Little Bits of History

Brzeżany Massacre

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 12, 2015
Building a ghetto wall in Warsaw

Building a ghetto wall in Warsaw

June 12, 1943: Over 1,000 Jews are killed by Nazis. The Jewish Diaspora has been happening for millennia beginning with the exile which began when the Assyrians expelled them in 733 BC. Eventually Jews could return to Jerusalem and were in and out of their homeland over the centuries by the time the Romans took over the area in 63 BC. The city was destroyed in 70 AD by the same Romans and the Jews began to migrate outward and into Europe. When they arrived in a city, they often lived in the same region which became known as the Jewish quarter. This was sometimes by choice, but also sometimes by decree. Nazi Germany set up ghettos for Jews (and sometimes Gypsies) throughout the region under their control.

Under the Nazis, there were three distinct types of ghettos. Open ghettos did not have walls or fences and these were the norm at the beginning of the War. Some places had extreme restrictions on when someone could enter or leave the ghetto, but most were simply areas of the city where Jews were sent to live. Closed or sealed ghettos were found mostly in German occupied parts of Poland. Jews were forced to live in these walled off portions of the city under pain of death. They were unsanitary and crowded and filled with disease. Many starved to death and outbreaks of dysentery and typhus were common.

The last and most serious type was the destruction or extermination ghetto which were gaining in frequency as the Holocaust continued. They were tightly sealed off and the Jewish people were imprisoned within the walls. They were held inside only until they could be deported to one of the camps or were summarily killed at the site. On this day, the Jews living in the Brzeżany, Poland ghetto were rounded up and forced to the old Jewish graveyard. Once there, they were shot. About 1,180 Jews died. A few were able to escape. The reason for the “low” number of deaths was that many Jews had been killed in other pogroms prior to this date. For instance, in December 1941 about 1,000 Jews were killed in the Lityatayn forest.

Today, Brzeżany is Berezhany and located in the Ukraine in the Termopil Oblast (district). The region has been occupied for centuries and was first mentioned in 1374 when it was granted status by the Governor of Galicia. The town came under Polish control in the 14th century. After World War II, the area was under the Soviet Union’s control and became part of Ukraine in 1991. The city covers about 5 square miles situated on what was once a lucrative trade route. Today, there are about 18,000 people living there. Their chief manufacturing endeavors center around glassworks and furniture building.

That’s the difficulty in these times: ideals, dreams, and cherished hopes rise within us, only to meet the horrible truth and be shattered. It’s really a wonder that I haven’t dropped all my ideals because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet, I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart. – Anne Frank (born on this day as well)

Now in the light of past and present events the bitter truth must be spoken. We feared too little and we hoped too much. We underestimated the bestiality of the enemy; we overestimated the humanity, the wisdom, the sense of justice of our friends. – Chaim Weismann

The missionaries of Christianity had said in effect: You have no right to live among us as Jews. The secular rulers who followed had proclaimed: You have no right to live among us. The German Nazis at last decreed: You have no right to live. – Raul Hilberg

Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings. – Heinrich Heine

Also on this day: If It Doesn’t Fit, You Must Acquit – In 1994, Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman were murdered.
Medgar Evers – In 1963, this Civil Rights leader was assassinated.
Son of Sam – In 1978, David Berkowitz was sentenced.
Wedded Bliss Redux – In 1967, Loving v. Virginia was decided.
National Sport – In 1939, Cooperstown opened the Baseball Hall of Fame.


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