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Commemoration of Jewish Victims

Memorial ceremony at Lyady. Far left: Lev Erenburg Memorial ceremony at Lyady. Far left: Lev Erenburg Courtesy Sofi Efros Invitation to the memorial ceremony at the Mereya murder site, 1980 Invitation to the memorial ceremony at the Mereya murder site, 1980 Courtesy Sofi Efros Monument at the Mereya murder site
Photo by Alexander Litin, 2011 
Monument at the Mereya murder site
Photo by Alexander Litin, 2011
The International Institute for Holocaust Research at Yad Vashem Memorial ceremony at Lyady,1971 Memorial ceremony at Lyady,1971 Courtesy Sofi Efros

Lyady was one of the first towns in the former Pale of Settlement, later liberated by the Red Army, where a mass Jewish grave was discovered. As early as October 1943, the newspaper of the Western Front, Krasnoarmeiskaia Pravda, published an article about the murder of Lyady’s inhabitants on the bank of the Mereya River. However, no mention was made of the victims’ Jewish origins.
In the 1960s, relatives of the murdered Jews collected money to establish a memorial. The monument was made in Leningrad and, on June 19, 1966, erected at the murder site. Some 250 Jewish relatives from various cities and towns in the Soviet Union attended the ceremony. Representatives of the local authorities also participated, but they forbade the inscription of the victims' Jewish origin on the monument.
Every year, Jews from different parts of the state attended the Yahrzeit (Memorial Day) to commemorate their relatives, but the local authorities opposed this unofficial Jewish activity through different pretexts. One of the participants in such a ceremony recalled (most likely in the 1970s):
I invited Chernyshev, the secretary of the Krasnoye County Party Committee, to attend our annual ceremony at the gravesite, but he replied that the memorial could only be held [organized] on Soviet Army Day [February 23] or Victory Day [May 9]…

I retorted that the mass grave was a burial site, and we relatives could visit whenever we wished. Following my statement, he assigned the deputy chief of the County Police Department to keep order. [When] we arrived at Krasnoye from Smolensk by bus, a person in civilian clothes approached us and asked, “Have you started already?” “Not yet,” I said. An hour later we saw him in uniform. He remained near the gravesite throughout the ceremony. We asked him, “Why are the police needed at all?” “To prevent unrest and assaults on you,” was his answer. I told him, “We have strong men here, and should a drunkard or someone belligerent attack us, we’ll handle him”...

(The interview was conducted by Lev Erenburg in Smolensk, year unknown).

A single Jew, Lev Erenburg, lived in Lyady after the war. A graduate of Leningrad University, he could not find work owing to the antisemitic campaign of 1948 - 1953. He moved to Lyady at the end of 1940s, where he found employment as a history teacher. Erenburg strove to commemorate the Jews of Lyady through a museum in his local school and, with the help of his students, expended much energy in gathering information and artifacts about Jewish life in the town. However, the local authorities forced him to cease his so-called “fascist” activity. In the 1990s, with Erenburg already retired, the materials were discovered stored in boxes in one of the school’s auxiliary rooms.