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Shoah Foundation Visual History Archive: Belarus

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Before 1939, the area that constitutes modern-day Belarus was divided between Poland and the Soviet Union. The Visual History Archive has over 1,350 interviews with people hailing either from what was once eastern Polandcities such as Baranavichy, Hrodna, Navahrudak, Brest, Lida, Slonim, and Pinsk—or from the prewar Soviet Belorussian Republic—from Minsk, Mahiliou, Babruisk, Homel', Vitsebsk among other locations.

The interviews give information on 91 ghettos and 27 camps in "Polish" Belarus and 69 ghettos and 22 camps in "Soviet" Belarus. There is a particularly strong collection of interviews with survivors from the Minsk ghetto, who managed to escape from the ghetto and join the partisans; these include interviewees with the leaders of the Minsk ghetto resistance or their family members. The archive also provide historical insight into less well known places, such as the relatively obscure ghetto in Kolyshki from which survivors were able to escape to safety in March 1942, having learned that the Soviet frontline was momentarily nearby.

On account of its forests and swamps, Belarus was the center of Soviet partisan activity, and the testimonies reflect this prominently. Many interviewees fought in Jewish partisan units such as the Bielski partisans or the Zorin detachment or with the numerous Soviet units operational there.

A noteworthy group of testimonies are those given by people who assisted Jews in escaping and hiding, often for extended periods. Most aid recipients kept close relations with their rescuers after the war. Twelve rescuers were interviewed in Belarus.

A total of 246 interviews were conducted in Belarus, all in Russian.


See also: USSR 




Selected Bibliography

Al′tman, Il′ia. Zhertvy nenavisti: Kholokost v SSSR 1941–1945 gg., Moscow: Fond “Kovcheg”: Kollektsiia “Sovershenno sekretno”, 2002.

Bauer, Yehuda. The Death of the Shtetl, New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.

Beorn, Waitman. Marching into Darkness: the Wehrmacht and the Holocaust in Belarus, Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2014.

Dean, Martin. Collaboration in the Holocaust: Crimes of the Local Police in Belorussia and Ukraine, 1941-44, New York: St. Martin's Press, 2000.

Gerlach, Christian. Kalkulierte Morde: die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weissrussland 1941 bis 1944, Hamburg: Hamburger Edition, 1999.

Tec, Nechama. Defiance: the Bielski Partisans, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Visual History Archive Curator

Profile Photo
Anne Grant
Cooper Library
Room 405