BEREZA (also Kartusskaya Bereza; Pol. Bereza Kartuska), town in Brest district, Belorussian S.S.R.; until 1795 and between the two world wars in Poland; today in Belarus. A Jewish community existed there from the beginning of the 17th century. Erection of a synagogue was authorized in 1629. The community numbered 242 in 1766, 515 in 1847, and 2,623 in 1897 (42.1% of the total population). At the end of the 19th century barracks were built for the Russian army, which benefited Jewish tradesmen. Although their number decreased to 2,163 by 1921, the Jews still formed 61.3% of the total population. The main occupation of the Jews was in the lumber industry: sawmills, furniture, and other wood products, which were mostly exported. A number of noted rabbis served in Bereza, including Isaac Elhanan *Spektor who officiated there when a young man (1839–46), and Elijah *Klatzkin (1881–94). In the 1920s Jews served as the mayor and deputy mayor of the town. Jewish children studied in three schools: Hebrew, Yiddish, and a talmud torah.
[Shmuel Spector (2nd ed.)]
After the outbreak of World War II and the Soviet-German agreement on the division of Poland, Bereza fell to Soviet rule. All public, independent political activity of a national character was forbidden. The Jews' sources of livelihood were reduced by the creation of a network of government-owned stores, cooperatives, and services.
On June 23, 1941, a day after the outbreak of war between Germany and the U.S.S.R. German forces entered Bereza. On June 26 the synagogue and houses nearby were burned down. The community faced kidnappings for forced labor, starvation, and disease throughout that winter (1941–42). In July 1942 a ghetto was established, comprising two sections: ghetto "A" for "productive" persons employed by the Germans; and ghetto "B" for the "nonproductive," nonworking members of the community. On July 15, 1942, the inmates of ghetto "B" were taken to Brona Góra and murdered. Some of the Jews in ghetto "A" attempted to flee to the forests, or to *Pruzhany Ghetto, which was still free from deportations. On October 15, 1942, the Germans
carried out an Aktion to liquidate ghetto "A" In defiance, the Jews set the ghetto ablaze. That day some of the members of the *Judenrat committed suicide at their last meeting. Many of the inmates were murdered in the ghetto itself, while about 1,800 were taken and killed outside the town. The community was not reconstituted after World War II.
Słownik geograficzny krolestwa polskiego, 1 (1880), 140–1; Regesty i nadpisy, 1 (1899), no. 781; NLYL, 1 (1956), 18–19; Pinkes fun Finf Fartilikte Kehiles (1958), 687–91, 327–464. ADD. BIBLIOGRAPHY: PK Polin: Volhin ve-Polesie.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.