Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


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Haradzishcha - Cultural Heritage Card

“Городище” [Rus.], “Гарадзішча” [Bel.], Horodyszcze [Pol.], Haradzishcha [Eng.] is an urban settlement in Baranovichi district of Brest region.

Pre-war Jewish houses in Haradzishcha
Pre-war Jewish houses in Haradzishcha (Author: Vershitskaya, Tamara)

LANDSCAPEDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Haradzishchais an urban settlement in Baranovichi district of Brest region. It is located in the Northern part of the district 25 km away from Baranovichi. This is one of the most ancient settlements on the district territory with population of 2, 200 people (2010). It is the center of Haradzishcha village council and the second-largest settlement in Baranovichi district. The town is located on the territory of Novogrudek upland.

LEGENDS ABOUT THE ORIGIN OF NAMEDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Origin of the name is connected with the fact that 800 m away from the town an ancient archeological monument is situated – an ancient town (“haradzishcha”).

HISTORYDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

The people started settling on the territory of the modern town of Haradzishcha long before its mention in the written resources. Back in the 1st-4th centuries the locality was the site of the Grooved Ware culture which is proven by by the presence of an ancient town there.

The first mention in the written resources dates back to 1413 where the settlement called Haradzishcha estate was part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Within the 17th-19th centuries the owners of these lands were constantly changing. Before 1492 Haradzishcha estate was a property of the grand prince Kasimir, who granted it to the prince Semen Belsky. Before 1506 is was the property of the grand prince Alexander who gave it to his wife Elena Ivanovna.

In 1506 the written mention of Haradzishcha was connected with the fact that Nemirovichi brothers defeated Tatars not far from the settlement and six Tatars were taken as prisoners. Most probably, these prisoners stayed in Haradzishcha and their offsprings lived here for several more centuries.

In 1567 Haradzishcha became the ownership of Sofya Khodkevych, and in 1571 – Yuriy Khodkevych. In the second half of the 16th century Khodkevychs shift from Orthodoxy to Catholicism, abandoning the temples they had constructed (St. George Church, Church of Most Holy Life-giving Trinity). Haradzishcha was transferred to the relative of the former owners Troyan-Petrovsky who was the Calvinism follower. He built a Calvinist church in Haradzishcha.

In the mid 17th century Grigoriy Petrovsky, the Mstyslav elder, transferred the town as a property to Stary Dub Marshall Gavriil Kerl, who, as a town renter, turned Calvinist church into a Catholic cathedral. Later Haradzishcha belonged also to Nemirovichis, Patsyzs and Zenovichis.

In contrast to nobility, ordinary people were faithful to the Union. In the mid 18th in the western part of the town on a beautiful hill a Uniat Church was built that survived to this day. After 1839 Uniates shifted to Orthodoxy, and the church, accordingly, became an Orthodox one. It should be noted that in the 18th century Haradzishcha changed the status from grand-ducal court to the town and was granted the right to conduct fairs twice a year which gathered traders and buyers from the neighboring region.

After the 2nd Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1793 the town became part of the Russian Empire. In 1795 it became the center of volost of Novogrudek County. In the late 18th century it belonged to Patsys (up till 1831), and since 1833 – to Bukhovetskys. In 1866 there were 60 households (population 504 people), 2 Orthodox churches, a prerevolutionary secondary school (since 1863), a chapel, a synagogue, 4 Jewish houses of prayer, an alms house and a post station, where all correspondence was horse-delivered. There was also a medical practice with one doctor in the town.

In 1876 the Orthodox parish had 1, 060 women and 1, 006 men, all peasants engaged in agriculture. The church maintained a parochial fostering institution and an alms house. Three women who had no means of subsistence were accommodated in the latter.

Socio-economic reforms implemented in the second half of the 19th century facilitated the development of cities and towns. In the early 20th century there were already 240 households and 2.900 residents in Haradzishcha. By that time the town already had a district administration, post, telegraph, post station, drug store, alms house, 2 Orthodox churches, synagogue and 5 houses of prayer. Brickworks operated there as earlier, the fairs were conducted twice a year, as for everyday trading it was possible due to 10 or even more small stores. In 1901 local Secondary school had 96 pupils, 9 girls among them. Since the mid 19th century a brewery and a brick plant started to operate there.

