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BRANSK: Podlaskie/Bialystockie PDF Print E-mail

Coat of arms of Brańsk Alternate names: Brańsk [Pol], Braynsk [Yid], Bran'sk [Rus], Breinsk, Brainsk, Russian: Браньск. בראנסק-Hebrew. 52°44' N, 22°51' E, 30 miles SSW of Białystok, 15 miles W of Bielsk Podlaski. [This is not Bryansk, Orel district, Russia.] Yizkors: Braynsk, sefer ha-zikaron (New York, 1948); Bóżnice Białostocczyzny (Białystok, 1992); and Shtetl; the life and death of a small town and the world of Polish Jews (Boston, 1997). Brańsk is an Urban Gmina (Polish: gmina miejska) in Bielsk County, Podlaskie Voivodeship in NE Poland. Cemetery photos. More cemetery photos and history of Jewish community. Also used cemeteries at Bialystok II and at Bocki. [April 2009]

  • REFERENCE: Bransk cemetery and Z. Romaniuk are highlighted in "Shtetl," a 1996 video produced for public television by FRONTLINE. For further information, contact WGBH Video, P.O. Box 2284, South Burlington, VT 05407-2284, telephone (800) 255-9424, fax (802) 964- 9846, Internet http://www.wgbh.org .
  • REFERENCE: Hoffman, Eva. Shtetl: The Life and Death of A Small Town and the World of Polish Jews . Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
  • REFERENCE: Brainsker Brothers Aid Society (New York, N.Y.) Records, 1924-1971. Description: .3 linear ft. Notes: Landsmanshaft founded in 1894 by Jewish immigrants from Bransk, Poland. It was active until 1979. ... cemetery deeds and related correspondence; ... YIVO collections are in Yiddish, Russian, Polish, English, Hebrew, and other European and non-European languages. Location: YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, New York, NY. Control No.: NXYH89-A859

MASS GRAVE: The mass grave in the Jewish cemetery of the 68 Jews and two Poles [possibly three] shot there on November 16, 1942. The Bransk Town Council plans to erect a granite plaque listing the victims of this slaughter.

CEMETERY: The cemetery caretaker is the Society of Friends of Bransk. Today, "Brzeznice" cemetery contains more than 200 tombstones, many of them cleaned and painted, all numbered. Local historian and research Zbigniew Romantuk (Bransk, Sienkiewicza 6, tel 0834 72 6) registers and translates the stones that he recovers from sidewalks, curbs, and town roads, which were built into the pavement. He has listed 2300 Jews, who lived in Bransk from the mid-19th century through 1939. Anyone in town can lead you to him at 24 Sienkiewicza St. Source: unidentified fax sent to US Comm. and forwarded by them. [date?] The cemetery is situated beyond the city near the crossroads of three roads leading to the villages of Rudka, Brzeznica, and Lubieszcze. Only a small path leads to the graveyard itself where a Holocaust memorial was placed for the mass grave. 2007 Photos, directions, and description: "symbolic cemetery (about 10 rows of matzevoth) (Images 4,7 [1,5]),. To the right of this grouping, go ahead to a Memorial (Image 5,6) and along the way at left into the forest are the remains of the cemetery with some matzevoth in situ (Images 8-10). The cemetery, though so close to the city, is protected because of its secluded location and because of the efforts of local historian Zbigniew Romaniuk. There is some garbage toward the back of the cemetery and the ever present odor of the nearby farm. The only threats to the cemetery are the vegetation and natural erosion due to the elements. The most intense wear of matzevoth are on those still in situ in the forest."  [April 2009]

US Commission No. POCE000102

Cemetery is SW of town by the road to Rzeznica. 1991 town population: 5,000-25,000 with no Jews.

  • Town: Urzad Miasta i Gminy, Rynek 8, Bransk; Burmistrz tel. 362.
  • Regional: Wojewodzki Konserwator Zabytkow, Bialystok, Dojlidy Fabryczne 23, tel. 412- 332. Zbyszek Romaniuk, Patrz. Pkt. 12, Rynek 25/5, 17-120 Bransk, tel. 185.
  • Caretaker: Zbigniew Romaniuk Patrz. Pict. 12.

Jews received permission to establish the earliest known Jewish settlement in early 19th century and the cemetery in 1820. Living here were Rabbi Simeon Jehuda Szkop and Icchok Zew Cukierman. 1921 Jewish population (census) was 2165. The Jews of Rudka and adjacent villages also used the cemetery. It served the Progressive/Reform and Conservative communities as well as the Hasidim of Kobzyn, Kock, Radzyn, Slonim, and Aleksandrow Lodzki. The Conservator of Monuments landmarked the cemetery located 15 km from the communities it served. The isolated flat suburban area between fields and woods has a sign or plaque in Polish mentioning the Jewish community. Reached by turning directly off a public road, access is open to all. [Note: There is some untranslated mention of fencing, but no gate.] The size of cemetery before WWII was about 2 hectares and currently is 1.47 hectares. 100-500 gravestones, 20-100 in original locations with 25%-50% toppled or broken, date from 1840. An undetermined number were incorporated into town roads. Two ohels within the cemetery limits were destroyed. The 19th and 20th century marble, granite, limestone, and concrete markers are rough stones or boulders, finely smoothed and inscribed stones, or flat stones with carved relief decoration. Some have traces of painting on their surfaces, while some post-war markers use metallic elements. Inscriptions are in Hebrew and Yiddish, but Polish after WWII. Marked mass graves and special memorial monuments to Holocaust victims exist. The municipality owns the cemetery property used for agriculture and Jewish cemetery. The adjoining commercial, industrial, and agricultural properties reduced the cemetery size since 1939. Frequently, organized Jewish group tours, organized individual tours, private visitors, and local residents visit. The cemetery was vandalized during World War II, but not in the last ten years. In 1987 to 1991, local non-Jewish residents, local municipal authorities, Jewish individuals abroad, and Jewish groups within Poland cleared vegetation and patched, cleaned, and re-erected stones. There is a regular unpaid caretaker. Weather erosion and incompatible nearby development are moderate threats while vandalism, pollution, and seasonal vegetation are slight threats.

Tomasz Wisniewski, Bialystok, ulica Bema 95/99 completed this survey on 8 September 1991. Documentation provided by Z. Romaniuk with work by Wisniewski. Tomasz Wisniewski visited about 10 times between 1983 and 1991. Zbyszek Romaniuk, Patrz. Pkt. 12, Mieczslaw Korzeniowki, and Elchanan Man were interviewed in Bransk from 1887-1991.

NOTE: In Jewish Bialystok, Wisniewski states on page 68 that a mass grave contains "68 Jews and two Poles shot here on November 16, 1942." Society of Friends of Bransk tends the site with "...more than 200 [gravestones], many of them celaned and painted, all of them numbered." Local Historian Zbigniew Romaniuk (Bransk, Sienkiewicza 24, tel. 0834726) translates and indexes gravestones retrieved from the local "sidewalks, curbs, and town roads..." Romaniuk has a "computerized register of the 2,300 Jews who lived in Bransk from mid-19th century through 1939." The Town Hall telephone is 142. [ESR-September 2000]

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 April 2009 12:10
 
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