Adress: 115035, Russia, Moscow,
Sadovnicheskaya St. 52/45
The Russian Research and Educational Holocaust Center and the Holocaust Foundation
Phone/fax: (499) 995-21-82, (495) 953-33-62
Deutsch Русский


Russian Research and Educational Holocaust Center was registered in June 1992. The Interregional Holocaust Foundation was established in Moscow in 1997. It is the first organizations in the post-Soviet era aimed at preserving the memory of Holocaust victims, creating museums and documentary exhibitions, including the subject in the curricula of schools and institutions of higher education, organizing commemorative events, erecting monuments, and gathering of evidence and memoirs. The first President of the Center was Mikhail Gefter (1918-1995), Russia's outstanding historian and philosopher. The Center and the Foundation brings together more than 200 Russian professional scientists, journalists, public figures and teachers as well as former ghetto prisoners and veterans of WW2. There are branches or regional representatives of the Center in St. Petersburg, Blagoveschensk, Kaliningrad, Krasnodar, Nizny Novgorod, Voronezh, Vladimir, Rostov, Smolensk, Taganrog and Brest (Belarus).

Alla Gerber in the presentation of annual award "The men of the year"




The activities of the Center “Holocaust” are supported
by the Claims Conference (USA)

20 / Students winners of the contest of reports about the Holocaust will report at the UNESCO Headquarters

November, 20 /2015

Partners of the Russian “Holocaust” Center – Association Verbe et Lumière – Vigilance (France) and European Simon Wiesenthal Center have allocated a grant for participation of the winners and laureates of our Center’s contest (nomination “students and young researches”) in the next annual presentation of the reports about the Holocaust in the UNESCO Headquarters. It will be held in July 2016 in Paris.

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16 / Round Table “The Jewish-Christian Dialogue in Russia as a Way to Preserve Historical Memory and Reconciliation”

November, 16

On the 12th of November a Round table devoted to Jewish-Christian dialogue took place at the Moscow Memorial Synagogue on the Poklonnaya Gora.
A similar conference ushered a mutual project “Return Dignity” 5 years ago. The organizers of the Round table were Russian Jewish Congress, Russian Holocaust Center, leaders of the Moscow Christian evangelical communities. The President of the “Holocaust” Foundation and Co-chairman of the Russian “Holocaust” Center Alla Gerber greeted the participants of the Round table and told about mutual work with the Protestants for immortalization of the Holocaust victims. This was also mentioned in the reports of Boris Vasyukov, the Head of the “Eben-Ezer” Foundation, Chief Rabbi of Russia Adolf Shayevich and others.
Leaders of the Jewish and Christian communities of more than 120 Russian cities as well as representatives of the various governmental, international and non-governmental organizations of Russia and other countries attended the Round table.

13 / Co-chairman of Russian Holocaust Center Ilya Altman visited Japan

November, 13/2015
From the 31st of October to the 14st of November 2015 Co-chairman of Russian Holocaust Center Ilya Altman was in Japan in accordance with the invitation of the Kokushikan University in Tokio. He visited many memorial sites in Tsaruga and Kobe associated with the transit of the Jewish refugees who had entered there with the visas issued by Chiune Sugihara, the Consul in Lithuania. Russian scientist was warmly met by the Mayor of Tsaruga.

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06 / New documents and facts about Chiune Sugihara will be presented in Japan

November, 3 2015
Co-chairman of Russian “Holocaust” Center (RHC), Advisor the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) President Ilya Altman is visiting Japan in the frames of the project of perpetuating the memory of Japanese diplomat Chiune Sugihara. On the 1st of November he met with Madoko Sugihara, the granddaughter of Chiune Sugihara, and Miti Sugihara, the widow of his son. Ilya Altman visited the grave of the Righteous Among the Nations in the city of Kamakura.

“This is the first time we visit the grave of grandfather together with Russian Professor, and I am very grateful for that. I think my grandfather would be very happy that it happened. He loved Russia so much”, - commented granddaughter of the diplomat Madoko Sugihara.

On the 2-3 of November Ilya Altman was in Tsuruga city, where refugees with Sugihara’s visas arrived in the autumn of 1940. He visited the museum “Port of humanism” and met with the mayor of Tsuruga Mr. Takanobu Fuchikami. On the behalf of President of RJC Yuri Kanner the plaque, a copy of a memorial plaque in honor of Chiune Sugihara, which will be installed on the building of the hotel “Ukraine” in Moscow, was presented to mayor. Another copy of the plaque will be presented to Sugihara’s family on the 13th of November at the Russian Embassy in Japan.

During the trip to Japan Ilya Altman will read lectures at the universities in Sapporo, Hiroshima and Tokyo, he will tell about new documents on the transit of Jewish refugees and the role of the Soviet Union in it.

