The ghetto in the capital of Belarus was the largest one in the Soviet territories occupied by Germany. It was established in July 1941. Over 100,000 Jews were imprisoned there. They constituted about 40% of the population of the city. The ghetto was notorious for extremely cruel conditions. Apart from the regime of an enclosed quarter and the obligation to work, Germans perpetrated further pogroms within it, during which thousands were killed. In their place, consecutive transports of victims were brought in – in this way, a total of up to 80,000 Jews from Western Europe ended up in the very place. The ghetto was liquidated in October 1943. During a six-week period, most of the prisoners were deported to the German Nazi extermination camp in Maly Trostenets.

The place of remembrance of Minsk genocide victims is the so-called Pit – the hole left after the former sandpit, where during the pogrom on March 2, 1942, Germans murdered 5,000 people, including 200 children from a nearby orphanage. It was there that, already in 1947, the first monument to the memory of Holocaust victims in the former USSR was erected. Just today, on October 22, 2018, the main ceremony commemorating the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Minsk ghetto took place there. It started with speeches. A letter from the President of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, was read, then Minister of Foreign Affairs Vladimir Makei delivered his speech. Particularly moving was the oration by a member of the Israeli government, head of the Ministry of Aliyah and Integration, Sofa Landver; her family came from Minsk, and she is still perfectly fluent in a beautiful literary Russian. The addresses by Anna Gerber, the head of the Russian Holocaust Foundation, and two survivors of the Minsk ghetto (there are around 20 survivors still living today) also made a strong impression. Dozens of wreaths and flowers were laid down, including from the embassies of Israel and Germany.

Today's ceremony was the climax of the Memorial Days organised to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Minsk ghetto. The programme included the already ended film week (October 15-19, 2018); Tragedy of the Minsk ghetto round table talk: memory and lessons, organised in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Belarus (October 22); evening of remembrance in honour of the former prisoners of the ghetto and of the Righteous Among the Nations in the Minsk Philharmonic (October 22); international forum – 75 years since the tragedy of the Minsk ghetto: problems and prospects of preserving the memory of the Holocaust in Belarus (October 23) and an exhibition of work of the painter Meer Akselrod (1902-1970). During the ceremony, there was also mentioned the tragic fate of Jews, residents of dozens of shtetls and prisoners of the ghettos in Grodno and Brest on the Bug, in the areas of the Second Polish Republic which are currently in today's Belarus.

Adam Dylewski

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