- Bialystok Ghetto
- Located in northeastern Poland, Jews constituted half the 100,000 population of prewar Bialystok. Germany occupied the city in September 1939 following its conquest of Poland, but it was handed over to the Soviet Union as part of the pact between both countries in August 1939. In June 1941, in the wake of the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, the Wehrmacht (German army) reoccupied the city and forced its Jews into a ghetto. As was the case of other ghettos established by the Nazis, a Judenrat was formed with Efraim Barasz as its head. Unlike the Lodz ghetto, however, Barasz formed a personal relationship with the Jewish resistance organization led by Mordecai Tenebaum although, like Rumkowski in Lodz, he was confident that by providing their labor, the Jews would become indispensible to the German war effort. Confident that he could avoid having to deport Jews to Treblinka, Barasz was lulled into a false sense of security about the ghetto’s future. He convinced the Jewish population that “salvation through work” was their best chance for survival. Their trust in Barasz’s leadership accounts for the ghetto’s lack of support for the Jewish resistance, and when the Nazis turned to the deportation of Bialystok’s Jews, it was too late to mobilize the ghetto population, although Tenebaum and his small group of fighters attempted to battle the Germans for the sake of Jewish honor, but it was too late. The ghetto was liquidated on 16 August 1943 followed by the failed uprising, and approximately 30,000 Jews were deported to Treblinka and Majdanek. The Judenrate leadership, including Barasz, subsequently were deported to Majdanek. No precise details are available concerning the circumstances or month of Barasz’s death in late 1943.
Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. Jack R. Fischel. 2014.