Throughout the centuries Bialystok printed its mark on the pages of history as a unique town, which in its every-day life was free from serious antagonisms and conflicts between the communities living in it, Polish and Jewish, among others. Here, pupils were accepted into schools no matter their ethnic origin or religious confession; here the Polish public applauded Jewish sportsmen (and vice versa); here, finally,theprojectfor an artificial language, Esperanto, was created to join all humanity together. It was the difficult experiences of wars, partition, and occupation that cast a dark shadow over the generally positive picture of relations within the multinational community.
Today, both in Israel and the Jewish Diaspora scattered around the world, Bialystok is often remembered as a town in which, in a unique and spontaneous manner, the ideal of peaceful co-existence of different nations,religions, and cultures was turning into reality. It is remembered with nostalgia by its former Jewish inhabitants and their descendants.
Sadly, however, not many traces of the Jewish community remain in Bialystok itself. All that have survived are three synagogue buildings, a few mansions, a couple of architectural details, monuments and com-memorative plaques, and a cemetery the small number making it more worth the effort tore mind present residents and tourists about the past of this once lively and numerous community.
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1 Cytron Palace
The museum is located in the 19th-century palace of a Bialystok manufacturer Shmuel (Samuel) Cytron. Part of its permanent exhibition is a beautiful model of 18th-century Bialystok. The model reconstructs the town from the times just after Jan Klemens Branickis death, showing the hetmans baroque residence, the city hall, temples, and the re-presentative municipal gates. In the model one can also see Shulhof, the oldest Jewish neighbourhood in Bialystok, with the wooden Great Synagogue and Talmud School, and the old Jewish cemetery.
The two palaces of the Cytrons at Warszawska 37 and of the Nowiks at Lipowa 35 make the best preserved examples of Art Nouveau architecture in Bialystok. The Cytron Palace is ornamented with typical Secession motifs such as sunflowers, laureltwigs,and wreaths.
The palace interiors still show the wooden decoration of the ceilings, the original wooden door and window frames, and the staircase with a forged balustrade. The architectural plan of the two palaces is focused on a representative facade. They share similar ornaments, the same shape of windows characteristic of Secession, and gentle, oval balcony balu-strades. Both of the residences were probably designed by the same architect.
2 Tobacco Factory of Faiwel Janowski
The factory, launched in 1889, produced cigarettes, cigars and tobacco. It hired mostly women, the majority of whom were Jewish. Today the postindustrial interiors, transformed by a developer, contain lofts (one of the first apartments of this type in Bialystok),whicharepartofa larger, closed residential complex. Hence, access to the old factory buildings may be restricted.
In 1896, protesting against substandard working conditions and low wages, the factory workers initiated an untypical strike action: they vol-untarily presented themselves for police arrest in order to be excused from their absence at work. At the time, Bialystok was an important centre of the Jewish labour movement. The firststriketookplacehereas early as 1882, and at the end of the 19th century there was already a newspaper published Der Bialystoker Arbaiter.
3 Shmuel Synagogue
This was built in 1901 in the Mauritanian style. The synagogue was named after Rabbi Shmuel (Samuel) Mohilever, one of the most prominent Zionist activists in Poland. The Jewish elite of the city came to pray here. No wonder it was elaborately decorated. During the 2nd World War the building was badly damaged, and after the war largely reshaped. Nevertheless, it is worth looking at its rear, where in the eastern wall one can still see a remnant of the aron ha-kodesh, an altar case, in which the Torah used to be kept.
Shmuel Mohilever (1824-1898). The Bialystok Episode
Rabbi Mohilever arrived in Bialystok in 1883, when he was elected the learned rabbi of the local Jewish community. He agreed to work for very low pay and donated his properties to social aims. In Bialystok he created a rabbi school and credit association. It was also due to his effortsthatin 1890 Bialystok Jews got rights to the cemetery on Wschodnia street. Although he actively participated in political and cultural life, he never gave up his traditional, orthodox life-style. Mohilever died in 1898 in Bialystok and was buried here. In 1999 the rabbis body was taken to Israel by his descendants.
4 Jewish Female Gymnasium of Zinaida Chwoles
The Gymnasium of Zinaida Chwoles was created in 1911. At first,itwaslocated on Fabryczna street (in a house belonging to the Tryllings). In 1913 it was moved to a brick building, newly built by the Chwoleses on Palacowa street. After the 1st World War the gymnasium was already nonexistent, but the building went on to serve as a school attended by both Polish and Jewish children.
5 Palace Theater
behind the Guest Palace, Kilinskiego 6
The theater was created in 1912. It was not a theater in its present meaning, though, but more of a hall for 900 people, let as the advertising placard said for various occasions, such as performances, concerts, lectures, balls, masquerades, etc.. The theater showed a number of plays in Yiddish. It was frequently visited by Warsaw troupes of the Jewish Opera and Jewish Theater. It also hosted famous writers, such as Ilya Ehrenburg, a Russian novelist, the author of The Stormy Life of Lasik Roitschwantz, and Julian Tuwim, a Polish poet, among others. It is not widely known, though, that on Tuwims poetry evening only about 30 persons appeared, and the spacious hall looked like empty. The Palace Theater served also as an arena for sports events, such as boxing matches, vividly reported by the local press: In the ring, fighting for the trophy in their class (lightweight), were Rozenblum from Jagiellonia and Kobrynski from ZKS [Jewish Sports Club]. Kobrynskis fighting technique was much weaker than that of his opponent; it resembled more sneaking around or dancing, like that of some African tribes, than fightingin which one uses a system of thoughtful technical and practical means. On the other hand, Rozenblum fought intelligently, calmly applying his means of unusual defense or dangerous attack. And though the fury with which Kobrynski attacked, supported by rhythmical yells from the gallery, could have convinced a layperson who does not know much about this sport that victory was on the side of Kobrynski, it must be said that the decision of the referee on the ring, lieutenant Goraczka, giving victory to Rozenblum, was fully justified...(from Dziennik Bialostocki).
