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Use our multimedia maps, and explore the family pictures, archival material, and personal stories of 21 Jewish Holocaust survivors to get a unique insight into Europe’s rich Jewish heritage, and to discover sites of Jewish life in towns in Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.
The Jewish Cemetery of Minsk was founded in the mid-19th century. When Minsk was enlarged as a city, the old cemeteries (in the area of “Dynama” stadium and of the university campus of the Belarusian State University) were closed in the 1840s and in 1873. New burials were conducted at the Jewish Cemetery of Minsk from this time on and some old graves were moved here by relatives.
During World War Two, the old Jewish cemetery was located within the ghetto boundaries and was also used by the Germans for mass shootings. Thousands of Jews were killed on the cemetery grounds and buried in mass graves.
The cemetery was officially closed in the 1950s. Tombstones from the Jewish cemetery were used as building material or for other non-jewish cemeteries. Around the 1970s, the Jewish cemetery was gradually completely demolished: all gravestones were removed, and the city built a stadium on part of the site. Plans for further buildings, such as cinemas and a dancing club, were stopped by the initiative of the Jewish community in the 1990s. Only a few headstones remain from what once was one of the largest Jewish cemeteries in Belarus.
In the last decades, Jewish cemeteries have begun to receive more attention – some cemeteries have been cleaned and their tombstones re-erected, photographed, and cataloged. Belarusian Jewish organizations took responsibility to maintain some of the old Jewish cemeteries, but despite all these efforts, the majority of old Jewish cemeteries in Belarus are still abandoned and there are few active Jewish cemeteries.
The first memorial stone, erected in 1993 on the territory of the former Jewish cemetery in Minsk, was dedicated to the German Jews deported from Hamburg. In subsequent years, new memorial stones have been created to commemorate the Jewish victims from various other cities, including Düsseldorf, Bremen, Cologne and Bonn, Vienna and Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, Königsberg, Theresienstadt, and Brno. They are dedicated to the European Jews who were deported and annihilated in the Minsk ghetto and in Maly Trastsianets. The project was implemented in cooperation with the public authorities and the Jewish communities of the cities from which the Jews were deported. The focus of the composition is centered on the round yellow-tiled area commemorating the yellow cloth, named “lata”, which Jews had to wear during the Nazi occupation.
In 2008, the year of the 65th anniversary of the destruction of the Minsk Ghetto, the monument “Broken heart” was erected on the site of the former Jewish cemetery on Sukhaya Street, created by architect Leonid Levin and sculptor Maxim Petrul. Memorial Square consists of the monument and a collection of Jewish gravestones that were found during construction work, commemorates the victims of the Holocaust and points to the former existence of a cemetery in that location.