BEREZA (also Kartusskaya Bereza; Pol. Bereza Kartuska), town in Brest oblast, Belorussian S.S.R.; until 1795 and between the two world wars in Poland.  A Jewish community existed there from the beginning of the 17th century.  Erection of a synagogue was authorized in 1629.  The community numbered 242 in 1766, 515 in 1847, and 2,623 in 1897 (42.1% of the total population).  Although it had decreased to 2,163 by 1921 the Jews still formed 61.3% of the total population.  A number of noted rabbis served in Bereza, including Isaac Elhanan *Spektor who officiated there when a young man (1839-46), and Elijah *Klatzkin (1881-94).


1939-1941.  After the outbreak of World War II and the Soviet-German agreement on the division of Poland, Bereza fell to Soviet rule.  Jewish communal life was adversely affected under the new regime.  All public, independent political activity of a national character was forbidden.  The Jews' sources of livelihood were reduced by the creation of a network of government-owned stores and heavy taxation of private enterprise.  Attempts were made by the Jews to enter the cooperatives and government service.

Holocaust Period.  On June 23, 1941, a day after the outbreak of war between Germany and the U.S.S.R. German forces entered Bereza.  The Jews were physically attacked and their property robbed.  On June 26 the synagogue and the houses nearby were burned down.  The community faced kidnappings for forced labor, starvation, and disease throughout that winter (1941- 42).  In July 1942 a ghetto was established, comprising two sections: ghetto "A" for "productive" persons employed by the Germans; and ghetto "B" for the "nonproductive," nonworking members of the community.  On July 15, 1942, the inmates of ghetto "B" were taken to Brona Gora and murdered.  Some of the Jews in ghetto "A" attempted to flee to the forests, or to *Pruzhany Ghetto, which was still free from deportations.  On Oct. 15, 1942, the Germans carried out an Aktion to liquidate ghetto "A." In defiance the Jews set the ghetto ablaze.  That day some of the members of the *Judenrat committed suicide at their last meeting.  Many of the inmates were murdered in the ghetto itself, while about 1,800 were taken and killed outside the town.  The community was not reconstituted after World War II.


Bibliography:  Slownik geogrqficzny krolestwa polskiego, 1 (1880), 140-1; Regesty i nadpisy, 1 (1899), no. 781; NLYL, 1 (1956), 1819; Pinkes fun Finf Fartilikte Kehiles (1958), 68791, 327464.