The visit was organized by the invitation of the University of Kokushikan in Tokyo (Professor Jacob Zinberg) and with the assistance of the Russian Foreign Ministry and the UN Information Center in Moscow.

1. Photo by Roman Maltsev. From left to right: Miti Sugihara, Ilya Altman, Madoko Sugihara

2. Presentation of a memorial plaque to the mayor of Tsuruga

03 / The act of courage of the Righteous Among the Nations Chiune Sugihara immortalized in Russia

October, 14, 2015
A memorial meeting devoted to the Japanese diplomat, Righteous Among the Nations Chiune Sugihara and problems of Jewish refugees during the Holocaust was held at the hotel «Radisson Royal Hotel» (former "Ukraine"). The meeting was conducted by the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) and Russian Holocaust Center (RHC).
The name and the memory of the diplomat who saved thousands of Jewish refugees during the Second World War will be immortalized with the plaques in Moscow and Kaliningrad. In Moscow a plaque will be installed at the place where Sugihara worked in 1963-1971 in Japanese Mission of trading firms, whose office was situated in the room №915 of the hotel "Ukraine".
Co-Chairman of RHC Ilya Altman introduced for the first time the new documents and the facts in connection with the transit of Jewish refugees through the Soviet Union, Japanese diplomat relations with the Soviet Union and the role of the USSR in the transit of refugees. President of RJC Yuri Kanner told about the plans of perpetuating the life and exploits of Sugihara in Russia. 82-year-old Sugur Kawamura, who worked with Sugihara as a secretary, introduced a new book about Sugihara with his afterword, and told about the work of Sugihara in Moscow.
Photo: Alla Gerber and Lithuanian Ambassador in Russia Remigijus Motuzas
Responses of the media:
The Mainichi

13 / The Holocaust: 70 Years Later

13 of October
Proceedings from the International Forum and the Ninth International Conference “Holocaust Lessons and Contemporary Russia”. Compiled by Ilya Altman, Natalia Anisina, and Leonid Terushkin. Ilya Altman, Igor Kotler and Jürgen Tsaruski (eds). Moscow, 2015. 352 p.
The contributors are scholars from fifteen countries, who in their analysis of the Holocaust and other tragedies of the twentieth century also deal with the elements of memorialization and teaching. The tragic fates that befell certain persecuted groups during World War I, and which have come to be viewed, to some extent, as a prelude to the Holocaust, are examined in both their theoretical and historically specific aspects. Based on the analysis of archival documents as well as modern historiography, the authors discuss avenues of approach to studying the remaining lacunae in Holocaust history. They share their diverse teaching experience, and, in their contributions, are able to bring to bear training as educators gained in a variety of countries.
The collection was published in the series “Russian Library of the Holocaust” and is dedicated to the memory of the first President of Russian Holocaust Center Mikhail Gefter (1918-1995).
The collection is intended to World War II researchers, museum workers, archivists, educators, students and local historians.

13 / We Cannot Remain Silent

13 of October
We Cannot Remain Silent – Pupils and Students about the Holocaust (12th edition)
The annual edition of the collection of essays and articles of the winners of the XIV International Competition “Remembering the Holocaust – Path to tolerance” and participants of the IX International Youth Conference “The Holocaust: memory and prevention” organised by the Russian Holocaust Center is published in the series “Russian Library of the Holocaust”.
Contributors are pupils and students from 11 regions of Russia and the Republic of Armenia, Belarus and Moldova. The collection is compiled by Tatiana Pasman (Pskov) and Maria Gileva (Arkhangelsk).
The articles of pupils are significantly devoted to local history, including interviews with survivors and witnesses of the extermination of Jews. A special place is taken by the studies about the plight of children during the Holocaust, the issue of resistance to the Nazi policy during the Great Patriotic War, the problems of spiritual resistance to Nazism and neo-Nazism.
Researches of students and young scientists and methodologically and thematically divided into three blocks. Historical and theoretical aspects of the Holocaust are examined in the first block. The second block is devoted to a detailed consideration of the impact of the Holocaust and the Armenian Genocide on art and the fates of artists. The authors of the third block have focused on the problems and ways of disseminating knowledge about the Holocaust.
The project is financed with the generous support of the President of the Russian Federation based on the competition conducted by the National Charitable Foundation. The series is published with the support of the Russian Jewish Congress and the Moscow JOINT branch.

