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Split Memory: The Geography of Holocaust Memory and Amnesia in Belarus

  • Anika Walke


The remote location of Beshankovichy's mass grave for Jewish victims of the Nazi genocide reflects the exclusion of local Jews during the German occupation of Soviet territories and limits their memory to a few knowledgeable survivors and witnesses. In contrast, local commemorative practices focus on memorials for Soviet soldiers, partisans, and their aides. The paper reveals an incongruence of the place of historical experience on the one hand, and the locale of popular commemoration on the other, highlighting the impact of the Holocaust in Belarus to destroy Jewish history and its memory. The spatial division reflects the trauma of loss as much as shame for local participation in the mass murder. Drawing on oral histories, archival materials, and field visits, the study builds on a growing field of scholarship on the role of space and place in the construction of memories and identities in the aftermath of atrocity and trauma to discuss the geographical dimensions of memory and amnesia.

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1. Photo by author, Beshankovichy, 2015.

2. Beshankovichy, also spelled Beshenkovichy, from Бешанко́вічы (Belarusian spelling) or Бешенкóвичи (Russian spelling), is located 32 miles west of Vitebsk.

3. Chislennost΄ naseleniia na 1 ianvaria 2016g. i srednegodovaia chislennost΄ naseleniia za 2015 god po Respublike Belarus΄ v razreze oblastei, raionov, gorodov i poselkov gorodskogo tipa (Natsional΄nyi statisticheskii komitet Respubliki Belarus΄, 2016), (last accessed October 27, 2016).

4. This work builds on a previous book, Walke, Anika, Pioneers and Partisans: An Oral History of Nazi Genocide in Belorussia (New York, 2015).

5. On the overall dynamics, policies, and outcomes of the German attack and occupation of what is now the Republic of Belarus, see Gerlach, Christian, Kalkulierte Morde: Die deutsche Wirtschafts- und Vernichtungspolitik in Weißrussland, 1941 bis 1944 (Hamburg, 2000); Chiari, Bernhard, Alltag hinter der Front: Besatzung, Kollaboration und Widerstand in Weißrussland 1941–1944 (Düsseldorf, 1998).

6. Golbert, Rebecca L., “Holocaust Sites in Ukraine: Pechora and the Politics of Memorialization,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 18, no. 2 (Fall 2004): 205–33; Makhotina, Elena, “Between ‘Suffered’ Memory and ‘Learned’ Memory: The Holocaust and Jewish History in Lithuanian Museums and Memorials After 1990,” Yad Vashem Studies 44, no. 1 (2016): 207–46.

7. Orbach, Wila, “The Destruction of the Jews in the Nazi-Occupied Territories of the USSR,” Soviet Jewish Affairs 6, no. 2 (1976), 23. Orbach spells the name of the ravine near Kiev where more than 33,000 Jews were shot in September 1941, “Baby Yar,” but nowadays Babii Iar or Babi Yar are more commonly used.

8. Finder, Gabriel and Cohen, Judith R., “Memento Mori: Photographs from the Grave,” in Finder, Gabriel, Aleksiun, Natalia, Polonsky, Antony, and Schwarz, Jan, eds., Making Holocaust Memory. POLIN: Studies in Polish Jewry 20 (Oxford, 2008), 73. See also Pollack, Martin, Kontaminierte Landschaften (Vienna, 2014); Rapson, Jessica, Topographies of Suffering: Buchenwald, Babi Yar, Lidice (New York, 2015).

9. See Desbois, Patrick, “Yahad-In -Unum's Research of Mass Grave Sites of Holocaust Victims,” in International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, ed., Killing Sites: Research and Remembrance (Berlin, 2015), 8796. A more comprehensive portrayal of the efforts and Father Desbois’ perspective is in Desbois, Patrick, The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest's Journey to Uncover the Truth Behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews (New York, 2008).

10. A number of recently erected memorials in Vitebsk oblast, Belarus are listed in Shul΄man, Arkadii and Platonova, Larissa, eds., Vsegda v nashei pamiati (Minsk, 2010). For Belarus, see the Belarus Holocaust Memorials Project at (last accessed February 7, 2017). See also Makhotina, “Between ‘Suffered’ Memory and ‘Learned’ Memory,” 229; and Killing Sites: Research and Remembrance, for discussions of identifying and memorializing mass graves in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland, and Croatia.

