| Press Room | Online Store | Friends | Contact Us

Commemoration of Jewish Victims

The Yama monument in Minsk, the late 1940s The Yama monument in Minsk, the late 1940s Courtesy of Inna Gerasimova The Yama Monument, modern view
Photo by Yulia von Saal, 2019
The Yama Monument, modern view
Photo by Yulia von Saal, 2019
Courtesy of Yulia von Saal The Destroyed Hearth Monument at the old Sukhaya Street cemetery
Photo by Yulia von Saal, 2019 The Destroyed Hearth Monument at the old Sukhaya Street cemetery
Photo by Yulia von Saal, 2019
Courtesy of Yulia von Saal The Massif of Names monument at Maly Trostenets
Photo by Yulia von Saal, 2019 The Massif of Names monument at Maly Trostenets
Photo by Yulia von Saal, 2019
Courtesy of Yulia von Saal The improvised monument in the Blagovshchina Forest
Photo by Yulia von Saal, 2019 The improvised monument in the Blagovshchina Forest
Photo by Yulia von Saal, 2019
Courtesy of Yulia von Saal

Shortly after the war, Holocaust survivors in Minsk, as well as Jewish Red Army veterans and evacuees returning to the city, decided to raise money and erect a monument at the sand quarry, known popularly as the "Pit" (Yama), where, in early March 1942, many Jews had been murdered. A tombstone from the old Jewish cemetery, repurposed as a monument, was erected on the site in 1946. The Yiddish poet Khaim Maltinski, a disabled war veteran, composed a Yiddish inscription which reads: "To the bright eternal memory of the five thousand Jewish holy martyrs who were murdered at the hand of the bloody enemies of humankind, the Fascist German murderers-butchers, [on] the 14th of Adar [the day of Purim], 1942." He also managed to secure the permission of the local authorities to erect the monument. The Russian inscription at the top of the monument differs slightly from the Yiddish one. The former reads: "To the bright eternal memory of the five thousand Jews who perished at the hands of the fierce enemies of humankind – the Fascist-German villains – [on] March 2, 1942." For a long time, this was the only monument to Holocaust victims in Minsk. During the Soviet period, annually on May 9 (the Soviet Victory Day), the Jews of Minsk would gather there to commemorate their beloved departed – despite opposition from the Soviet authorities, who did their best to prevent the Jews from doing this. In 2000, the bronze sculptural group The Last Road, created by the famous Minsk Jewish sculptor Leonid Levin and depicting emaciated human figures descending into a pit, was added to the monument.
In the 1950s and 1960s, several other monuments were erected at the killing sites of Minsk Jews, although none of them explicitly referred to the Jewishness of the victims. Thus, the Belarusian text on the plaque of the memorial stele erected at the 9th kilometer of the Minsk-Moscow highway, in the Uruchye Forest, reads: "Thirty thousand [people] are resting here in mass graves. They cannot be mourned over and forgotten.... Be vigilant, people, be strong, to prevent the repetition of such a thing. Thirty thousand Soviet prisoners of war, partisans, and innocent civilians shot and tortured to death by the German-Fascist occupiers in 1941-1943 are buried here." Jews are not mentioned as a specific category of victims of Nazi policy either on the monument erected in 1963 near the village of Maly Trostenets (commemorating "innocent civilians, partisans, and Soviet prisoners of war") or on the one erected in 1965 at the Shashkovka Forest, where Minsk Jews were murdered and their bodies burned 1943-1944.
Only after the fall of the Soviet Union, from 1990, did monuments to the Holocaust victims of Minsk begin to be erected in the city. Thus, the former entrance to the Minsk Ghetto was marked with a memorial stone. A monument was erected on Pritytskiy Street (the former Rakov Highway), along which Minsk Jews had been taken to Tuchinka to be shot in November 1941. The monument near the Calvary cemetery consists of two stone slabs joined by human figures made of brass, and it bears the following inscription in four languages: "Not far from this place, in 1941-1943, the Fascists shot more than 14,000 inmates of the Minsk Ghetto."
Several monuments were erected on Sukhaya Street, at the site of the former Jewish cemetery. In 1993 and 1998, two tombstones, with a menorah carved upon one of them, were erected to commemorate the Central European Jews deported to and murdered in Minsk. In 2002, a memorial stone was added to commemorate the approximately 1,000 Jewish deportees from the German city of Dusseldorf. The Hebrew, German, and Belarusian inscriptions on the plaques attached to this stone say: "Remember! This stone commemorates 993 children, women, and men deported on November 10, 1941 from Dusseldorf to the Minsk Ghetto. All of them were victims of the Nazi persecution of the Jews, and only a few of them escaped the genocide." In 2008, a monument to the victims of the Minsk Ghetto was erected at the former Jewish cemetery on Sukhaya Street. Named The Destroyed Hearth, it was created by the Jewish architect Leonid Levin and the sculptor Maxim Petrul. The monument depicts a broken table and a tilted chair placed upon a pediment, symbolizing the foundations of a destroyed Jewish house. The Belarusian-language inscription on its base reads: "At this place, in 1941-1943, the Fascists and their accomplices annihilated more than 5,000 Jews. To the eternal memory of the innocent victims of Nazism." In 1992, members of the Jewish community of the German city of Bremen placed a memorial plaque on the house on 13 Romanovskaya Sloboda Street, in the area of the former ghetto for the Central European Jews who had been deported to Minsk. The plaque commemorates about 450 Bremen Jews deported to Minsk in 1942 and murdered there. In 2007, this plaque was stolen and later replaced by a copy.
In 2002, a memorial stone was placed in the Blagovshchina Forest in the Maly Trostenets area, with the following inscription in Belarusian: "At this place, in 1941-1943, the German-Fascist occupiers annihilated more than 150,000 Soviet prisoners of war, members of the Minsk underground organization, and partisans of the Republic, civilians from various corners of the Republic, and Jews from the Minsk Ghetto and from many European countries." June 2018 saw the opening of the Maly Trostenets Memorial Complex, which encompasses the area of the former labor camp and of the Blagovshchina and Shashkovka Forests. Until recently, there was almost no reference to Holocaust victims in this complex. Only in early 2019 was the Massif of Names memorial unveiled in the area of this complex near the Blagovshchina Forest. The ceremony, presided over by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, commemorated the Austrian Jews who had been deported to and murdered in Minsk. This monument consists of several stone slabs, with the first names of all the victims engraved on them. Since 2010, an improvised monument has also stood in the Blagovshchina Forest itself. The Austrian NGO IM-MER (Initiative Malvine-Remembering Maly Trostenets), headed by Waltraud Barton, whose relatives were murdered in the Maly Trostenets area, organizes memorial tours to the site. The participants in these tours affix to local trees plaques bearing the names and photos of Jews who were murdered in the Blagovshchina Forest.
Video
Solomon Kapilevich was born in 1929 in Minsk, and lived there during the war years
To view - click here
Solomon Kapilevich was born in 1929 in Minsk, and lived there during the war years
+ Show additional videos