13 / Russian Ministry of Education and Science approved the guidelines of the Russian Holocaust Center

13th of October
Russian Ministry of Education and Science sent a special letter with the guidelines on teaching about the Holocaust to Russian regions. The guidelines are addressed to the local educational departments, Institutes of Advanced Training of Teachers and Institutions of Higher Education of social and humanitarian profile. The Institutions are encouraged to participate in the annual International Russian Holocaust Center Competition “Remembering the Holocaust – Path to tolerance”. The guidelines have been prepared by the Russian Holocaust Center with the state support allocated as a grant.​


The International Forum “The Holocaust: 70 Years Later” was held in Moscow on the 22-26 of June. It was conducted by the Russian Holocaust Center, the Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH) and the Institute of Contemporary History (Germany), supported by the Russian Jewish Congress. Researchers and teachers from 20 Russian regions and 12 countries attended. The international conference “Holocaust Lessons and Contemporary Russia” was organized within the Forum, the panels were held in the Russian State University for the Humanities.
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31 / Family Reunion

Today at Yad Vashem two cousins ​​who have found each other thanks to Yad Vashem's Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names met for the first time. It was a very emotional and unexpected meeting. The grandmothers of Tatiana Zuckerman of Moscow (66) and Shalhevet Sara Ziv of Kfar Sava (67) were sisters.
Tatiana came especially from Moscow to take part in an educator's seminar at the International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem, coordinated in partnership with the Holocaust Foundation based in Moscow. She believed all her life that she had almost no extended family, and that apart from her mother, Rachel Perelman (Milenki) (87), a survivor of the Minsk Ghetto and Auschwitz (who now lives in New York), and a very small number of distant cousins, no family members who survived the Holocaust. During her visit, Tatiana asked for assistance in searching Yad Vashem's databases to check for information about her family and their fate during the Holocaust. To her surprise Tatiana found a Page of Testimony on the Central Database of Shoah Victims' Names commemorating Tzeril Milennki, her grandmother who was killed in the Minsk ghetto. The Page of Testimony was submitted in 2011 by Shalhevet Ziv, a grandniece of Tzeril.

 Yad Vashem staff helped Tatiana locate Shalhevet and through searches on Facebook- were able to connect Tatiana and Shalhevet. The two talked (with the help of a translator – since Tatiana speaks only Russian) and confirmed that they are in fact related. Shalhevet came to Yad Vashem the next morning (today) to meet Tatiana before she returns to Moscow on Tuesday. The two cousins were so thrilled to meet each other. Tatiana and Shalhevet immediately felt a strong family connection and talked for hours comparing their family narratives and history as well as their lives today. Shalhevet showed Tatiana the family pictures and documents that she had found over the years and explained how her grandmother, Sarah Milenki, Tzeril's sister, was burned alive along with other Jews of her town in the synagogue in Rakov.
 This was especially meaningful and poignant for Shalhevet who has invested many years and much effort investigating the roots of her family. As a tribute to her grandmother Sara who was murdered in the Holocaust, Shalhevet has made it her mission to share her family's legacy. After meeting with Tatiana, she is now able to continue and develop her research of the family tree, making corrections and additions based on information she has learned from her newly found cousin. She is preparing to publish a book based on her research, in which she was able to trace the roots of her family as far back as 1838. Tatiana feels that she has been given the gift of a family, "I cannot wait to share this discovery with my mother, she will be deeply moved to know that others survived. All these years we believed we were the only ones."

Shalhevet said elatedly with tears in her eyes to Tatiana, "You have a big family now in Israel!"

The other educators participating in Tatiana's seminar also joined to meet Shelhevet and take a photograph together. They were very excited for Tatiana and her discovery of her new family in Israel.
The International School for Holocaust Studies at Yad Vashem serves as a world hub for Holocaust education, attracting educators from around the globe. Pedagogical materials and teacher-training activities are being constantly developed to create tailor-made programs for each visiting group, thus training an international cadre of educational leaders who continue to disseminate the School’s unique teaching philosophy across a variety of cultures. In 2014, the International School engaged with over 20,000 educators. Among its scores of pedagogical activities, the School conducted more than 150 long-term seminars and 370 teacher-training days.

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Our books

Sokhrani Moi Pis’ma…: Sbornik pisem evreev perioda Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny [Save my Letters: Collection of Jewish letters from the period of the Great Patriotic War]. Vypusk 3. Comp: Il’ia Altman

   This volume is the third installment of a collection of letters penned by Soviet Jews during the Great Patriotic War which has been compiled and published by Russian Holocaust Center. The volume brings to light about 250 written documents and rare photographs that reveal a great deal about Soviet Jewish life during the war years. Most of them were received by the Russian Holocaust Center in the recent three years and resulted from the exposure of the audience in Russia, post-Soviet states, Israel, and other countries to second volume of letters published by the Center in 2010. The bulk of the collection consists of letters sent by Soviet Jewish soldiers at the front to their families in the rear. Their stories give the reader a glimpse of everyday life at the frontlines. The soldiers and officers, among whom well-known public figures and rank-and-file military men offer incredible accounts of their experiences in battle and reflect upon their thoughts during those critical moments when their lives seemed to hang by a thread. Of special interest are the letters shedding light on the life of evacuated Jews, as well as providing new details on the Holocaust in the occupied territories. One of the most fascinating aspects of the correspondence are soldiers’ accounts of the Red Army’s liberation of the occupied Soviet territories, especially where they were less enthusiastically welcomed (Baltic states, West Belorussia) and Germany.

