MINSK, Belarus – The World Jewish Congress joined the Union of Belarusian Jewish Organizations and Communities on Monday to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the liquidation of the Minsk Ghetto. Maram Stern, WJC Deputy CEO for Diplomatic Affairs, and Igor Ujhazi, Head of WJC Counter-Antisemitism Unit, and members of the WJC Jewish Diplomatic Corps stood along with the community to honor the heroes of the ghetto and memorialize the tens of thousands of lives lost.
Foreign Minister of Belarus Vladimir Makei told those gathered that “remembering the Minsk ghetto means remembering all who perished and what would they have become if they survived. Remembering them means fighting against antisemtisim and xenophobia.”
Peter Uettmar, German ambassador to Belarus, spoke of his nation’s responsibility for the tragedy, adding that it is “the duty of German is to remind everyone what happened during World War II, so it would not happen again.”
In a speech at a memorial evening in honor the ghetto survivors and righteous among nations at the Belarussian State Philharmonic, WJC representative Ujhazi said: “We are here today in Minsk to pay our respect to the dead and to proclaim loudly an clearly that we will not allow tragedies like the Holocaust to happen ever again, and that we will fight against anyone and everyone who denies, distorts, or trivializes this dark chapter of human history.”
The Minsk Ghetto was established in 1941 after German invaded the Soviet Union and captured the city. Within a few days of their arrival, the Nazis murdered 2,000 Jews, and within just a few months, 20,000 had been killed. At its maximum, 80,000-100,000 people lived in the cramped quarters of the ghetto. By August 1943, there were fewer than 9,000 Jews remaining. The ghetto was liquidated later in October, and most of Minsk’s surviving Jews were sent to perish in Sobibor extermination camp. The ghetto is remembered for its strong resistance movement. Nearly 10,000 Jews were able to escape and join nearby Partisan groups.