No. 6/ - October 2002
Editor: Fran Bock
Attempt to Erect Memorial to Holocaust Victims Blocked by Soviet Byelorussian Authorities
by Dr. Leonid Smilovitsky,
Diaspora Research Institute, Tel Aviv University
To: V.I. Kozlov, Secretary,
Minsk Region Committee of the
Communist Party (b) of
While on an official mission in the Cherven District in April-May 1946, I heard from Idelchik, a functionary of the propaganda department of the Regional Committee of CP(b)B, and from Comrade Sytyi, Secretary of the district CP(b)B Committee, that a group of citizens of Jewish nationality were conducting a fund-raising campaign to erect a monument to the Jews shot by the German invaders. They want it to be put up in the spot where the shooting took place. According to the more specific information I have managed to obtain, the raising of money in Cherven began in November-December 1945, after Vladimir Isaakovich Fundator, allegedly a Stalin Prize Laureate from Moscow, came there. He himself donated 50,000 roubles and opened an account in a Gosbank (State Bank) branch in Moscow. Allegedly, this has been legitimatised by the government and is being supported by the Permanent Representation of the BSSR in Moscow. Fundator is sending out letters and even dispatching his representatives to district capitals of the Minsk Region to raise money. In these letters he is informing of his donation and urges people to follow suit - to donate 300 roubles and more.
In Cherven, this is being done by Abram Idolchik (stoveman), Velitovsky, accountant of the Zagotlen [Flax Purchase] office, Shats, head of the trade department of the district consumers association, Soloveichik (hairdresser), and the rabbis son. The latter is the cash-keeper. They are trying to open a bank account as an artel, but permission for this has been denied on the pretext that they failed to submit a document from the District Executive Committee confirming that the artel has been established.
The organisers have already compiled the list of names to
be inscribed on the monument. Recently, a man from
1. It is the bodies of Soviet power that are charged with erecting monuments and doing other work to perpetuate the memory of people who were killed in the struggle against Hitlerism. Hence private initiative should be ruled out. Or should there be any, permission of bodies of Soviet power is indispensable.
2. It is going to be a monument to the war dead of one nationality (Jewish). Yet, there are Belorussians, Russians and Ukrainians among the victims. The monument clearly follows the national architecture canons and the inscription is in the Jewish language.
3. There is an organisation, evidently of a nationalist type, which has its branches and three-five organisers.
4. Activities of this kind are conducted in Dzerzhinsk, Cherven, Uzda, Rudinsk, Smolevichi, which also attests to the existence of an organisation.
of the Lenin Young
Communist League of
The above document (published
for the first time and translated from Russian) must for
a number of reasons be of interest to historians and the
public at large. It was found in the summer of 1995 in
the National Archives of the
The document is expressive of the party
functionaries way of thinking. It is made out as a
political denunciation typical of the
Ivan Poliakovs memorandum to the Minsk Region CP(b)B
Committee was prompted by the fact that he had discovered
the striving of the Cherven Jewish population to
perpetuate the memory of their relations who had fallen
victim to German genocide in the Second World War.
Vladimir Isaakovich Fundator is mentioned several times
as the initiator and an active participant in the project.
The document, compiled on the basis of hearsay and
rumours, shows that neither Poliakov himself nor the
functionaries of the Cherven District Party Committee (Sytyi)
and the District Executive Committee (Khrapko), nor
instructor of the Minsk Region CP(b)B Committee Idelchik
had any idea of who V.I. Fundator really was. The only
things reported are that he came from
Actually, the name of the Merited Inventor of the Russian Federation Vladimir Isaakovich Fundator (1903-1986), who was born in Cherven, Minsk Region, Belarus, is known not only to people familiar with the foundry practice. (He is the author of many scholarly works, winner of a USSR Council of Ministers Prize, founder of the modern technology of casting.) His methods are taught to students and used at foundries. His inventions made him one of the creators of the T-34 tank.
It is in place to note in this connection that Winston Chirchill named three best kinds of World War II weapons: the British Browning gun, the German Messerschmitt-190 plane and the Soviet T-34 tank. The German generals Erich Schneider and Heinz Guderian said it was a masterpiece of weaponry. Specifically, General Guderian stressed that attempts made by German designers to replicate the T-34 tank had failed because the aluminium case of its diesel engine was unreplicable. This view was shared by Academician Nikolai Voznesensky, Chairman of the USSR State Planning Committee, who attributed the high level of the Soviet tank industry to the achievements of metallurgy and foundry work.
Much of the credit for this must go to Vladimir Fundator.