The publication of the volume was made possible thanks to the support of the Russian Jewish Congress and Claims Conference.

Elena Ivanova. Calling Fire upon Myself: Situation of the Jews under the “New Order” of Hitler’s Occupiers, 1941–1943.

Elena  Ivanova.  Calling  Fire  upon Myself: Situation of the Jews under the
“New  Order” of Hitler’s  Occupiers, 1941–1943. I.A. Altman, L.A.Terushkin, E.V. Testova (compilers). I.A .Altman (ed.). Moscow: Russian Holocaust Center; Rostov on Don: Feniks, 2012. 160 pp. In Russian.
This book has a unique history and a unique author. Elena Alexeevna Ivanova was a great nephew of Fedor Dostoevski. She authored many books on Soviet partisans and underground workers during the Great Patriotic war, and a village teacher.  She amassed a huge documentary collection, which served as a basis of the first Soviet TV series  on the war  “Calling  fire  upon ourselves”. The last doing in her life, which took  her more  than ten years,  was  a collection of evidence on Holocaust and Jewish resistance. Her efforts led to the opening of a memorial dedicated to the Jews murdered in Roslavl in Smolensk district.
In the late 1960 s–1970 s this topic was actually tabooed in the Soviet Union. Nevertheless, Elena Ivanova prepared for publication her manuscript. It is based on the author’s  field diary  in which she recorded information collected through oral history methods, i. e. by questioning  her country fellowmen and other respondents. Certainly there was no chance that her book would be published in her life time.
The audience for this publication based on the manuscripts  from the author’s
more on the history of the Holocaust and
the Second World War.
Publication of this new series is supported by the Russian Jewish Congress.

We cannot remain silent: Students and university students on Holocaust. D.I. Poltorak and I.A. Altman (eds.). Eighth edition. Moscow: Center and Foundation Holocaust, MIK, 2011. 144 pp.

We cannot remain silent: Students and university students on Holocaust. D.I. Poltorak and I.A. Altman (eds.). Eighth edition. Moscow: Center and Foundation Holocaust, MIK, 2011. 144 pp.

The reader contains contributions of the winners of the Ninth International contest of works on Holocaust consisting of research papers, essays and drawings. They were created by students from schools and universities representing 6 regions of Russia, as well as students from Ukraine and Belarus. It includes results of interviews of Holocaust victims and eyewitnesses, research in archives, thorough study of literature and independent philosophical and literary approaches. The reader addresses researchers dealing with WWII, teachers, and students from schools and universities.
The project was supported by grants of the President of the Russian Federation and the Claims Conference.

Frieda Michelson. I survived Rumbula. Moscow 2011.

Frieda Michelson. I survived Rumbula. Moscow 2011.

The book is an account of the annihilation of the Jews of Riga during WWII in what is one of the Nazi's and their collaborators' most brutal crimes on the occupied Soviet territories. The mass murder near the Rumbula forest is with out a doubt on the same level as other places of human tragedy such as Babi Yar, Paneriai and the Kaunas Ghetto.
«I survived Rumbula» is based on the personal memories of one the only two survivors who miraculously survived the shooting of the Jews of Riga. In two large-scale operations in late 1941 nearly all 30 000 inhabitants of the Riga Ghetto were murdered. The chances of a successful escape were almost zero. But Frieda Michelson did survive and so did the memory of the atrocities. To forget these events is impossible, even if one tries to. In the sixties she wrote down her memories in her mother tongue Jiddish. These served as literary inspiration for David Silberman's book in Russian language that was recently released in fourth edition. Due to the comparatively small number of copies, the book is mainly known within Latvia.
Silberman was born in 1941 in the town of Preili, Latvia. His family managed to leave their home before the arrival of the Wehrmacht. During his time in Riga in the 1960ies he actively fought for the rights of Jews in the USSR – a goal for which he risked severe repressive measure towards him by the Soviet government.  In 2004 a memorial monument for the victims of the Holocaust was built in Pereili thanks to the financial means provided by David Silberman.

Yitzhak Arad. In the Shadow of the Red Banner: Soviet Jews in the War against Nazi Germany. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, The International Institute for Holocaust Research; Gefen, 2010. 384 pp.