11. Bauer, Yehuda, The Death of the Shtetl (New Haven, 2009); Dean, Martin, “Lebensbedingungen, Zwangsarbeit und Überlebenskampf in den kleinen Ghettos: Fallstudien aus den Generalkommissariaten Weißruthenien und Wolhynien-Podolien,” in Dieckmann, Christoph and Quinkert, Babette, eds., Im Ghetto, 1939–1945: Neue Forschungen zu Alltag und Umfeld (Göttingen, 2009), 5473; Grabowski, Jan, “Rural Society and the Jews in Hiding: Elders, Night Watches, Firefighters, Hostages and Manhunts,” Yad Vashem Studies 40, no. 1 (2012): 4974.

12. Foote, Kenneth E., Shadowed Ground: America's Landscapes of Violence and Tragedy (Austin, TX, 1997); Schindel, Estela and Colombo, Pamela, eds., Space and the Memories of Violence: Landscapes of Erasure, Disappearance and Exception (New York, 2014); Tyner, James A., Landscape, Memory, and Post-Violence in Cambodia (London, 2017). Foundational for many of these analyses is Schama, Simon, Landscape and Memory (New York, 1995).

13. Colls, Caroline Sturdy, Holocaust Archaeologies: Approaches and Future Directions (Cham, 2015), 14.

14. Ibid.

15. Pollack, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 43.

16. Leonid L΄vovich Gol΄braikh, interviews, Pushkin (near St. Petersburg), May 5, 2001, September 3, 2002, and May 11, 2005.

17. Iudovin, Lev, “Legendy i byli Beshenkovichei,” Na Kacheliakh vremeni: Ocherki, ed. Shulman, Arkadii (Minsk, 2009), 63.

18. For a concise summary of the events related to the persecution and extermination of Jews in Beshankovichy, see Romanovsky, Daniel, “Beshankovichy,” in Dean, Martin and Hecker, Mel, eds., United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945, Vol. II: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe (Bloomington, 2012), 1647–49. Survivors in Poland dealt with similar issues and came to various conclusions about staying or leaving, see Finder and Cohen, “Memento Mori,” 58, and 58n5.

19. Gol΄braikh, interview, 2002; see also Exeler, Franziska, “What Did You Do during the War? Personal Responses to the Aftermath of Nazi Occupation,” Kritika: Explorations in Russian and Eurasian History 17, no. 4 (Fall 2016): 817.

20. Cole, Tim, Holocaust Landscapes (London, 2016), 2.

21. Pollack, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 61.

22. Rita Kazhdan, interview, St. Petersburg, May 12, 2005.

23. On spectrality, the capacity of a place to enchant and haunt, see McCormack, Derek P., “Remotely Sensing Affective Afterlives: The Spectral Geographies of Material Remains,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 100, vol. 3 (2010): 642. The associated notion of haunting, of an affective impact of historical legacies, is most fully developed in Derrida, Jacques, “Apparition of the Inapparent: The Phenomenological “Conjuring Trick,” in his Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International, eds. Magnus, Bernd and Cullenberg, Stephen, trans. Kamuf, Peggy (New York, 1994), 169ff.

24. Gol΄braikh, interview, 2001.

25. On haunting, see Gordon, Avery F., Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination (Minneapolis, 1997), esp. 7f.

26. Gosudarstvennyi Arkhiv Vitebskoi Oblasti (hereafter GAVO), f. 1974, o. 11, d. 4 (Statistical data, Executive Committee Beshankovichy); Podlipskii, A., “Byli … est΄ … i budem?,” Mishpokha 2 (1996): 125–26.

27. On the impact of distance on survivor testimony, see Pollin-Galay, Hannah, “The Holocaust is a Foreign Country: Comparing Representations of Place in Lithuanian Jewish Testimony,” Dapim: Studies on the Holocaust 27, no. 1 (2013): 26–39.

28. Konstantin Karpekin, “Arkhivnye dokumenty o Beshenkovichskikh sinagogakh,” Moe Mestechko—My Shtetl at (last accessed February 15, 2018).

29. Giordano, Alberto, Knowles, Anne Kelly, and Cole, Tim, “Geographies of the Holocaust,” in Knowles, Anne Kelly, Cole, Tim, and Giordano, Alberto, eds., Geographies of the Holocaust (Bloomington, 2014), 8.

30. Cole, Tim, “(Re)Placing the Past: Spatial Strategies of Retelling Difficult Stories,” The Oral History Review 42, no. 1 (Winter/Spring 2015): 49.

