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Białystok during World War II – time between the first and second Soviet

During Second World War on 15 September 1939 Nazi forces entered Białystok. Since the German invasion of Poland on 1 September 1939 Białystok was a major hub for refugees from central Poland. They were mostly Jewish citizens running from Nazi occupation. Even after the war efforts ceased, refugees kept coming, illegally passing Nazi-Soviet demarcation line on Bug river. Due to those actions, Białystok population had doubled or even tripled.


On 22 September 1939, on the Ribbentrop-Mołotow pact (from 23 August 1939) basis which left Białystok on Soviet grounds, the city has been given to the Red Army. Białystok was included in Belarus SSR. In the first two days of October a great propaganda campaign begun before “elections” to so called National Assembly of Western Belarus. All citizens were forcefully agitated. The results of elections were faked so the great scale of resistance to soviet occupation was not visible.
Until June 1941 lasted Soviet occupation which main objective was to exterminate polish population – mostly intelligence and polish government workers. Thousands of people that had nothing to do twit army were sent far into USSR to Siberia and Kazakhstan. Around 90% of them died in soviet labor camps or were murdered in Katyń. Despite some appearances of polish life, strictly censored and regulated by NKVD (for e.g. Aleksander Węgierka Theatre activity), most of polish influence were attempted to be erased. There were also plans of turning St. Roch church into circus.
Realisation of those plans was interrupted by the entrance of Nazis to Białystok. New occupants continued the policy of terror, what is proven by mass executions in Pietrasze, Grabówka and Starosielce. Despite repercussions from both occupants a strong resistance developed in Białystok. It was led by Home Army, which performed many successful diversion operations. Secret education was important due to bans by both occupants. Nazis created in city a Jewish ghetto that counted tens of thousands of people. In response to the news of ghetto liquidation a Jewish conspirator group began fighting Nazi pacification force. Jews were armed mostly thanks to Home Army efforts. After hours of resistance the fight ended in ghetto utter liquidation.
At the end of July 1944 Red Army entered Białystok. As the result of warfare the city was destroyed in 75%. After World War II Vilnius and Grodno – main culture hubs in eastern borderlands of Second Republic of Poland became part of USSR as it was decided on Yalta conference. The need of a new cultural hub in Eastern Poland has arisen after the borders were moved. This role, thanks to proper traditions could be fulfilled only by Białystok. For some time the fate of Białystok and its affiliation were unclear but in the end administration of Polish Committee of National Liberation affiliated with Stalin won. Those circumstances, war damages and uncertainty for city’s future caused that the Stefan Batory University In Viliuns was moved to Toruń instead. The fighting with eastern authority would not cease and because of that many people were condemned to death, prison or sent to Siberia. It was here in Białystok area that the military resistance lasted the longest. Second World War, Soviet and Nazi occupation damaged the city and country on unbelievable scale. Both attackers constantly destroyed educated and active polish population with mass executions and deportations to concentration camps. Agressors stole and destroyed art, industry and private possesions. Despite the end of war, during soviet occupation the terror aimed at polish intelligence and peasants grown even stronger.
Even in 50’s executions, exodus and trials took place. Regular NKVD forces burnt and stole Białystok’s villages and towns. It was especially visible in Białystok, which was treated by soviets the same as German cities: industrial machinery was stolen and citizens were robbed. The results can be felt to this day. Few years after war Białystok was inhabited by around 40 000 citizens. The reconstruction slowly took place. New communication ways and suburbs were created. Monuments were reconstructed as well as cloth industry. Other industries also have grown: food, construction, glass, wood, steel and electronics. The city arose from ruins even though the first years after war deemed it impossible.
Białystok is currently inhabited by around 300 000 peoples on area of 100 km2.