   The claim that Jews did not contribute sufficiently in the war effort of their host country, or to put it otherwise, stayed in the rear instead of fighting, is not new and was never limited to Russia. Suffice it to mention the accusations made against German Jewry during the First World War and its aftermath at the official level and in public opinion. In the Tsarist Empire such charges were especially pronounced during the First World War when they were made by the country’s military and civil authorities.
The situation in the Soviet Union during the Second World War was different. Soviet government never accused its Jewish citizens of sitting on the fence. Yet, Soviet public opinion was permeated to no small extent by such accusations. This came partly from traditional centuries-long perception of Jews as a nation that did best to refrain from getting involved in fighting. Much more perilous, however, was the Nazi propaganda claim that attempted to inculcate in the Soviet population the idea of Jewish cowardice and of their sending non-Jews to fight for Jews.
In a way, it seems to me that Nazi propaganda succeeded, at least partly, in this respect. That Soviet Jews excelled on the fronts of the Great Patriotic War, as the Soviet-German war in 1941-45 came to be known in the USSR, was known to masses of Soviet Jews by virtue of the fact that very many of them served in the army, worked in military plants, and, to a smaller extent, were involved in anti-German activities in the occupied territories. Yet, apart from a circle of those with whom Jews fought and worked to achieve the victory over Nazi Germany, this was far from being clear to many in the midst of the Soviet population.
Furthermore, the fact that many Soviet Jews, whether in the occupied territories or in those under Soviet control, struggled and were “not led to slaughter like cattle” remained for years far from being clear to Western and Israeli audience. This had to do with the main Holocaust narrative underlining suffering and martyrdom. In Israel, Jewish heroism was largely associated with the Warsaw ghetto uprising. But the main reason why this knowledge escaped the attention of Western and Israeli public was “Iron curtain”. During the Cold War, the overwhelming trend in Holocaust research was to downplay the affinity of Soviet and Jewish interests in the Second World War. Only the fall of the USSR made it possible for Holocaust scholars to acknowledge high profile fighting of Jews on the Soviet side or alongside the Soviet side. And Yitzhak Arad, himself a Jewish fighter who fought on the Soviet side against the Nazis, and who rose to prominence in Israel both as a public figure and a leading Holocaust historian, is probably the ideal one to chronicle the heroic saga of Jews who struggled “under the Red banner” against Nazi Germany.
Arad’s account is truly panoramic, multidimensional account and encompasses, to borrow his own words, “the broad spectrum of Jewish activities during the war in their entirety: the army, the underground, the partisans, the battle waged by the prisoners of war for survival and the development and manufacture of weapons” (p. xvii).
The volume provides a solid background describing the developments in Eastern Europe from the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 to the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941. The author then studies meticulously the participation of Jews in fighting in the ranks of the Red Army on the fronts, in the branches (including medical corps, political administration, air forces, navy, and intelligence) throughout the entire war period.  Part two covers Jewish participation in the war industries. Arad then turns to depicting the Nazi occupation of the Soviet territories and the activities of varied partisan movements operating there. This serves him as a background for the Jewish armed resistance in the occupied territories (underground in ghettos -- the subject where the book is particularly strong -- and fighting in forests) described in the next chapters.
One of the delights of this volume is the verve with which its author knowingly describes the Jewish fighting. He does not write in numbers -- although his conclusions rely heavily on statistics, Arad admits that in too many cases such data are controversial or simply unavailable – but describes in details hundreds of examples of Jewish heroism.
In the Shadow of the Red Banner corresponds to no small extent with previous books by Yitzhak Arad, in particular with his “History of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union” (two volumes in Hebrew and one volume in English). In my opinion, part of this background information, could be omitted from the present volume, without jeopardizing its integrity.
I feel a certain amount of discomfort because in such a big (in all senses) book Yitzhak Arad did not tell us explicitly how he gauges Jewish contribution to the Soviet military effort, below the average, at the average, or over the average. Nor did he provide a clue to the question that haunted me: why did the Jews fight the way they did? Was it only fighting against the Nazis because understandably, they had no choice? If so, what about the first period of the war, when the news of German mistreatment of Jews did not reach Jewish soldiers and civilians?
Despite my concerns and questions, In the Shadow of the Red Banner, offers a rich and comprehensive history of Jewish contribution to the Soviet victory. The author should be particularly praised for a wide range of sources in several languages and an updated bibliography. In short, this is a wonderful and well-written study of a critically important case that continues to have impact both for the Jewish audience and beyond its borders.
D-r Kirill Feferman,
Martyrdom and Resistance 37, 3 (January-February 2011).