In 1912 Nahum Zemach organized in Bialystok a Jewish theater named Habimah (from Hebrew stage), which was the beginning of The Jewish National Theater in Tel Aviv. The theater played in Hebrew, mostly dramas about the problems of Jewish community. In 1913 the troupe went to Vienna, where they performed Osip Dymovs play Shma Isroel (Hear O Israel) at the 11th Zionist Congress. The 1st World War put an end to Habimahs activity in Bialystok. After the war Zemach reactivated the theater in Moscow.
6 Jewish Hospital
now Maternity Hospital, Warszawska 15
Before the war, this place was the location of a Jewish hospital founded by Isaac Zabludowski and named after him. The hospital was created in 1872, ten years after Zabludowski had granted the house and land to the Jewish community. Initially the hospital provided 48 beds. It could take in more patients from 1882, when it enlarged to 86 beds. Before the end of the 19th century it already had separate and well-equipped rooms for surgical and internist treatment. It was one of the best equipped medical centres in pre-war Poland and perhaps even in the world. It closely cooperated with Jewish charity organisations, such as Linas Chacedek, which ran a night ambulance service here.
7 Trylling Palace
Helena and Chaim Trylling bought the estate at Warszawska street in 1898 and immediately started building their new residence. Unexpectedly, Chaim Trylling died the next year, and ultimately it was Helenas (Elenas) initials ET that were put on the buildings decorative cartouche and over the entrance door. The architecture of the palace is maintained in the eclectic style of the end of the 19th century: today one can still admire the elaborately ornamented front facade of the building and the allegorical ceiling decoration inside it. The Tryllings sold the palace before the war and fled to the United States. After the war it was claimed as an abandoned property by the state.
Trylling & Son
The company Trylling & Son, created in 1863 by Israel Trylling, produced quilts and fabrics. The Tryllings factories were situated on Lipowa and Nowy Swiat streets. After Isaac and Chaim died, they were managed by Oswald Trylling Chaims brother.
8 Zygmunt August Gymnasium
The 6th General Secondary School, Warszawska 8
Within these walls, in the years 1869-1873, did young Ludwik Zamenhof study. A commemorative plaque with a relief presenting this renowned Bialystoker has been placed on one of the building walls (on the Warszawska street side). Another famous graduate of this school was Osip Dymov (Iosif Isidorowicz Perelman), an accomplished playwright, re-cognized mostly for his still-on-Broadway play Bronx Express, dealing with the experiences of Jewish immigrants to the United States. Later, the play inspired a worldwide known painter, David Bekker, to create a woodcut under the same title.
Today, there is a museum run in the school, in which one can get to know its history and graduates. It is managed by Jan Dworakowski, a history teacher. Among the museums collectibles, one deserves special mention. It is The Book of Graduates from 1919 to 1939. Within this period, among 565 graduates signed in the book, 46 were of Jewish origin.
In the pre-war period, the State Male Gymnasium of King Zygmunt August (made a state school in 1919), when compared to Jewish secon-dary schools, provided a more humanistic and patriotic education, and preparation for intellectual careers, including state administration.
Although, it was connected to the Catholic Church mostly through the person of Stanislaw Halko, its headmaster between 1915 and 1939 it did not restrict the admission of non-Catholic students: Jewish, Orthodox, or Protestant. The choice of school was mainly related to the level of religious observance in the family and their aspirations as to the childrens education.
A youth club called Memory meets at the school. Its members have participated in a number of projects devoted to the history and culture of Jews. They have been collecting information about Bialystokers honored with the title Righteous Among the Nations and about survivors of the Holocaust. Supervised by Anna J. Kloza, their Polish teacher, they have written a play titled I dont want to remember, yet I cant forget, which is based on the memories of Miriam Jahav, Felicja Nowak, and Szamaj Kizelsztejn. They have performed their play in Bialystok at the Arsenal Gallery, and at the Jewish Theater in Warsaw.
A few years ago, someone wrote in a biographical article devoted to the creator of Esperanto that when still in gymnasium, Ludwik (Leizor) Zamenhof skipped classes and misbehaved to the point of being expelled from school. From the beginning, Bialystok Esperantists have denied the rumor. As it later turned out, after an in-depth examination of school documents, there were two Leizor Zamenhofs attending the school at the time: the future creator of Esperanto and his less gifted cousin.
9 Sholem Aleichem Library
Sienkiewicza 36, next to the past Pulkowa synagogue
This was opened in 1919 and was one of the most important public libra-ries in Bialystok. Its collection included over 50 thousand books, mostly in Polish. Although it was destroyed during the 2nd World War, and its collection got dispersed, today one can still come across a book with its stamp in an antiquary shop.
10 TOZ Sanatorium
TOZ the association for health promotion named Towarzystwo Ochrony Zdrowia
Before the war, in this place a now nonexistent TOZ convalescent home for children threatened with tuberculosis was located. The home was founded by Helena Trylling. During the German occupation it housed the ghetto hospital. The home is mentioned in the film Jewish Life in Bialystok.
Jewish Life in Bialystok
A documentary film from 1939, made by Shauland Yitzhak Goskings, shows - among other sites - the town hall; the market; the Piaski quarter; the synagogues, Old, Great and Choral; the family house of the Zamenhofs; Sholem Aleichem Library; the Hebrew Gymnasium; the Jewish Crafts School; weaving factories; and the TOZ sanatorium founded by the Tryllings.
The hospital at Fabryczna street was the last site of the insurgents resistance in the ghetto uprising of 1943. In 2002, construction workers discovered pieces of tableware and candlesticks wrapped in newspaper in Yiddish buried here. These must have belonged to a wealthy bourgeois Jewish family. The founding was called the treasure from Fabryczna street. Whom exactly could it have belonged to? A filmandreportage maker from the local TV station, Beata Hyzy-Czolpinska, tries to findthe answer to this question in her film Skarb z ulicy Fabrycznej.
11 The Hebrew Gymnasium
now Municipal Hospital, Sienkiewicza 79
The Hebrew Gymnasium in Bialystok was one of the most important Jewish schools in pre-war Poland. All subjects were taught in Hebrew. The Gymnasium added to the rebirth of this language, and its graduates were incorporated into the future elites of Israel. One of the schools graduates was Yitzhak Shamir, the former Prime Minister of Israel. The Gymnasium was also renowned for its fineteachers.Professor Szymon Datner, a history and PE teacher, was one of them. At present, the building is occupied by the Municipal Hospital. But there is a commemorative plaque, which tells about its differentpast.
