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:firstname.lastname@example.org
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"
November 14-17, 2013, Kaliningrad hosted the international forum marking 75
years after the Kristallnacht, the first wave of anti-Jewish pogroms organized
by the Nazis and directed against synagogues and Jewish neighborhoods in Germany, including East Prussia in 1938.
The forum included international conference, seminars for teachers of
Jewish schools of CIS and Baltic states was held at the initiative of the
Russian Jewish Congress (RJC), Russian Holocaust Center and Foundation. It
brought together more than 50 scholars, public figures and teachers from
Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Israel, Japan, Lithuania, Moldova, Poland, Russia, United States, and Ukraine.
The International conference “Holocaust Lessons and Contemporary Russia”
was held in Immanuel Kant Baltic Federal University (Kaliningrad) November
14-16, 2013. The city was chosen as the conference site because Königsberg, as
Kaliningrad was called before 1946, was the only place in contemporary Russia
where Kristallnacht occurred.
A keynote speaker was one of the most prominent contemporary Holocaust
scholar Professor Michael Berenbaum from American Jewish University in Los
Angeles. He spoke about the reasons and consequences of the Kristallnacht,
while placing the event in the context of the Jewish history. Special emphasis
was laid on analyzing the American responses to the Kristallnacht. Dr. Shimon
Samuels, another keynote speaker, Director of International Programs at the
Simon Wiesenthal Centre (Paris), addressed contemporary issue of Holocaust
remembrance, anti-Semitism, and growing anti-Israeli stance in Europe.
One of the conference panels handled the topic of the Kristallnacht. Noteworthy
was the presentation by Professor Alan Steiweis from the University of Vermont,
a major expert on the topic and the author of the book “Kristallnacht, 1938”. He
spoke on historical background against which this pogrom erupted and the ways it
grasped by contemporary German society. Particularly illuminating were
Professor Steiweis’s observations on whether the Kristallnacht could be
considered as a premeditated action vs. the unfolding of the “Final Solution”. ProfessorJohannChapoutot from the University
of Grenoble who shed light on the hitherto neglected international aspects of
the Kristallnacht. Dr. Jürgen
Zarusky from Munich-based Institute of
Contemporary History provided a historical background of the Kristallnacht vis-à-vis
arrests of Jewish men and their subsequent fates in Nazi concentration camps.
Another panel looked into the activities of Chiune Sugihara, a famous
Japanese Righteous among the Nations who during the Kristallnacht served as a
Japanese Consul in Königsberg. Particularly important insights were provided by
Professor Ilya Altman, Head of the Russian Holocaust Center, and Professor
Chizuko Takao from Rikkyo University, Japan, who spoke on the transit of Jewish
refugees through the USSR with the visas issued by Sugihara and their reception
in Japan, respectively. Kiril Feferman from the Russian Holocaust Center
explored the ways the escape by means of visas was viewed in rabbinical circles
In the morning on November 17, the conference participants paid homage to
the Holocaust victims at the memorial set in the village of Yantarnoe where the
SS had massacred some 7,000 Jews on January 30, 1945. This was the last biggest
execution of the Jews during the Second World war.
On November 3-5, the international conference “Autonomous Histories and Studies of the Holocaust” was held in Tel-Aviv. It was organized jointly by Tel Aviv University and Bar Ilan University. The conference was attended by worldly renowned scholars, among them Professor Dan Diner (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Professor Steven Katz (Boston University), Professor David Engel (New York University), and Professor Zvi Gitelman (University of Michigan). Russian Holocaust Center was represented by Dr. Kiril Feferman who spoke on the peculiarities of Jewish and German sources in covering the Holocaust in the occupied Soviet territories.
On October 14, Russian Jewish Congress (RJC) and Russian Holocaust center conducted a memorial evening dedicated to Sobibor Uprising that took place 70 years ago. The event was attended by war veterans, schoolchildren, representatives of diplomatic cosps, Russian Ministry of Forein Affairs, Russian Ministry of Defense, and Moscow City Board.