During the First World War Haradzishcha was destroyed. In March 1918 the town became the part of proclaimed BNR. Till March 1921 to September 1939 Haradzishcha was the center of Haradzishcha county in Navahrudak voivodeship as a part of the Second Republic of Poland. In the early 1920-s 165 households and 1,021 residents lived in the town, out of which 760 were Jews. In the mid 1930-s 4.000 people resided there, County administration continued to operate there as well as the drug store and the school.

In 1937 there was a great strike of the plywood workers, in which about 600 people participated. They demanded the increase of salary, improvement of the life and work conditions and reemployment. Workers' demands were partially satisfied.

In 1939 Haradzishcha became part of BSSR. In 15 January 1940 it was granted the status of an urban settlement, the center of Haradzishcha district Baranovichi region (since 8.01.1954 — Brest region). According to the information as of 21.08.1940 1, 337 refugees from occupied by Nazis Poland resided in Haradzishcha.

In the Second World War since June 26, 1941 to July 08, 1944 the settlement was occupied by Nazis who annihilated about 4, 000 residents of Haradzishcha.

ARCHEOLOGYDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

About 800 m westward from the town on the right bank of the river Servach there is an ancient town – a cultural heritage of the Grooved Ware culture. It is a culture of Baltic tribes who had been residing on the territory of middle and northwest Belarus from the 8th century BC to the 5th century AD. The remains of the earthworks and ramparts probably formerly filled with water are still conspicuous there.

The fortified area is approximately 200 m long and 130 m wide. The town was discovered in 1951 by the archeologist V.S. Ostanov. It was also studied in 1957 by A.H. Mitrofanov and F.D. Gurevich, in 1964 by L.D. Pobol, in 1970 by M.M. Cherniavskyi, in 1980 by T.S. Bubenko. During the archeological excavations some objects of the grove ceramics of the 2d -6th centuries were found (smooth-wall and groove ceramics, metal work tools, slugs, bronze jewelry). There are several untreated parts and cultiform plates near the northwest part of the town, that prove the fact that these places were visited by the humans of the stone age. Based on the findings, appearance and sizes of fortifications the town may be related to Grooved Ware culture and to the period of early feudalism epoch. The findings are kept in the Institute of History of Belarus Academy of Sciences.

HISTORY OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITYDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Jews started to settle actively in Haradzishcha in the second half of the 18th century when it received the status of the town and the right of conducting fairs twice a year. Modern Haradzishcha residents owe the glory of trading and economical center to the Jews of those times who constituted an essential part of the population of Belarus towns. In 1766 Haradzishcha Kagal consisted of 442 Jews, in 1840 – 334 people, in 1897 – 2, 631 people resided in the town, out of them 2, 108 Jews (80 %).

In the second half of the 19th century Haradzishcha was a small town, located on the mountain. It consisted of one street with the market and a church in the middle. At the market there were a lot of Jewish stores with “peasants'” goods, such as iron goods, herring, etc.

In 1840 Jews owned 48 houses where 55 families resided. At that time the families of Aron Goldabum, Movsha Khaimovich, Mihel Krolowitz (craftsman), Khaim Gudamovich (craftsman), Mendel Bolokh, Benjamin Bogatun (tavern keeper), Nokhim Vonkhadlo, Josel Shkolny, Shmoila Vonkhadlo (tavern keeper), Mendel Molchadsky (cutter), Borukh Vilitebovich, etc. lived in the town.

In the first half of the 19th century there was no synagogue in Haradzishcha, only 2 Jewish houses of prayer and a vocational school operated in the town. The town had a Rabbi and a treasurer. In 1852, according to the archival data, there was already a wooden public synagogue.