Szymon Datner (1902-1989)
He came to Bialystok in 1928. He took the job of PE teacher at the Hebrew Gymnasium. When the German army entered Bialystok, he and his family (his wife and two daughters) had to move to the ghetto. Then he engaged himself in conspiratorial work. He commanded a group of fighters wholed Jews out of the ghetto. His wife and daughters did not survive the liquidation of the ghetto. After the war, professor Datner established a branch of the Jewish Historical Commission in Bialystok. In 1946 he published The Fight for and Extermination of the Bialystok Ghetto. At the end of the 1940s he moved
to Warsaw and took a job in the Jewish Historical Institute. Presenting the history of the Holocaust and maintaining the memory of the role of the Jewish community in pre-war Poland became the aim of his scientific work. Hef requently came back to Bialystok.Reaching the end of his days, he published his own translation of The Wisdom of the Talmud. He died in 1989. He was buried in the Jewish Cemetery in Warsaw.
ul. Sienkiewicza 26A
In one of the backyards on Sienkiewicza street, there is a pre-war mansion, in which Jewish families used to live. This is evident from the marks left on the front doors by mezuzahs. Inside the building, an original staircase has survived together with a forged balustrade, wooden window frames, and old-style inner shutters.
In search of traces
Looking carefully at old door frames one can sometimes find a mark left by mezuzahs somewhat longish cylinders, in which small scrolls containing prayers blessing the house and its inhabitants were kept. A Jew coming back home was to rub such a case as a sign of his faith.
13 Apollo Cinema
The cinema containing 800 seats was owned by Froma and Benjamin Wajnsztadt. It operated until 1939. It became written in history due to its screening of Ben Hur (with Ramon Nawarro). The filmcauseda negative reaction in the local Jewish press, which echoed around the world: from Warsaw, to Berlin and London, to Argentina. A rumor spread that the theater was demolished, the owner got kidnapped, the filmwasburnt at the stake, and a state of emergency was declared in the rioting city. Doesnt gossip go far?
now State Theater Academy, Sienkiewicza 14
The house was built between the 19th and 20th century. It must have been luxurious: four floors,twoinneryards,abeautifulNeo-Renaissancefacade and painted decorations on the staircase. The high ground floorwith big glass windows bore a commercial character. A cast iron lamp hanger with a star of David >> has survived in the inner yard of the building to our times.
>> A similar hanger was placed on the building at Warszawska 50. This distinct architectural detail survived the war (although during the German occupation the building was taken over by the police and Gestapo) and the communist regime. Unfortunately, it was removed a few years ago during the renovation of the building. It was later found nearby, built into a wall of the seminary lecture hall at Warszawska 46. Before the war a number of similar hangers could be found in Bialystok. They were probably produced by one of the local manufacturers.
15 Gymnasium of Jozef Zeligman,
Jozef Lebenhaft and Jakub Dereczynski
Sienkiewicza 4, next to Astoria
The school was launched in 1922 and was thought to be one of the best private gymnasiums in the city. Later it received the rights of a public school. Jozef Zeligman was its principal. He also taught history, Latin, and mathematics. He believed in the idea of religious desegregation in education. He thought that pupils of various religious backgrounds, Catholics, Evangelics, Jewish, and Orthodox, should study together, and in this way get to know each other and learn mutual understanding. Hence, in Zeligmans gymnasium, religious divisions applied only to religion classes. Among the school graduates was Leo Fink (1901-1972), a later pioneer of the textile industry and activist of Jewish organisations in Australia. In September 1939 the school was taken over by the Soviets, and Jozef Zeligman was arrested by NKVD. Later, the Nazis took all the equipment from the gymnasium, and its founder was killed in 1943 in Majdanek.
16 Gilarino Miniature Theater
Sienkiewicza 5, in front of J. Zeligmans Gymnasium
This was founded in 1926 by young Jewish artists: painters, musicians, and singers. Its name was selected in a contest in Hebrew gilarino means song and laughter. The theater was led by Wiktor Bubryk (dramatic director) and Oskar Rozanecki (a talented painter and stage designer in Palace Theater). The room in which Gilarino played was given to the theater by the Linas Chacedek association. The Gilarino troupe performed miniatures by Sholem Aleichem and Sholem Asch, among others, as well as more frivolous small theatrical forms. It gained greatest popularity due to satires ridiculing local political elites, sang by Elke and Shmelke, a pair of comic puppets. The theater raised interest also among the non-Jewish community of the city, who did not know Yiddish, but were delighted with the music of M. Berman, the director of the Gilarino band. The young powers of the company provided the public with a lot of artistic quality, vocal pearls, aesthetic impressions, much talent, much character, much expression and youth Prożektor wrote in 1927. Gilarinos activity, however, met with severe criticism from the orthodox circles within the Jewish community, who forced its directors to cease playing on Friday evenings because of the start of Sabbath. In the result, after only a year-long operation, the theater collapsed for many years. Reactivation was attempted in 1938. Ultimately, the war put the companys activity to an end. O. Rozanecki died in the Bialystok ghetto.
17 Mansions of Isaac Zabludowski
at the crossroads of Lipowa and Sienkiewicza streets
On the left side of Sienkiewicza street, at the entrance from Lipowa street, a now non-existent mansion (burnt down during the war) called Under the Moose was situated. Eminent guests to the city stayed in that house, and the better city entertainment, such as balls and masquerades, took place there. On the opposite side of the street, there still stands the Courtly Mansion, now a restaurant known as Astoria. The name of todays restaurant comes from a distorted word austeria (osteria in Italian), which means an inn or a guesthouse. Both houses belonged to Isaac Zabludowski, who was recognised as the firstJewishmillionaire in Russia (after 1807, the Bialystok Area was part of the Russian Empire).
In the first part of the 19th century, Isaac Zabludowski was one of the richest merchants in Bialystok. In 1834 he founded a synagogue, known as Chorshul (Choral), which was situated on the present-day Bialowny street. In 1864 the Zabludowski family owned nine of the best houses in the city, including Under the Moose and the Courtly Mansion.
