• Museum of Jewish History and Culture in Belarus
The Museum, opened in 2002, informs about Jewish history and culture on the territory of today's Belarus.
Image: Minsk, undated, The Choral Synagogue, Beth Hatefutsoth Tel Aviv
Minsk, undated, The Choral Synagogue, Beth Hatefutsoth Tel Aviv

Image: Minsk, 2009, View of the exhibition, Stiftung Denkmal, Adrien Beauduin
Minsk, 2009, View of the exhibition, Stiftung Denkmal, Adrien Beauduin
In the 14th century, the first Jews settled in what is today Belarus. When the Russian Empire was expanding in the 18th century, the region came under tsarist rule. The western part of the empire was the only region Jews were allowed to settle in, which they thus did. Growing anti-Semitism and pogroms forced many Jews to emigrate at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The revolutions of 1917 and the civil war that followed hit the Jews especially hard because they were frequently caught between the lines of rivalling factions. Later, the region was divided between Poland and the Soviet Union. Jews were granted all civil rights in Poland; beginning 1935, however, increasingly anti-Semitic legislation was passed. In the USSR Jews were on the one hand granted equal rights, on the other hand the atheistic state suppressed religious practice. In 1939, when the USSR annexed the eastern part of Poland in accordance with the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, many Jews from the German occupied territories sought refuge here. Many of them, however, were persecuted by the Stalinist regime as capitalists, zionists or believers. There were around 405,000 Jews in Belarus at the time of the German invasion in 1941. The rapid advance of the Wehrmacht left them with no time to flee. Already in the first weeks of occupation, the Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units) murdered up to 40 per cent of the Jews in certain regions, at times with the help of the local population. Further such »Aktionen« as well as the establishment of ghettos and the deportations that followed sealed the fate of Belarusian Jewry. According to German accounts, there were only 30,000 Jews left by the end of 1942. Many of them were in hiding or active in the partisan movement. After the war, Jews continued to suffer anti-Semitism - now as citizens of the USSR - and many emigrated. Only after the collapse of the USSR could the Jewish community reconstitute itself and publicly commemorate their dead.
Image: Minsk, undated, The Choral Synagogue, Beth Hatefutsoth Tel Aviv
Minsk, undated, The Choral Synagogue, Beth Hatefutsoth Tel Aviv

Image: Minsk, 2009, View of the exhibition, Stiftung Denkmal, Adrien Beauduin
Minsk, 2009, View of the exhibition, Stiftung Denkmal, Adrien Beauduin
A special focus is placed on the fate of Belarusian Jews during the Holocaust in the museum's work. At least 60,000 Jews from Minsk and an estimated 230,000 Belarusian Jews were murdered, most of them perished in mass shootings.
Image: Minsk, undated, Jews in the Minsk ghetto, Yad Vashem
Minsk, undated, Jews in the Minsk ghetto, Yad Vashem

Only after the collapse of the USSR could the mass murder of Jews be commemorated publicly. Most initiatives came from private organisations and individuals. The Jewish Museum Minsk was founded by Belarusian historian Irina Gerassimova in 2002. It is located in the building which also houses the Jewish community offices. The Museum is supported by both the »American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee«(abbreviated: JDC or »Joint«) and the Minsk Jewish community. Apart from a presentation of the history of Belarusian Jews, the Museum also displays temporary exhibitions on topics such as Jewish partisans during the war, Jewish theatre or traditional synagogue architecture.
Image: Minsk, 2009, Entrance to the Museum in the building of the Jewish community, Stiftung Denkmal, Adrien Beauduin
Minsk, 2009, Entrance to the Museum in the building of the Jewish community, Stiftung Denkmal, Adrien Beauduin

Image: Minsk, 2009, View of the exhibition, Stiftung Denkmal, Adrien Beauduin
Minsk, 2009, View of the exhibition, Stiftung Denkmal, Adrien Beauduin
Name
Muzej Istorii i Kultury Ewreew Belarusi
Address
28, Ul. W. Chorushey
220100 Minsk
Phone
(+375) 17-286 796 1
Web
http://www.beljews.org/articles121.html
E-Mail
jewish_museum@mail.ru
Possibilities
Permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions on different aspects of Jewish life in Belarus