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The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive
The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive

Translation of the above plaque:


More than 50,000 Soviet citizens and citizens of Eastern Europe primarily of Jewish nationality were brutally murdered by the Fascists during the Great Patriotic War, 1941-1945.

Note on the Monument
This monument was erected at Bronnaya Gora, near Baranovichi, about halfway along the railroad line between Brest and Minsk in Belarus. It is an early post-Soviet monument, which is why the plaque is in Belarusan and admits the fact that the victims buried at the site were "primarily of Jewish nationality." In Soviet times, the plaque would have been in Russian (the required lingua franca of the Soviet Union) and it would have been silent about the Jewish ethnicity of the victims, instead referring to them only as Soviet civilians. The use of the term "Jewish nationality" is a survival of Soviet practice when Jewishness was viewed officially as a nationality. Nationality was entered into the internal passports (identity cards) that citizens 16 years and older were required to carry with them at all times.

Probably all the estimated 50,000 people shot and buried at Bronnaya Gora were Jewish, victims of the Holocaust. About 20,000 of them came from the town of Brest (formerly called "Brzesc nad Bugiem", in Poland between the wars; and "Brest Litovsk", in Russia before that), now in the newly independent country of Belarus, on the border with Poland. The victims from the Brest Ghetto were rounded up on October 15, 1942 and trained to the massacre site to be shot and buried in previously prepared pits. The monument above recalls the central role that trains and railroads played in the massacres at Bronnaya Gora and at many other massacre sites throughout the former Soviet Union.

Introduction to the Brest Ghetto Passport Archive
The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive represents the first phase of the Phoenix Project, a multi-year effort, directed by John Garrard (Professor of Russian Literature at the University of Arizona) to computerize data on the Holocaust drawn primarily from newly opened archives in the former Soviet Union. The data was digitized by Phillip Hammonds, a University of Arizona graduate student, and has been re-engineered by Michael Tobias for JewishGen. Many of these archives have been microfilmed and may be studied at the The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, and at Yad Vashem in Jerusalem. However, many important Soviet and captured German documents remain unexamined in the newly independent states that have emerged from the former Soviet Union.

The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive reflects the purpose of the Phoenix Project as a whole, which is to recover as many names as possible of those Holocaust victims who perished in Nazi-occupied Soviet territory. The names will be contextualized with the addition of explanatory notes, background materials, eyewitness and survivor accounts, still photos, and video film. Every effort will be made to determine when and where the victims died.

The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive consists of documents prepared at the order of the Nazi authorities after the capture of Brest in the summer of 1941. All Jews of 14 years of age and above living in the Brest Ghetto were required to obtain and sign for identity papers, which included their names, ages, and the names and dates of birth of their parents. A photo of each person was taken and all those receiving these internal passports were required to sign for them.

A total of over 12,000 people received the passports. These passports survived in the archives captured by advancing Soviet troops in 1944. Also captured among many other valuable documents was a ledger recording the distribution of passports and again the signature of all those receiving them. By the time Brest was liberated, all the people living in the Brest Ghetto had been murdered, including many children under the age of 14. Only a very few former Jewish inhabitants of Brest survived the Nazi occupation.

The Brest Ghetto Passport Archive appears to be a unique collection of biographical details about victims of the Holocaust. There is no evidence that other victims in the Soviet Union or elsewhere in Europe were photographed by the Nazi authorities.


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