Influenced by the changes in the socio-economic life of the state in the early20th century, educational institutions start to spring up, whose activities, were oriented towards the representatives of certain nationality. Thus, in 1908 in Petersburg a Jewish literary society was created aimed at studying and developing Jewish science and literature. Jewish literary society would put together literary evenings and provided Jewish writers in need with a financial aid. Starting with 1909 the branches of Jewish Literary Society (JLS) were opened in many settlements populated by Jews. Among the main activities of the local branches were reading of reports, in many places in colloquial Jewish, Yiddish. In 1909 the Jewish literary society opened its branch in Haradzishcha.

In 1921 Haradzishcha became part of Second Republic of Poland. Industrial production was actively developed in the town. In the 1930-s there was a motor mill located in Minskaya street, owned by Pochapovsky Musia. There were also a sausage factory owned by Petr Sosinsky and an electric power station that belonged to Smorgansky. In the end of 1930s – beginning of 1940s three other mills operated in the town as well.

When in 1939 Haradzishcha became the part of the BSSR Soviet administration controlled the local economy, social and cultural life. Part of its population became exposed to repressions: arrests and deportations deep into the territory of the USSR.

At those times there were schools where classes were conducted not only in Belorussian but also in Yiddish. In the early 1940 there was a Jewish school in Haradzishcha. Amongst its faculty were Mavrikiy Solomonovich Veinberg (1894 – Belorussian), Tsylia Abramovna Aisic-Shelekhovich (1908 – Geography and Natural Studies), Leiba Beironovich Harbovnik (1909 arithmetic), Khana Berkona Herber-Horbovnic (1902.), Ester Leibovna Slaer (1912), Maryana Yakovlevna Florans (1913), Berta Khaimovna Steinberg (1913), Matilda Leibovna Blokh (1912). Leiba Beironovich Harbovnik performed the duties of the principal, Mavrikiy Solomonovich Veniberg was deputy principal of the school. The classes were conducted in Yiddish.

The teachers of Jewish origin worked not only in Jewish but also in Belorussian schools. Tselina Natanovna Milshtein (year of birth 1909 - physics), Mavrikiy Veinberg (year of birth 1894 – Belorussian language), Elyash Khaimovich Travbe (year of birth 1902 - German), Girshe Solomonovich Vilensky (year of birth 1908 – Mathematics), Enta Abramovna Shneider (year of birth 1907) worked in Belorussian schools of Haradzishcha. The teachers received education not only in gymnasiums and seminaries but also at Warsaw University. All in all there were 18 teachers, according to the national belonging there were 10 Belorussians, 2 Russians, 1 Tatar and 5 Jews.

In 1940 Malius Elias Leonovich was a political inspector of the Local Educational Authorities. He came from Kalish-Poznan Voivodership. In 1939 he graduated from the Institute of Journalism in Warsaw. With the arrival of the Red Army he crossed the border and started working on the territory of BSSR. His parents lived in Warsaw, brother worked in Haradzishcha library and sister also lived there with her husband who was a teacher of the secondary school.

The life of the town and its residents dramatically changed with occupation of Nazi invaders. On 24 June, 1941 Jewish population of Haradzishcha was moved into ghetto located in Slonimsky Lane.

Haradzishcha ghetto became the first in Belorussia where the mass extermination of Jews took place. Several days after their entering the town Germans took 18 Jews as hostages. Among them the two Tsirinskys families and Soviet activists. They all were executed by firing squad.

On 20 October 1941 an SS unit arrived in Haradzishcha. The adult male Jews were ordered to take the spades and appear at the main square. 68 specialists were left in ghetto. 150 others were divided into two groups. One of them was taken by cars to Pogoreltsy Stow two km away from Haradzishcha, and the second one to Mikhnovshchina forest within four km. It was announced that the pits for military constructions were needed, though in reality these were the graves next to which 1, 440 Haradzishcha Jews were shot on 21 October 1941. Among them were the hairdresser Elin, brothers Krasilshchyks and 105-years old Rabbi Mordukhovich. The same day in Mikhnovshchyna Forest 70 representatives of the town intelligence were killed – doctors, teachers, lawyers.

