Friday, March 2, 2007

Yama Holocaust Memorial Ceremony

Today, hundreds gathered in the rain to honor the memory of 5,000 prisoners of the Minsk ghetto who were brutally murdered by Nazis on this day 65 years ago. The ceremony was held in the Yama pit, where victims were forced to dig their own mass-grave, were shot by the Nazis and thrown into the pit. This site, where many victims were buried alive in whirlwind of extermination, is now surrounded by modern residential buildings. Mr. Leonid Levin, architect, head of the Minsk Jewish Community and Director of the Belarusian Union of Jewish Communities, along with other artists, erected a memorial in the pit in honor of the deceased.

Michail Treister, Chair of the Belarusian Association of Former Jewish Ghetto and Nazi Camps Prisoners emceed the event. Among those who attended were Ze’ev Ben-Aryeh, Israeli Ambassador to Belarus, Jonathan M. Moore, Counselor and Deputy Chief of the U.S. Embassy in Minsk, and Latvian Ambassador to Belarus, Maira Mora. Youth members of JCC “Emuna” recited Holocaust poetry, and Rabbi Grisha Abramovich of the Progressive Community recited Av Harachamim, the prayer for martyred Jews.
After the ceremony, diplomats, honorees, veterans, survivors, children, and Jewish community professionals lined up to place wreaths, bouquets, or even single flowers on the memorial to offer their respects to those that were lost.


Lyna said...

are the graves still there? anything to mark where they are?

Erica Fishbein said...

Good question, Lyna! Here is an excerpt from a Jerusalem Post article which explains the layout very well:

In a large pit in the middle of town here, at a place called Yama, stands a monument dedicated to 5,000 Jews killed by the Nazis in that spot the day before Purim, 1942. Erected in 1946, the monument was the first and only one in the USSR devoted to the Holocaust which displayed Yiddish writing. Remarkably, not only did the monument survive the efforts of Stalin to eradicate all traces of Jewishness, but it also became the only one in Belarus where Jews could legally gather without any interference from the government, which they did throughout the period of Communist rule.

Today the ditch has been expanded to include a walkway and plaza, trees planted for Righteous Gentiles. There is an evocative sculpture that stands on a slope parallel to the steps leading into the pit of Yama, depicting Jews being forced down into the ravine.

Lyna said...

Righteous Gentiles?