18 Linas Chailim Charity Association
A charity society called Linas Chailim (1893-1943), along with a slightly older one Linas Chacedek >>, was a Jewish organization bringing medical help to people in need. At the beginning of the 20th century, having just over 100 members and managing a yearly budget of 6 thousand rubles, they supported almost 12 thousand persons. At the beginning Linas Chailim and Linas Chacedek competed with each other; later they began a closer cooperation.
>> In pre-war Bialystok, people used to say to be as fast as a Linas Chacedek ambulance because it was Linas Chacedek that owned the first ambulance in thecity. Linas Chacedek was launched in 1885, initiated by Jozef Chazanowicz - the latter, the creator of The National Library of Israel. The name of the association meant One who looks after the sick. Members of the association were obliged to take honorable care of ill people. At the beginning, Linas Chacedek organized care only for sick Jews. In 1902 they opened an ambulatory, in 1903 a cheap dining place, in 1911 a pharmacy, and in 1935 an emergency that worked at nights. They gradually opened their activities to non-Jews. The association had its quarters on the now non-exis-tent Rozanska street (today it is part of Bialowna street). It operated till 1939.
Jozef Chazanowicz (1844-1919)
Born in Goniadz, he was a medical doctor and Zionist, active in Bialystok (among other places). He was the founder of The National Library of Israel. In 1896 he sent his private book collection, comprising of almost 10 thousand volumes, from Bialystok to Jerusalem. This was the beginning of the Abarbanel Library, which was later incorporated into The National and University Library in Jerusalem. In pre-war Bialystok one of the streets in Shulhof quarter, near the Great Synagogue, was named after Chazanowicz (today, because of changes in the city layout, the street does not exist anymore).
Mitzvah means "a good deed"
In accordance with Jewish religious tradition, poor Jews have a right to help and support from their coreligionists. The holy book of Judaism, the Torah, obliges Jews to give part of their incomes to the poor. Hence, mutual support, and charity and philanthropic engagement are an inseparable element of Jewish communities organisation. From the Middle Ages, Jewish communities entrusted the care of the poor, sick, and old to charitable associations. From the 18th century, Jews founded hospitals, poorhouses, rest homes, and other charitable institutions that were financed mostly by affluent donors.In the 19th century, Bialystok merchants such as Isaac Zabludowski and Sender Bloch were renowned for their philanthropic activities.
19 House of the Zamenhof Family
formerly at Zielona street, today Zamenhofa 26
Today only a plaque on the wall of the post-war building commemorates this great Bialystoker. The street on which Zamenhofs house used to stand was renamed from Zielona (Green) to Zamenhofa in 1919 from the inspiration of Jakub Szapiro, a well-known enthusiast of the language and concept of Esperanto. The original house was leveled in 1927.
Esperanto the language of hope
Esperanto is the most successful and widespread artificiallanguage.Thetotal number of people in the world who can speak this language is estimated at 0.5 to 1.5 million. For a few hundred people (children of the most devoted Esperantists) Esperanto is the firstlanguage learned in their childhood. Esperanto has only 16 grammar rules and no exceptions. For a person who considers oneself a mediocre language learner, it usually takes only a couple of hours to get acquainted with those rules. The rest of the learning process should be devoted to practice and vocabulary learning. However, the vocabulary shouldnt cause difficulty,either,sincethemostofthewordrootsare taken from Romanesque languages. Esperantists can be met almost everywhere: in Europe, China and Japan, the Americas and Australia. Among the Esperanto community there is an
unwritten custom, treated as a duty: a traveling Esperantist can always count on the assistance and hospitality of other Esperantists in the visited country. Enthusiasts believe that Esperanto is more than a language it is an idea of the brotherhood of people of the world. Recently the idea of a universal language which could unite the human race has been adopted by alter-globalists, who believe that the artificiallanguagecanbe a counterbalance to English, often associated with the cultural dominance of the West.
20 Monument to Ludwik Zamenhof
the square between Malmeda and Bialowny streets
Dr Ludwik Zamenhof, the creator of the artificial language Esperanto, is the most widely recognized Bialystoker in the world. He was born in a family of Jewish teachers in 1859 >>. His parents chose a medical career for him, but Ludwik preferred to devote his life to the idea of a language which would join all the people of the world. There is no doubt that he was inspired by the multicultural atmosphere of the city. In 19th-century Bialystok one could hear conversations in Yiddish, Polish, Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, Lithuanian, German, and other more exotic languages and dialects. The word esperanto in Esperanto means hope. Zamenhof believed that the language he invented would enable mutual understanding between nations and lead to global peace.
>> 2009 will be the year of the 150th anniversary of Zamenhofs birth. Bialystok will celebrate it by inviting guests from around the world to the 94th World Congress of Esperanto (in Esperanto Universala Kongreso de Esperanto).
Ludwik Zamenhof was buried in the Jewish Cemetery on Okopowa street in Warsaw. His grave is located by the main alley, in the 10th quarter, the 2nd row. The cemetery is open to visitors. Apart from Zamenhof, at a relatively close distance, two other prominent Bialystokers are buried: Chaim Zelig Slonimski an astronomer, inventor, journalist and the grandfather of the famous Polish writer Antoni Slonimski; and Szymon Datner a professor at the Hebrew Gymnasium in Bialystok and a Bialystok ghetto fighter.
21 Yitzhak Malmed Plaque
Yitzhak Malmed was one of the 50-60 thousand Jews, not only from Bialystok, but also from other parts of the Podlaski region, and even other parts of Poland, who went through the Bialystok ghetto. In February 1943, to avoid arrest, Malmed splashed acid onto the face of a German soldier, who, blinded, subsequently shot his colleague. Malmed managed to escape and hide. He came out when the Nazi executed 100 people in revenge and threatened to kill more of the ghetto inhabitants if he did not reveal himself. On February 8, 1943, Yitzhak Malmed was hanged in front of the Judenrat quarters (right where the plaque is placed today) and buried in the ghetto cemetery. Now the street on which he was executed bears his name. During the war, the main gate to the ghetto was situated at the exit of Malmeda to Lipowa street.
