Database: The Jews of Belarus in the Modern Period

Over the course of his research Dr. Smilovitsky has amassed a vast collection of archival materials, which are in the process of being uploaded to a database on the Center’s website, which will include scanned documents, photographs and correspondence.

The Jews in Belarus, 1944-1953

Between 1944 and 1946, the remainder of the Jewish community took an active part in the renovation of the economic, cultural and scientific life of Belarus, and in certain areas even played a key role. Beginning in 1946, the attitude of the authorities towards Jews became harsher, reaching a peak of bad relations in 1948-1953. The Jews were blamed for “bourgeoisie nationalism” on the one hand and “rootless cosmopolitanism” on the other. Yiddish culture – which to that point was the only expression of Jewish nationalism – was made illegal and Jewish institutions were shut down. The peak of this attack involved the doctor’s libel in 1953. The short period between the end of World War II and the death of Stalin turned out to be a time of awakening for those Jews who had survived the Holocaust’s horrors and expected to reconstruct national Jewish life on Belarusian soil.

This research is primarily based on archival material from Israel, Belarus and Russia, as well as press clippings, collections of documents, statistical data, memoirs and interviews, and monographs published on the subject in different countries. Elements of this research have already been published in various academic journals.

Correspondence and Personal Documents as Historical Sources: Jewish Soldiers in Belarus

This project examines the correspondence of Jewish soldiers in the Soviet Army during World War II. Dr. Smilovitsky is collecting and analyzing correspondence and personal documents (letters, diaries, certificates of awards, commendations, military letters of recommendation, casualty notifications, etc.), memoirs, photographs, and personal stories from the Red Army soldiers and commanders, as well as members of their families, prominent figures of culture and science, who were evacuated to the areas of Central Asia, the Urals, Kazakhstan, Siberia, and the Far East during the period 1941–1945 (365 witnesses). The aim of this project is to decipher the military correspondence, compile a scholarly commentary, and create an online database available to researchers, students and all who are interested in World War II. The results of this work will serve as a basis for creating an archive of military correspondence and personal sources, publications of collections of letters, and preparation of a research monograph on the subject.

Publications

Books

Lev Smilovitsky: From My Life Experience – Memories, Jerusalem, 2016, 192 pp.

Belarusian Review. Editor of Special Jewish Issue in cooperation with the Goldstein-Goren Diaspora Research Center, Prague, 2016.

Articles

“Jewish Studies in Belarus Judaics: History, Current State and Perspective (in cooperation with Professor Zakhar Shibeko), Belarusian Review. Special Jewish Issue, Prague, 2016, pp. 7–12.

“The War and the Holocaust: The Adult World Through the Eyes of Children – Notes on the International Conference in Barcelona 14–15 December, 2015”, All-Israel Association "Surviving in the Concentration Camps and Ghettos".

“The Attitude to the Holocaust in the Soviet Union and Present-day Belarus”, Belarusian Review (Prague), Vol. 28, No. 1 (2016), pp. 15–21.

“Dribin and the Jews”, My Zdes’, № 530, August 31–Sept. 7, 2016.

“Vidzy and Braslav: Two Episodes of the Expedition Following the Footsteps of Jewish Cemeteries in Belarus in 2016”, Most, № 850, Sept. 21, 2016, pp. 24–25.

“Experiment in Dubrovno”, My zdes’, № 532, Sept. 21–30, 2016.

“Luzhki: The Expedition Following the Footsteps of Jewish Cemeteries in Belarus in 2016”, Most, № 851, Sept. 28, 2016, pp. 24–25.

“Dolhinovo: The Expedition Following the Footsteps of Jewish Cemeteries in Belarus in 2016”, Most, № 852, October 6, 2016, pp. 16–17.

“Dokshitsy: The Surprise Did Not Work Out – The Expedition Following the Footsteps of Jewish Cemeteries in Belarus in 2016”, Most, № 853, October 11, 2016, pp. 18–19.

“Glubokoe: The Expedition Following the Footsteps of Jewish Cemeteries in Belarus in 2016”, Most, № 854, October 20, 2016, pp. 18–19.

