Monday, September 24, 2007

Memorial Unveiled in Slutsk Brings in Somber New Year

During Rosh Hashana this year, an unlikely community of only 100 Jews celebrated not only the beginning of a new year, but also their heroism of years past. A long-awaited memorial marking the location of the Slutsk Ghetto and its uprising was finally unveiled the first Sunday of year 5768.

The monument, located near the center of town, is just across the street from the original entrance to the Ghetto itself.

“It is very significant that there is such a sizeable memorial near the center, because here people will actually see it,” explained Yaakov Bassin, head of Belarus’s Progressive Jewish communities and a strong voice against anti-semitism in the Former Soviet Union.

And sizeable it is. The memorial ground covers a large segment of a Slutsk city-street. It is surrounded by an unusual gate-like structure made of black wood in an irregular arrangement, giving the observer a feeling of imprisonment in a labyrinth. There are columns of stones shoved in various corners of the gates to symbolize residents of the ghetto being cornered and victimized. These faceless formless stones illustrate how targets of Nazi cruelty were dehumanized by their oppressors.

"The story of the Slutsk ghetto is probably one of the most terrifying in all of Belarus," explained Raisa Tychkina, the Chairman of the local Jewish community. "Ghetto prisoners were burned alive in their own homes and those who tried to run away were shot to death. Only several persons managed to survive these events," she said (

The stones which mark the memorial’s purpose are written in Belarusian, and label the place in honor of the people of the Ghetto. Thanks to the financial assistance of Jerry Weiner, a major force in the Minsk-Atlanta Jewish partnership, and others such as the Simon Mark Lazarus Foundation, and also due to the spiritual guidance of Slutsk Ghetto survivor, Fredrich Falevich, the memorial was erected, marking this previously virtually unknown historical locale. The elderly Slutsk community has finally achieved a long-anticipated victory of building their memorial in the hopes that passersby will now pay tribute to a nearly-lost Jewish community which once comprised approximately 80% of Slutsk’s pre-war population.

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