Adress: 115035, Russia, Moscow,
Sadovnicheskaya St. 52/45
The Russian Research and Educational Holocaust Center and the Holocaust Foundation
(map). Phone/fax: (499) 995-21-82, (495) 953-33-62 E-mail:email@example.com
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 Simon Wiesenthal Center moved the location of its annual Russian Holocaust University Essay award from the headquarters of its co-sponsor UNESCO, in protest over its resolution in April denying Jewish ties to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall in Jerusalem.
“Ever since the Palestinians were accepted to UNESCO in 2011, things have changed,” Dr. Shimon Samuels, director of international relations of the Wiesenthal Center, told The Jerusalem Post. “It used to be a favorable arena for us, especially at the World Heritage Committee. But the Palestinians have launched a theft of the Jewish narrative. The Palestinians are trying to deny the Jewish narrative, because the validation of the Palestinian narrative depends on deleting the Jewish-Israeli one. It’s a replacement ideology.”
The Wiesenthal Center cooperates closely with UNESCO on different programs. The Russian Holocaust University Essay award is one of these co-projects, conceived in order to strengthen Holocaust studies in Russia and former Soviet Union states.
Since its establishment 12 years ago, many countries make it a point of participating to demonstrate their support.
This year as well, ambassadors and deputy ambassadors from dozens of countries participated at the ceremony held at the Paris Holocaust Memorial, including representatives from Russia, Armenia, Germany, Belarus, France, the US and of course Israel.
The five laureates this year include graduates from Moscow, Erevan in Armenia, the Republic of Buryatia (Russia), Minsk of Belarus, and Saratov from Russia, dealing with a variety of issues such as the interpretation of the Holocaust by Russian mass media, teaching the Holocaust in the Russian education system, Holocaust denial in Belarus, and more.
The students who were chosen are all engaged in researching and teaching the Holocaust for the long term.
Marek Galstyan of Armenia, who worked on the issue of righteous among the nations, told the audience that he considers his research much more than just an academic study. “At present, I am working on finding information about another person, who may be awarded the title of righteous,” he said. “He is Henrik Bakhtiykan, cousin of my grandfather, whom my grandfather told me about.”
Another student, Nikita Gordeev from Saratova, has been working on historical revisionism in the structure of extremist ideology. In his presentation, Gordeev noted that “there are currently about 10 organizations in the Russian Federation that are banned by the court for carrying out extremist activities – groups which position themselves as neo-pagan,” a fact, he explained, which highlights the ongoing trends of Holocaust denial.
Israeli deputy ambassador to UNESCO, Yossi Mustaki, emphasized at the meeting the importance of this award, in raising public awareness to the lessons of the Holocaust.
“We consider this award as an excellent means to increase the awareness of young people – school students, students in universities, and youngsters in general – to the issue of the Shoah and to its lessons,” he said. “It’s a very positive and constructive way to encourage the creativity and activities of students who specialize in these areas of research. From our side, it is important that Israel recognizes this project and encourages similar ones across the world. Some of our delegations initiate and support projects in the same vain, sometimes for younger children. We really congratulate the Wiesenthal Center for this essential educational program, and wish to see more initiatives of this kind.”
Concerning the issue of changing the location of the ceremony, Mustaki said that “I can certainly understand the decision [due to] the anger within the Jewish world, as in Israel, over the outrageous UNESCO board resolution. Each one reacts in his/her own manner – and this was apparently the way the Wiesenthal Center chose to react.”
The XVI annual summer seminar for teachers started on
June 26th in the Memorial Synagogue of the Russian Jewish Congress
in Moscow. Partner of the seminar were Yad Vashem, like every year, but also
the Memorial de la Shoah
(France). This year 40 educator form 29 regions of Russia participated at our
On the first day the Participants visited the library
and the archive of the Holocaust Center as well as the Holocaust Museum in the
Memorial Synagogue on the Poclonoi Gora. The head of International School for
Holocaust Studies at Yad Vachem, the head of the Memorial de la Shoah and Ilya Altman as
well as others hold speeches.
On 27th of June there was a plenary session
with the topic “The Holocaust at the territory of the SUand the Commemoration” and “The Lesson of the
Holocaust”, Christina Winkler (Germany) as well as Ilya Altman talked about the
features of the national socialist occupation regime in the USSR and about the
Holocaust Commemoration in today’s Russia. After the speeches the participants
worked in groups to hold reports.
