Russian Jewish Congress
European Jewish Fund
In cooperation with
Russian Research and Educational Holocaust Center
Babi Yars of Russia
“Babi Yars of Russia” (hereinafter is the Project) is the major initiative of the Russian Jewish Congress, aimed at the preservation of historical memory and commemoration of Holocaust sites in Russia, is in development for over a year, since in 2007.
In the future the Babi Yars of Russia will develop into a wider project – “Babi Yars of Europe”. Participants will collect data on Jewish mass grave sites in Moldavia, Ukraine, Belarus and the Baltic FSU countries.
The Project aims at preservation of the collective memory of the little known Holocaust on Russian territory by gathering of info on places of massacres and putting the memorials to pay tribute to the victims.
Project objectives and current status of their implementation
- To identify and discover places of Jewish massacres during WWII through archival research and testimonies of witnesses of killings
The key partner of the Russian Jewish Congress in implementation of the Project is Russian Russian Research and EducationalHolocaustCenter (http://en.holocf.ru/) that enjoys wide connections in State Archives all over Russia as well as in other countries of the former Soviet Union and abroad that allows the Project Coordinator to obtain access to classified materials. Besides, over the years of the Center’s activity it gathered hundreds of documents and personal testimonies of survivors and witnesses. Thus, the development of “Babi Yars of Russia” goes along the blueprint prepared on the basis of historical materials.
At the moment archival research allowed to identify about 500 killing sites in 22 regions of Russian Federation.
- To arrange proper burials of victims and establish memorials at killing sites
The Project is carried out in close cooperation with Jewish communities (Russian Jewish Congress has 49 regional affiliates throughout the entire Russia) and RussianState and local authorities.
Upon identification of the mass killing site, local Jewish communities and/or educational, research, cultural and other public institutions are encouraged to formalize burials in accordance with current legislation of Russian Federation and Jewish religious traditions.
All monuments and memorial signs erected within the Project activities are adorned with Jewish symbolic (Stars of David, Hebrew engraving, etc.) to commemorate the perished.
At the moment there are only 25 memorials, where there is indication that the victims of Nazi atrocities were Jews, while there are no memorial signs in such cities as Rostov-on-Don (Zmievskaya Balka, true “Babi Yar” of Russia, where in Aug 1942 in the course of several days over 25000 Jews were killed), Kaluga Ghetto (the first ghetto in Europe liberated by Red Army) Bryansk, Krasnodar and many other (see p. Project Priority Plans)
- To create and regularly update online resource of comprehensive and reliable information on each and every killing site of Russia
In its first stage, the project created a website (http://www.holomemory.ru/, so far in Russian only, but English coming soon.) to be a virtual remembrance museum of Holocaust victims in Russia. The website features a map of the Russian Federation pinpointing all the documented sites of mass exterminations of Jews. Here one can learn about the burial places of the Holocaust victims, where monuments are and what condition they are in, and share any information he/she has in this respect. Anyone can enter the site and add information that will be monitored, verified and eventually uploaded by the site administrator.
Today, the website provides basic information on all 483 identified killing sites, while several dozens of mass killing sites, where over 140.000 Jews killed by the Nazis are buried, have detailed description.
- To establish “living memorials” – care of and on-going educational and commemoration activities around the memorials can be arranged not only by members of local Jewish communities, but also by local governmental authorities and institutions, largely represented by local schools, including teachers, high-school pupils and students.
- Stirring up Holocaust research and educational activity of teachers and students
Introduction at local schools special Holocaust curriculum, based on local historical materials, including preparation of teachers and study materials/text books/hand-outs/visual aids and development of Holocaust routes.
- Provision of public access to documental exhibits
In 1998 Russian Jewish Congress with active support of Moscow municipal officials created a unique Memorial for Holocaust victims and Jewish heritage of Russia and that consists of two parts: synagogue and historical museum of Russian Jewish community. Now it plays important role not only for Russian Jewish community, but also for the country as a whole. Memorial is the one of key links in the chain of historical memory about Second World War.