Three years before the war, when he was 34, his
inventions made it possible to develop a new technology
to modify silumin casting by using electric crucibles.
Before that, the imported technology with graphite
crucibles was used in the
Over 1941-1942, the
The tank prototype was created in 1939, with mass
production launched in June 1940. The T-34 was designed
both for the mobile and for position warfare. It was
highly maneuverable and comparatively easy to produce.
Its mass production could be quickly expanded and it took
little time to repair it in field conditions. The
designer team continued its work to improve the tanks
qualities. In 1942, automatic welding of the special
steels for the tanks hull was developed: its
quality was superior to that of the manual welding and
increased labour productivity eight times over. In 1943,
novel assembly and welding technologies for butt joints
were introduced, seams were strengthened, armor plates
were unified and a new manufacturing technology for the
turret and hull armor was mastered; mass production of
cast parts was set going. After the
The T-34 formed the core of the tank armaments in the Red
Army. By 1945, more than 40,000 tanks had been made.
Besides, the famous self-propelled guns (SAU) were
manufactured on the basis of the T-34 chassis. They were
better than the similar German self-propelled Ferdinand
guns. The SAU, like the T-34, had the same silumin
Fundator engines. Inventor and designer Vladimir
Isaakovich Fundator, like many other Soviet Jews, made a
great contribution to building up the defence capability
After the war, Vladimir Fundator visited his native
Chervenhoping to learn about the fate of his parents
and relatives. He remembered Cherven as a typical Jewish
shtetl (settlement) in
After the signing of the German-Soviet Non-Aggression Pact on 23 August 1939, the Soviet press carried no information about the persecution of the Jews in Poland and other countries. That is why on the eve of the war the Jewish population of Belorussia and the country as a whole did not know anything about the Nazi plans and the mortal danger they were facing. The German troops entered Cherven at the end of June, a few days after they had crossed the Soviet frontier and the hostilities had begun. The Belorussian police, an SD unit, and a Zonderkommando were formed in the town and the district. In the autumn of 1941, the occupation authorities ordered people, mostly Belorussians, living in Gryadka and Sovetskaya streets to move out. Jews were brought there and the ghetto was established. Jews were isolated, Belorussians and Russians were forbidden to communicate with them. The Jews were hardly given any food in the hope they would starve to death. All in all, there were some 2,000 inmates in the ghetto. Even before the mass action in February 1942, the Nazis were shooting the misbehaving Jews - party members and those whom they suspected of conducting active Soviet work in the past - at Chervens Jewish cemetery almost daily. On February 1, 1942, at 6 AM, the ghetto was surrounded by increased police details. The punitive squads were looking around Cherven for the Jews that had hidden. In the town hospital they found one Gitlin who had had his leg amputated, in another ward they found a young Jewish woman who had just given birth. They were forced out of their beds and brought to the ghetto. A few hours later people were driven to the Village of Zametovka, Kolodizhsky Village Soviet, and ordered to stop at the place that bore the name of Glinishche. The policemen Razmyslovich, Shirshov and Yakovlev brought spades and a crate of cartridges on a sleigh. Some local Belorussians were ordered to dig a pit. The massacre began at noon. The doomed were told to undress down to their underwear and then were pushed to the brink of the pit in groups of 30 to 40 and shot. On that day, 1,400 people were killed there, among them the parents of Vladimir Isaakovich Fundator - Maria Iosifovna and Isaak Izrailevich.
Cherven was liberated by the Red Army in July 1944,and in the autumn of the same year, representatives of the Extraordinary Commission for establishing and investigating the crimes and atrocities of German fascist invaders on the temporarily occupied territory of the USSR came to the town. Five common graves were opened, witnesses and eye-witnesses were interrogated, and lists of victims and war criminals compiled. On November 3, 1994, the Cherven District Committee of Support to the USSR Extraordinary State Commission headed by District Party Committee Secretary Kuzma Kravchenko drew up a report describing the details of these crimes.
