Access the talk here.
For most of January The Together Plan teams in the UK and in Belarus have had a razor sharp focus on Holocaust Memorial Day – discussing, planning and preparing. In the UK – our Making History Together travelling exhibition spent all week running up to Holocaust Memorial Day at Yavneh College in Borehamwood, Hertfordshire just outside of London. Over 500 students between the ages of 12 and 18 engaged with the exhibition and participated in workshops that had been planned by our team Click here to read more.
At lunchtime on Friday 27th January, Debra Brunner gave a deeply thought provoking online presentation ‘Belarus between 1941 and 1944’ – which explored what was lost, the complexities of the changing borders, the partisans, the ghettos, the stories yet to be told. The talk gave an insight into the work that The Together Plan is doing to bring this history into focus and how the charity is working with communities in Belarus, helping them to be the ambassadors and the storytellers of their own Jewish history. For many – so much of this is yet to be known, not just in the diaspora but in Belarus itself. Indeed – how can we say never forget, when we don’t yet know all there is to know. We need to know first before we can have the option to forget.
In 2020, The Together Plan devised and created a learning tool to explore this hidden history. Aimed at young learners in the English speaking world (the UK and the USA) the programme introduces teenagers to the subject of the Holocast. The journey begins in the Soviet Union and explores hidden history. Participants learn about the Jews who fought back, escaped ghettos and took up arms in the forests as brave Partisans. Understanding the story in the east helps to make sense of the whole Holocaust story. The programme is called Making History Together and it is a double journey; one of discovery and the other a journey of self-development. Making History Together was created to also seed a parallel programme in Belarus. The Kamensky College in Minsk is partnering with us on this project – where non-Jewish students are engaging in the materials and connecting to this hidden history. Hidden because during the Soviet period and up to 1990 when the Soviet Union came to an end, the Jewish suffering was deemed anti-Soviet. Everyone who survived in the Soviet Union in the Second World War (or the Great Patriotic War as it is called in the East) was considered to have suffered equally. With no official Holocaust education in Belarus – there is still work to be done, although there have been a number of admirable and excellent independent efforts to establish small Holocaust museums and learning spaces in different parts of the country.
Making History Together has opened the eyes of young people in Minsk and inspired them to do voluntary social action – to help create projects in Minsk to commemorate the Holocaust to make the history more visible. Last year the students planted an alley of trees and laid plaques in a public park in an area that was the Jewish cemetery which was on the territory of the Minsk Ghetto.
For Holocaust Memorial Day on January 27th 2023, our Together Plan team in Minsk under the direction of Artur Livshyts, organised a very special event at the Kamensky College which was attended by ambassadors and representatives from the British, German, Austrian, Japanese, Azerbaijan, Moldovan, Armenian, Kazakhstan and Russian Embassies. Over 250 people attended the event, most being non-Jewish students who would never have attended any event for Holocaust remembrance let alone know what had happened in their country between 1941 and 1944. Survivors told their harrowing stories, and partisans, and those who risked their lives to save Jews, were acknowledged. The students lit the room up with the torches on their mobile devices and for a moment they really did light the darkness. It was a truly unique and deeply meaningful event and we are incredibly proud that our Making History Together programme has paved the way for people in Belarus to feel empowered to take an active role in bringing this history into focus.
We would like to express our sincere gratitude to the UK charity Jewish Child’s Day and the British Embassy in Belarus for their support of the Making History Together Programme