The next extermination campaign of the Jewish population was conducted at the beginning of May 1942. Near the Orthodox church of Haradzishcha 35 Jews from ghetto were shot. In August 1942 about 100 Jewish specialists were killed in the same place. In summer 1942 near the church a woman with the surname Mordukh with her two children was killed, who lived in the town in Novogrudskaya Street. When she was taken to shooting the woman lost her mind. All in all in three years of occupation in Haradzishcha and its suburbs 4, 000 people were shot, out of them 3, 830 Jews and the rest – Gypsies.

The Extraordinary USSR State Commission for ascertaining and investigating crimes perpetrated by the German-Fascist invaders and their accomplices found several mass burials (act dated April 20 1945). In the forest of Pogoreltsy Stow two km away from the town on the road Haradzishcha-Baranovichi to the left 200 m from the roadway “masses of Jews and Poles” was shot. The second grave was discovered 300 m from the Orthodox Church of the town. It was the burial of Jews, partisans and Soviet prisoners of war. Besides, near Haradzishcha there were a lot of single graves of civilians who died from the hands of Nazis. Exhumation showed that most of corpses had signs of tortures, the hands of people before the execution were bound by barbed wire. The campaign was organized by the commander of 57th punitive battalion Wikling and commandant of Haradzishcha, lieutenant of Wehrmacht Pliats.

URBAN DEVELOPMENTDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Servech River, on which the settlement is located, divides it into Northern and Southern parts.

The residential buildings, public center and industrial enterprises are concentrated in the Southern part. Here a small residential area of 2-storey buildings appeared and a housing complex of 3-4-storey residential buildings (when driving into the town from the side of Baranovichi). In the Northern part there is a small district of private houses.

An architecture plan of the settlement has a rectangular scheme of streets, mildly defined. The main streets are Edunova Street (former Novogrudskaya) and Vezhnovtsa (former Stolovicheskaya) – they are the part of roadway Baranovichi – Novogrudok passing the settlement. The settlement is protruded along Vezhnovtsa Street. On its crossroad with Mirskaya street a social center appeared that includes administration buildings of “Progress” collective farm, Town Council, school, hospital, center of Culture, service center, library, public catering and trade institutions. The planning design was developed in 1980. Capital construction is conducted along Vezhnovtsa Street. In the nearest future the villages Kiseli and Briksichi adjoining the town from the West and East will become part of it.

ETHNOGRAPHYDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

The town Haradzishcha since long ago was multifunctional, here the Belorussians, Poles, Tatars, Jews resided. The Jewish population in general predominated over other nationalities. There were the periods when they constituted up to 80 % of the total population. Jews were mostly engaged in trading. The town in the late 19th – early 20th centuries as well as some of its flamboyant residents are described in the memoirs of Yan Bulgak “The Country of my childhood”.

According to his memoirs,

«Haradzishche in the late 19th century was a small town with a lot of Jewish shops. Among them the top one was Feiga’s shop – the biggest and the richest, where not only the «peasants'» goods could be bought but also some chocolate, a tie, groceries, glauber salt, etc. She also knew the latest gossip from Haradzishcha and its outskirts.

Feiga was an unofficial representative of the town and each stranger entering the store had for her higher regard than for «Mr. District Police Officer» – delegate of the Russian authorities. Surely, she had a husband and sons but for her the greedy individuality of tradeswoman – fat, short and round, always wearing a satin bronze wig and huge golden earrings was always in the first place. Feiga had the talent not only in trading but also a diplomatic understanding: she knew what everyone needed to satisfy their needs, and capitalized on it. She was on good terms with everyone, payed difference to landlords, and though in her store she dealt openly only with the small trading, but secretly lent money at interest and bought rye for some peanuts price».

Thus, successfully fulfilling her socio-trading functions, she was the queen of her counter made of the deal boards, padded with the rusty can and could consider herself the focal point of Haradzishche country».

During the days off Feiga’s store looked like a club meeting, where she, being the Head of it, “flashed cheesy smiles from her red well-fed face”. She treated children generously to sweets."

And even today you can meet the people in the town who remember their neighbors-Jews. Local residents recall that Jews were usually engaged in trading, and their stores were located near the church. The Haradzishcha resident Lubov Iosifovna Burimskaya recalled that during the holidays when mother took the kids and went to buy something in the shop, all Jews were calling: «Mania, come here buy new sandals for your baby from me». Jews always tried to attract the buyer and sell their goods.

