"Minsk ghetto: 75 years later": what does responsibility to history mean

"Minsk ghetto: 75 years later": what does responsibility to history mean

An international panel discussion titled "Minsk ghetto: 75 years later" was organized at the History Faculty of Lomonosov Moscow State University by the Russian information and analysis agency Vestnik Kavkaza, the Diaspora History Laboratory of the History Faculty, the All-Israel Association of People from Belarus, the Institute of History of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the history department of  Belarusian State University and the 'Historical Memory' Foundation for the Promotion of Actual Historical Research. The event was not only about the genocide of the Jews during the Second World War in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union, but also about attempts to glorify its accomplices in some post-Soviet countries.

Moderator of the panel discussion, Deputy Dean, Academic Secretary of the history department of Moscow State University, head of the Diaspora History Laboratory, Associate Professor, candidate of historical sciences Oksana Solopova recalled that the Minsk ghetto was one of the largest in Europe: "Not just Belarusian Jews were there, but also Jews from Germany, Austria, other European countries. Ghettos began to be formed on June 19, 1941. Since then, for those who live in Belarus, who are involved in studying or are involved in Belarusian Jewry, in Minsk Jewry, knows few meanings of the word 'pit'. And the first feeling is shock... This is part of my childhood too. My grandmother was taken away from Brest area in June 1941, and although I was born in 1971, it seems to me, I always knew what a "pit" is. It's an issue of historical continuity within the family, of memory that is reproduced in generations. Belarusian Jews who live in Israel say “We saw each other at the Pit in 1978,” “Last seen at the Pit in 1991.” And everyone knows that they meant the May 9th. It was a special subculture that was accompanied by music, because trucks drove there and Soviet songs of the war years were played, people came  there, showed letters from the U.S., from Israel, which were sent by their relatives, communicated, and even married sometimes. It was a hymn to the memory of the people who passed away, but also a hymn to life. Few survivors were shy about surviving."

Back during the war, Soviet journalists, led by writers Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasily Grossman, who were military reporters for the Red Army, have started to create a 'Black Book' - a collection of documents and eyewitness accounts of crimes against the Jewish people in the Nazi-occupied territory of the USSR and Poland during the Holocaust, and the participation of Jews in resistance against the Nazis during World War II.

Oksana Solopova cited the lines from the 'Black Book' about the history of the Minsk ghetto: “On October 21, 1943, the ghetto was again, for the last time surrounded by Gestapo men. All the people were put in cars and sent to their deaths. When no one was found in apartments, houses were blown up with grenades so that those in shelters would die."

"Look, how unemotional, how cold, how distantly, without excessive agitation and without unnecessary emotions Grossman and Ehrenburg write about it. You know why? Maybe I’m wrong, but I think it’s written for those who understand. And those who understand do not need excessive hype and emotions. For those who understand, facts are enough. Because when we imagine 100 thousand people and the time for which them were destroyed, the brain refuses to understand and imagine it. I think that it's kind of a protective mechanism working in the body. One should just know it. Because if you fully imagine it, it is not clear how to live with it, how to look at humanity and think about the prospects for the development of civilization,” Oksana Solopova said.

“Today’s panel session is not just a scientific conference, not just a result, which the Diaspora History Laboratory has been achieving on for a long time, it is also a civic stand of the faculty. This is an attitude to what responsibility to history means,” the deputy dean of the department said.

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