On January 29, 2018, the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center was the site of a solemn occasion devoted to International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The observance included the laying of the foundation stone for a monument to heroes of the Resistance in concentration camps and ghettos, as well as the opening of the exhibition “Sobibor: those who conquered death”, dedicated to the sole uprising in a Nazi concentration camp as the result of which prisoners were able to escape.
President V. V. Putin of the Russian Federation and Prime Minister B. Netanyahu of Israel took part in the memorial observances. Among the guests were members of the Russian delegation: Minister of Defence Sergey Shoigu, Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich, as well as the Plenipotentiary Ambassadors of the United States, Poland, Israel, the German Federal Republic, France and other nations, in addition to descendants of concentration camp prisoners and participants in the Sobibor uprising.
The year 2018 is the seventy-fifth anniversary of the sole uprising in a Nazi death camp that ended in the prisoners’ victory. On the anniversary of the Sobibor uprising, led by the Soviet officer Alexander Pechersky, the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center has prepared the exhibition “Sobibor: those who conquered death,” which displays manuscripts of Alexander Pechersky, other documents, paintings, art work, unique photographs and video recordings. As part of the memorial observance, the solemn opening of the exhibition was attended by Vladimir Putin and Benjamin Netanyahu. The exhibition is open to visitors from January 30 to February 25. “In the USSR it was practically impossible to find a Jewish family untouched by the Catastrophe. Therefore, for all of us the Holocaust is more than an abstract conception, it is part of personal history. The Jewish people in general and each of us separately will convey this historical memory to new generations. This will give us the possibility to comprehend our spiritual unity before the face of history. And while I understand that the tragedy itself does not submit to rational thought, none the less, I am certain that a profound recognition and compassion for the horrifying suffering endured by millions will give us the strength to fight with evil both in the present and in the future. We conduct this ceremony of memory each year. The fact that this year the occasion occurred on such a high level speaks of the fact that the importance of the memorialization of the victims of Nazism and the opposition to national intolerance is recognized not only by the Jewish community but by all our country’s social and political forces.” Alexander Boroda, general director of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, President of the FJCR.
In honor of the anniversary of the Sobibor uprising, the foundation stone was laid for a monument to heroes of the Resistance in concentration camps and ghettos. Participants in this ceremony included the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Berl Lazar; the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, Alexander Boroda; the Chairman of the Council of Directors of the “Renova” group of companies, Victor Vekselberg; the granddaughter of Alexander Pechersky, Natalya Ladychenko; the Plenipotentiary Ambassadors of the United States, France, Poland, and the Chargé d'affaires of the Embassy of the Netherlands. Participants in the laying of the memorial also lit six candles in memory of the more than six million Jews who perished during the Holocaust.
Afterwards, official speeches were delivered by the President of the Russian Federation, V. V. Putin, by the Prime Minister of Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu and by the President of the Federation of Jewish Communities in Russia, Alexander Boroda.
President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin emphasized that International Holocaust Remembrance Day had become the personification of the general memory and mourning for all who gave their lives to free the world from the Nazis: “No matter how many years have passed, it is impossible to fathom the terrible scale of these evil deeds. According to materials from the Nuremburg Trials, six million Jews were victims of the Nazi machinery of annihilation. Among them were hundreds of thousands of Soviet citizens. Around three million Soviet prisoners of war perished in the death camps. People of the most varied ages and nationalities were tortured, burned and ravaged. We mourn all those who gave their lives to free the world from the Nazis, from their barbarism and rage”, said the President of the Russian Federation.
The Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahu denoted the historic significance of the Sobibor uprising and the important role of Alexander Pechersky and other prisoners in the organization and carrying out of the uprising: “Today I pay tribute to the memory of commander Alexander Pechersky, a Jew and officer of the Soviet Army, who headed and led those who rose up in the Sobibor camp. He and his comrades in arms were able to overcome the Nazi guards and break out to freedom. There were those who perhaps thought that this was the end of our history. But this signified exactly the opposite. The enormous strength that is in our people compels us to not surrender. This uprising symbolized a deep turning point in the history of the Jewish people. From a people who could not defend themselves, we turned into a powerful state that knows how to fight and can defend itself with its own forces”.
International Holocaust Remembrance Day was established by the U. N. General Assembly on November 1, 2005. The date chosen for the Remembrance Day was January 27. On this day Soviet troops liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Each year observances devoted to Holocaust Remembrance Day take place throughout the entire world. A memorial program is also traditionally conducted by the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow, which gives special memory to the victims of the unprecedented crime of the Nazis against the world.
translation by William Brumfield