Minsk, Belarus Yizkor Book

Project Name. Translation of Minsk, Belarus Yizkor Book

Project Leader
Tony Reese

JewishGen Yizkor Book Project Manager: Lance Ackerfeld

Project Synopsis

Minsk is situated on the watershed of the river routes linking the Baltic to the Black Sea. It is an ancient town with historical references as far back as 862. Minsk was in Poland-Lithuania from the beginning of the 14th Century until 1793. Under czarist rule, it was the capital of the province of Minsk. It was the most important commercial center of Belorussia from the 15th Century. Jews began to settle in the town during the 16th Century. In 1847, the Jewish population was almost 13,000, rising to over 47,000, or 52 percent of the population, in 1897. It was the fourth largest community in the Pale of Settlement.

Minsk Holocaust survivors published a two-volume yizkor book in Hebrew: Minsk, Ir va-'em: Korot, Ma'asim, Ishim, Havai (Minsk; Jewish mother city: a memorial anthology), Editors: David Kohen and Shelomo Even-Shoshan, Jerusalem, 1975-85: Association of Olim from Minsk and its Surroundings in Israel, 2 volumes, 1200 pages. Volume 1 has 696 pages and Volume 2 has 504 pages. There is a separate table of contents for each volume. Only a few chapters have thus far been translated, which appear at along with an index database and a table of contents for each volume.

Key Audiences

Jewish genealogists seeking to trace their roots in this town constitute the primary audience for the material.  However, the material has the potential to be of broader interest to scholars specializing in Jewish history and society in this region.

Project Importance

Yizkor books are unique sources of information on once vibrant towns, primarily in central and eastern Europe, whose Jewish populations were destroyed in the Holocaust. Written after World War II by émigrés and Holocaust survivors, yizkor books contain narratives of the history of the town, details of daily life, religious and political figures and movements, religious and secular education, and gripping stories of the major intellectual and Zionist movements of the 20th century. The necrologies and lists of residents are of tremendous genealogical value, as often the names of individuals who were taken to extermination camps or shot in the forests are not recorded elsewhere. Usually written in Hebrew or Yiddish, these important books are not accessible to most users, who cannot read these languages. Thus, the translation of these books into English unlocks this information to many more researchers all over the world. The JewishGen Yizkor Book Project received the award in 2002 for outstanding contribution to Jewish genealogy by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies.

After the establishment of the Communist regime, Jewish communal and religious life was silenced, replaced by institutions of Jewish culture based on Yiddish and Communist ideology. In June 1942 it is estimated that the Jewish population was 90,000, about 37 percent of the population. Thousands of Jewish refugees fleeing the Nazi advance went to Minsk so that even though thousands of its residents had been murdered before the ghetto was established, at least 85,000 Jews were confined to the ghetto. A slave labor camp was located in the ghetto. About 10,000 Jews escaped the ghetto but only about half survived the war.

Project Description

Approximately 1155 pages of Hebrew remain to be translated and put online at To accomplish that JewishGen has hired a professional translator. The project coordinator will select the order in which to translate the chapters and will work closely with the translator to ensure a grammatically correct and idiomatic translation. Specific tasks the project coordinator will perform include proofreading, editing, and preparing the work for submission to the Yizkor Book Project.

Estimated Cost. $41,700


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Updated 3 Nov 2010 by LA