The evening was moderated by Ilya Altman. Among those speaking at the event were the RJC President Yuri Kanner, Member of the Public Chamber Nikolai Svanidze, German Ambassador to Russia Ulrich Brandenburg, Bulgarian Ambassador Boiko Kotsev, acting Israeli Ambassador Olga Slov, and other dignitaries. Speaker of Knesset Yuli Edelshtein sent his greetings to thse participating in the event. The participants empasized that the process of getting the Sobibor Unprising heroes honored with Russian state awards is at its final stage and it is bound to lead to concrete results.
Among the honorary participants there were also relatives of Alexander Pecherski and Aleksei Vaitsen, the only remaining participant of the Sobibor Uprising who resides in Russia.
During the event, there were screened parts of the movie “Arithmetics of Freedom” by Alexander Marutyan featuring documentary cadres of the liberation of Sobibor camp.
From October 7 to 9, the University of Augsburg (Bavaria, Germany) hosted the international conference “Holocaust Education in the 21st Century”. Experts representing educational, scientific, museum centers from Germany, Israel, Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Sweden, and USA shared their experience in working with various audiences using varied methodological approaches. The Russian Holocaust Center was represented by Dr. Kiril Feferman who spoke about the Center’s years-long experience and its achievements in teaching Holocaust in Russia.
3 September 2013 Beslan, North Ossetia Caucasus, Russia,
The Simon Wiesenthal Centre’s Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels, was invited by the Russian Holocaust Centre to keynote an international conference on “Children – Victims of Terror.” This was held, in Beslan and the Wladikavkaz State University, on the ninth anniversary of the 3 day siege of 1,100 hostages—including 770 children—at the Beslan school in North Ossetia Caucasus, Russia.
Beslan became known around the world in the wake of a Chechen suicide operation that killed over 186 children and over 100 parents, teachers and rescuers. This total number is unknown due to disappeared and burned bodies of hostages and terrorists.
Samuels highlighted the distortion of religious principles of the sanctity of human life and the duty to protect the child in the Jihadist inculcation of a culture of death. He also focussed on the Nazi deliberate targeting of 1,5 million Jewish children, shot, starved and gassed.
The Centre noted that 30 years before Beslan, a similar attack on a school in the Jewish-Arab Galillea town of Masalot-Tarshicka in Israel. 25 children were murdered by Palestinian terrorists. More recently, a Jewish school was attacked by a Jihadist in Toulouse, France, leaving 4 dead.
Samuels discussed with the Mayor of Beslan, the Minister for Ethnic Policy (responsible for counter-terrorism) and the Vice-President of the Republic, the establishment of a solidarity platform of mayors from cities victims of terrorism against children.
The Centre will approach such cities to share the lessons and pain of these atrocities.
Similarly, all children’s welfare organizations from Save the Children to Oxfam, World Vision, Care and the Red Cross will be called upon to join “the Beslan Initiative” by endorsing the designation of terrorism against children as a crime against humanity.
“We hope that the 10th anniversary in September 2014, in the burnt out school memorial and the “City of Angels” cemetery (see photos) will commemorate all child victims of terrorism around the globe in the presence of representatives from the targeted communities.
We believe that this global platform would be a powerful voice of outrage at such acts to strive together that Beslan, Maalot, Toulouse, and all other long-grieving cities serve as a warning and not a precedent,” concluded Samuels.
Dr. Kiril Feferman, head of the educational and research department of the Russian Holocaust Center was awarded a special scholarly prize of Egis Foundation administered by Israeli Trade Union (Histadrut). The prize was given for Dr. Feferman’s major book “The Holocaust in the Russian Ethnic Frontier: The Crimea and the North Caucasus”. The book is based on the author’s doctoral dissertation approved by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 2008.
The book is forthcoming in English in Yad Vashem in 2014.
A Holocaust essay competition in universities across the former Soviet Union, that began in 2004 with 25 submissions, this year exceeded 2,000.
