Biała Podlaska Old Jewish Cemetery
Biała Podlaska was granted city rights around 1525 and it was then founded as a private city. There is no exact information concerning the date when the Jewish community and the Jewish cemetery were established. M. Hendl suggested that a kehilla (organized Jewish community) already existed by 1575, though there are sources to confirm this hypothesis. The earliest recorded information dates to 1621 when the owner of the city, Prince Aleksander Ludwik Radziwiłł, issued a document regulating relations between Christians and Jews in Biała Podlaska, including limiting the number of Jewish households to 30. By this time, there was certainly an organized kehilla with all of its necessary institutions, though it was subordinate to the Jewish community in Brest-Litovsk. In 1860, Jews accounted for 2,394 individuals among the total population of 3,786 inhabitants (63%), a number which rose to 6,923 individuals among a total population of 10,697 in 1931 (65%). By the mid-19th century, rabbis from various Hasidic dynasties resided in the city. The Jews of Biała Podlaska owned numerous industrial plants, maintained their own hospital, and published several magazines. During the Holocaust, in mid-1942, the Germans shot several thousand Jews in Biała Podlaska and deported the rest to the death camps in Sobibór, Treblinka, and Majdanek. After World War II, over 100 Jews resettled in Biała Podlaska, but shortly left the city thereafter.
The first Jewish cemetery in Biała Podlaska was likely established in the first quarter of the 17th century. The earliest document concerning its location (approximately 500 metres east of the market square) and its appearance is a city plan from 1777. There were conventionally marked tombstones and trees in the cemetery, an entrance on the north side (from the road to Brest), and a small building in the cemetery, just behind the gate. At that time, the land of the cemetery was shaped as an irregular polygon with an area of approximately 0.5 hectares. The cemetery was in use until the beginning of the 19th century when a new cemetery was established. The tombstones deteriorated naturally over time and were overgrown. The original brick fence was demolished by the Germans during World War I. In the interwar period, the cemetery was fenced with a wooden fence. It was completely devastated during World War II. After the war, the area was overgrown with self-seeding trees and shrubs. After 1960, in the eastern part of the cemetery, a children’s playground was built, then a cinema building (which still exists today) and a square planted with deciduous trees. In 1995, a monument dedicated to Siberians was erected in the central part of the cemetery. There are no above-ground traces of the cemetery and no detailed information about its appearance. No tombstones from the cemetery (from before the beginning of the 19th century) have been found.