Guardians of Memory
Commemoration in Israel
Immediately following the survivors' arrival in Israel, the Mir Immigrants' Association began commemorative activities. From 1949 until today, they hold a yearly gathering, on one of the days marking the massacre in Mir. During the gathering, they hold a remembrance ceremony and say kaddish in memory of the victims. The first gathering was held in the building of the "Herzliya Hebrew Gymnasium" on Herzl Street in Tel Aviv. In 1959, the Mir Immigrants' Association initiated the publication of a memorial book for the community, Sefer Mir, published in 1962. The association also donated money to the "Ort Givatayim" School, to renovate the school's plaza in memory of Mir and distribute scholarships to its students.
Ex-Mir residents also erected a monument in memory of their community in the Nahalat Yitzhak Cemetery in Tel Aviv, where, in recent years, the annual memorial ceremony takes place. In north Jerusalem, a JNF forest covering 1,100 dunams (270 acres) has been dedicated to the Mir community, and a monument to the victims from Mir has been erected there.
In June 1991, marking the 50th anniversary of the invasion by Nazi Germany of the Soviet Union, the ex-Mir residents held a survivor conference at the Avia Hotel. There they met their rescuer – Oswald Rufeisen. The conference was documented and photographed, and during its proceedings different issues of the Holocaust period were discussed.
Commemoration in Mir
The town as we knew it was no longer; its houses were burned, in its center was a public park. Its Jews – our parents and families – were buried in three mass graves. Bruria Retner-Rosenblum, "A Walk in the Streets of Mir", Sefer Mir, p. 197
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the ex-Mir residents began to return to visit their home town. Many things had remained the same: most of the houses were made of wood and there was a well in its center. Not a vestige remained of its once teeming Jewish world. Where the market had once stood was a public park with benches. The great Beit Midrash had been turned into a school, the Talmud Torah building was a hotel that had been temporarily closed down, and the Mir Yeshiva building – a post office. The visitors found monuments in the town that had been erected by the Soviets – some of them in the shape of an obelisk – on which plaques pointed out that victims of fascism had been buried there. None of them mentioned that the victims were Jews.
In August 1992, ex-Mir residents from Israel and abroad, went on their first roots pilgrimage to Mir. The survivors invited Rufeisen, their rescuer, to join them.
In the vicinity of the Mirski Palace, where the aktion of 9 November 1941 had taken place, the aktion that became known as the "First Massacre," was an obelisk. In cooperation with the town's authorities, the ex-Mir residents redesigned the monument. Continuing from the obelisk is an element that simulates the final journey of the victims to the shooting pit. At the foot of the obelisk are two headstones with Hebrew and Russian inscriptions. One reads: "Here lie buried the Jews of Mir, who were destroyed by the Nazis and their accomplices on 19 Cheshvan 5702 [9 November 1941];" the second is a monument to the last chief rabbi of the Mir community, Rabbi Avrohom Zvi Kamai, who was murdered during that same aktion. In the location where the community was liquidated, on 13 August 1942, an aktion thatbecame known as the "Second Massacre," the Soviets had also erected an obelisk. This monument was also redesigned, and rededicated in a ceremony attended by ex-Mir residents and survivors in August 1998.
"My town of Mir, so small, how could I forget you? You gave me part of my life. I spent many birthday celebrations there. The Jewish school… the friends… today I light a memorial flame to my dear and unforgettable home, to you, my dear friends, and to you, my beloved and unforgettable town – Mir." Risha Pazniak-Bernfeld, "The Yarzheit for Mir", Mir, pp. 651-654