Founded by the Moscow-based Russian Holocaust Centre and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre's French educational affiliate "Verbe et Lumiere-Vigilance", the five winners are annually received by UNESCO in Paris.
Opened by the Wiesenthal Centre's Director for International Relations, Dr. Shimon Samuels and the Co-Chairs of the Russian Holocaust Centre, Alla Gerber - first woman Parliamentarian in post-Soviet Russian - and Dr. IIya Altman, the event was attended by the Permanent Delegates to UNESCO of France, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Russia, Ukraine, United States and the Vatican.
The meeting was chaired by UNESCO Deputy Director-General, Getachew Engida, who declared the Holocaust "a dark heritage for humanity", thanking the student laureates for their dedication to its study.
Alla Gerber responded, warning of growing xenophobia in Russia, "it was slogans like today's 'Russia for the Russians' that led to mass murder".
This years' keynote speakers were David Kessler, the Elysee Palace's Cultural Counsellor and Father Norbert Hofmann, Secretary of the Vatican Commission on Relations with the Jews.
Mr. Kessler focused on "the paradox of French history as both collaborator and resistance". He stressed the role of compensation,opening archives and education in accepting that history, speaking of his own work on the restitution process and quoting the title of Jacques Semelin's book "Neither Heroes nor Villians"
Father Hofmann named the Holocaust as "a neo-pagan device to wipe out the divine force from history", speaking of "Nostra Aetate as the Magna Carta of the Catholic church and the Jews," also addressing Catholic collaboration and resistance, and of the "passive spectators who kept their eyes closed". He elaborated on today's "binding commitment"of the Church to the Jews.
The five winners and their papers were: Ms. Nadiia Skokova, of the Ostroh National University of Ukraine,on "The Holocaust in Volhynia during the Nazi occupation"
Mr. Nikita Vrazovskiy, Russian State University for Humanities of Moscow,on "The Uprisings of the Warsaw and Bialystok Ghettoes"
Ms. Svetlana Antonova, Moscow State University,on"The Holocaust in Israeli media - A comparison between the Hebrew and Russian language press"
Ms. Vera Beletskaya, Moscow State Institute for Foreign Relations,on "The Holocaust and the Guilt Complex of the Germans"
Mr. Gukov Arsenii, Education-Science-Production Complex of Orel University,on "A Comparative Analysis of Holocaust Denial"
The diplomats' responses included:-
- Hungary's Ambassador Katalin Bogyay, who is also President of the UNESCO General Conference, spoke of plans for the 2014 70th anniversary of the deportation of the Hungarian Jews - and as a former journalist - "the challenges of engaging young people in this dialogue and forging new ways to teach the teachers ".
- German Ambassador, Michael Worbs, congratulated the Russian Holocaust Centre for its ""post-Soviet initiative to meet the past, not to repress it".
- Vatican Ambassador, Monsignor Follo, emphasised that "just to study the events of the Holocaust is not enough, one must apply the causes - we may know the dictum "thou shalt not steal, but still steal".
- United States Ambassador, David Killion, congratulated "the Simon Wiesenthal Centre for pushing UNESCO to be what it should be", adding,"we all bear collective guilt for slavery and not intervening quickly in the Holocaust and Rwanda".
Verbe et Lumiere-Vigliance President, Richard Odier, concluded the meeting in emphasising the obligation of the Holocaust to act as a call for activism in contemporary cases of mass murder, as in Darfur, Syria or regions where the media is absent
Dr. Altman and Dr. Samuels noted that "thousands of students over the past nine years from across Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Baltics have,through this programme, been sensitized to the history of the Holocaust, especially on the territory of the Soviet Union. With 45 winning essays and thousands of other submissions from Archangelsk to Vladivostok,they proposed that "for the tenth anniversary, this wealth of material be edited for a volume under UNESCO's auspices".
Top row from left: Laureates, Russian and US delegates, Dr. Ilya Altman, Dr. Graciela Samuels, UNESCO, Fr. Norbert Hofmann, Paola Leoncini-Bartoli, UNESCO, Dr. S. Samuels
Bottom row from left: French delegate, David Kessler, Hungarian Ambassador, UNESCO Deputy Director-General Getachew Engida, Alla Gerber, Vatican delegate.