We can not remain silent – pupils and students about the Holocaust (7th edition)

The collection includes Russian scientific papers, essays and drawings by students from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine, who won the 7th International writing and drawing competition to commemorate the Holocaust. Another section of the book contains selected speeches and presentations of the International Youth Conference on Holocaust remembrance. Many works are based on interviews with victims and witnesses, careful research in archives, as well as new historical and philosophical theses. The collection is aimed primarily at historians, teachers, students and pupils.
 We can not remain silent – pupils and students about the Holocaust (7th edition), written by I.A. Altman, Prokudin DV, eds: Center Foundation and „Holocaust“ in 2010, 176 p., ISBN 978-5-87902-223-0


25. November / „Preserve my letters“ (Russian: „Сохрани мои письма...“) – Presentation of the second edition

  On the basis of more than 1000 letters, diaries and photos from the archives of the Holocaust Center in 2007, the first collection of Soviet-Jewish memories of the Second World War was published. Due to this book, the archive of the center was substantially complemented with new personal documents. They include among other things, letters and diaries of many well-known writers, poets, scholars and war heroes. The anthology includes also some other letters from other museums and archives. The documents examplify the events from the beginning to the end of the war. The book is not only intended for historians, but also to the wider readership.

„Preserve my letters… A collection of Jewish letters from the time of the Great Patriotic War (2nd edition). Eds: IA. Altman, LA Terushkin, IV Bordskaya; text and foreword by IA Altman, 2010, 328 p., ISBN 978-5-87902-222-3

 Natalie Belsky
University of Chicago
Sokhrani Moi Pis’ma…:Sbornik pisem evreev perioda Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny [Save my Letters: Collection of Jewish letters from the period of the Great Patriotic War]
Vypusk 2
Comp: Il’ia Altman, Leonid Terushkin, Irina Brodskaia
Foreword: Il’ia Altman
Moskva: Tsentr i Fond ‘Holocaust’, 2010

This important volume is the second installment of a collection of letters penned by Soviet Jews during the Great Patriotic War which has been compiled and published by Moscow based Russian Holocaust Center. It is an incredible testament to the Center’s painstaking efforts in collecting and bringing together family archives. In fact, as the introduction indicates, many of the letters and diaries featured in the present volume have been acquired by the Center just over the 2.5 years since the publication of the first volume.  The volume brings to light a vital body of sources that reveal a great deal about Soviet Jewish life during the war years.

The bulk of the collection consists of letters sent by Soviet Jewish soldiers at the front to their families in the rear. Their stories give the reader a glimpse of everyday life at the frontlines. They describe the living conditions servicemen had to contend with and the responsibilities that they shouldered. Moreover, the soldiers offer incredible accounts of their experiences in battle and reflect upon their thoughts during those critical moments when their lives seemed to hang by a thread. Surrounded by the enemy with bullets whizzing by inches above his head, Aleksandr Abramovich Anikst contemplated the landscape all about him – the trees, the ground, the sky, and the ant unhurriedly climbing the tree trunk: “I lay on the fallen autumn leaves, holding in front of me the self-loading rifle on the ready. Squeezing it in my hands and concentrating on what lay ahead, I thought: is this really the end? And I could not believe that….A tree trunk stood right in front of me, behind which I planned to hide in case of danger. A brown ant crawled along its uneven bark.” (p. 85). Along with the letter writers, the reader celebrates victories and laments the setbacks of the Red Army. Though the letters are largely personal, they convey the patriotism of the soldiers, their commitment to liberating their homeland from the Nazis, and, to some extent, their dedication to the Soviet project. We hear about their disappointments about the progress of the war, expectations of future developments, and, most of all, hopes for victory and a bright future ahead.

