Bialystok Ghetto: Protocol of a Session of the Judrenat in Bialystok
(April 4-5, 1942)
The Chairman, Rabbi Dr. Rosenman, opens the meeting and gives the floor to Engineer Barash to present his report.
Engineer Barash: ...We have called the meeting today specially to deal with the following matter. The ghetto is becoming larger through people coming in from the small towns and particularly because of those coming back from Pruzany.* Anyone who is familiar with the protocols of our meetings can see that we pointed regularly with great anxiety to the growth of the ghetto. We have now been warned by the Gestapo, and the position is dangerous. In Lida the arrival of refugees from Vilna and other places caused great tragedies. We are doing everything possible to keep punishment from the ghetto, but, after all, there is a relatively large population in Bialystok, and it can end in tragedy. We will have to take steps.
Engineer Barash asks Mr. Bergman, who was one of those present, how many persons had registered since October and receives the reply: about 800. Engineer Barash continues: The Gestapo states that Jews may not move [from place to place] without an official permit. In future we therefore cannot register anybody without the permission of the Gestapo. The authorities have demanded a list of all persons registered since February 1 of this year.
Mr. Y. Lifschitz expresses the opinion that the administration in the ghetto was too weak. "We have done nothing against the undesired new arrivals. The danger is so great that one must pick up a group of people and send them back to Pruzany; this will have an effect on others, that [people] should not come back any longer. The others who have come should have been told that they could use Bialystok only as a transit station." Mr. Lifschitz proposed the election of a committee that should, by tomorrow, work out a series of disciplinary rules for new arrivals....
Mr. Markus (speaking Polish): More than eight months have already passed since the fence made a special "kingdom" for us, the Jewish ghetto. In this "kingdom" the Judenrat carries out the duties of a "government," and we, the Jewish police, must carry out the difficult task of keeping order and maintaining quiet in the ghetto. I asked Engineer Barash several times to arrange talks with the population of the ghetto. The thing is this: the regulations of the authorities are not being properly observed. Perhaps I am at fault myself, I am too soft and moderate, and our people do not take into account that we are Jews. The evening curfew is not observed punctually: one must go to bed at 9 o’clock, one is not allowed to be in the street. Not keeping the regulations may cause somebody to be shot; and Jews often take a walk after the curfew hour. The [yellow] badge is not worn properly, one [man] forgets it in front, and the next forgets it at the back. The same happens about the black-out. There have been cases of whole houses lit up like for a celebration. There has already been a tragic case in the ghetto: a woman was shot in her home when the room was badly blacked out. The Jews are a stiff-necked people. Street-trading never stops, especially on Kupiecka Street, and all our efforts do not help. That shows the need for a firm hand. There are telephone calls from the 4th [Police] Station outside the ghetto that Jewish children have been caught without yellow badges and without papers and that can cause a tragedy on some occasion. Parading up and down the street with children in colored baby carriages could also cause much annoyance. Let the mothers stop doing it. Groups of Jews gather around the gates of the ghetto and don’t go away even when the Germans chase them off, and the Jews might even be shot. Cleanliness is not satisfactory either. Thousands are spent on cleaning, and it is dirty again by the next morning; people don’t take care, they don’t want to know that that is a danger. And again, thousands of Jews go to work, work in the sweat of their brows, and at the same time many others avoid work in various ways. The house committees are obliged to hand over such cases so that the members of the Jewish Police need not catch passers-by in the street and start fighting with Jews. That brings no credit either to the population or to the Jewish Police. If things go on like this for much longer, there is likely to be a catastrophe, for anyone who wants to live must work!...
Blumenthal, pp. 156, 166.
*The reference is to Jews from Bialystok who were deported to Pruzany in September and October 1941, and in the course of time many of them returned.
Source: Yad Vashem