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Białystok is the largest city in northeastern Poland. It is located near the border with Belarus, and is the historical capital of the Podlachia region. Białystok had a population of 294,830 in 2006. The capital of the Podlaskie Voivodeship since 1999, it was previously in Białystok Voivodeship (1975-1998) (1921-1998).The first mention of the place in historical sources dates from 1437 when the land around the Biala river (which is called "Bialka" by inhabitants) was given by Grand Duke of Lithuania Casimir IV Jagiellon to Raczko Tabutowicz, then in 1547 it passed to the Wiesiołowski family. They built a brick castle and a church here. It was then a part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1645 after the death of Krzysztof Wiesiołowski, the last of the clan, Białystok became the property of the Commonwealth. In 1661 it was given to Stefan Czarniecki as a reward for his service in the victory over the Swedes. Four years later, as a dowry of his daughter Aleksandra, it passed to the Branicki family.
In the second half of the 18th century Field Crown Hetman Jan Klemens Branicki, a commander in chief, became the heir of the Białystok area. It was he who transformed the previously existing abode into the magnificent residence of a great noble. Several artists and scientists came to Białystok to take advantage of Branicki's patronage. Białystok received its city charter in 1749.
After the third partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1795 it first belonged to the Prussian Kingdom, then after the Peace of Tilsit signed in 1807 it passed to Russia. During the 19th century the city became a major centre of textile industry. Due to an industrial boom the population grew from 13,787 in 1857, and 56,629 in 1889, to 65,781 in 1901. In this period the majority of the city's population was Jewish.
After the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, the first heavy bombing of the town took place on 20 April 1915. On 13 August 1915 German soldiers appeared in Białystok. The city was included in the Ober Ost occupational region. In March of 1918 it was declared part of the Belarusian National Republic; in July of 1918 it was made part of Lithuanian Province and became capital of the Southern Lithuania government precinct. On February 19, 1919 the city was taken by Poland. During 1920, when overrun by Soviet forces during the Polish-Soviet War, it briefly served as headquarters of the Polish Revolutionary Committee headed by Julian Marchlewski, which attempted to declare the Polish Soviet Socialist Republic.In the years 1920–1939 the city was again part of independent Poland. In September 1939, Białystok was occupied by the German army, but then passed on to the Soviet Union with respect to the secret protocol of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, when it was annexed into the Byelorussian SSR. The Belastok Voblast with the centre in Bielystok was created in 1939.
On June 27, 1941, Białystok fell into Nazi hands as a result of the invasion of the Soviet Union. From the very beginning, the Nazis pursued a ruthless policy of pillage and extermination of the non-German population. The 56,000 Jewish members of the town were confined in a ghetto, which during August 1941 was exterminated. On the morning of June 27, 1941 Nazi troops from Order Police Battalion 309 surrounded the town square by the Great Synagogue (the largest wooden synagogue in Eastern Europe), and forced residents from their homes into the street. Some were shoved up against building walls and shot dead. Others — some 800 men, women and children — were locked in the synagogue, which was subsequently set on fire; there they burned to death. The Nazi onslaught continued with the grenading of numerous homes and further shootings. As the flames from the synagogue spread and merged with the grenade fires, the entire square was engulfed. On that day — June 27, 1941 — some 3,000 Jews lost their lives.
In the last year of the occupation, a clandestine upper Commercial School came into existence. The pupils of the school also took part in the underground resistance movement. As a result, some of them were jailed, some killed and others deported to concentration camps.
A number of anti-fascist groups came into existence in Białystok during the first weeks of the occupation. In the following years, there developed a well-organized resistance movement.
On August 15, 1943 the Białystok Ghetto Uprising began, and several hundred Polish Jews started an armed struggle against the German troops who were carrying out the planned liquidation of the ghetto.

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Additional Photos by Pawel Chmur (cloud) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Workshop Editor/Silver Note Writer [C: 54 W: 96 N: 33] (766)
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