Thursday, April 02, 2009

Brest Sources - Part 1: Demographics

The effects of German policies upon the population of Brest can be seen in this table, which is drawn from several sources. Garrard & Garrard and Andrea Simon utilized archives held in the city of Brest, whilst the Bundesarchiv collection on Brest (in BAB R 94/6) was consulted by Browning. What do these figures tell us and how do we reconcile them with other sources?

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Under Soviet occupation, from September 1939 to June 1941, Brest (Polish name: Brzesc n.Bugiem) received refugees from western Poland (there were 7,916 Jewish refugees in Brest oblast as of February 1940, according to Nick's source cited here) but also lost 6,709 people who were deported to the Soviet interior (source: Gurjanov). In July 1941, the Germans documented the 'execution' of 4,435 people, of which c.4,000 were Jews, in EM 32. Browning argued that a further 4,403 people were killed by the zbV Brest in the Summer of 1941, but Browning may have overlooked the fact that these killings were carried out across the whole region in which the unit operated, not just Brest city.

The population reductions of 1942 are documented in the Brest archives. Andrea Simon examined the statistical report of the Brest town council dated 5 June 1942, showing 16,973 Jews, whilst Garrard & Garrard reproduced the ledger for 15th and 16th October, 1942, which they described as follows:
This document is one of the most horrifying discovered at Brest, for it represents the complicity in mass murder of men who sat behind their desks throughout the entire process. Across the top of each page are the names of ethnic groups in Brest. The clerk has been ordered to keep a running total for each group: he records how many had 'arrived' and how many had 'departed' for each day. The total population is given in the righthand column. As of 15 October 1942 the total population is 41,091. Of this total, 16,934 are designated in the column for Jews (Zydowsk.). But then the clerk learns that this total is wrong. He has made a mistake in writing 16,934. In fact, all the Jews in the ghetto have now 'departed'. The clerk corrects his mistake; he strikes through 16,934 and writes in '0'. He then subtracts this figure of 16,934 from 41,091 and writes in the correct number of people alive in Brest now - 24,157. It is unlikely that the clerk did not know what had happened to these thousands of people, even if he was not sure exactly when and where they had been executed. Thus, with a single stroke of a pen, 16,934 people are erased.
Furthermore, Garrard & Garrard found that the reduction of 16.934 in the ghetto liquidation corresponded to the volume of transports from Brest to the killing site:
According to documents in the Brest archives, from late June to November 1942 a total of seven trains transported Jews to be executed at Bronnaya gora. Three of these trains are said to have carried people from Brest—two trains consisting of 40 and 13 cars in July, and a third consisting of 28 cars in October. How many Jews from the Brest ghetto were transported in the three trains? If we say that close to 200 people were crushed into each car, then we arrive at a total of 8,000 people in the first train, 2,600 in the second, and 5,600 in the third. There is no way of knowing how many people had already died of starvation and sickness before July 1942, or were shot in and near Brest before October 1942. But the total number transported by this estimate (16,200) does approximate the figure given in the Brest Town Administration's 'Accounting and Control Book of Population Movement'...
Moreover, these figures were corroborated by Polish railway worker, Roman Stanislavovich Novis, the former station master at Bronnaya Gora, in testimony given to the Soviets on September 12th, 1944 (Cited in Andrea Simon, pp. 189-191). Novis counted a total of 186 railroad cars arriving at Bronnaya Gora from various locations, and claimed that his German successor as station master, Heil, had told him that 48,000 people were shot there.

Finally, these demographics are supported by the Brest Ghetto Passport Archive, which was a list of
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.
The list contains 12,258 names. When the omitted children are added to this total, we have a baseline figure for the number of Brest Jews murdered in the second half of 1942.

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