Red Army on July 16, 1944.