The dark days of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd October 1943 saw the final end of the Minsk Ghetto liquidating all those who remained prisoners within its barbed wire boundaries. Over the span of 800 harrowing days, approximately one hundred thousand Jewish lives were ruthlessly extinguished by the Nazis. The horrifying specter of Nazi-occupied Belarus continues to cast a long shadow. Eight decades later the 80th anniversary of the end of the ghetto was marked at a special memorial evening on Sunday October 22nd at the Jewish Heritage Centre of the Jewish Religious Union in Minsk to remember all those who suffered.
At this poignant gathering, two survivors, Frida Reizman and Vladimir Trakhtenberg, both former prisoners of the Minsk Ghetto, shared their heart-wrenching recollections. Their accounts vividly depicted the horrors they faced during their stolen childhoods in a place of unimaginable cruelty. Their stories resonated deeply with all in attendance, leaving a profound impact.
These stories, filled with raw emotion and unwavering resilience, hold a powerful message for present and future generations. They serve as a stark reminder that the lessons of history, unfortunately, remain unlearned. Recent tragic events in Israel stand as a stark testament to this painful reality. The legacy of the Minsk Ghetto and its survivors continue to echo, urging us to never forget and to strive for a world that rejects the horrors of the past.
At The Together Plan, we take great pride in our dedicated efforts, over the past years, to shed light on the often-overlooked history of the Holocaust in Belarus. Our book, ‘We Remember Lest the World Forget – Memories of the Minsk Ghetto,’ stands as a poignant testament to our commitment. This work is a translation of 27 survivor stories, giving voice to those who endured the horrors of the Minsk Ghetto.
In a significant milestone, in the week running up to the 80th anniversary of the liquidation, we published our second book, ‘Anna Machiz – Testimonies of Tragedy and Resistance in the Minsk Ghetto 1941 – 1943.’ This publication further deepens our exploration of the Minsk Ghetto, sharing testimonies that reflect both the tragedy and the unwavering spirit of resistance that prevailed in those dark times.
Anna Machiz – Testimonies of Tragedy and Resistance in the Minsk Ghetto 1941 – 1943 tells the story of one of the largest, but least well documented, episodes of the Holocaust, bearing witness to the death of 100,000 people from across Belarus and beyond who were held, humiliated, and murdered in Minsk by Nazi Germany and its collaborators. From Anna’s experience of being present during the events swirling around her, it clearly captures the shock and confusion of the early days of the ghetto, the development of the processes of control and repression of the population, and of the disbelief of its victims.
Secondly, there is a personal quality which is novel about Anna Machiz’s account. It was this factor which made me immediately accept the invitation to help bring this text to a wider audience. As a volunteer with the Together Plan, which works to enhance understanding of Jewish history and culture in Belarus and its communities, and as a descendent of a Jewish family who fled this territory in a previous generation, a stand-out aspect of Anna’s text is the way it captures tories and character of real, everyday people – men, women and children – caught up in dangerous events beyond their control. It gives them names, addresses, and occupations. It reaches into their roles and relationships before the War as doctors, teachers, workers and even as criminals. It bringe their daily existence in the new and terrible context of the ghetto. It details the many ways that these lives were ended, of how people were taken from their homes and forced into the ghetto, how families and friendships were shattered, and the progressive reality of confusion, fear, disconnection and ultimately death.
Our mission is clear: we aim to ensure that the world never forgets the stories of courage, survival, and resilience that emerged from the Holocaust in Belarus. These publications serve as vital records, preserving the memories of survivors and honouring their enduring legacy.
As we continue our journey of remembrance and education, we are reminded that there is still so much we don’t yet know.