The beginnings of Jewish settlement in Białowieża date back to the end of the 19th century. Jews began arriving here as the result of the dynamic development of the wood industry and the construction of the railway line. The railway, connecting Hajnówka with Białowieża, was commenced in the years 1897-1898 and, in 1907, it was extended to Siedlce.  In 1917, there were 80 Jewish residents in the town. In the inter-War period, the number of Jewish residents grew dynamically, reaching 217 people in 1921, approx. 400 in 1937, and, after September 17th 1939, the community consisted of about 550 people.

Jews in Białowieża lived mainly on ul.Waszkiewicza (previously Stoczek). The main synagogue (built in 1910) and a private prayerhouse were also located there. The Jewish community did not have its own cemetery and buried their dead in the cemetery in Narewka and later in Prużana (which now belongs to Belarus).

This is how one of the residents of the town, Tadeusz Łaźny, remembers his neighbourhood in Białowieża:

A little further away was a big house belonging to a Jew named Sznabel, who had rooms for rent. This is where newcomers mainly stayed (...). Opposite Rzepniewski's house, there were Jewish shops belonging to Galperka and Leja. There was also a butchery belonging to a Pole, Jastrzębski and, further away, behind Mostowa Street, on the same side as Rzepniewski's house, a Jewish shop belonging to Sosza. Near Zaułek Bartników, there was a textile shop. Singer sewing machines were sold in a large Jewish house with an attic. . In Rzepniewski's house, there was a hairdressing salon owned by Fuksiewicz - a father and son. In 1940, the son, Marian,  was drafted into the Red Army and, later, he managed to join the Kościuszkowcy Division. The Góry slaughterhouse was located in a multi-storey wooden house. A Pole, Fader, opened his shop in a brick-multi-storey building opposite Browska Road. This house still stands to this day. Next was the garage of the local bus that went to Hajnówka.

During World War II, on 9th August 1941, the Germans transported the Jews from Białowieża to the ghetto in Prużana. After the liquidation of the ghetto, on 28th January 1943, the Jews were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp, . [[re:|Bialowieza [in:] Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, Volume I, ed. Sh. Spector, New York 2001, p. 138.]].

Bibliography

  • Bialowieza [in:] Encyclopedia of Jewish Life Before and During the Holocaust, Volume I, ed. Sh. Spector, New York 2001, p. 138.
  • Białowieża mego dzieciństwa, „Czasopis” 2011, nr 7–8 [online]  [access: 20.06.2014].

 

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