New Evidence on the Murders of the Jews in Brest

From February 2019 and onwards several news sites like the BBC, Reuters, and Israel National News  have reported on the findings of mass graves in the city of Brest in Belarus.

Original photo found here

On the site of the former ghetto from World War Two construction workers have had to suspend building activities as military excavators are now salvaging the remains of murdered children, women and men. Not only bones, but also shoes and personal belongings are found in the ground according to Israel National News.

The map shows the contours of the former ghetto in present day Brest – see more here

The Physical Evidence Adds to the Known Historical Accounts

The yad vashem has summarized the whole story of the Jewish community from the 13th century to 1944.  This includes the pogroms in 1648-1649, 1660 and 1905.  The Soviet occupiers took over the city from September 1939 to June 1941. They closed the Jewish community’s institutions as well as business, and in addition to this the Soviet occupiers deported the city’s wealthy Jews to Siberia.

The German Mass-Killings in Brest

The Jews of the city were killed in series of mass-murder campaigns that began on the same day the National Socialist armies attacked the Soviet Union on the 22nd of June 1941.

In the fall of 1941 the Ghetto was formed to concentrate the Jews of the city. In the fall of 1942 the ghetto was to be destroyed and several killings took place. The Yad Vashem pin points the cemetery, a yard, and the Jewish hospital as the main killing sites.

A Killer Explains

The Brest fortress was one of the crime scenes as well as the local stadium. The testimony of Heinrich M. from the 307th German police battalion accounts of the killing of 6.000 Jewish men shot on the 10th of July 1941 in grueling detail:

“The shooting took place in the following way: the point of the bayonette was placed close to the back of the victim’s head; after that the rifle was inclined 45 degrees and a shot was fired. The skull was often torn away at the spot where the bullet entered. Sometimes, if the rifle was aimed at a larger angle or the victim was holding his head too high at the moment of the shooting, the bullet went through the neck. In such cases, the officers and the platoon heads finished off the condemned ones by shooting them with their guns.”

For more see the source and for an overview of massacres perpetrated by the infamous Einsatzgruppen see e.g. this site report no. 78 contains information of the shooting of 548 persons in Brest.

The Diary of a Victim

“There is a terrified panic amongst the Jews of the ghetto” –Asher Zisman, former internee in the Brest Ghetto, 2nd of June 1942.

The eye-witness account of Asher Zismann, who went into hiding, provides with horrific view into the events which took place as he on the 15th of October 1942 writes:

“The courtyard of the Mizrachi building on Dluga St is full of people. There is great panic. They even buy poison to prepare for every eventuality. Whoever can do so, crosses over to the Aryan side. From mouth to ear it was silently whispered that tonight it would begin… those who returned from the Aryan side report that the police were massing and preparing to surround the ghetto.”
The senses are dulled, one waits for death. From our hiding place we can hear the Jews being taken away like cattle in carriages”

Excerpts from the diary are found here – the diary is cited in this source collection (p. 51) and extensively in this book.

The sources are well-known and the apparent ignorance of the locals expressed in interviews to the BBC only shows that the many know historical sources needs to be continously revisited.


German Aryanization Attempts in Denmark?

Denmark is mostly associated with the rescue of the Jews in October 1943, but my Ph.d. project “German Aryanization Attempts in Denmark 1938-1943” will shed new light on Danish-Jewish experience – especially the minorties businesses.

Danish-Jewish business were directly targeted by Nazi-Germany by as early as 1937 causing German companies operating in Denmark to fire Jewish board members or Jewish representatives. At the same time an increasing number of Jewish business’ were facing contract cancellations by German companies.

The Danish government was alerted to this policy by nervous businessmen seeing the import options disappear from Denmark’s second largest trading partner at the time. The Danish government faced a neighbor with a rising military and making claims for areas containing German minorities. Denmark had one of those in the southern part of Jutland, while being unable to secure military alliances. In 1939 the Danish Government openly declared that lay-offs on the basis of race were out of their hands as long as they were done in accordance with Danish Law.

In essence the Danish Government allowed the import of German racial policies on Danish soil, because it viewed as too riskful to protect its’ Jewish minority’s business options.

My dissertation will closer examine the overall consequences of this policy in Denmark and also investigate what happened during the war period.