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Processing the Holocaust

In the Blagovshchina Forrest, near the Trostenets village, which is located near Minsk, a mass shooting site existed. It was the largest Nazi extermination camp located in the Soviet Union. For a long time, what happened in Trostenets remained a blank spot on the memory map of the Soviet Republic (which later became known as the Republic of Belarus). Our recent initiatives are helping to change this.

Jews from the Minsk ghetto, Berlin, Hamburg, Bremen, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Frankfurt, Vienna, and Theresienstadt were taken to Trostenets to be killed. Soviet prisoners of war and Belarusian partisans were also brought there to die. But neither the Soviet Republic nor the Republic of Belarus undertook the responsibility to investigate these crimes. Sadly, this is not the only ghetto or place of Jewish extermination to be «forgotten.» And official memorials to war victims do not mention Jews separately. The Jewish culture of remembrance was only boosted by private initiatives, partly with support from Western Europe.


Leonid Lewin is a Belarusian Jewish architect who has dedicated his life's work to the architectural and artistic documentation of the Holocaust in Belarus. The «history workshop,» which contains research, documentation, and a memorial on the site of the former Minsk ghetto, is named after him.


Leonid Levin was a tireless fighter for the reconstruction of Jewish culture in Belarus. Until his death in 2014, he was President of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Public Associations and Communities (UBJOC). He also served as the head of «Chesed-Rachmim" in Minsk. His daughter, Galina Lewina, continues his life's work.


The vision for the Holocaust Museum in Minsk has been and remains an important project for our partner organization, the UBJOC. However, securing public support for the historical processing of the Holocaust in Belarus remains challenging because the national suffering sits in the foreground of the state's culture of remembrance.

In 2018, we helped to bring the touring exhibition, «Maly Trostenets – Site of Destruction – History and Remembrance», to Basel. The exhibit was open from May 7th to 25th in the Kollegienhaus at the University of Basel. The team of ajs and Gabriel Heim, whose grandmother was murdered in Maly Trostenets, spoke about the importance of such an exhibition for Switzerland and Europe. To this day, people often mistakenly think that the Nazis' machinery of destruction only reached as far as the eastern border of Poland. However, Maly Trostenets, which is considered the largest extermination camp in the formerly occupied territory of the Soviet Union, shines a terrible light on the broader extent of the Nazi's death reach.

Sources and further information:


Minsk History Workshop «Leonid Levin»,

Eyewitness Archives of the Minsk History Workshop,

International educational and meeting center «Johannes Rau» Minsk,

Memorial portal to places of remembrance in Europe,

Article about the inauguration of the Trostenets memorial on Deutschlandfunk, June 29, 2018,

Broadcast about Trostenez on Deutschlandfunk, June 21, 2016,

Article about Trostenets in Die Zeit, 21.8.2014,

Gerlach, Christian Calculated murders. The German economic and extermination policy in Belarus from 1941 to 1944.Hamburg  1998, detailed review on

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