One of the many benefits of the collection is the inclusion of accounts from men and women who served in different capacities and in different zones. The collection features accounts from artillerymen and navy men, seasoned commanders and teenage recruits, war correspondents and medics, and even the director of a jazz orchestra that entertained soldiers at the front. The diversity of the authors allows the reader to get a multi-faceted view of the events and appreciate the distinct perspectives of the participants. Deeper insight into the daily routines of Soviet Jewish soldiers at the front is provided by excerpts from several diaries. This is truly a unique source that gives the reader a sense of the daily tribulations soldiers faced and the rhythm and pace of their days and weeks on the frontlines. While soldiers certainly tried to be optimistic in their letters home in order to assure their loved ones of their well-being, diary entries can be trusted to be more candid about the grim realities of life. Diaries also allow us to examine the changing tide of the war effort and the transformations within the authors themselves. At the same time, we must pause before assuming that these materials are either objective or representative of the perspective of the ‘typical’ Jewish soldier. First of all, while many letters were carried to their destinations by fellow soldiers who were traveling to the rear, soldiers still had to contend with the possibility that their letters and diaries would fall into the hands of censors. Thus, they had to be careful about the kind of information they shared. Moreover, it is important to bear in mind that letter and diary writers are a self-selecting group – descriptive and well-written letters like the ones included in the collection could only have been written by soldiers who were relatively well-educated. Furthermore, the collection privileges letters from urbanites who had been living in cities in the RSFSR (particularly Moscow and Leningrad) and eastern Ukraine in 1939. The reason for this is simple – letters would only have survived if their recipients were fortunate enough to not fall under Nazi occupation. Most of the letters were written to family members who had evacuated to the East; evacuation initiatives largely targeted the cities and were most successful in the RSFSR, and eastern Ukraine and Belorussia (the western regions of the Soviet Union, where significant populations of Jews lived, were occupied so quickly that it often did not allow for effective evacuation).
 Concern about loved ones and consternation over lack of information of their family’s whereabouts is a main theme in the correspondence.  Most soldiers regarded service at the front as both a duty and an honor, but they often felt frustrated at their inability to support their families. Far away from the frontlines, soldiers’ wives, parents and children often confronted a great deal of deprivation as well. Soldiers’ letters reflect their concern that, with men at the front, their families would find it difficult to make ends meet; many soldiers tried to send as much of their earnings home as possible. Of course, the separation caused not only material troubles but also emotional tribulations. Among the most memorable letters within the collection is Solomon Mendelevich’s birthday greetings to his daughter whom he has never met because she was born after he left for the front:  “It is possible to send birthday greetings in a letter to a friend, an acquaintance, a relative. But it is very difficult to send birthday greetings in a letter to my own one and only daughter, whom I have not even seen.” (p. 235) An interesting and important component of the present collection are letters from evacuated family members to soldiers at the front which describe their harrowing journey East and their uncertain existence in unfamiliar lands. It is important to bear in mind that it was not only soldiers who were constantly on the move, but their families as well. Displacement coupled with poor postal service meant that many did not receive tidings from relatives for weeks and months at a time. In many cases, elaborate networks of contacts were devised to facilitate the flow of information. Stationed in Leningrad, lieutenant Mikhail Binevich found that most of his relatives and friends had left the city for various destinations. Eager to re-establish family ties, he writes to his wife: “in short, I decided to become the connecting link between all you refugees.” (p. 89). Family correspondence both to and from the front help us gain a better understanding of the many facets of Soviet Jewish experience during the war years. One of the most fascinating aspects of the correspondence are soldiers’ accounts of the Red Army’s liberation of the occupied territories of Ukraine and Belarus and its offense into Poland and Germany. With a mixture of heartbreak and resentment, the liberators describe the devastation that they find in the western Soviet republics. For many, the pain is even more acute for these are the places where they had been born and raised. In November of 1943, Pavel Kopysitskii writes to his wife that his unit is liberating Ukrainian territory and that “local residents, who were under German occupation, tell us terrible things. The regions where they [the German forces] were able to entrench themselves are completely destroyed – the homes are burned down and the youth has been deported into slavery in Germany” (p.144). Once they enter Poland, the troops describe their encounters with local peoples and the amazement at the incredible (in comparison!) living conditions that they find there. For many, it is the first time in three years of war that they are able to sleep in a proper bed and enjoy delicacies. The diary of medic Abram Shevelev records his impressions of the three foreign lands that he has visited during his tour of duty– Bessarabia, Romania and Hungary. Shevelev describes the cities and towns through which his unit has passed, the attitudes of local peoples, their culture and habits (pp. 264-5). For many servicemen and women, it was difficult to even conceive of the incredible journey they had traversed during the years of the war. As Bela Zel’bet writes to her loved ones, “Did any one of us even think about finding ourselves so far away from our familiar places? In my childhood, I dreamt of entering German towns as a traveler, now I enter them as a master [khoziain]” (p. 210)  
 As they made their way to the West, Soviet soldiers confronted the gruesome realities of the Holocaust. In town after town, they found out that the Jewish population was gone and heard the tragic accounts of how Jews had been rounded up and either shot or sent to death camps in Poland. For Jewish soldiers, this news was particularly horrifying. Passing through Briansk, Lev Tsukerman learned of the fate of his relatives who had stayed behind under Nazi occupation. Writing to his parents (who had evacuated to Siberia), he recounts his eerie and heartbreaking experience there: “I was at the home of Chaim Eisef Shapiro on Sovetskaia st., no. 67, where grandfather and his family lived in the ghetto, I sat on the couch where grandfather had slept, and I was served breakfast at the table where our family had supped for the last time in Briansk, on November 6, 1942” (p. 261). At the same time, for many soldiers, their Jewish identity was a key motivating factor that pushed them to fight even harder to repay the Nazis for their crimes against the Jewish population. In a letter to his parents from the spring of 1943, Iakov Zaslavskii writes, “we must firmly avenge the Germans. And I especially, as I am a Jew” (p. 200).  
Still, it is important to mention that discussion of the Holocaust and references to one’s Jewish identity are relatively few and far between. There might have been several reasons for this, such as the lack of information about the catastrophe that had hit the Jewish population. The Soviet press was by and large unwilling to admit the Nazi targeted attack on Soviet Jewry and tended to group everyone under the heading of Soviet victims of Nazism. Secondly, the fear of censorship as well as the growth of anti-Semitism at the front may have encouraged soldiers themselves to avoid discussing their Jewish identity. Lastly, the fact that the majority of the letters come from well-educated, urban members of the intelligentsia would indicate that many of the letter writers were not observant and practicing Jews.     
Undoubtedly, this volume will become an invaluable resource for both historians and non-specialists alike for it offers readers a privileged view of the everyday lives of the Soviet Jewish servicemen who sacrificed so much in order to secure a victory over Nazism. It will enable readers to appreciate the mentality of Soviet Jewish soldiers – their  day-to-day concerns, preoccupations and hopes. Among the many volumes on the war that deal with epic battles and military strategy, this collection will fill an im