31. See Pollin-Galay, “The Holocaust is a Foreign Country,” 38–39.

32. Iudovin, “Legendy i byli,” 60–61.

33. Ibid., 61.

34. Podlipskii, “Byli … est΄ … i budem?,” 26.

35. Lidia Pavlovna Komzykova, interview, Beshankovichy, June 5, 2016.

36. Ibid. 7; Gol΄braikh, interview, 2001; Tatiana V., Yahad-In Unum Archives (hereafter YIU), Witness No. 507B; interview, Beshankovichy, June 22, 2011.

37. Vera S., YIU 504B; interview, Beshankovichy, June 22, 2011; Tatiana V., YIU 507B; see also Iudovin, Iakov, “Parom,” Zametki po evreiskoi istorii, setevoi zhurnal evreiskoi istorii, traditsii, kul΄tury 3 (150), 2012; (last accessed October 26, 2016).

38. Iakov Markovich Genin, interviewed by Daniil Romanovsky, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum (hereafter USHMM) Archives, RG 68.186, Daniil Romanovsky collection, b. 1, f. 1, p. 1. Romanovsky interviewed survivors and eyewitnesses of the Nazi genocide in Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine in the late 1980s-early 1990s. Concrete dates are given only in some cases.

39. Smalianchuk, Aliaksandr, “Tragedyia khalakostu i ie prychyny ŭ vusnykh uspaminakh Belarusaŭ,” in Homo Historicus 2016: Gadavik antrapalagichnai gistorii, ed. Smalianchuk, Aliaksandr (Vilnius, 2016), 177–78, at (last accessed February 19, 2018).

40. Genin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 25; Gol΄braikh, interview, 2002; USHMM 22.002, f. 7021, o. 84, d. 1, l. 76–77ob. (Materialy o zlodeianiakh nemetsko-fashistskikh zakhvatchikov nad sovetskimi grazhdanami i voennoplennami Beshenkovicheskogo raiona, Vitebskoi oblasti), (Witness statements of Petr Antonovich Bornko and Iakov Semenovich Dimenko); Liudmilia Petrovna Mikhailovskaia, interview, Beshankovichy, June 5, 2016.

41. Genin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 2.

42. Ibid., p. 24; Efim Iudovin, “Bez sroka davnosti,” Moe Mestechko—My Shtetl at (last accessed February 15, 2018). See also the discussion of local police and others’ participation in identifying, humiliating, and exploiting Jews in Rein, Leonid, The Kings and the Pawns: Collaboration in Byelorussia during World War II (New York, 2011), 253–77.

43. Tatiana V., YIU 507B.

44. Genin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 1–2; Raisa Khatskelevna Gurevich, interviewed by Daniil Romanovsky, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 9. Vera S., YIU 504B; Iudovin, “Bez sroka davnosti”; Romanovsky, “Beshankovichy,” 1648.

45. See Dwork, Deborah and van Pelt, Robert Jan, Holocaust: A History (New York, 2002), 217, who argue that “the inhabitants of east European ghettos were connected to the history of the place in which they were now compelled to live. These streets, synagogues, and markets had grown over centuries to meet the Jewish community's needs; they now suggested that life could go on.”

46. On the so-called open ghettos, see Kaganovich, Al΄bert, “Voprosy i zadachi issledovania mest prinuditel΄nogo soderzhania evreev na territorii Belarusi v 1941–1944gg.,” in Aktual΄nye voprosy izuchenia kholokosta na territorii Belarusi v gody nemetsko-fashistskoi okkupatsii: Sbornik nauchnykh rabot, ed. Basin, Ia. Z. (Minsk, 2005), electronic document, (last accessed February 15, 2018); Dean, Martin, “Life and Death in the ‘Gray Zone’ of Jewish Ghettos in Nazi-Occupied Europe: The Unknown, the Ambiguous, and the Disappeared,” in Petropoulos, Jonathan and Roth, John K., eds., Gray Zones: Ambiguity and Compromise in the Holocaust and Its Aftermath (New York, 2005), 205–21; Martin Dean, “Eastern Belorussian Region,” in Encyclopedia of Camps and Ghettos, 1933–1945, Vol. II: Ghettos in German-Occupied Eastern Europe, 1640.

47. On such transgressions as a regular practice in ghettos in the German-occupied Soviet territories, see Rein, Kings and Pawns, 274.