It was established that in Cherven, people were shot not only in the vicinity of the Jewish cemetery (Minskaya Street, 1,750 people), but also in a number of other places, specifically in Kurganie and Kirpichnoe urotshistshes [stows] (400 people), Bobruiskaia Street (315 people). All in all, 6,321 civilians were killed in the Cherven District during the occupation, 1,240 of these were burned. Also killed were 766 Soviet POWs. The executors were men from the Cherven Zondercommando. Grigory Rusetsky (commander of the detachment), Philip Razmyslovich, Maxim Kitov, Dmitrii Zenkovich and Karl Zhdanovich were especially cruel. Vladimir Fundator set himself the goal of perpetuating the memory of the dead ghetto inmates. He began corresponding with their relatives and compiling lists of victims. The monument was to have an inscription in Yiddish: To the Jews, Victims of Fascism to be followed by the names of the dead. V. Fundator arranged for pig iron plates with the names of about 1,000 people engraved on them to be cast at the Moscow Stankolit Plant. According to his daughter, Ninel Vladimirovna Volokh, the plates were even brought to Cherven in 1946. However, Fundator was not destined to implement his idea.
In the latter part of the 1940s, state anti-Semitism in the USSR was gaining momentum. Against the background of the Cold War which had just begun and the ideological campaigns spearheaded against cosmopolitism without Motherland, Jewish nationalism, praising the bourgeois West and against religion, the Jews were considered by the regime to be the most vulnerable target. The above-mentioned document specifies that the cash raised for erecting the monument was handed for safe-keeping to a rabbis son. This alone was sufficient to put paid to the idea. In 1946-1947, Kondratii Ulasevich wrote in secret reports to Panteleimon Ponomarenko and Nikolai Gusarov that before the war, Jews did not display any interest in religion, while now they seem to have shifted to religious fanaticism more that any other nationality. Ulasevich drew the attention of the Party and Soviet leadership of Belorussia to the fact that in the guise of religiosity, nationalists are trying to bring it home to the Jews that they should stick closer together, restore and maintain ties with world Zionist organizations, talk about the Jewish peoples sacrifices in the war years, make monuments to the war dead, etc.
It goes without saying that this stance of the CP(b)B organs, which acted on relevant instructions from Moscow, was well known to Ivan Poliakov when he was preparing his memorandum to the Minsk Region CP(B)B Committee. Hence the confident tone of the document and the inference that it was highly probable that a nationalist Jewish organization might exist in the Cherven and adjacent regions. Soviet bodies of power put an end to the activities of the initiative group headed by V. Fundator under the pretext that monuments would be erected to all victims of Nazism according to plans and therefore there was no need to emphasise their nationality. Meanwhile, local inhabitants were using the plates prepared for the monument for their own needs and the state security bodies took an interest in Vladimir Isaakovich. The MGB of the BSSR began to investigate the true reasons for his correspondence with the relatives of the Jews that had perished in Cherven. The threat of being accused of having become an agent of international Zionism was looming large for Vladimir Fundator. He was fired and in 1949-1951 was jobless. Ilya Ehrenburg intervened and after a telephone call from the CC VKP(b) he was given a job. However, in 1953 Vladimir Fundator was fired again, this time in connection with the doctors case. It cannot be excluded that only the death of Joseph Stalin saved him from even more tragic circumstances. In the same year of 1953, the All-Union Research Institute of Casting Machine-Building (VNIIlitmash) took him on and he worked there till he passed away in 1986.
In the 1970s a standard monument was at long last installed with the authorities permission on the spot in Cherven where the shooting had taken place. A simple granite tombstone bore the inscription that 2,000 Soviet citizens killed by German fascist invaders were lying there. The nationality of the victims was not mentioned, as was the accepted practice in those years. The common grave, deliberately depersonalised to suit the ideological dogmata of the Communist era, remains anonymous. At the end of the 1980s there was already no Jewish community in Cherven to speak of. According to the 1989 census, there remained only 88 Jews out of the districts population of 41,603. Nine of them lived in the countryside. The protagonists of the analysed documents, Vassily Ivanovich Kozlov and Ivan Evteevich Poliakov, made a brilliant career. Having climbed all the rungs of the Komsomol-Party-Soviet hierarchy, they reached its top and for a long time headed the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the Belorussian SSR. Many enterprises, streets, and other public places in the republic are still named after them. All this gives grounds to assert that a revaluation and a new interpretation of the republics history are still very painful and will take the researchers much effort and time.
· The preparation and publication of this article was made possible by a grant from the Yoran-Sznycer Research Fund in Jewish History.
1. The National Archives of the Belarus Republic (NABR), fond (collection) 1, opis (inventory) 32, delo (file) 101, listy (pages) 195-196.