The third day of the seminar started with watching the
film “Children form the Abyss”. Although many of the participants had already
seen the movie, the emotional shock was big. Afterwards the participants had a
round table to discuss whether the film suits for watching it with students or
With the panache of the emotional start the
participants farther worked in groups. The first group under the direction of
Alla Gerber, Noa Sigal (Yad Vashem) and Svetlana Antonova dealt with the
discussion and elaboration of the methodical materials of the film “The
Holocaust: the Eastern Front”. The second group, at the same time, was working
on the elaboration of the methodic materials of the “Liberator”and the search and determination on the fate of
the soldiers of the red army, who liberated the death camp Auschwitz. This
group was under the direction of Ilya Altman, Svetlana Tichankina and Maria
On the last day of the seminar the projects and
research studies about the Holocaust were discussed.
At our XVI summer seminar the participants could
qualify for the seminar in March 2017 at Yad Vashem. The results will be
released in January 2017.
was very happy to participate in this year‘s summer school because I’ve been
focusing my research of the past ten years on the Holocaust on Soviet
territory. I was particularly interested to get practical insights into
Holocaust education in Russia. That’s why especially the part when the teachers
presented their projects was important for me because they introduced their
individual teaching methods and approaches to the subject. I was quite
impressed with the spectrum and can only name a few examples here but I
personally really like a Russian-German cooperation between a school from
Voronezh and the Free University of Berlin (FU) because it enables teachers and
other potentially interested people to access interviews with former Russian
slave labourers at an online platform created by the FU (http://prinuditelnyj-trud-archiv.org/ru/) and
use them for their history lessons or just to get information. The project was
introduced at this year’s Petersburg dialogue that took place a couple of days
ago in St. Petersburg (http://prinuditelnyj-trud-archiv.org/ru/news/forum.html) which
underlines the importance both countries attribute to this cooperation. But
there were other great projects, I was for example very impressed by a teacher
from Nevel who connected her family history with the historiography of the
Holocaust under the catchy title “history doesn’t have an expiration
date”. Since I personally focus on the Holocaust in Rostov-on-Don, I was
of course interested in this participant’s approach to her hometown’s history.
All in all, the seminar demonstrated how many very talented teachers there are
throughout the country and I’m even more convinced now that I want to continue
research but also engage in teaching about the Holocaust in Russia.
On 8th May started this year’s annual seminar for Russian educators, which is organized by the Russian Holocaust Center and the House of Wannsee Conference. The 16 participants of the seminar were high and middle school teachers, teachers of institutes and staff of archive departments and museum, who were from 6 different regions of Russia and also from Moldavia (in the last seminars there were also participants form Belarus, Ukraine or Lithuania).
In the Seminar the educator learned about the teaching experience about the Holocaust in German schools, when they visited the secondary school „Drei Linden“ in Berlin. Furthermore, they had a guided tour through the museum “House of Wannsee Conference” and the “German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst” in which they were also informed about the activities of the museum. Afterwards they visited the memorial Sachsenhausen. The participants were especially interested in the difficulties and methodic of teaching the Holocaust. The Russian educator also shared their own experience about the topic of Holocaust.
The seminar was held in an interactive way. While the sessions problems of the psychological perceptions, problems of the Holocaust were discussed and their methodic were analyzed.
May 24 / The seventh session of the Lecture Program “Genocides of the XXth Century and the Contemporary World” was organized by the Russian Holocaust Center and the Institute for History and Archives together with the department for Russian history of the modern age by the Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH). The Session for the first time was hold as a round table to discuss the difficult problems of the Holocaust and the defense of the Brest Fortress in context of present German documents.
In 2016 the collection “Brest. Summer 1941” (original in Russian: Брест. Лето 1941 г.) including a large amount of new German documents of the Brest Fortress and the Holocaust was published in Smolensk (a link for a preview of the anthology was published on our website earlier). The book was prepared to be published by Byelorussian historian and at their head by the German historian Christian Ganzer. The book was presented in Minsk and Brest, causing a lot of discussions because of an article of Mr. Ganzer.
In the session Christian Ganzer acquainted the participants about the proceedings of the work for the collection by the group of historian. In his conclusion he presented his arguments and historical base with which he had worked. In answer to his lecture there were asked numerous of questions and comments with doubts about relevancy of some phrases used in the introductory article and about the expansion of the historical base to achieve a wider consideration of the discussed topic, were made. In the end the head of the group of compilers thanked Christian Ganzer for his enormous work form preparing the documents to publication.
Professional scientists, graduate students, representatives of public organizations and scientific magazines as well as representatives of the Moscow school Nr. 444, which has a museum in the name of Yefim Fomin, a commissar of the Brest Fortress, took part in the session.
