The Goldsztern’s Dreadful End at Bronaya Gora

Most of the Jews in the Brest Ghetto died in large pits at Bronaya Gora, also known as Brona/Bronna Gora.  It lies about 73 miles northeast of Brest near the town of Bereza Kartuza, known today as Biaroza.  Because the site was located near a number of ghettos (Pinsk, Kowel and others), it served as the execution grounds for the Jews of those ghettos, as well.

The Brest Ghetto was “liquidated” on October 15, 1942, less than a year after it had been established.  Those who had not already been killed in mass executions were sent by railway car to the station at Bronaya Gora and then walked the last few kilometers to the pits.  They were stripped, forced to lie in the ditches and shot.

That sounds pretty straightforward.  It sounds like people went passively, unwittingly and without protest.  However, as we know from the research of Yahad-in Unum and eye-witness testimony and if we stop and think about it for just a second, we know that cannot be how it happened.  Still in the grips of the shock and panic of being brutally rounded up and forced onto the trains, people of all ages were compelled to run towards the pits; they were whipped and beaten, screamed at, abused, disoriented.  Some of them were shot on the spot, which added to the horror.  Anyone who tried to escape was shot immediately. It was an atmosphere of pandemonium, sheer hell, terror and unmitigated, deafening violence.  There was nothing passive, quiet, or orderly about it.  This is what witnesses tell us. Again and again, they say that the ground moved and oozed blood for three days.

Such were the last agonized moments of my grandfather Sol’s elderly brothers Uszer Goldsztern and Yudel Moshe Goldsztern, their children and grandchildren, and the children and grandchildren of his sister Tila Freda Goldsztern Brandt.  Only those who had already been murdered, or the family of Yankel Goldsztern, which had escaped earlier, were spared this specific torment.  They suffered different torments.  

This account of the nightmare includes maps, a photo of the train station, a detailed description of methods, the roles of both the Germans and their collaborators and the aftermath, including the fate of Paul Blobel, who was responsible for exhuming the bodies to destroy the evidence towards the end of the war.  It is a good site to start with as it includes a decent bibliography that includes links to articles from Yad Vashem, JewishGen and Yahad-in Unum, which documents the Holocaust by Bullets.  Here is a brief description of the Holocaust by Bullets.

Here is a description of Father Patrick Desbois of Yahad-in Unum from their website:

Father Patrick Desbois has devoted his life to researching the Holocaust, fighting anti-Semitism, and furthering relations between Catholics and Jews. Father Desbois is a Catholic priest and President of Yahad – In Unum, a global humanitarian organization he founded in 2004 dedicated to identifying and commemorating the sites of Jewish and Roma mass executions in Eastern Europe during World War II.

Father Desbois is a Professor at Georgetown University, where he is on the faculty for the Center for Jewish Civilization. He also served as director of the Episcopal Committee for Catholic-Judeo Relations from 1999 until 2016, under the auspices of the French Conference of Bishops. He is the grandson of a WWII French prisoner held in the Rawa Ruska camp on the Poland-Ukraine border. In 2004, he began to research the story of the Jews, Roma and other victims murdered in Eastern Europe during WWII by the Nazi mobile killing units, the Einsatzgruppen. His work through Yahad has been recognized through numerous awards and public commentary in France and throughout the world. Father Desbois is also the author of “The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest’s Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews“, Winner of the National Jewish Book Award, and the recently released “The Fabric of Terrorists: Into the Secrets of Daesh”, based on his investigation of the Yazidi genocide in Iraq.

His most recent book is In Broad Daylight: The Secret Procedures behind the Holocaust by Bullets. In it, he describes, based on the research done by Yahad-in Unum, the entire process:  From the night before when the orders arrived, to the corralling of the victims, the digging of the pits, the feeding of the soldiers who did the shooting, the filling in of the ditches with dirt and often – very often – burying people alive, and how the clothing was sorted and distributed.  It is chilling but sacred and important work he is doing.







1 thought on “The Goldsztern’s Dreadful End at Bronaya Gora”

  1. I remember watching the movies of this in a documentary at Habonim. It was my first visceral contact with the Holocaust. This is personal. Viscerally. What a post!
    I’m shaking.

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