22 Druskin Gymnasium
In the pre-war period, this gymnasium, founded by David Druskin in 1911, was considered to be one of the most prestigious private schools in the city. The best known graduates were, among others, Nora Ney (Sonia Nejman), Polish filmstar;andKalmanKaplansky,whobecame,after emigrating to Canada, a politician and human rights activist.
Nora Ney (Sonia Nejman, 1906-2003)
She had the nature of a real rebel. Indepen-dent and fond of singing and dancing, from her school years she dreamt of becoming a great actress. When her family decided to marry 18-year-old Sonia to a wealthy but much older man, she ran away from home. Straight from the Bialystok Central Station, she headed for Warsaw with the strong desire to fulfillherdreamof a silver-screen career. In the capital city she was accepted to the famous Film Institute of Wiktor Bieganskis it was the firststeptotheactresss great success. She gained popularity in 1926 with roles in Gold Fever and Red Clown. Soon she became a star of the national cinema, sometimes called the Polish Greta Garbo. Due to her unusual beauty, very popular in the 30s, known as oriental eroticism, she made her
self distinguished. She was also admired for her free attitude to fashion: she posed for pictures in Hollywood-style dresses and promoted the wearing of trousers among women. The public loved Nora Ney. In 1933 she was chosen Queen of the Polish Screen. The visits she paid to different cities on the occasion of her filmspremieres always raised much sensation. So it was in Bialystok, in 1931, when she came here for the first night of Heart on the Street. After the outbreak of the war, Nora Ney, with her small daughter Joanna, ran to the East. Once in the USSR, she was sent deep in the country, which paradoxically saved her life. Just after the German surrender, she came back to Poland, but in the new cinema there was no room for her. So she left the country in which she had gained fame. Across the ocean in New York, though, she did not manage to achieve success similar to that in Poland. Because she did not speak English, a motion picture career was inaccessible to her. Nora Ney never appeared on the screen again. By Pawel Niziołek
23 The Heroes of the Ghetto Uprising Monument
The Bialystok ghetto stretched between the present-day Lipowa, Przejazd, Poleska and Sienkiewicza streets. Between August 15 and 16, 1943, at night, the Nazis started the action for the ultimate liquidation of the ghetto, which they had been planning from the beginning of the month. Some of the ghetto residents answered with armed resistance. The leader of the uprising was Mordechai Tenenbaum (Tamarof). The fightersplannedtobreakthroughthe cordon of German forces and escape to nearby Knyszyn Forest. They did not succeed with their plan, though, due to the small number of ghetto insurgents and their weak armament. Only a few hundred people were able to get to the forest, where they subsequently formed partisan troops. The rest died during the fightingintheghetto or were transported from the Fabryczny (Poleski) Railway Station to the concentration camps in Treblinka and Majdanek. However, the memory of the Bialystok ghetto uprising is still alive. Every year, on the day that the ghetto uprising started, a ceremonial celebration of the anniversary takes place by The Heroes of the Ghetto Uprising monument. One of the nearby streets also bears the name of the Ghetto Heroes.
This is not cobblestone!
On the old cobblestoned Czysta street (between Proletariacka and Poleska streets), a few fragments of wooden poles, which are accor-ding to the testimony of local residents the remains of one of the three
Jewish underground (the last in the second row Mordechai Tenenbaum-Tamarof) 20
entrance gates to the Bialystok ghetto that have survived between the stones till the present day.
Life in the ghetto
In comparison with ghettos in other large cities in Poland, the Bialystok ghetto was relatively well-organized. There were no incidents of death from starvation like, for example, in Warsaw. In spite of difficult conditions, the inhabitants of the ghetto could work in order to fulfilltheirbasicneeds.They ran factories and manufactured goods, grew crops and vegetables, and bred cattle. Along with the minimal supplies provided by the occupiers, they smuggled food from the outside of the ghetto. They also organized a system of basic education and medical care. Although the scale of these activities was limited, they at least allowed people closed in the ghetto to maintain the illusion of normal life.
24 Cytron Synagogue
Art Gallery of the Slendzinskis, Warynskiego 24A
The Cytron Beit Midrasz Synagogue was built in 1936. It owed its name to its founders, a family of Jewish industrialists the Cytrons. The inter-iors of the synagogue were richly molded with exotic wood, showing mostly floralandzoomorphicmotifs,andthesymbolsofJudaism:thelion and the Star of David. The moldings survived until the 1970s, when they were removed during the buildings renovation. After the war, until the late 1960s, the building served Bialystok Jews as a community centre and funeral home.
The Synagogue - one building, many functions
Synagogues are Jewish houses of worship, but apart from their religious function, they also fulfill these cular needs of the population. In the past they served as seats of Jewish communities (kehilla), gathering halls, banks, and rabbinical courts. Traveling Jews could even stop there for a meal and bed. Sometimes, like in nearby Tykocin, some of the synagogue rooms were used as a temporary jail. Usually, at the centre of a synagogue there is a readers platform called a bimah. Here, during the sermon, the scrolls of the Torah are read and the cantor leads the chant. On the eastern wall, which shows the direction of the Temple of Jerusalem, a closet called the ark or aron ha-kodesh is located. The scrolls of the Torah are kept in it. The aron ha-kodesh is covered with a decorated curtain called a parokhet. In orthodox and traditional synagogues men and women pray in separate rooms. In the territory of Poland the womens section, called a babiniec, was usually a one storey annex to the main building with small windows enabling them to observe the main room. Unfortunately, in present-day Bialystok there is no synagogue building which would present all these original elements. However, in nearby Tykocin, one can finda17th-century synagogue, one of the largest and most beautiful in Poland. Today it houses a branch of the Podlaskie Museum, with exhibitions devoted to the history and culture of the Jews of Podlasie.
25 Warynskiego Street numbers 1 to 11,
on both sides of the street
In the past this street ran through the Jewish quarter. Now it remains a unique piece of dense brick urban architecture, typical of 19th-century Bialystok. It used to be tenement houses. The higher floorswereoccupied by rental apartments, while on the ground floors and in the backyards there were usually stores, and craft and service shops.
