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16 - 23 AUGUST 1943
BIALYSTOK GHETTO UPRISING AND LIQUIDATION OF THE GHETTO
COMMEMORATION CEREMONIES IN 2005
COMMEMORATION IN BIALYSTOK
The Jewish Community of Warsaw and the Bialystok City Government hosted a commemoration of the 62nd Anniversary of the Bialystok Ghetto Uprising and the subsequent liquidation of the Ghetto on Tuesday, 16 August 2005 at the Zabia Street Ghetto Cemetery, now a park and memorial to the Shoah. Following the Memorial Ceremony, all participants and guests are invited to the Muzeum Wojska Polskiego to a special meeting and visit of the exhibitions: Bialystoker Jews at the Front during World War II and Missing the World.
BIALYGenner Karyn Posner-Mullen, a US Citizen currently stationed at the Embassy of the United States in Budapest, Hungary, represented all US Bialystokers and filed this report.
August 16, 2005 was very moving. It was a far grander ceremony and day than I ever expected. The Vice-Mayor did a wonderful job of emphasizing the solemnity of the day, how much was lost by the city by not saving so many of its citizens, that the city had been 60% Jewish before the War and now there is hardly a Jewish soul left. The whole event was beautifully organized and it was lovely to see some townspeople there, as well. There was a lot of media, which was important, I think. They really did a great job.
The most amazing thing was to see POLISH military saluting something Jewish! Which they did. At the ceremony by the Obelisk commemorating the uprising, each branch of the military approached the Obelisk, laid a beautiful wreath of flowers, saluted and then marched back to place. There was a gorgeous wreath from Bialystok survivors who now live in Israel, and other wreaths of respect. I wonder how they all felt about that?
I have read many memoirs and know that the Jews of Poland suffered equally from the Nazis and the many Polish citizens who participated in anti-Semitic acts, including looting the homes of the Jews who were murdered or deported.
Zabia Street Cemetery Memorial Obelisk to the Bialystok Ghetto Uprising
Ambassador David Peleg from Israel made a very touching speech, I said a few words as a Bialystoker descendant representing all of us in the Diaspora, and Lucy Lisowska, a local Bialystok Jew, spoke beautifully. There were two elderly ladies who are friends of one of the survivors who couldn't make it from Israel (too frail), and they laid a wreath. There was an elderly man who Lucy said was Jewish, and I wanted to talk to him, but I was swept up by all the events, and didn't learn his history or his name. A man in a kippa and his two children - a young boy in a kippa, and a beautifully-dressed little girl - also approached the Obelisk and paid their respects. I heard he was not Jewish. However, my view is that whatever his reasons, it was important that he was teaching his children about respecting everyone. I think they were too young to really know about the Holocaust (and better that they didn't), but they gained something from the participation.
After the ceremony at the Obelisk, we went to the memorial to the burned Great Synagogue, and laid wreaths and lit Yahrzeit candles (we had also done that at the earlier ceremony). They then took us to one of the Branicki palaces (the small one for the wife), which was gorgeous, for a special tour. Then to City Hall, where they had established an exhibition of Jews in Poland - mainly Warsaw and Bialystok - before and during the War. They also had a small luncheon ready. I was interviewed by three newspapers and also did a TV interview.
Memorial to the Great Synagogue
Anna, Ambassador Peleg's secretary, has worked for 3 Israeli Ambassadors and is married to a Russian with Jewish relatives. She has special regard for the Jews and their fate in Poland. In fact, interestingly, a friend of her family's has worked at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw for 20 years. The friend has just finished a study on anti-Semitism, and is reviewing it for publication. Since I rode down to Bialystok with the Ambassador and Anna, they asked if I minded visiting Anna's family, who lives nearby. I was thrilled! And we went to a modest home and sat outside in the back, on cracked pavement, a dog lazing in the sun, and very generous and lovely parents who spoke no English, but Anna translated. They served us homemade pastries, tea and coffee, and that friend from the Institute was there. She has concluded that very Catholic Poland is dependent upon the Popes, Cardinals, Bishops and Priests for their own feelings about Jews and Judaism. And all of them have encouraged anti-Semitism through the years.
Anyway, it was a very meaningful day for me. Although I had to rush in late the night before, wake up early on the 16th - drive 3 hours down to Bialystok, do the Ceremony, then visit the family, and drive again 3 hours back to Warsaw (I arrived about 10:30 p.m. that night) - and wake up early on the 17th and fly right back to Budapest, I am forever grateful I did it!!!
Having discovered my "Poznanski" name (and possible relatives now in Israel), I feel there is no one luckier than I, because I learned all this while I was already in Central Europe, and close enough (Warsaw is just a 60 minute flight from Budapest) to participate in these events.
Director, Regional Environment, Science, Technology and Health Office
Embassy of the United States of America
27 August 2005
COMMEMORATION IN ISRAEL
The Society of Former Residents of Bialystok and Surroundings -- Landsmanschaft Kiryat Bialystok -- commemorated the Bialystok Ghetto Uprising and the liquidation of the Ghetto at the 62nd Remembrance Assembly, which took place in Kiryat Bialystok -- Yehud, near the memorial monument to Bialystokers murdered in the Shoah, which stands in the square of the great Synagogue, in Icchak Melamed Street, the corner of Ghetto Fighters Street on Av 19, 5765, Wednesday 24 August 2005.
BIALYGenner Avigdor Ben-Dov from Jerusalem attended the Assembly. His report follows.
I attended the 62nd Annual Bialystok and Surrounding Towns Memorial Ceremony in Yehud, Israel on Wed. nite, August 24th held outdoors in front of the Synagogue. The event was quite well attended with several hundred guests, an honor guard from the IDF, and a local unit of the Youth Guard (scouts). In addition to old-timers and people who had themselves experienced the horrors of the Bialystok ghetto, there were quite a few dignitaries. The Mayor of Yehud attended, as did the Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi, Rav Metzger, two Members of the Knesset, Efraim Sneh and Orlev. It was a surprise for me to learn that some of these dignitaries have personal attachments to pre-war Bialystok.
Rav Metzger told an interesting tale of Jews who saved themselves from execution by inviting the German officer and his troops into their houses for wine and food to satiation so that they might forget their mission. There was a strong hint of modern day politics which Rav Metzger lightly touched upon. The ending of the tale was a moral lesson of discerning truth from falsehood, something that requires "a good eye". That's why, if you want to lie, you find it difficult to look someone in the eye.)
The usual lighting by torch of memorial candles was deftly handled by the scouts as each person who was called upon to light had his or her story dramatically narrated from the stage. It was amazing to see people who could barely walk, eager to light the candles. The tales would make a great collection for oral Jewish history told by eye witnesses. The genealogy aspect was low, but names of victims were mentioned so as not to forget them.
The Bialystok rebellion of course figured prominently in the narrations, and Tannenbaum was mentioned for his role in organizing the revolt.
The Bialystok Museum and Memorial is a good place to visit in Israel as it has many original photographs and documents, books and manuscripts, etc., some of which might be of genealogical importance.
It was a worthwhile evening.
24 August 2005
Interior of Bialystok Synagogue at Kiryat Bialystok
The Memorial of the Martyrs of Bialystok
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Last Updated on 09 October 2005.