The third annual seminar for
regional coordinators of the Russian Holocaust Center was held in the capital
of France is where. Teachers from nine regions of Russia took part in it. The
seminar opened on July 1st at the Museum “Shoah Memorial” in the
center of Paris. The Center of Jewish Documentation, a part of the Memorial,
celebrated its 70th anniversary. The head of the international
programs at the Museum Luke Levi welcomed the Russian teachers. On the first
day active debates were caused by the lecture of the famous historian, the
editor of “Revue de la Shoah’” (that comes out two times a year), the author of
the recent monograph on Jews’ fate in North African countries during the Second
World War, Dr. George Bensoussan. Dr. Tal Brutman (University of Grenoble)
demonstrated the development of Western historiography about “the Final Solution
for the Jewish issue”. He gave definitions of the death camps, concentration
camps and places of extermination (the last ones existed mostly on the Soviet
territory). Employees of the pedagogical department talked about the
methodology of the Museum education, which is more focused on projects, as well
as demonstrated the latest training aids of the Memorial de la Shoah. Huge
interest was evoked by the tour around the Museum.
Second day of the seminar started
with the visit of the Drancy internment camp and continued at the Educational
Center in the countryside. The students from Paris as well as from other
regions of France actively use new technologies and Museum’s exposition. One of
the head employees of the Museum Philipp Bukara told us about France on the eve
of the Holocaust.
Third day of the seminar was
remembered above all because of a brilliant lecture on political repressions in
the USSR given by the leading specialist of France on this topic Nicolas Wert.
Valerie Posner presented the topic of the Holocaust reflection in the soviet
documentary and feature films. Professor Anni Epelbaum presented her recent
book on Soviet literature about the Holocaust. Dr. Alan Blum talked about the
methodology of writing the interviews and building the site on the victims of
deportations on the eve and after the War. The participants of the seminar
eagerly listened to the lectures of less well-known facts about the Armenian
genocide in Russia in 1915 and the Tutsis’ tragedy in Rwanda.
The President of the Fund “Holocaust”,
and co-chairperson of the Russian Holocaust Center A. Gerber along with
co-chairman of the Russian Holocaust Center I. Altman signed the Global
The Global Anti-Nazi Charter is an
international declaration of fundamental principles of the anti-Nazi
activities, based on common objectives and goals to combat racism, xenophobia,
radical nationalism, religious hatred and neo-Nazism.
The Global Anti-Nazi Charter calls
for humanity to establish the moral, political and legal barriers to the spread
of the ideology of hatred, which becomes a fertile ground for the growth of
neo-Nazi sentiments that, in turn, can escalate into physical acts of violence
to the point of the outbreak of local, regional and world wars.
The Global Anti-Nazi Charter is
directed to awake in people the sense of the common responsibility for peace
and prosperity in the present and the future. Its goal is the world without
Nazism, aggressive nationalism and hatred.
The Global Anti-Nazi Charter, while
being the general document of the International Human Rights Movement “World
without Nazism”, is designed for the wider dissemination to all people of good
will with the purpose to familiarize them with the problem. Charter gives
people a chance to speak up on their position regarding this issue and
contribute to the fight against the spread of radical nationalist and neo-Nazi
May 21-22nd, 2013.
Continuing the two thematic days devoted to the study of personal documents (23rd
of October, 2012 and 26th of March, 2013), this international
conference presented the variety of methodological and disciplinary approaches
to the study of the issue: from
classical interdisciplinary to the principles of trans-disciplinary research.
The ground was set for a clash of opinions and constructive, mutually enriching
discussions between researches in different fields of acquiring knowledge, but also
general topic of documentary memorials and memories of the Second World War.
The head of the Archive at the Russian
Holocaust Center Leonid Terushkin spoke on the topic of “Letters and diaries of
Soviet Jewish soldiers during the Second World War: search, study, use”.
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.