The street maze
Warynskiego street consists in fact of two separate parts: one running from Lipowa, and dead-ending at Pilsudskiego, the other leading from the brick building next to the former Druskin Gymnasium (Pilsudskiego 11/4) to Wlokiennicza. The two parts of the street and the houses on it are located aslant to the present-day street layout, parallel and perpendicular to Pilsudskiego. If walking in this quarter one comes across houses that stand aslant to the lines drawn by the straight angle of Czestochowska (between Pilsudskiego and Lipowa) and Pilsudskiego, there is no doubt that those buildings are at least pre-war and probably survived the ghetto uprising and liquidation. It often happens that such an
? Warynskiego street, a view on the dense architecture from St. Roch church22
old building grows as if suddenly right in between the blocks of flatsfrom the 1950s.
26 The Modern Cinema
The pre-war cinema was located almost exactly at the same place as Pokoj cinema now, though a little bit closer to the street line. It was one of the best cinemas in Bialystok, which demonstrated the latest hits of the season in a modern projection hall. It was known for its good selection of repertoire, the performances of a string orchestra, and sports newsreels. The good reputation of the cinema was somewhat damaged in 1936 because of the screening of the Nazi propaganda newsreel The Olympic Games in Garmish-Partenkirchen, which was interrupted by indignant viewers. Ultimately, however, it was the growing competition of the newly opened cinemas that eventually brought the Modern to closure in 1937. It was immediately replaced by the even more modern Pan cinema. The owners of the new venture were Wajn-sztadt, a local potentate, and his partner from Grodno named Fromberg. The cinema was the only venue in the city with modern heating and an air-conditioning system.
A small plaque in Polish and Esperanto placed on the building informs that Jakub Szapiro, the world-renowned propagator and enthusiast of Esperanto, used to live here.
Jakub Szapiro (1897-1941)
Szapiro was born in Bialystok. He worked here as a journalist and in 1921 he founded Ludwik Zamenhofs Association of Esperantists in Bialystok.
He planned to open a museum of the famous linguist in Zamenhofs family house (which does not exist anymore), and to commemorate his work with a monument of the Tower of Babel. The Association of Esperantists is still active today, having its officeintheformerPiaskower synagogue on Piekna street. Szapiro and his family were killed in a mass execution in Pietrasze forest on July 12, 1941. The only survivors from the massacre were his sister Betty Szapiro Raszkin and her daughter Felicja, who many years later, as Felicja Nowak, published her memoirs in a book My Star: Some of the books at our home were written in a strange language. (...) The one who knew this language best was uncle Kuba. (...) The walls of his apartment were covered with photographs from international conventions, pennants and badges with the symbol of Esperanto, images of Dr Zamenhof, and caricatures of uncles characteristic figure.Tall,thin,withashapelyheadonalongneck,glasses on his nose, and slightly advanced lower lip, he made a graceful object for draughtsman.
Tragedy in Pietrasze
Between July 11 and 13, 1941, in an organized extermination action in Pietrasze forest, the Nazis executed 3-4 thousand Jewish Bialystokers, and later also about 100 Christians from Wasilkow. All victims of the slaughter were buried in nameless mass graves. Today the tragedy is commemorated by a symbolic cemetery and a monument.
28 Nowik Palace
This secession building was the house of a Jewish industrialist Chaim Nowik and his family. Nowik was the owner of a large textile factory, producing cloth and hats. Nowiks factory was located in another part of the city, on Augustowska street (it was one of the largest and most technically advanced factories in the city). In the building on Lipowa street, on the firstfloor,therewasa shop,in which one could buy coat fabric,light woolen cloth, and of course the world famous hats. Nowiks business fell into decline before the 2nd World War. Between 1926 and 1927 all the three heirs of Nowiks fortune died Eliasz, Salomon, and Chanon. This was also when part of the palace was let to the Polish Army, which located their recruitment quarters there. In September 1939 the building housed the citys defense headquarters and, throughout the war, a military hospital. Today, in the renovated palace, as in the past, a military recruitment quarter of the Polish Army is located.
Manchester of the North?
Due to a radical rise in taxes imposed in 1831 on goods imported to Russia, industrialists from the Kingdom of Poland began to move their factories to the other side of the border to the territories of the Russian Empire. Thanks to this, smaller and bigger manufactures and factories (mostly textile) started to emerge in Bialystok and other surrounding towns and cities, which had had no industry before. Soon Bialystok became an important industrial centre, which gained it the name Manchester of the North. The city kept this name even in the 20th century, after the 2nd World War. However, when one looks at the map of Europe carefully, it is evident that Bialystok is located a little bit more southernly than Manchester (Manchester 53'29N, Bialystok 53'07N). The solution to this riddle is in fact easy. Originally it was Lodz, another Polish industrial city, that used to be called the Polish Manchester. Bialystok indeed lies north of Manchester, but the Polish Manchester, not the British one.
In the beginning, Bialystok weaving factories produced fabrics using German techniques and patterns. But the product was too thin for local conditions. Thicker fabrics were, on the other hand, too expensive. In order to lower the prices, Jewish manufacturers introduced cheap recycled wool to the market. It was known as tibet. Thanks to tibet the prices of textiles went down and the competitiveness of the local factories rose. Another economic solution was to produce the warp on the inner side of cloth out of paper yarn instead of costly wool.
29 Tarbut and Jewish Craft School
today Maria Grzegorzewska Craft School, Lipowa 41D,
and The Faculty of Mathematics and Physics
at The University of Bialystok, Lipowa 41
Before the war the building at Lipowa 41D was occupied by a general Hebrew school ran by Tarbut organisation, which was part of the Zionist movement and promoted the rebirth of the Hebrew culture (tarbut in Hebrew means culture).
From red and yellow brick
The building at Lipowa 41D is one of the most beautiful and best preserved examples of the architectonical style called recently the Bialystok school of masonry. The style can be described as influencedbyPrussian and Russian architecture, and eclectically adopting various architectonical conventions that were popular at the break of the 20th century, such as Neo-Classicism, Secession and Modernism. Apart from the school at Lipowa street, some other works by Bialystok masons have survived: the post office on Koscielna, the old buildings of the fire department on Warszawska, houses at Grunwaldzka no. 22 and 25, and at Mlynowa no. 30 and 44.
