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Brześć nad Bugiem

Brześć nad Bugiem, Brześć nad Bugiem County, Polesye District, Poland (today Belarus)

To enlarge the map click here Employees of a Jewish owned factory in Brześć nad Bugiem (prewar photograph) Employees of a Jewish owned factory in Brześć nad Bugiem (prewar photograph) Photo Collection YVA, 1619/255 Jewish school for girls in Brześć nad Bugiem. Graduation photo, 1928 Jewish school for girls in Brześć nad Bugiem. Graduation photo, 1928 Photo Collection YVA, 9548/32 Jewish women in the Brześć nad Bugiem ghetto Jewish women in the Brześć nad Bugiem ghetto Photo Collection YVA, 3745/84 A former ghetto building on Kuybyshev Street. 
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Photo by Vadim Akopyan, 2011
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Courtesy of Vadim Akopyan A former ghetto building on Kuybyshev Street.
Photo by Vadim Akopyan, 2011
Courtesy of Vadim Akopyan

From the 13th century until 1795 Brześć nad Bugiem (also Brest-Litovsk or simply Brest; in Yiddish - Brisk) was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Apparently Jews first settled in city in the 14th century. Since the 15th century they played a significant role in Lithuanian commerce. At the time of the Khmelnytsky uprising in 1648-1649 a large number of Jews temporarily fled from the city to Poland and other places. About two thousand Jews who remained in the city were massacred. In 1660 many local Jews were murdered by the Russian troops that entered the city. After Brześć nad Bugiem became part of the Russian Empire in 1795, local Jewish economic life declined. During the 1830s the Russian authorities destroyed a large part of the Jewish quarter in Brześć nad Bugiem for the purpose of building a fortress. In 1897 the city's 30,608 Jews comprised 66 percent of the total population. In the late 19th – early 20th century the Jews dominated commerce and handicrafts, especially tailoring and shoemaking. In 1905 several Jews were killed in a pogrom. During World War I the Jews were expelled from the city twice. Menachem Begin, who was to become an Israeli political figure and the sixth Prime Minister of Israel was born in Brześć nad Bugiem in 1913.
In 1919 Brześć nad Bugiem became part of the Polish state. During the interwar years there were approximately 25,000 Jews living in Brześć nad Bugiem; they comprised almost half of the city's population.
Under Polish rule Jewish education institutions included a talmud torah, a yeshiva, Hebrew schools of the Tarbut and Yavne educational networks, a Beis Yaakov and a Darkei Noam school, and two ORT vocational schools. The community also had various cultural and leisure institutions, including several Jewish and Yiddish libraries, sport clubs, and a drama group. Between the wars Yiddish newspapers and weekly magazines were published in the city, mostly for short periods. The Bund, the Orthodox parties Ahdut and Agudas Yisrael, as well as Zionist parties and youth movements, were active in Brześć nad Bugiem. The Zionist parties sponsored Hebrew-language educational institutions and established agriculural training farms for young people who planned to move to the Land of Israel.
On the first day of World War II many Jews were killed in airial bombardments. Under Soviet rule (September 22, 1939 – June 22, 1941), the local Jewish community's institutions were closed, private businesses (many owned by Jews) were nationalized, and Zionist and Bundist leaders, and wealthy Jews were exiled to Siberia, along with their families.
The Germans occupied Brześć nad Bugiem on June 22, 1941. The Jewish population was murdered in a number of mass shootings. The first two were carried out in late June – early July 1941 in the Brest fortress. Some testimonies report the shooting of the Jews, together with Communist Party members and other Soviet activists, at the local stadium on July 5, 1941. In August 1941 a 20-member Judenrat and a Jewish Order Service were set up in the city. The Jews were forced to pay a high "tax" and to wear white Star of David armbands, which were later replaced by two yellow badges. In November 1941 the German authorities began to concentrate the Jews into two ghettos, referred to as the large and the small one. The ghettos were sealed on December 15, 1941.
Most of the Brześć nad Bugiem ghetto inmates were killed in several murder operations in the area of the Bronnaya Gora train station and elsewhere in the area in the mid-fall of 1942. During the same period Jews were shot at the three major murder sites in the city itself: at the cemetery located between Moskovskaya and Dolgaya (today Kuibyshev) Streets, in a yard on Dolgaya Street, and near the Jewish hospital.
Those Jews who managed to escape the murder operations in the city and fled to nearby villages were found and shot, mostly in late October or November 1942. In addition, some sources report the murder of 90 Jewish children from the local Jewish orphanage and 64 Jews from the city's old folks' home during the early days of the occupation. The exact location of this murder site is not known.
Brześć nad Bugiem was liberated by the Red Army on July 28, 1944.