The Holocaust

The Holocaust

We have little specific information about Byerazino in the years leading up to WWII, but we can guess that restrictions, increasing under the Soviet regime, had their effect here, too. In his carefully documented article, Arkadi Zeitser reports that after the German invasion of Poland in 1939, the Soviets strictly suppressed all publications, economic practices or political activity seen as incompatible with communist ideology. Polish refugees swelled the Jewish population of Belarus: when the Germans invaded Belarus in the summer of 1941, approximately 690,000 Jews lived there. Zeitser describes what happened:

        It is estimated that between 137,000 and 142,000 Jews succeeded in being evacuated, mainly from large cities in the eastern part of the republic. The first mass executions of Jews took place in early July 1941. By February 1942, the greater part of the Jewish population of Belarus, including the ghettos of Bobruisk, Vitebsk and Gomel, had been annihilated.... The only Jews to survive were those who had been mobilized into the army, were fighting in partisan units, or were living with partisans in family groups. Others succeeded in obtaining non-Jewish documents or found shelter with non-Jews.

 The Germans invasion was swift, meaning that people had to decide very quickly whether to stay or leave. A local historian says that, "multiple older Jews refused to evacuate, due to the memories of respectful(!) Germans in 1918.”  According to Emanuel Joffe, "dozens of Berezinskaya Jews took an active part in the fight against the Nazis in 1941 -1945, on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War, in the ranks of the Belarusian partisans and as part of the anti-fascist underground." Among the members of a special unit assigned to defend the bridge across the Berezina River on 23 June 1941 were several members of the local Jewish community, including the director of the high school Solomyansky, and senior tax inspector Rife Ginzburg. Nevertheless, Nazi troops gained control of Byerazino on 3 July 1941. Soon thereafter, 250 young, healthy Jewish men and boys (those who could have organised Jewish resistance) were marched some three miles out of town. Yad Vashem reports: "There, between the villages of Novoselki and Pogost, 50 meters from the Minsk Mogilev Highway, (the Germans) killed them. They then announced to the local population that they had liquidated a partisan unit."

That fall, Jews from the surrounding villages were brought into Byerazino and confined in a ghetto. The Yad Vashem memorial page tells how they died:

On December 25-28, 1941 (according to other sources, on January 31 or February 1, 1942), the Berezino ghetto was liquidated. Two days before the beginning of the mass murder operation around 1,000 Jews were forced into a large agricultural structure. From there, with the assistance of local policemen, the Germans took the Jews in small groups to a mass grave that had been prepared in advance, 150 meters west of the ghetto on Internationalnaya Street. There they killed them in cold blood.

Emanuel Joffe’s history of the town identifies the executioners as the 12th Battalion of Auxiliary Services, commanded by Antanas Impulyavichyusa.

 A few people were able to escape, hidden and helped by local gentiles. For example, Yad Vashem records the story of Lisa and Tamara Zorina, teenaged sisters who hid in the woods, were sheltered by a former teacher and joined a group of partisan fighters. The Krugilk family, who aided the girls, the Kosokovski family, who rescued Zinaida Krasner, and Nina Gayduk Grimberg, who sheltered Yevgenia and Peoty Gantman, are all recognized by Yad Vashem as 'Righteous Among The Nations' from the Byerazino area.

Sources and Additional Reading 

"Community: Berezino." Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. Accessed 2 Apriil 2018. http://www.yadvashem.org/untoldstories/database/index.asp?cid=342

"Gaiduk Family. The Righteous Among The Nations." Yad VashemThe Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.Accessed 2 April 2018. http://db.yadvashem.org/righteous/family.html?language=en&itemId=4014932

Joffe, Emanuel G. "Типичное Местечко (Typical Shtetl)" My Shtetl: The Voices of Jewish Settlements, Mogilev Region. Accessed 2 April 2018. http://shtetle.com/shtetls_minsk/berezino/ioffe.html       English translation by J. Sverzhinsky and C. Murray-Seegert 

"Kosokovski Family. The Righteous Among The Nations." Yad VashemThe Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority.Accessed 2 April 2018. http://db.yadvashem.org/righteous/family.html?language=en&itemId=4038669

"Kruglik Family.The Righteous Among the Nations." Yad Vashem the World Holocaust Remembrance Center. Accessed 14 March 2016. http://db.yadvashem.org/righteous/family.html?language=en&itemId=4044598

"Murder Sites: Minsk-Mogilev Highway." Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. Accessed 12 March 2016. http://www.yadvashem.org/untoldstories/database/murderSite.asp?site_id=410

"Murder Sites: Internationalnaya Street." Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority. Accessed 12 March 2016. http://www.yadvashem.org/untoldstories/database/murderSite.asp?site_id=411

The Holocaust in Berezino: Interview with Liza (Zorina) Ayzendorf. 2016. JewishGen - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust.  Witnesses to the Nazi Genocide of Jews on the Territory of Belarus 1941 -1944: Berezino." Translated by Judith Springer.  Accessed 2 April 2018. http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/belarus/bel197.html#Page197

 Zeltser, Arkadi. 2010. "Belarus." YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe. Accessed 13 March 2016. http://www.yivoencyclopedia.org/article.aspx/Belarus 

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