Thursday, 12 May 2016

Center for Research on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union under the auspices of Yad Vashem’s Institute for Holocaust Research

Many people who thought that they had lost everyone and everything as an outcome of the Holocaust have likewise made astounding discoveries thanks to research institutes and genealogical databases.

Even more discoveries are likely to be made with the establishment of the Moshe Mirilashvili Center for Research on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union under the auspices of Yad Vashem’s Institute for Holocaust Research. The center’s inauguration was marked this week at a ceremony in the Yad Vashem Synagogue attended by Michael and Laura Mirilashvili and their family, Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, Immigration and Absorption Minister Ze’ev Elkin, chairman of the Yad Vashem directorate Avner Shalev, Ashkenazi and Sephardi chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, chairman of the Yad Vashem council Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, Russian Ambassador Alexander Shein and Georgian Ambassador Paata Kalandadze.

Recalling the horrific mass murders at Babi Yar, Shalev stated that research is a vital component in processing the loss. “It is imperative in building a consciousness of remembrance, and afterward, to creating an identity that can comprehend the terrible rupture in the history of the Jewish people and the whole of humanity,” he said as he commended Michael Mirilashvili as a man of vision who understands this and extended his help for the establishment of a research center in memory of his father, Moshe.

For many years it was almost impossible to gain access to Holocaust material in the Soviet Union. After the fall of Communism, many archives in the FSU were opened, enabling multidisciplinary research into the wartime fate of the Jews in the USSR. Supported by the Genesis Philanthropy Group, the European Jewish Fund and other donors, for the past several years Yad Vashem has invested efforts into researching the history of the Jews living in the Soviet Union before, during and after the Holocaust. The Mirilashvili Center will make it possible to consolidate and augment these endeavors and will lead to groundbreaking global academic discourse in this field.

Dr. Iael Nidam-Orvieto, director of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, presented an overview of current and future projects on which the center will focus its efforts. Headed by Dr. Arkadi Zeltser, a world-acclaimed scholar of Holocaust history in the FSU, the center will launch new areas of investigation, such as interethnic relations between Jews and non-Jews in the Soviet Union during the Holocaust, and continue the Research Institute’s ongoing projects in the field, such as “The Untold Stories,” an online investigation of the murder sites of the Jews in the Nazi-occupied territories of the FSU, and “Jews in the Red Army,” an online database of Jewish soldiers who fought in the Soviet Army during World War II.

The center will also initiate international conferences and workshops, in which it will present its research findings to senior and young scholars alike, and publish academic studies, articles, testimonies and collections of relevant archival documents for the benefit of the worldwide research community and descendants of Jews who lived in the USSR at that time.