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This article is a continuation of research
sent to the Holocaust/Genocide Project over
the past year from teacher Valentina Suvorina
and her students -- Kate Suvorina, Kate Brib,
and Svetlana Tolkach -- of School-gimnazia No. 30,
Belarus. Their material has been translated from
the Grodno Archives and their first article
"Belarus Students Research Grodno Ghetto,"
can be read in AN END TO INTOLERANCE,
Volume 5, 1997, on the HGP Web site.
HGP Group in Belarus
The Germans tried to make a show of the people condemned to death. They gathered -- Chief of the Gestapo, Erlis Streblev -- in charge of the camps, Rintsner. There were different opinions about the liquidation of the ghetto. In December 1942, Streblev wrote to the Oberpresident of Bialystok (now in Poland) that:
Today there are 12,418 Jews in Grodno's ghetto and they are good workers. So, I think that it is not necessary to take them out from the ghetto so quickly, because the production of a lot of things can be stopped.
And then he adds:
In order to get some more human material we need for work, we must bring it from some other, not far away, places.
But the Gestapo began to plan a terrible act against the Jews in the ghetto, trying to finish with it as soon as possible. They had made a list of all the Jews still alive in order to send them to the crematoriums.
The Gestapo had written a letter with which they informed the population of the town that "in order to prevent an epidemic, it is necessary to clean the territory of the ghetto." They informed the ghetto population that they would be sent to the work camps where they would be connected with their relatives who had been sent there before, and that there would be very good living conditions waiting for them.
Grodno was very cold and frosty on January 18, 1943. From morning until night, Gestapo officer Kurt Wise, together with the German soldiers, threw out the Jews from their houses. It was almost impossible to hide anywhere or to escape. Seventeen hundred were taken to the synagogue yard -- children, women, and men.
During the next four days, the Germans continued to do this. And every day, people were leaving the synagogue yard, marching to the gas chambers of Treblinka and Auschwitz. Seventy-six people were shot in their flats, because they didn't want to leave. Those who were ill or were too weak to go were also shot. Those who were at the hospital were shot, too.
The people were shot in the streets, just "for fun." For several days, the dead bodies were in the streets and only on January 23 did the Gestapo permit a funeral. Only 2,500 Jews were left in the ghetto after the January action of the Gestapo.
The fascists informed the people that there were not going to be any more people sent away and forced the rest to work. In order to keep the rest of the Jews calm, they began to supply them with better food, and they were not very strict. Kurt Wise began the third stage of liquidation. That day, he required 400 people to come to work. There were not enough men to work, so the women had to come to work. When the people gathered, they were forced to go to the synagogue. The women tried to escape, but were shot. The dead bodies of 100 women were placed on the road of the ghetto. Then the fascists came to the house where the Judeprato was located and threw everybody present into the street and pushed them inside the synagogue. At 10:00 PM, Dr. Braver (of the Jewish school) was shot by Kurt. At night, people began to make attempts to escape, but those who were caught were shot immediately. People in the town were afraid to hide the Jews and didn't open their doors. Every night, twenty or thirty Jews of those who were trying to escape were shot. One night, fifty people escaped and hid themselves in the forests, but were caught, returned to the ghetto, placed against the synagogue wall, and shot -- in order to teach the rest of the Jews a lesson.
March 12 was the day when the Grodno population was informed that the town was clean of the Jews. It meant that the population of Grodno became smaller by half. It was almost impossible to get out of the ghetto. Kurt Wise was sure that not one Jew was left. But there were some people left, and they testified to the sadism of Kurt Wise after the war. Kurt Wise burned the archives of the ghetto. Not many documents were left, but there were some found after the war.
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