2. Ivan Evteevich Polyakov (b. 1914), statesman and Party functionary of the BSSR. Hero of Socialist Labor (1973). He began his career as electric welder in Gomel (1933), then was Komsomol functionary at the enterprises in Gomel, Moghilev and Kuibyshev. In the war years (since 1942), one of the leaders of the Komsomol underground and partisan movement in the Gomel Region. Since 1943, First Secretary of the Gomel and Minsk Region committees of the LYCLB. Since 1949, First Secretary of the Vitebsk and Rechitsa City and District CP(B)B committees. First Secretary of the Gomel (since 1957) and Minsk (since 1964) Region Party Committees. Since 1977, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR and concurrently deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet. CC CPB member since 1952 and CC CPSU member since 1966. Supreme Soviet Deputy.
3. Vasily Ivanovich Kozlov (1903-1967), statesman and Party functionary of the BSSR, Hero of the Soviet Union, Major-General (1943). Born in the Rogachev Uezd of Moghilev Gubernia, peasant background. CPSU member since 1927. He began his career in 1917 as a railway worker. In 1925-27, serviceman in the Red Army, in 1928-1940, Party functionary in the Zhlobin, Starobin and Cherven districts. Graduate of the Communist University in Minsk (1933). Since 1940 - deputy Chairman of the Council of Peoples Commissars of the Belorussian SSR. Since March 1941 - Secretary of the Minsk Region Committee of the CP(b)B. In the war years was ordered to remain in the enemy rear to organise Communist underground. Since July 1941 - commander of the Minsk joint partisan forces. In 1944-1948, First Secretary of the Minsk Region and City CP(b)B committees. In 1948-1967, Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR and concurrently Deputy Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet. Member of the Bureau of the CC CPB (1945-1967), Deputy of the USSR Supreme Soviet.
4. In 1944, V.I. Fundator together with I.N. Fridliander and several other of his colleagues was nominated for the Stalin Prize for the work: A New Unit for Modifying and Pouring Light-Weight Alloys (Electric and Gas Crucibles). However, this nomination was declined by the Committee for Stalin Prizes in the Sphere of Science and Inventions at the USSR Council of Peoples Commissars (Authors Archive). Source: The letter of E.A. Tiurina, Director of Russias State Economic Archive of 18 July 1996.
5. Boris Levshin. Sovetskaia nauka v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny (Soviet Science in the Years of the Great Patriotic War). Moscow, 1983, p.172; Sovetskii tyl v period korennogo pereloma v Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voine, 1942-1943 (Soviet Rear during the Radical Turn in the Great Patriotic War, 1942-1943), Ed. By A.V. Mitrofanov. Moscow, 1989, p.75.
6. Heinz Guderian, Vospominaniia Soldata (Recollections of a Soldier) in Russian. Moscow, 1954, p. 268.
7. Nikolai Voznesenskii, Voennaia Ekonomika SSSR v period Otechestvennoi Voiny (Military Economy of the USSR during the Patriotic War). Moscow, 1948, p. 82.
8. Marlen Antonian Truzheniki tyla v Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voine (Workers of the Rear during the Great Patriotic War). Moscow, 1960, pp.18-19.
9. A multinational designer team that developed the tank included Izrail Borisovich Granovskii, Kreina Markovna Boguslavskaia, Iurii Grigoryevich Perelshtein, Bluma Moiseevna Petrushanskaia, Gersh Isaakovich Romalis, Lev Iakovlevich Tarnarutskii. Among the plant technologists were Isai Solomonovich Mahlin, Solomon Haimovich Nemirovskii, Isaak Mihailovich Shtilbus and others. Source: Leonid Mininberg Sovetskie evrei v nauke i promyshlennosti SSSR v period vtoroi mirovoi voiny (Soviet Jews in Science and Industry of the USSR during the Second World War). Moscow, 1995, pp. 73-74.
10. Sovetskii tyl v Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voine. Trudovoi podvig naroda (Soviet Rear during the Great Patriotic War. The Labour Feat of the People). Ed. by P.N. Pospelov. Part 2. Moscow, 1974, pp.109-111.
11. Sovetskii tyl v pervyi period Velikoi Otechestvennoi Voiny (Soviet Rear during the First Period of the Great Patriotic War). Ed. by G.A. Kumanev. Moscow, 1988, p.344.
12. Eleonora Grakina. Uchenye - frontu, 1941-1945 gg. (Scientists Contribution to the Battlefield, 1941-1945). Moscow, 1989, p.113.