48. Gol΄braikh, interview, 2005.

49. Genin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 2.

50. For details on the treatment and ghettoization of Beshankovichy's Jews, see Gol΄braikh, interviews, 2001 and 2002; Genin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 1–2; Tatiana V., YIU 507B; Vera S., YIU 504B; Mikhailovskaia, interview, 2016; Genia Nosonovna Supina, interview, Beshankovichy, June 4, 2016; Iudovin, “Bez sroka davnosti”; Maria Voronkova, “Kholokost v Beshenkovichakh: Svidetel΄stva,” Moe Mestechko—My Shtetl at (last accessed February 15, 2018); Iakov Rukhman, “Dva goda ia byla devochkoi,” Moe Mestechko—My Shtetl at (last accessed February 15, 2018); Moisei Mitsengendler, “Po doroge k paromu,” Mestechko—My Shtetl. (last accessed February 15, 2018).

51. Genin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 3.

52. Komzykova, interview, 2016.

53. Klara S., Yahad-In Unum Archive, Witness No. 505B, interview, Beshankovichy, June 22, 2011.

54. Iakov Genin remembers that all Jews had to register and 967 Jews were accounted for two months before the execution, Genin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 26.

55. Ibid., p. 3.

56. Gurevich, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 11; Boltovich, interviewed by Daniil Romanovsky, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 20. On local police supporting the roundup of Jews for executions, see Rein, Kings and Pawns, 268–69.

57. USHMM 22.002, f. 7021, o. 84, d. 1, l. 76–77ob (Materials on German atrocities against Prisoners of War and civilians in the district of Beshankovichy); Gol΄braikh, interview, 2001; Tatiana V., YIU 507B; Voronkova, “Kholokost v Beshenkovichakh;” Iudovin, “Parom.”

58. Mikhailovskaia, interview, 2016.

59. Roman Konstantinovich Shnitko, interviewed by Daniil Romanovsky, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 18; Komzykova, interview, 2016.

60. Iudovin, “Bez sroka.”

61. Rein, Kings and Pawns, 271.

62. Voronkova, “Kholokost v Beshenkovichakh;” Iudovin, “Bez sroka.” One survivor remembers that in 1958, when a monument was erected at the site, Russian bullet casings and a piece of a Russian bayonet were found below the surface, suggesting that local police actively participated in the shooting. Lev Isaakovich Iudovin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 29.

63. Tatiana V., YIU 507B; Valentina Vladimirovna Beresten΄, interview, Beshankovichy, June 5, 2016.

64. Gol΄braikh, interview, 2001.

65. Klara S., YIU 505B; Tatiana V., YIU 507B; Voronkova, “Kholokost v Beshenkovichakh.”

66. Shnitko, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 19.

67. On Beshankovichy, see Gurevich, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 12. For more on the local population or policemen robbing or profiting from Jewish property in the occupied Soviet territories, see Romanovsky, Daniel, “The Holocaust in the Eyes of Homo Sovieticus: A Survey Based on Northeastern Belorussia and Northwestern Russia,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 13, no. 3 (Winter 1999), 371–73; Dean, Martin, “Jewish Property Seized in the Occupied Soviet Union in 1941 and 1942: The Records of the Reichshauptkasse Beutestelle,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 14, no. 9 (Spring 2000), 91; Arad, Yitzhak, “Plunder of Jewish Property in the Nazi-Occupied Areas of the Soviet Union,” Yad Vashem Studies 29 (2001): 109–48; Dean, Martin, Robbing the Jews: The Confiscation of Jewish Property in the Holocaust, 1933–1945 (Cambridge, 2008), 173221; Arad, Yitzhak, The Holocaust in the Soviet Union (Lincoln, 2009), 403–10; Desbois, Holocaust by Bullets, 97; Rein, Kings and Pawns, 273–76. On Poland, see Gross, Jan Tomasz with Gross, Irena Grudzinska, Golden Harvest: Events at the Periphery of the Holocaust (New York, 2012); an overview of various European societies’ involvement in appropriating Jewish possessions and properties, see Beker, Avi, ed., The Plunder of Jewish Property during the Holocaust: Confronting European History (New York, 2001).

68. Vera Ivanovna Zhukova, interviewed by Daniil Romanovsky, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 21; Vera S., YIU 504B; Tatiana V., YIU 507B. See Gross and Grudzinska Gross, Golden Harvest, 44, for the run on formerly Jewish apartments in Poland after their inhabitants had been displaced, deported, or murdered.

69. Iudovin, “Bez sroka.”

70. Gerlach, Kalkulierte Morde, 773.

71. Smilovitskii, Leonid, “‘Operatsia 1005’ v Belarusi,” in Homo Historicus 2016: Gadavik antrapalagichnai gistorii, ed. Smalianchuk, Aliaksandr (Vilnius, 2016), 148, at (last accessed February 19, 2018).

