Jewish cemetery in Brest, Belarus
Jews settled in Brest from the 14th century. The city had a Jewish cemetery, which turned out to be overcrowded by the 19th century. In 1795 the city came under the control of the Russian Empire. On the site of the old city and the Jewish cemetery, the imperial authorities decided to build a fortress.
In 1835, the Jews were allocated a site on the edge of the city for the transfer of graves. Subsequently, it was named the New Jewish Cemetery. According to the surviving memories, the community opposed the transfer of the cemetery. The local rabbi invited the Jews to fast and pray for the authorities to reverse their decision.
The authorities gave the Jews time to move the graves. Representatives of the community, according to eyewitnesses, spent the morning in prayer in the synagogue, then prayed at the cemetery, asking for forgiveness from the dead for disturbing their ashes.
The transfer became a matter for the entire community. The ashes from each grave were packed into specially sewn bags, loaded onto carts and, after prayer, transferred to a new cemetery. The authorities sent soldiers to accompany the procession.
At the new cemetery, the ashes of those who did not have matzevahs were reburied in a common grave. And those whose tombstones were preserved were buried in common graves. In the 1880s, due to the construction of the railway, the Jewish community was forced to give up part of the cemetery. With the money received as compensation, it acquired a new plot of land.
The cemetery was surrounded by a capital stone fence. By the 1930s, its area was 7 hectares.
During World War I, the city was occupied by Austro-German troops. Local residents were evicted. Field rabbi of the German army Arthur Levy photographed Jewish cemeteries. In the 1920s, he published the book "Jewish gravestones of Eastern Europe", in which he placed information about the Jewish cemetery in Brest.
During the period of the second German occupation in 1943, the district commissioner of Brest issued an order according to which the Jewish cemetery should be destroyed and matzevahs used for the construction of roads. For various reasons, the order was not carried out. But after the return of Soviet power in the late 1940s, local authorities took advantage of the idea of the occupiers and used matzevahs from the Jewish cemetery in road construction. In parallel, the tombstones were dismantled by the local population for household needs.
In the 1970s, the Lokomotiv stadium was built on the site of the New Jewish Cemetery.