The Bialystok Ghetto in Poland was created after the surrender of Poland in October 1939. Jews in Bialystok and the surrounding areas were forced to live in the ghetto. By the time the Red Army freed Bialystok in 1945, the ghetto had been destroyed and the vast majority of those who had been forced to live there had been sent to death camps.
The Bialystok Ghetto was not as big as the ghettoes of Warsaw and Lodz but it was run on the same pattern – just on a smaller scale. Jews were forbidden any form of contact with anyone else outside of the ghetto and what went into the ghetto in terms of food and medical supplies were controlled by the Nazis.
At any one time, the population of the Bialystok Ghetto was about 15,000. In total it is believed that the Bialystok Ghetto was ‘home’ to 60,000 Jews.
The Bialystok Ghetto saw the second largest Jewish insurrection against Nazi rule. The largest was in Warsaw in 1943.
The Nazis planned to destroy the Bialystok Ghetto in February 1943. However, the plan was delayed and only started in August 1943. On the night of August 15th, several hundred Jews attacked the Nazis in the ghetto who had started the process of liquidation. They were armed with a few pistols, Molotov cocktails and just one machine gun that had somehow been smuggled into the ghetto. The uprising had little chance of success and it lasted just a few days when their ammunition ran out. Most of those in the ghetto were then sent to various extermination camps. It was initially decided to send the 1,200 children in the ghetto to a concentration camp where they could work. However, these children were later deported to Auschwitz. Some of the fighters managed to get out of the city and made their way to the surrounding forests. Here they joined up with Polish resistance units and continued their fight against the Nazis.