Memorial Book of the Jews from Bielsk Podlaski

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Guests: Wojciech Konończuk, Doroteusz Fionik

January 26th, 2018, 5 PM
Białystok Cultural Centre / Ludwik Zamenhof Centre, 19 Warszawska Street
free entry

“Memorial Book of the Jews from Bielsk Podlaski” is one of the most important publications that talk about the history of that town. It contains the memories of over sixty Jewish former inhabitants, who after the war wrote down memories of their hometown, no longer existing in the shape in which they had known it. The book was originally published in Tel Aviv in 1975 by two organizations of Bielsk Jews – Bielsk Association in Israel and United Bielsker Relief in the United States. The 700-page publication was written in Yiddish, Hebrew, and English.

“Memorial Book of the Jews from Bielsk Podlaski” is one of the 540 books of remembrance concerning towns located within the borders of the Second Polish Republic. They began to emerge after the Second World War, and the intention of their creators was to give a possibly full picture of the old Jewish life in all its manifestations and to talk about the Holocaust. The authors were connected by their origins from one area and their common intention – to preserve the memory of their small homeland for future generations. Researchers of memory books consider them to be very valuable, though usually not fully appreciated source.

Bielsk’s memorial book was conceived as “something more than just a volume of memories”. The intention of the authors was to preserve the memory of their now-defunct town, leaving a trace behind it and “telling future generations what Bielsk was like”. The publication presents a very broad spectrum of social, religious, economic and cultural life of the town in which the Jews felt co-hosts and which they perceived as their home. Separate thematic blocks concern the Holocaust, life after the war and depict the profiles of selected Białystok inhabitants, who died after the war in Israel.

The Polish version of the “Memorial Book of the Jews from Bielsk Podlaski” is a full translation of the original edition, supplemented with six additional texts. They were written at the request of the editors of the Polish edition in the last few years by the former Jewish residents of the town or their descendants. In one case, it is a large fragment of an unpublished manuscript of memories of a Bielsker living in the United States.

The translated text has been provided with the necessary footnotes, without which many information and contexts would remain unclear. A glossary of terms regarding Jewish religion, tradition and culture was also included, as well as short biographies of authors. At the end, a list of residents of the town, who lost their lives during the Holocaust was included – rather incomplete. The publication is enriched with over one hundred and sixty pre-war photographs, some of which originate from the original edition, the rest from the home archives of the descendants of Bielsk Jews and foreign archives.

Wojciech Konończuk
Co-editor of the Polish edition of the “Memorial Book of the Jews from Bielsk Podlaski”; employee of the Centre for Eastern Studies in Warsaw; writes a doctoral dissertation on the history of Jews in the Bielsk area during the partitions.

Doroteusz Fionik
Co-editor of the Polish edition of the “Memorial Book of the Jews from Bielsk Podlaski”, founder of the Small Homeland Museum in Studziwody; author of several books on the history and culture of Podlachia; editor and publisher of the almanac “Bielski Hostineć”; animator of Belarusian culture.

The publication of the book was made possible thanks to the support of the Marshal’s Office of the Podlachian Voivodship, the Town Hall of Bielsk Podlaski and the Jewish Historical Institute Association.

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