The Together Plan’s Digital Jewish Belarus Collection on Europeana
Digital archives have revolutionised the preservation and accessibility of historical artefacts, allowing us to delve into the rich tapestry of human history from the comfort of our own screens. At The Together Plan, we see ourselves as a pioneering organisation dedicated to preserving Jewish heritage in Belarus, and we have taken a significant stride in this direction by creating a new Jewish Belarus collection on Europeana (Europe’s digital cultural heritage online) . We are incredibly excited about this digital collection, its impact on preserving Jewish history, and the accessibility it offers to a global audience.
The Jewish Belarus collection curated by The Together Plan has been created by the charity’s team and community members in Belarus. This collection serves as a testament to the vibrant Jewish culture and its enduring presence in Belarus, allowing us to piece together the fragments of a rich heritage that might otherwise have been lost or forgotten. This is of immense value not just to those with Jewish ancestry to Belarus, but also to the communities in Belarus today. There are many who live in Belarus, who to this day know very little about the Jews who were so brutally murdered between 1941 and 1944. After the Second World War, it was deemed that there had been no Holocaust in the Soviet Union. Jews who had survived, had done so as Soviet Citizens as part of the collective suffering. Few have ever told their stories or what they witnessed and with the passing of time, those who witnessed or survived the slaughter of the Jews in Belarus, are now few in number. The letters and testimonies from Jews that were collected by Vasily Grossman and Ilya Ehrenberg during the war into what became known as the Black Book of Soviet Jewry, were deemed anti-Soviet by the Soviet Central Committee. A Russian-language edition of the Black Book was published in Jerusalem in 1980, and finally in Kyiv, Ukraine in 1991. The years of communism that followed the end of the war meant that Jewish history was suppressed, Jewish continuity was stifled and Jews who survived were silenced.With that in mind, we believe it is time to put Jewish Belarus back on the map.
Our new digital collection on the Europeana website, for the first time, gives a glimpse into the communities, individuals, places and spaces connected to Belarus’s Jewish past. This allows us to better understand and appreciate the rich tapestry of Jewish life in Belarus.
By bringing our collection to Europeana ensures that it can be accessed by a global audience. Researchers, students, and anyone with an interest in Jewish history can now explore the collection from anywhere in the world. This accessibility breaks down geographical barriers, enabling individuals to engage with the photographs and the historical information (the metadata) which will help to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of Belarusian Jewish heritage.
Moreover, the collection acts as a bridge between generations, connecting individuals to their roots, fostering a sense of shared heritage. Descendants of Belarusian Jews can now delve into their family history, tracing their lineage and understanding the experiences of their ancestors using our archive search service. The collection also invites dialogue and collaboration, encouraging individuals from different backgrounds to engage in conversations about Jewish history, culture, and the importance of preserving our collective pasts.
We are continuing with our research to tell the story of Jewish Belarus, through research, collaborations and by connecting to people across the world who have Belarusian ancestry and stories to share. To that end, our collection on Europeana is just the beginning and it is our mission to create a living legacy to the 700 years of Jewish Belarus, as we work to support the communities in Belarus today. In this way, communities will grow, the stories and the history will be preserved and this living legacy will serve as a reminder of the resilience, creativity, and spirit of the Belarusian Jewish community, despite the challenges they faced throughout history. Having a growing and living collection such as this sparks conversations, fosters understanding, and promotes tolerance, creating a foundation for a more inclusive and empathetic future.
We are grateful to our international partners the AEPJ in Barcelona and Jewish Heritage Network in Amsterdam and to Europeana for the opportunity to bring this first collection online. This digitised collection stands as a testament to the power of technology in preserving and sharing our collective history, fostering a deeper understanding and appreciation of the rich tapestry of human experiences.
To access some of the collection on Europeana, click here
Below are a few selected items from The Together Plan’s collection on Europeana:
Jewish Memorial Park, Minsk
On the site of the former Minsk ghetto, there was a place of execution of Jews, where at that time burials were transferred from the cemetery, which was located on the site of the present Dynamo stadium. The cemetery, which existed from 1868 to 1946, was closed at the beginning of the 1970s, and in 1990 it was completely liquidated in order to establish a park.
To view this image on Europeana click here
House of Government, Minsk
The largest building in Belarusian architecture in the interwar period. Designed by Jewish architecht Iosif Langbard in 1934.
To view this image on Europeana click here
To read Debra Brunner’s blog article on Europeana, click here