This Sunday was the 72nd anniversary of the Bialystok ghetto uprising. August 16, 1943. Within a few days, the ghetto was liquidated and everyone who was still alive was transported to death camps. Of the approx. 60,000 Jews that lived in Bialystok before WWII, only several hundred survived.
My home is in the middle of what used to be the ghetto. The building is from 1906, an old factory building, which has been witness to the horrors that took place here. On the map, my home is within the Ghetto Factory Area (gray) located between the Biala River and Bialostoczanska Street.
To commemorate these sad events, my family and I (including my 6-year-old son) participated in a guided tour to learn more about the history of this time and an unofficial commemoration organized by people who work to keep the memory of Jewish Bialystok alive. The evening entailed some films and speeches. No pomp. It was somber, full of memory and respect.
To the Jews of Bialystok: You are not forgotten. You are remembered in the hearts and minds of people you never knew. There are still many that cry for you. The city has lost much; it is poorer without you.
It’s easy to cut ourselves off and feel distant from these events. Imagine, though, you are caught in the middle of a war, your home country a war zone. Imagine they start labeling people, and you become part of the unwanted group. Imagine you are made to live in crammed spaces with thousands of other people. Imagine the filth. Imagine the hunger. Imagine the darkness, the doubt in a better tomorrow. Imagine you have to walk in the street instead of on the sidewalk just because of who you are. You are no longer treated as a human being. You have few, if any, rights.
Race is the worst human invention.
The most troubling thing is that this is not history. Race is still used as a way to demean, discriminate, dehumanize. All over the world, people live in ghettos. They’re usually not called that. People work in deplorable conditions in factories and farms to produce our clothing, electronics, food, etc. There is still slavery, although often it is called something else.
We cannot forget, we must remember, because there is still much to be done for our fellow humans. We must open our hearts and learn to live with open hearts – even when it feels like the world is hurting us. Love is our only salvation.
Below are two films about the Bialystok ghetto.