Bransk Jewish Cemetery
The Jewish cemetery in Brańsk was likely founded at the beginning of the 19th century, about 1.5 km southwest of the town centre, east of the extension of road no. 681 (from Brańsk to Ciechanów), the road to the village of Olędy and the road to the village of Brzeźnica. The cemetery has two sections: the old section (northwest part of the cemetery and the new section (from around the mid-19th century). The two sections are connected by the south-east corner. The cemetery is adjacent to slaughterhouse in the south and the west. During the war, the Germans took the matzevot and used them for construction purposes.
Local residents from the town and neighbouring villages continued to steal the tombstones in the post-war years. In the fall of 1942, 70 people—mostly Jews—were shot in the cemetery. The mass grave was commemorated in 1968 with a monument. Over time, the abandoned cemetery became overgrown with dense, wild greenery. In the older part of the cemetery, a dozen or so tombstones made of rough granite boulders (the oldest one is from 1839) have been preserved in their original location. Beginning in 1989, tombstones were recovered from the town and gathered in a lapidarium in the cemetery. In the newer part, there is a mass grave and a monument. The rest of the cemetery is densely covered with trees and shrubs. Some matzevot made of field boulders have also been preserved.
During the times of Ruthenia, Brańsk was a defensive location. It was granted town rights around 1440 and under Magdeburg Law at the end of the 15th century. From the 16th century, it was a royal town and the capital of the starosty. In 1878, there were 3,733 people in the town, 41% of whom were Jews (1,524 people). In 1939, there were about 5,500 inhabitants in Brańsk. Initially, Jews were forbidden from settling in Brańsk. The few local Jews (leaseholders) were part of the kehilla (organized Jewish community) in Tykocin. At the beginning of the 19th century, the ban on Jewish settlement was lifted, and in 1820, the local Jewish community became independent.
In the second half of the 19th century, Jews constituted about 30% of Brańsk’s population. In 1897, the community had 2,400 Jews (58%), and about 2,700 in 1939 (about 50%). After the outbreak of World War II, in the fall of 1941, the Germans established a ghetto in the town, the liquidation of which began at the beginning of November 1942. The last group of Jews was shot at the Jewish cemetery. The people grouped in the ghetto were deported in stages to the extermination camp in Treblinka. Single Jewish survivors were murdered after the war.