At the moment Russian Jewish Congress together with HolocaustCenter develops a special interactive installation “Babi Yars of Russia and Europe” that will be based in the museum, enabling visitors to grasp instantly the scope of the tragedy and see documented exhibits of local mass killing sites that are thousand miles away. At the same time, the Project carries out activities on collections of documental exhibits and evidences, followed by establishment of Jewish exhibitions that eventually could be used for virtual tours within the installation (touch-screens that zoom-in into the specific sites of mass killings and local museums, if any. This interactive exposition will be developed jointly with Yad Vashem within its Killing Sites Online Database project).
- Rendering assistance to relatives of perished by establishment of memorials at the sites of execution of their family members, arrangement trips to the places of execution, provision of reliable information
Center Holocaust closely cooperates with Yad Vashem and actively participates in building the Central Database of Shoah Victim’s Names. Thus it has established relations with many relatives and descendants of victims, who eager to see the memory of their beloved ones perpetuated. Now, with the creation of http://www.holomemory.com/ web-site and upon its translation into English, the outreach of the Project will grow, also beyond Russia.
- Coordination and close cooperation with museums, memorial and scientific centers and public organizations, as well as individual enthusiasts, seeking to identify killing sites and commemorate Holocaust victims
The project also plans to cooperate with local community organizations responsible for burying all the deceased during the war.
Project Priority Plans
There are several factors that the Project takes into consideration, when making the decision which out of hundreds killing sites are to be the next objects of the Project activity:
- Historical significance of the site (number of victims)
- Strong Jewish Community and/or public institution, able to make the memorial “live” - arrange proper care of and on-going educational and commemoration activities around the memorial
- Donors, interested in erection of the monument at that particular site.
- Availability of respective permits and approvals required by State authorities (land allotment, building permits, etc.)
- Viable connections with other public organizations and institutions that allow the Project results to contribute into the processes of society democratization and combat current growing trends of xenophobia and anti-Semitism.
At the moment the Project priorities are 2 sites that have already prepared and submitted for consideration complete sets of documents, including detailed applications, governmental permits for respective operations and evidences of partial support from the side of other donors.
1) Bryansk – place of one of largest mass killings in Russia (over 11.000 people), where victims were not only local Jews, but also refugees from Ukraine, Moldova and Belarus (From 1941 to 1943 Bryansk region was occupied by Nazis, there were 10 Ghettos.
At the moment there are several minor memorial signs at some district centers of Bryansk region, but the Community seeks to erect one monument, commemorating all victims of Bryansk extermination.
Total project cost is $5.000; minimal amount required to launch the Project is $3.000
2) Krasnodar (capital of Kuban’ - Russian region, host of Summer Olympic Games-2012) – Krasnodar Jewish Community succeeded in restitution of the historical Jewish cemetery (opened in 1861, last burial of 1965), and seeks to restore and preserve over 300 tombs, that still can be saved.
This cemetery, the only necropolis of Jewish culture in Krasnodar region, used to be a part of former Ekaterinodar necropolis, that once included Jewish, Tatar, Karaite sections, as well as “cholera” (cemetery for those who died of infectious diseases), section of WWI victims and “Vsesvyatskoe” (Christian Orthodox) section. At the moment only former Jewish and Christin Orthodox sections still can be restored, the rest of the territory of Ekaterinodar necropolis are built up.
Total Project cost is $832.000, minimal amount required to launch the Project is $220.000.
The project Baby Yars of Russia is carried out
Russian Governmental Authorities, supporting the Project activities:
Ministry of Science and Education of Russian Federation
Ministry of Culture of Russia
Local Training Institutions for Teachers
Local Jewish communities and private individuals are encouraged to support the noble cause of the Project by their financial contributions or in-kind assistance, such as volunteering time and efforts for realization of Project activities
Viatcheslav Moshe Kantor
President of the European Jewish Congresses
Chairman of the World Holocaust Fund
Rabbi Pinhas GOLDSCHMIDT
Chief Rabbi of Moscow