Old train tracks leading to location of forest massacres at Bronna Góra
northeast of Sobibor
|Location||Bronna Góra, Polesie Voivodeship, occupied Second Polish Republic|
|Date||May 1942 – November 1942|
|Incident type||Mass killings over execution pits dug in the forest|
|Ghetto||Brześć, Bereza, Janów Poleski, Kobryń, Horodec (pl), Pińsk Ghetto|
Bronna Góra (or Bronna Mount in English, Belarusian: Бронная Гара, Bronnaja Hara) is the name given to a secluded location in the eastern territory of occupied Poland during World War II, where mass killings of Polish Jews were carried out by Nazi Germany. The area was invaded by the Soviet Union in 1939, and captured by the Wehrmacht two years later in Operation Barbarossa. It is estimated that from May 1942 until November of that year, during the most deadly phase of the Holocaust in Poland, some 50,000 Jews were murdered at Bronna Góra over execution pits. The victims were delivered in Holocaust trains from the Jewish ghettos in Brześć, Bereza, Janów Poleski, Kobryń, Horodec (pl), Antopol and other places along the western border of the Reichskommissariat Ostland (present-day West Belarus).
After a century of foreign domination, Poland regained independence at the end of World War I. Bronna Góra was assigned to rural gmina Piaski (powiat kosowski) of the Polesie Voivodeship in the Second Polish Republic, and remained there until the Nazi-Soviet invasion of Poland in 1939. There was a forester's lodge on site run by the state inspectorate, but more importantly, there was also a railway stop at the edge of the woods whose purpose became ominous two years later. Bronna Góra became the location of secluded massacres in 1942, with trainloads of Jews transported and dislodged there from the Ghetto in Brześć, the Pińsk Ghetto, and all other ghettos created by Nazi Germany in the area.
Following the Soviet invasion of 1939 in accordance with the Nazi–Soviet Pact against Poland, Bronna Góra along with most of Polesie was annexed into the Soviet Belarus (doubling its size) after the NKVD-staged elections decided in the atmosphere of terror. All citizens previously living but also born in Poland would live in the Byelorussian SSR from then on, as the Soviet subjects, not Polish. However, the Soviet rule was short-lived because the corresponding terms of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact signed earlier in Moscow were broken when the German army crossed the Soviet occupation zone on June 22, 1941. From 1941 to 1943 the province was under the control of Nazi Germany, govern by the collaborationist Belarusian Central Council supported by the Nazi Belarusian battalions of the Home Defence.
The first murder operation took place in June 1942, with 3,500 Jews transported from the Pińsk Ghetto and nearby Kobryń for "processing" (durchschleusen),[a] at Bronna Góra. According to postwar testimony of Benjamin Wulf, a Polish Jew from Antopol who managed to survive the slaughter, the train stop was surrounded by the barbed wire fence. The prisoners were informed by a translator that the washing stations with stalls were in the woods behind. They were ordered to leave their outer garments by the train and take only the soap and towel. Those who did not have soap were told not to worry, because it has been supplied. The path through the woods, surrounded by barbed wire, was heavily guarded. It was getting longer and narrower, until the sounds of shooting made it clear what went on at the end of the trail. The Jews who attempted to escape by crossing the fence were shot on the wires. Further up, the path opened to an area with execution pits 4 metres (13 ft) deep and 60 metres (200 ft) long, dug under the gun by hundreds of local labourers. Explosive materials were used to speed up the digging process. The fresh new victims brought into the trenches were shot one by one over the bodies of others.
In March 1944 due to approaching Soviet counter-offensive, the Nazi Germans attempted to erase the traces of committed massacres. A special Sonderkommando 1005 was brought in from outside, consisting of 100 slave workers. For the next two weeks they exhumed mass graves and burned the bodies on pyres. When they were finished, the trees were planted, and all prisoners were shot. After the war, at the insistence of Joseph Stalin, Poland's borders were redrawn and Bronna Góra became part of the Soviet Union. At present, since the collapse of the Soviet Bloc in 1991 it is in Belarus. A memorial was erected at the site commemorating the perished Jewish citizens of the Soviet Union and West Europe, without a mention of Poland (nor the invasion of Poland by the USSR), and no inscription in the Polish language.
- The term durchgeschleust or "processed" to describe the annihilation of Jews in the occupied Eastern territories appeared in the Korherr Report, by personal request of Heinrich Himmler, who objected to the word Sonderbehandlung or "special treatment" synonymous with death in the Nazi phraseology already since 1939 (per September 20, 1939 Heydrich's telegram to Gestapo).
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- Andrew Wilson, Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship, Yale University Press 2011. Page 109.
- Korherr, Richard (April 10, 1943). "Anweisung Himmler an Korherr". Der Reichsführer-SS, Feld-Kommandostelle. Retrieved 2 September 2014.
- Himmler, Heinrich (2014). ""Special treatment" (Sonderbehandlung)". Holocaust history.org. Retrieved 2 September 2014. "September 20th, 1939 telegram to Gestapo regional and subregional headquarters on the "basic principles of internal security during the war"."
- Testimony of B. Wulf, Docket nr 301/2212, Archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Bronna Góra (Bronnaja Gora) webpage. Virtual Shtetl 2014 (ibidem, print). Retrieved June 3, 2014.
- Arad, Yitzhak (1984), "Operation Reinhard: Extermination Camps of Belzec, Sobibor and Treblinka" (Internet Archive), Yad Vashem Studies XVI, pp. 205–239