72. Mikhailovskaia, interview, 2016; Komzykova, interview, 2016.

73. Ibid.

74. USHMM 22.002, f. 7021, o. 84, d.1, l. 3.

75. Ibid. For more expansive portrayals of the collaboration or participation of local residents in what is now the Republic of Belarus, see Dean, Martin, Collaboration in the Holocaust: Crimes of the Local Police in Belorussia and Ukraine, 1941–1944 (New York, 2000); Rein, Kings and Pawns; Exeler, “What Did You Do during the War.”

76. NARB, f. 845, o. 1, d. 5, l. 1 (Report of Vitebsk commission to investigate German atrocities in Vitebsk and oblast΄ Vitebsk); USHMM 22.002, f. 7021, o. 84, d. 1, l. 17. Note that the two documents list different sizes for the graves. See also Gol΄braikh, interview, 2005; Stanislav Leonenko in Beresten΄, interview, 2016; S. Leonenko and A. Trubetskoi, interview, Beshankovichy, June 5, 2016.

77. On the struggle to erect memorials on Jewish mass graves in the immediate post-war period and the following shift, see Altshuler, Mordechai, “Jewish Holocaust Commemoration Activity in the USSR under Stalin,” Yad Vashem Studies 30 (2002): 271–96; Arkadi Zeltser, Memory in the Monuments: Jewish Soviet Identities and the Holocaust (Yad Vashem, forthcoming).

78. Genin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 3, 26; Beresten΄, interview, 2016; Voronkova, “Kholokost v Beshenkovichakh”; Galina Maizel, “My rodom iz Beshenkovichei i Slutska,” Moe Mestechko—My Shtetl at (last accessed February 15, 2018). NB: ChGK lists 2,900 Jewish victims to the mass murder. The origin of this number is somewhat murky.

79. Beresten΄, interview, 2016.

80. Nora, Pierre, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire,Representations, no. 26, Special issue on Memory and Counter-Memory (Spring 1989): 7–25. See also Winter, Jay, Sites of Memory, Sites of Mourning: The Great War in European Cultural History (Cambridge, Mass., 1995); Hoelscher, Steven and Alderman, Derek H., “Memory and Place: Geographies of a Critical Relationship,” Social & Cultural Geography 5, no. 3 (2004): 347–55.

81. See footnote 78 and Grigorii Vasil΄evich Sheenok, interviewed by Daniil Romanovsky, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 20; Vera Nikolaevna Pankevich, interviewed by Daniil Romanovsky, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 23.

82. On the sacralization of memorial space, see Schramm, Katharina, “Introduction: Landscapes of Violence: Memory and Sacred Space,” History and Memory 23, no. 1 (Spring/Summer 2011), 7.

83. Beshenkovichskii Raionnyi Istoriko-Kraevedcheskii Muzei, Gosudarstvennoe uchrezhdenie “Beshenkovichskii raionnyi istoriko-kraevedcheskii muzei,” “Gistorika-kul'turnaia spadchyna beshankovitskaga raena,” (last accessed February 15, 2018).

84. Aleksei Vasielevich Khriptenko, interview, Beshankovichy, June 4, 2016.

85. Mikhailovskaia, interview, 2016.

86. Komzykova, interview, 2016.

87. Klara S., YIU 505B; Tatiana V., YIU 507B; Komzykova, interview, 2016.

88. Resident of Beshankovichy, informal conversation, June 5, 2016.

89. Valentina Kuprianovna Khriptenko, interview, Beshankovichy, June 4, 2016.

90. Ibid.

91. Aleksei Khriptenko, interview, 2016.

92. Gol΄braikh, interview, 2001. On local residents’ pillaging and digging for Jewish possessions at sites of mass murder, immediately after the killings or years later, see Gross and Grudzinska Gross, Golden Harvest, 11, 87; Finder and Cohen, “Memento Mori,” 56–57; Pollack, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 100.

93. On non-Jews’ awareness of their Jewish neighbors’ impending death as a moment when their property will be available for the taking, see Gross and Grudzinska Gross, Golden Harvest, 74–75.