The grey, plastered house at Lipowa 41 was occupied in the mid-war period by a Jewish gymnasium, a Jewish Craft School, and two kindergartens Polish and Jewish.
30 The Barbican Mission
todays Syrena cinema, Sw. Rocha 25
Erected between 1927 and 1930, the building of todays cinema served the Barbican Mission. It was founded by the English Association for Promoting Christianity Among Jews. The mission aimed at converting Jews to Christianity (Anglicanism) through charity and education.
31 Chanajki and Piaski Quarters
Mlynowa, Grunwaldzka, Kijowska, Mlawska,
Cieszynska, Angielska, Sosnowa, Rynek Sienny
Year by year the old houses in these former poor Jewish neighbourhoods are disappearing. The quarters of Chanajki and Piaski rose in the 18th and 19th centuries. Although they were dominated by wooden parterre houses, one could find some brick buildings in the area as well, such as a two-storey house at 23 Mlynowa street, a former Jewish nail factory. A characteristic cast iron lamp holder still hangs there from one of the walls.
Two faces of Chanajki
The poor pre-war Jewish neighbourhood aroused ambivalent feelings. Some were shocked by its ugliness, others felt attracted by its specificexoticism. But none remained indifferent:
To learn about the ordeal of Bialystok life one should visit Chanajki. Narrow, winding streets, stinking gutters, where herds of child-ren play and thousands of flieshatch. All this, combined with the extreme poverty of the inhabitants, discourages passers-by from looking into those most naturalistic corners of human misery (from Dziennik Bialostocki).
Those architectural freaks, surrounded with sloppiness and liveliness, bear an exotic trace, and attract artists and photographers with an unusual topic, far from the steadiness which is achieved when following construction regulations (from a guidebook of the Polish Tourism Association).
Walking down Mlynowa street today does not evoke such strong feelings anymore, but some picturesque lanes have still kept something of the spirit of pre-war Chanajki. The impression of returning to the past is disturbed only by satellite dishes on the shabby facades of the houses. In a few years the entire quarter will disappear from the city landscape to be replaced by the modern surroundings of the Podlaska Opera.
What a chanajki!
Although the poorest Jewish quarter called Chanajki is passing away along with its inhabitants, the word chanajki has become a part of the local Bialystok dialect, in which it refers to dilapidated sheds and houses.
32 Rabbinical Cemetery
Kalinowskiego street, todays Central Park
This Jewish necropolis, founded in 1761 or 1764, was described by Jan Glinka, a pre-war enthusiast of local history. According to his findings,rabbis and other prominent members of the Jewish community used to be buried here. Among them were Rabbi Kalman (died in 1789), a Chassidic Rabbi (Tzadik) Moses Wolf (died in 1830) and an affluentmerchantand philanthropist Isaak Zabludowski (died in 1865). German soldiers devastated the cemetery in 1941, covering the graves with rubbles from the burned Jewish quarter. After the war, the remains of the cemetery were covered with earth and a park was planted on it.
In Judaism the cemetery is a place of the eternal rest of the dead. This means that, unlike the Christian tradition, neither human remains, nor graves, can be moved or replaced after a certain time. The cemetery stays a burial place forever. Religion demands the placing of cemeteries outside the cities, which can be explained by sanitary reasons, as well. The graves, called mazevas, are - like synagogues - located on an East-West line. In practice, Jewish cemeteries were located near the cemeteries of other faiths, which was caused by the logic of spatial organization in extending cities. In Bialystok, too, the Jewish cemetery (called Rabbinical) neighboured with the Uniate (later Orthodox), Evangelist, and a little bit farther off Catholic cemeteries.
The first cemetery
The first Jewish cemetery in Bialystok was located next to the present-day Rynek Kosciuszki, behind building no. 7. Because it occupied ground in the city centre, the owner of the city, Jan Klemens Branicki, obliged Jews to move it to another place behind the Suraska Gate (todays corner of Marianskiego and Plac Uniwersytecki). Eventually, the area of the old cemetery was entirely taken over by new buildings in the 19th century. But it can be still seen in the Historical Museum in Beckers Plan from 1799, and in the model of 18th-century Bialystok based on the index of estates and other possessions of Jan Klemens Branicki, prepared after his death.
33 Piaskower Synagogue
Built in 1891, this is one of three synagogue buildings that have survived in the city. The name Piaskower comes from the quarter Piaski. The synagogue, damaged during the war and later partly restored, served in the 1950s as a cinema, theatre and community center. Until 1970 it housed a branch of the Socio-Cultural Association of Jews in Poland. Since renovation in 1995, part of the building has been taken by The Bialystok Association of Esperantists. The association, among its numerous activities, sells readers and course-books in Esperanto, runs free Esperanto courses and presents a small exhibition devoted to the world Esperantist movement.
34 The Monument of the Great Synagogue
Before the war, this place was the heart of the oldest Jewish quarter Shulhof. Here stood the Great Synagogue, built in 1913 in a Mauritanian-Byzantine style. On June 27, 1941, the day that the German Army entered Bialystok, the occupiers gathered from the city streets at least 600-700 people of Jewish origin, and led them to the synagogue. Then they locked the doors and set it on fire. German soldiers threw grenades through the windows. The monument commemorating this tragic event was erected in 1996. Its shape refers to the destroyed Byzantine dome of the synagogue. Almost the entire Jewish quarter burnt along with the synagogue.
35 The City Hall
Rynek Kosciuszki 10
Since it was built in the middle of the 18th century, the Bialystok City Hall has always been the heart of the city. Located in the centre of a triangular market square, the unique Baroque style building, made of four segments and a clock tower, was to resemble a country manor of Polish gentry. Although it is called city hall, it never served as an officeforthe city council. At its beginning Bialystok was a private city, the seat and estate of hetman Jan Klemens Branicki, and the city hall, instead of administering, served commercial activity. Inside, there were stores with cloths, footwear, tools, and craft shops. The majority of them were owned by Jews, who made trade and crafts flourish in Bialystok. The city halls tower was used by firemenforobservation.Atpresent,thecityhall, reconstructed and partly reshaped after the war, houses Podlaskie Museum, which exhibits, among other collections, works of Polish art.