Annual seminar for schoolteachers and university lecturers took place in Jerusalem (Israel) on the 27 March – 4 April 2016. It was organized by the International Schoolfor Holocaust Studies ofYadVashem. The representatives of 16th regions of Russia and one professor from Armenia attended the seminar. Professors, Heads of departments and lecturers of universities; secondary schoolsteachers of history, literature and geography; employees of archives, cultural institutions, publishing houses were among the participants. Read more
March 22/ The fifth session of the Lecture Program “Genocides of the XXth Century and Contemporary World” was held at the Institute for History and Archives of the Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH). It was organized by the Research and Teaching the History of the Holocaust and Genocides Center of the RSUH. The session was opened by co-Chairman of the Russian Holocaust Center (RHC) Ilya Altman and the Dean of the Faculty of Archival Studies Elena Malysheva. Representatives of Russian archives, Archive of the RHC, museums, libraries, teachers and researchers, students attended the session. Director of the Archival Acquisition Department at the “Yad Vashem” (Jerusalem, Israel) Maria Ionina reported about “Unknown Archives of the Holocaust: searching and findings in CIS and Baltic countries”. Participants of the session were acquaintedwiththe peculiarities of acquisition and processing the sources in the archive of Yad Vashem. Then Maria Ionina told about some methods of searching for the documents about the history of the Holocaust in the USSR at the archives of CIS and Baltic countries and presented some forthcoming plans and perspectives of this direction.
20 March / The same name round table was held in Moscow in the Center of Photograph named after brothers Lumiere on the 20th of March. It was organized by the Embassy of the State of Israel and the Polish Cultural Institute in Moscow together with the Russian Holocaust Center (RHC)within the exhibition«The Album of the Auschwitz». Moderator of the round table Ilya Altman reported about the features of documentary photographs as a source of the history of the Holocaust in the USSR.The round table was opened by an informative report of Dr. Haim Gertner, Director of the YadVashem Archives Division (Israel). He gave an exhaustive answer to the question why it is important to ensure public access to documentary sources of the Holocaust, and how to do it with the help of modern information technologies. Head of theArchive Department of RHC Leonid Terushkin highlighted the problem of “Searching in family archives and using the photographs of the World War II and the Holocaust”. Dr. Andrzej Żbikowski, professor of history of the Jewish Historical Institute and Center of Holocaust Studies (Poland) talked about interesting experience of collecting and publication of historical sources about the Holocaust in Poland during the postwar period. Interesting reports about studying and interpretation of the photo documents and written sources as well as the attempts of falsification of the tragedy of the Holocaust were presented by professor of Russian State University for the Humanities Valery Durnovtsev, who marked a special place of photo documents at the “hierarchy” of sources about the Holocaust history, and Director of research programs of the Foundation “Historical Memory” VladimirSimindey, who gave a critical analysis of the recent studies in Latvia about the camp Salaspils.
February 16/ Forth session of the Lecture Program “Genocides of the XXth Century and the Modern World” was held in the Institute of History and Archives of Russian State University for the Humanities. The leading researcher of the Institute of Russian History of Russian Academy of Science Dr. Gennady Kostyrchenko gave a lecture “Anti-Jewish Repressions in the Post-War Stalinism: New Documents and Considerations”. read more
January 25-28, 2016 10th International conference of students and young researches as well as the 16th International conference of pupils “Holocaust: Remembrance and Prevention” was held in Moscow on the 25-28 of January. It was organized by the Russian Research and Educational “Holocaust” Center (RHC) and the Center of Studying and Teaching about the Holocaust and Genocides of Russian State University for the Humanities (RSUH) with the support of Moscow’s Government, the Russian Jewish Congress, Museum of the Holocaust and Jewish Heritage and the Institute “Just world”. During the three days more than 80 participants from different cities of Russia, Armenia, Belarus and Germany made reports and took part in memorial and official events. Sessions were held at different halls, including RSUH, Museum of the Holocaust and Jewish Heritage of the Memorial Synagogue at Poklonnaya Gora and for the first time at the State Duma of Russian Federation. The conference has become one of the key events of the “Week of Memory” dedicated to the 71th anniversary of the liberation of the concentration camp “Auschwitz-Birkenau” by the Red Army and International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
On 27 January a large memorial evening devoted to the International Holocaust Remembrance Day was held at the Moscow theater “Helikon-Opera”. It was organized by the Government of Moscow, Russian Jewish Congress (RJC), and Russian Holocaust Center with the support of the Federation of the Jewish Communities of Russia. More than 500 participants attended the evening. Famous public figures, government officials, diplomats, artists, war veterans and former prisoners of camps and ghettos, teachers, pupils and students were among them. There were representatives of the diplomatic corps: German Ambassador Rüdiger von Fritsch, Israeli Ambassador Zvi Heifetz, US Ambassador John Tefft as well as the ambassadors and high-ranking representatives of the Embassies of Armenia, Albania, Austria, Belarus, Hungary, Greece, Denmark, Spain, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, France and other countries. read more
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. 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.
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.
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.
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).
includes Russian scientific papers, essays and drawings by students from Russia, Belarus
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.,
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
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:
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.
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.