“Miory: The Meat-packing Plant in the Jewish Cemetery”, Most, № 855, October 27, 2016, pp. 18–19.

“Daraganovo: The Expedition Following the Footsteps of Jewish Cemeteries in Belarus in 2016”, Most, № 856, November 2, 2016, pp. 22–23.

“Plissa: The Expedition Following the Footsteps of Jewish Cemeteries in Belarus in 2016”, Most, № 857, November 9, 2016, pp. 22–23.

“Who Will Take Care of the Jewish Cemeteries of Belarus?”, Most, № 858, November 16, 2016, pp. 18–19.

“The Moshe Oath to the IDF at Kibbutz Zikim”, The Union of the Belarusian Jewish Public Associations and Communities, January 4, 2017.

Reports

“For the Third Time in America”, Israego, January 4, 2016.

“Barcelona – Doors Open: Country, History, Politics, People and Faces”, Israego, February 28, 2016, # 1139, pp. 68–70.

Reviews

Dr. Alexander Bely lecture “The Former Industrial Property Lyakhovka is a Witness of the Crush, of the Assimilation and Disappearance of the Minsk Jewish Community”, Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Belarus, Minsk.

Submitted Articles

“Jews of the USSR Write to Palestine, 1941–1945.” From the history of the World War II correspondence, Russkii arkhiv, 2017.

“War and Children, 1941–1945: Through the Prism of Military Correspondence”, Wschodnioeuropejskie Czasopismo Naukowe (East European Scientific Journal), Warsaw, 2017.

“We Are Already in Germany: Germany and the Germans through the Eyes of Jews as the Soviet Soldiers and Officers, Based on Letters and Diaries, 1944–1945”, Parallels: Russian-Jewish Historical and Literary and Bibliographic Almanac, Moscow, The House of the Jewish Book, 2017.

“Thank You, Dear, For Dreaming! – About the Dreams in the War, Based on World War II Letters and Diaries”, Jerusalem Literary Review, Jerusalem Anthology Association, 2017.

“Love in the War: Women and Men in the Red Army (On pages of letters and diaries of 1941–1945)”, Annales Universitatis Mariae Curie-Sklodowska, sectio M – Balcaniensis et Carpathiensis, 2017.

“About the national character of Belarusians”, Belarusian Review, Prague, 2017.

Interviews

“Belarusians and Jews have Always Agreed with Each Other Easily”, interview on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, RFE/RL November 25, 2016 (Prague).

“Domachevo: The Defenseless in the Face of the Executioners – About the Holocaust in Belarus”, interview on Russia Today, November 1, 2016.

Academic Adviser

Leon Gershovich, Ph.D. student whose dissertation examines the topic: “Jewish Life in South-East Belarus: The Case of Gomel, 1917–1941”.

Boris Maftsir, Until the Last Step, a documentary film on the Holocaust in Belarus during World War II. Produced by Nonstop Media and Zvi Shefy Productions.

Member of the Editorial Board for Wschodnioeuropejskie Czasopismo Naukowe (East European Scientific Journal), Warsaw.

Conferences

  • May 19, 2016
    As part of the Center’s symposium “Les combattants juifs de la Seconde Guerre mondiale”, Dr. Smilovitsky delivered a lecture entitled “The Creation of an Archival Collection of World War II Correspondence at the Diaspora Research Center”.

  •  

    April 20, 2017
    Dr. Smilovitsky participated in the Center’s symposium “Jewish Soldiers in World War II” in which he delivered a lecture entitled “Families of the Soviet Jewish Soldiers Write Abroad, 1941–1945: Letters and Diaries of World War II as a Historical Source”.

Lectures

  • May 12, 2016
    “World War II Correspondence and the Study of the Participation of Jews in the Struggle against Nazi Germany (1941–1945)”, the Igor Serebriannikov Program at the Kharkov Beit Dan Jewish Community Center, Ukraine.

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    February 14, 2017
    “The Holocaust in Belarus 1941–1944: New Documents and Materials”, the Uri Tair Educational Program at the Ministry of Education of Israel, Jerusalem.

 

Events

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News

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A new date will be published soon