Under the Branickis protection
The history of the Jews in Podlasie can be traced back at least to the 15th century. Just as in other private cities, Jews had been brought to Bialystok by its owner Stefan Mikolaj Branicki, father of Jan Klemens, in order to promote trade, crafts, and services. In 1692 Branicki bestowed on the Jews the right to possess a house of worship, a cemetery, and their own commune (kehillah), and at the same time obliged them to pay taxes. From then on, the Branickis were seen as protectors of the Jews. In 1749 the Jewish elders were allowed to take part in the municipal election. To show their gratitude, Bialystok Jews funded a bust of Branicki, which was placed in his palace. Another patron of Bialystok Jews was Izabela Branicka (from the Poniatowski family), who, between 1803 and 1804, financed the construction of the womens sections in the synagogue on Suraska street.
36 The Jewish Cemetery
The cemetery, the only one in Bialystok that has survived to this day, was founded around 1890, after the old cemetery in the city centre was closed. Around six thousand Jewish gravestones (mazevas) can be found here. A monument, erected before the war to remember the victims of the pogrom of 1906, stands in the centre of the cemetery. In the pogrom more than 80 Jews were killed, and the most tragic events took place at the Bialystok Railway Station. The names of the pogrom victims are inscribed on the black obelisk together with the epitaph of the famous Hebrew philosopher and poet Rabbi Zalman Schneur. Also, the grave of Chaim Herc Halpern, a Bialystok rabbi, has survived since 1922, when it was built.
The choleric cemetery
A severe epidemic of cholera, which reached Bialystok in 1830, forced the administration of the city and kehillah to determine a separate Jewish cemetery, called choleric, which they located on the outskirts of the city, near todays Bema street. About a thousand citizens died in this epidemic. The dead from cholera were buried in separate cemeteries for sanitary reasons. But the Jewish cemetery at Bema street continued to function until 1892. It was ultimately liquidated in 1964 by the socialist regime, some mazevas being transported to the cemetery at Wschodnia street.
In the years 1999-2003 a group of sociology students from the University of Bialystok conducted a project aimed at preservation of the Jewish cemetery on Wschodnia street. The project was named Golden Mazeva and it resulted in the indexing of about 150 gravestones, which was done in cooperation with the JewishGen organization.
Protection of Jewish cemeteries
Recently a number of abandoned and forgotten cemeteries have been taken care of by local communities or youth organizations. However, it is not always remembered that a Jewish cemetery is a sacred place, where certain rules of behavior should be observed. Above all, it is forbidden to dig in the ground, remove trees and bushes with roots, or dig up stones or gravestones. Small stones often lying on the graves should also be left intact. Jews often leave them instead of lighting candles.
Today Jewish Bialystok lives only in the memory of its former inhabitants and their ancestors. It has also survived in the name of small buns with onion and poppy seeds called bialys, which seem better known in New York than in Bialystok.
Onion breads Bialystokers
A bialystoker, just like all of the borderland cuisine, is a kind of myth, preserved from generation to generation with the aroma of childhood memories and tradition. In fact, bialys were nothing more than wheat-flour buns sold by street peddlers.What distinguished them was only the onion and a large amount of salt. The recipe given below requires considerable baking skills, hence I propose to ask a more experienced cook for assistance.
Ingredients: 25 g of yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar, cup of warm water, 4 cups of flour,2 tea spoons of salt, 2 table spoons of oil or margarine, 2 table spoons of sugar, 2 cups of warm water, 2 eggs, some water or a yolk beaten with a tablespoon of water, salt, diced onion
Rub the yeast with the sugar, mix with water and one cup of flour,carefully knead with a spoon, leave for 20 minutes.
Whisk the eggs for 5 minutes, until they are light and fluffy.
Mix the salt, oil or soft margarine and sugar with warm water (2 cups)
Add the remaining flour to the yeast leave nalternately with whisked eggs and water with oil; carefully mix to make a loose dough.
Put the dough on a cutting board, richly covered with flourandkneadwith hands until the dough becomes smooth and elastic.
Put it into a bowl spread with oil and turn it upside down, to cover the top and the bottom of the dough with a thin layer of oil.
Sprinkle the dough with the flour,cover with a clean cloth, and put in a warm place until the size of the dough doubles.
Put the dough back on the cutting board, knead for 1 minute, put it into the bowl, cover and leave until the dough again doubles.
Divide the dough into pieces the size of a medium apple; flattentoformaflatcake8-10 cm in diameter.
Spread with water or water with a yolk and sprinkle with rock salt. Sprinkle a teaspoon of chopped onions on the centre of each cake; leave it in a warm place until it doubles.
Press the centre of each bread with a finger.
Put the breads on a baking tray sprinkled with flour, place the mintoanoven heated to 180 ºC and bake until the onion becomes browned (about 15-25 minutes).
By Andrzej Fiedoruk
Where shall we look for Bialystok Jews today? In Warsaw, New York, Israeli Yehud (with kiriat Bialystok), even in Argentina, in Los Palamos, where as early as the 1890s Jewish settlers from Bialystok established a colony named Bialystok. After the 2nd World War, many Bialystok weavers also found jobs in Australia, where they worked and used their experience to support the development of the textile industry there.
Bialystok Jews in Hollywood
American tourists who visit Bialystok often ask about Max Bialystock... a character from Mel Brooks comedy The Producers. Although he is a fiction al hero who has nothing to do with Bialystok, except for his name, Max Bialystock reminds us of the exceptional role played by Jewish immigrants in the American filmindustry-JewsfromBialystok,among others. It is enough to mention Boris Kaufman, a Bialystok-born Hollywood cameraman, who in 1954 received an Oscar for his camera-work in On the Waterfront by Elia Kazan, with Marlon Brando playing the lead role.
Among the Jewish Diaspora the place-related surname Bialostocki or even Bialystok (and its foreign equivalents) is no rarity. And they also have their famous representatives. One of them was Zygmunt Bialostocki, a Bialystok-born pianist and composer (including filmmusic), author of cabaret songs and tangos with the famous Rebecca among others.
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