Living on Belorussian lands, Jews tried to observe their own customs. Local Christian population had the possibility to watch how Jews celebrated their religious holidays. Thus, in the memory of local residents the holiday of Sukkoth remained, called Jewish “Kuchki”. “Jews pitched peculiar tents and prayed there. They were called “Jewish kuchki” (TR. From Ukrainian “booths”). I heard them praying, as though they were yelling. It was not like at our churches people prey in a singing manner, they were shouting out some songs. They had blue little caps on their heads», - one local woman recalls.

The representatives of different confessions lived peacefully in the town. Quite often local people had to work for Jews: they washed clothes, weeded gardens, and harvested the potatoes. The Jews were kind to the families of the hired workers, they treated the kids to delicacies. Such close contacts led to the fact that Belorussians spoke Yiddish quite often.

Old residents of Haradzishcha tell that Jews looked a bit differently than Christian population: by the form of nose, darker color of hair. And they had quite a specific smell.

MONUMENTS OF CONSTRUCTION AND ARCHITECTUREDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

(only existing objects)

Church of Blessed Virgin Mary

Built in the 18th c. from the bricks of the Bazilians’ Monastery founded there in 1640. In 1839 it was re-consecrated into the Orthodox Church. During 1920-s it was turned into a Roman Catholic church again. Landmark building of the Baroque architecture.

The one-nave church with a porch; shortened transept wings and a half-round apside with a gable roof. Vertical church composition is underlined by the powerful lesenes-pilons and arch window apertures. The window surrounds are sank into the depth of giant walls (0,8 m) and are formed as semi-columns, framed with the outside and inside window jabs. Plane facades finished with the unusual wide thin-profile cornice, and low die is finished with the round moldings of great segmentation. In the interior the dome is covered with the cylindrical dome on the wall arches, apside-conch, near the western wall on two columns the choir balcony is located.

Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The church was constructed in 1764 of wood, reconstructed in the early 20th c. in the Retrospective Russian style. This is a three-log temple of axial plan composed of the square-plan porch, main cubic volume and five-cant apside. Main part is covered with the hipped two-layered roof with the turning, finished with the bulblike dome on the octal cylinder.

Architecture is rich in decorative components which include the flat balustrade in the socular part, cornices with the denticles and carved valances in the finishing of horizontally lined walls, ornamental paneled blades and arcaded porch frieze. Use and creative mastering of décor from the arsenal of professionаl stone architecture in the peoples’ wooden architecture is a characteristic feature and nationality of Belarus construction culture.

Interior of the church hall and apsides are covered with the hipped dome on the spandrels. The choir balcony is located in the porch on the two columns. Apside is remote from the praying hall by the wooden iconostasis created in 1870 instead of the one taken off in the mid 1815 c.

Wooden bell tower – built in the mid 19th c.

Roadside chapel – constructed in 1920-1930-s.

Jewish residential area (constructed in 1910) – in Edunova street (former Novogrudskaya). The houses in this street have strong foundations with the basements where the stores used to be.

Building of the former Leiba’s shop, house No.13 – building of the early 20th c.

PLACES OF MEMORYDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

”Memorial to the Nazis’ victims”– to the prisoners of Koldychevsky camp (operated March 1942 – July 1944). Created in 1964 (architect A. Kurochkin).

In Baranovichi district on burial place of Koldychevsky death camp prisoners a memorial commemorating the victims of genocide was opened on 3 July 2007. It is devoted to representatives of three religious confessions: Jews, Catholics, and Orthodox Christians.

The memorial is placed on the entrance into Mikhnovichi Forest between the villages Koldychevo and Mikhnovshchina, where during the Second World War the death camp was located. According to the historical materials, here 22, 000 of Belarus civilians died (most of them were Jews), 100 Catholic priests were executed in gas chambers, two communities of Gypsies were shot, and the participants of Partisan movement were slaughtered.

