20 April 2009
A new, comprehensive research project documenting 101 killing sites in the areas of the former Soviet Union has been uploaded to Yad Vashem’s website, www.yadvashem.org. Marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, “The Untold Stories: The Murder Sites of the Jews in the Former USSR” chronicles the murders of thousands of Jews by the Nazis and their collaborators in 51 different communities whose Jewish populations were massacred during the Holocaust.
The Untold Stories is a project of Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research, which tells the hitherto untold stories of the destruction of the Jews of the Former USSR. It is generously supported by Dr. Moshe Kantor, Chairman of the Board of Governors, Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) and uploaded to the Internet at his initiative and in partnership with the RJC.
The new project began with the collection and registration of all the murder sites in the former USSR being studied by researchers at Yad Vashem. From this pool of data, 51 different communities whose Jewish populations were murdered-in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia-were chosen. The historical background serves as the central feature of the site, from which links branch out to a variety of primary and secondary resources, primarily from Yad Vashem’s Archives and private collections - documents, photographs, letters, maps, illustrations, video testimonies, Pages of Testimony, film clips, lists of victims and stories of Righteous Among the Nations-which together create a multi-dimensional historical and human portrait.
“While the world knows about Auschwitz and even Babi Yar, more than a million Jews were murdered in towns and villages that remain relatively unknown,” said Avner Shalev, Chairman of Yad Vashem. “In some locations thousands were gunned down, in others a dozen men and women tortured and killed. This important project sheds light on what happened in these communities, some of which were a cradle of Jewish life for centuries, whose names still resonate in Jewish communities around the world. The use of all the sources available makes this project invaluable to all those who seek to know what happened.”
Containing 139 video clips, of which over 80 are witness accounts, most of them from the collection of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education (formerly the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation) founded by Steven Spielberg, as well as 1,459 photographs (including scans of original documents) the Untold Stories features chilling testimonies of people - at the time primarily children - who climbed out of the killing pits and managed to survive. It also sheds light on local Jews’ attempts, after the war, to memorialize the murdered Jews and destroyed communities, even as the Soviets were seeking to quell any feelings of Jewish identity.