13. All in all, in the war years, the Soviet Union produced 102,800 tanks (of various design) and self-propelled guns. As many as 48,000 engines for these were produced by the Kirov Plant in Cheliabinsk (director: Isaak Moiseevich Zaltsman); 12,000 tanks were made at the Krasnoe Sormovo Plant in the City of Gorkii (director: Haim Emanuilovich Rubinchik); 35,000 T-34 tanks - at the Komintern Plant No. 183 (head engineer: Lazar Isaakovich Korduner). Jews headed enterprises producing tanks and tank units, such as the Stalingrad Tractor Plant (head engineer and for some period director: Iakov Izrailevich Fefer), the Kirov Plant in Leningrad (director: Moisei Abramovich Dlugach); branch of the Sergo Ordzhonikidze Plant No. 37 (director: Max Iakovlevich Zelikson); the Molotov Plant (director: Boris Iakovlevich Goldshtein); Plant No. 174 (director till October 1942: Efim Moiseevich Katsnelson); Plant No. 255 (director: Morduh Aronovich Moroz) and others. Source: Leonid Mininberg, op. cit., pp. 292, 303.
14. Cherven (previously Igumen; renamed on 18.09.1923), district capital 62 km from Minsk. In the 15th century it was known as the Igumen estate belonging to the Bishops of Vilno. After the second partition of the Rzecz Pospolita (1793) it was incorporated into the Russian Empire with the status of Uezd capital. Beginning with the 19th century Cherven had a predominantly Jewish population. Soviet power was established there in September 1917. By the outbreak of the Second World War the towns population exceeded 6,000.
15. Jewish Encyclopaedia of Brokhaus and Efron, St.Petersburg, 1916, vol. 8, p. 20.
16. Where Once We Walked. By Garry Mokotoff and Sally Ann Amdur Sack. A Guide to the Jewish Communities Destroyed in the Holocaust. NJ, USA, 1991, p. 52.
17. Distribution of the Jewish Population of the USSR, 1939. Ed. by Mordechai Altshuler. Jerusalem, 1993, p. 38.
18. Up till now
there has been no information about the Cherven ghetto in
the special historical and scientific literature dealing
with the Holocaust. It is not mentioned in the
Encyclopedia of the Holocaust (Volumes 1-4, Tel
19. From the testimony given to the ChGK USSR by Olga Lavrentieva (b. 1907) and Olga Ivenetz (b. 1891). Source: Yad Vashem Archives, files M-33/435, p. 24; O-53/24, p. 673.
20. From the testimony given to the ChGK USSR by Alexander Korotkii (b.1920). Source: Ibid., file O-53/24, p. 676.
21. From the testimony given to the ChGK USSR by Zinaida Stankevich (b. 1912) - Ibid., file O-53/24, p. 668.
22. Cherven and the Cherven District were liberated on July 2, 1944, by the units of the 110th and 348 rifle divisions of the Army in the Field. Partisan detachments named after S.M. Budionny, G.K. Zhukov and M.I. Kalinin took part in the action. Jews made up from 15 to 20 per cent of the fighting men in these units.
23. Ibid., files M-33/435, pp. 2-8.
24. Irina Zhezmer, Uchenyi, borets, evrei. Echo voiny. (Scientist, Fighter, Jew. The Echo of the War). Shalom Publishers of Russias VAAD for Siberia and Urals. No.5, 1995, p. 3.
25. Ulasevich, Kondratii Alekseevich, in 1945-1946 commissioner of the Council for Religious Affairs for the Belorussian SSR at the USSR Council of Ministers.
26. Ponomarenko, Panteleimon Kondratievich (1902-1984), Soviet Party functionary and statesman, Lieutenant-General (1943). First Secretary of the CC CPB (since 1938) and concurrently Chief of the Central Staff of the Partisan Movement of the USSR (since 1942); Chairman of the Council of Peoples Commissars of BSSR (since 1944). Secretary of the CC VCP(b) in 1948-1953, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR (1952-1953), First Secretary of the CC of the Communist Party of Kazakhstan (since 1954). In the diplomatic service since 1955. He was CC CPSU member since 1939 till 1961.
27. Gusarov, Nikolai Alexandrovich (1905-1985), statesman and Party functionary. Secretary of the Sverdlovsk and Molotov (now Perm) Region Committees of the VKP (b) in 1938-1941; First Secretary of the CC of the Belorussian Communist Party from March 1947 to May 1950.
28. GARF, f. 6991, op. 3, d. 257, ll. 194-196.
29. Ibid, ll. 231, 238, 311-312.
30. Irina Zhezmer, op. cit. (See ref. 25).
31. There is an error in the article about Cherven in the Belorussian Soviet Encyclopaedia (Minsk, 1974, vol.4, p.260): instead of February 1, 1942, the date of the shooting is given as February 2, 1942.
32. Materials of the USSR census of 1989. Minsk, 1991.
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