NON-MATERIALS VALUESDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Some scholars consider that ancient citadel near the settlement is a place of legendary city Varut, Mindovg’s capital. Local historian Alexander Elski suggested a hypothesis that Mindovg was crowned here. Nearby there are Koniushovshchina village where at that time there were the stables of the Grand Prince, and a village Velikoe Selo where his court was located.

In Autumn 1250 Mindovg welcomed his guests from Riga, crusaders headed by Alexander von Shtyrliand in his residence in Varuta. Later the envoys of the German order went to Novogrudok where there was a capital-residence of Mindovg. Andreas von Shtyrliand was present at the coronation of Lithuanian prince Mindovg in 1253. (actually, he was the one who brought the crown).

MUSEUMS. ARCHIVES. LIBRARIES. PRIVATE COLLECTIONSDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Haradzishcha town library of the network of public libraries of Haradzishcha district.

Address: 225328, 7, 11 Rimsha street, town Haradzishcha, Baranovichi district;

Hours of work: 10.00-14.00, 15.00-19.00;

Phone: +375-163-44-62-34; 44-62-78;

Library e-mail: [email protected]; [email protected]

TOURIST POTENTIAL OF THE REGIONDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

It is possible to get to Haradzishcha from Baranovichi using regular buses, besides, the buses to Novogrudok, Korelichi, Vilnius, Kaliningrad pass the settlement.

Many things on Haradzishcha streets remind of the former town. Since the times of the Polish Lithuanian Commonwealth (18th c.) a church (former Uniate, currently Orthodox) and a Polish Catholic church are preserved here. Both temples are located on a beautiful hill. The Jewish buildings along Novogrudok roadway remain completely intact. These wooden houses on high foundations, where Jewish shops used to be, add special color to the town.

Since Haradzishche was a multifunctional settlement since ancient times, today apart from an Orthodox and Catholic cemeteries there are also a Jewish and Tatar ones. Over the river there are also the remains of household outbuildings and the park of the former residence of the duke Ludwik Pats, the last owner of these lands before they were included into the Russian Empire.

In the spirit of modern trends the agrarian estate “Hunter’s Estate” appeared in Haradzishcha («Siadziba Sarakhmana») in 11 Proletarskaya Street, 11 (former Tatarskaya Street).

Baranovichi are located 25 km from Haradzishcha. It is a city of regional subordination, administrative centre of Baranovichi district Brest region. The history of the city starts on 17 (29) November 1871, when the movement along the newly built railway section Smolensk-Brest started. Name of the station, which appeared during the construction, was given by the village Baranovichi located nearby, the first mentioning of which is encountered in the testament of A.E. Siniavskaya in 1627. At the same time, in 1871, not far from the station a private locomotive facility sprang up.

Baranovichi has a population of 178,370 residents (2013).

Places of interest

  • - Buildings of the 19th — early 20th centuries, belonged to the Jewish community
  • - Fatima Holy Mother’s Church
  • - Church of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross (wooden), 1924
  • - St. Zigmund Church
  • - Trinity Church
  • - Railway Museum
  • - Monument to Locomotive ЭM 270-30 in the city entrance
  • - Memorial sign «Aircraft МиГ-29» near the gates of the 61st air base [13]
  • - Loco at Polesski railway station
  • - Pokrovsky Cathedral
  • - Fire house
  • - reconstructed drug store in Telman Street
  • - St. Alexander Nevsky Church
  • - the Church of Holy Myrrhbearers

 Gorizont Hotel

Address: 81 Sovetskaya street, Baranovichi

Telephone for reservations: +375 (163) 45-41-47

Phone: +375 (163) 42-10-12 , +375(44)724-36-45

Fax: +375 (163) 42-12-54

Svitiaz Hotel

Address: 5 50 Let VLKSM Street, Baranovichi

Tel.: +375 (163) 42-97-80, +375(163)42-97-77

Fax: +375 (163) 42-91-64

Venin Hotel

Address: 12/a Smolenskaya street, Baranovichi

Telephone for reservations: +375 (163) 41-07-84

Tel.: +375 (163) 41-11-20, +375(33)664-05-95, +375(44)708-20-27

REFERENCESDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

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Author: Margarita Kozhenevskaya & Tamara Vershitskaya