Indiana University Press is pleased to announce the recent publication of:

The Unknown Black Book
The Holocaust in the German-Occupied Soviet Territories

Edited by Joshua Rubenstein and Ilya Altman
Introductions by Joshua Rubenstein, Ilya Altman, and Yitzhak Arad
Translated by Christopher Morris and Joshua Rubenstein
"These accounts from those who saw what happened convey what we cannot learn from official documents about the nature of this vast criminal enterprise, in which hundreds of thousands were transformed into monsters . . . and millions of others became helpless, dehumanized, mutilated, and finally forgotten victims." —Wall Street Journal
The Unknown Black Book provides a revelatory compilation of testimonies from Jews who survived open-air massacres and other atrocities carried out by the Germans and their allies in the occupied Soviet territories during World War II—Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Crimea. These documents are first-hand accounts by survivors of work camps, ghettos, forced marches, beatings, starvation, and disease. Collected under the direction of two renowned Soviet Jewish journalists, Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasily Grossman, they tell of Jews who lived in pits, walled-off corners of apartments, attics, and basement dugouts, unable to emerge due to fear that their neighbors would betray them, as often happened.
Published in association with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
496 pp., 20 b&w illus., 2 maps
paper 978-0-253-22267-1 $24.95
For more information, visit:

For Instructors:
If you are interested in adopting this book for course use, please see our exam copy policy:


July 14, 2009. Dr. Kiril Feferman's fascinating book analyzes the Soviet Union's treatment of the Holocaust from 1941-1964 through the litmus text of the Babi Yar massacre of 1941. "In the West, while we are familiar with the concept of Holocaust denial, the Soviet concept of Holocaust suppression is quite foreign to us," explains Feferman, Yad Vashem lecturer, researcher, and overall expert on the Former Soviet Union, the Holocaust, and the Second World war. Feferman attempts to answer such questions as: Why and how did the Soviet views towards the extermination of Jews aim at avoiding Nazi accusations that that the Soviets were fighting a Jewish war ? Why the Holocaust did not fit in the simplistic, black-and-white Soviet mindset of "he who is not with us, is against us ? Finally, Why the Bolsheviks, who never had any scruples about the many millions of Soviet civilians they themselves killed, were forced to accept over time that the Holocaust had to be treated differently than other, related topics? Feferman does a masterful job of answering these questions and many more in this carefully
researched, fascinating work.

"Antisemitism- The Generic Hatred: Essays in Memory of Simon Wiesenthal"

  The book is now published in Russian- language. It was edited and co-edited by Shimon Samuels, Mark Weitzman and Ilya Altman and the tributes for this version are from:
 -President Dimitri Medvedev
-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin -The late Patriarch Alexei II-Foreign Minister and Chair of Russian National Commission of UNESCO, Sergei Lavrov

-St. Petersburg Governor Valentina Matvieienko
-Former President Mikhail Gorbachov
-Former Minister of Minorities Valeri Tishkov
-Father Vyacheslav Chaplin, Spokesman of the Patriarch of the Russian
Orthodox Church

The book was launched under the co-auspices of the Russian Holocaust Centre, Simon Wiesenthal Centre, Verbe et Lumiere-Vigilance and the UNESCO.
It was presented at various locations:

--The Central Synagogue of Moscow chaired by Jewish Community
Chairman, Leopold Kaiymovskiy

--The RIA- Novosti Press agency

-The official Moscow Holocaust Commemoration ceremony at the Central
House of Literature in Moscow
- The Herzen Pedagogical University of St. Petersburg at a seminar on
the Holocaust (UNESCO Chair in Education in the Multicultural Society
also attended). The session was chaired by Vice-Rector Sergei Shilov.

-The Interfax Press agency of St. Petersburg

-In a meeting with St Petersburg's Governor, Valentina Matveienko, at
the Smolny Palace. The Governer announced to the press, who were present
at the meeting, the purchase of 700 copies of the book for high
schools in St. Petersburg.

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