95. Stanislav Leonenko, interview, Vitebsk, September 21, 2016; see also (Private site).

96. Since 2015, a group of volunteers hailing from St. Petersburg, Russia, has worked to clean up and restore the local Jewish cemetery. Plans for the future include the establishment of a Jewish cultural center to educate the local and visiting public about the Jewish past of the town and the region. The center is also meant to provide support for Jewish families from around the world who search for information about their ancestors, many of whom have already donated to the cause.

97. For a comprehensive analysis, see Marples, David R., “Our Glorious Past”: Lukashenka's Belarus and the Great Patriotic War (Stuttgart, 2014); Aleksei Bratochkin, “Kul΄tura pamiati v Belarusi (1988–2016): Ot raskola k konservativnomu konsensusu?,” GEFTER, November 25, 2016, (last accessed June 12, 2017).

98. See Hansen, Imke, “Belarussische Identitäts- und Geschichtskonstruktionen im öffentlichen Raum,” in Fritz, Regina, Sachse, Carola, and Wolfrum, Edgar, eds., Nationen und ihre Selbstbilder: Postdiktatorische Gesellschaften in Europa (Göttingen, 2008), esp. 234, 239, 244, 248.

99. The number of people killed in Maly Trostenets and the two connected execution sites in nearby Blagovshchina and Shashkova (which are seen as part of the camp), is still contested. A recent joint German-Belarusian research and exhibition project determined the number cited here after careful review of all available sources. The results confirm that Maly Trostenets was the largest extermination site in German-occupied Belarus for Jews, Prisoners of War, partisans, and other civilians. See Selemenev, V.D., Adamushko, V.I., Dolgovskii, A.E., eds., Trostenets: Tragedia narodov Evropy, pamiat΄ v Belarusi: Dokumenty i materialy (Minsk, 2016); and Eulenburg, Amélie zu, Kerpel-Fronius, Adam, and Neumärker, Uwe, Vernichtungsort Malyj Trostenez: Geschichte und Erinnerung (Dortmund, 2016). See also Yad Vashem: The International Institute for Holocaust Research, Transports to Extinction—Shoah Holocaust Deportation Database, “Maly Trostenets, Extermination Camp, Belorussia (USSR),” (last accessed June 8, 2017).

100. Said, Edward W., “Invention, Memory, and Place,” Critical Inquiry 26, No.2 (Winter 2000), 181; Said, Edward, Orientalism (New York, 1978), esp. 71.

101. On the character of Soviet war monuments, especially their focus on heroic fighters and members of the military or partisans, see, among others, Arnold, Sabine R., Stalingrad im sowjetischen Gedächtnis: Kriegserinnerung und Geschichtsbild im totalitären Staat (Bochum, 1998); Konradova, Natal΄ia and Ryleva, Anna, “Geroi i zhertvy. Memorialy Velikoi Otechestvennoi,” in Gabovich, Mikhail, ed., Pamiat΄ o Voine 60 Let Spustia: Rossia, Germania, Evropa (Moscow, 2005), 262–81.

102. For critical analyses of gender roles structuring modes of commemoration and historical representation more broadly see, among others, Eschebach, Insa, Jacobeit, Sigrid, and Wenk, Silke, eds., Gedächtnis und Geschlecht: Deutungsmuster in Darstellungen des nationalsozialistischen Genozids (Frankfurt-am-Main, 2002); and Reading, Anna, The Social Inheritance of the Holocaust: Gender, Culture and Memory (New York, 2002).

103. Genin, USHMM, RG 68.186, b. 1, f. 1, p. 2; Gol΄braikh, interview, 2001.

104. See also Christoph Dieckmann and Babette Quinkert, “Einleitung,” in Dieckmann and Quinkert, eds., Im Ghetto, 1939–1945, 25. On the Soviet government's focus on the evacuation of industrial facilities and necessary workers and resulting limitations to evacuating civilians, especially the lack of efforts to save Jewish lives threatened by Nazi extermination policy, see Pinchuk, Ben-Cion, “Was There a Soviet Policy for Evacuating the Jews? The Case of the Annexed Territories,” Slavic Review 39, no. 1 (Mar., 1980): 4455; Pinchuk, Ben-Cion, “Sovietisation and the Jewish Response to Nazi Policies of Mass Murder,” in Davies, Norman and Polonsky, Antony, eds., Jews in Eastern Poland and the USSR, 1939–46 (Houndmills, 1991), 132–33; Altshuler, Mordechai, “Escape and Evacuation of Soviet Jews at the Time of the Nazi Invasion: Policies and Realities,” in Dobroszycki, Lucjan and Gurock, Jeffery S., eds., The Holocaust in the Soviet Union: Studies and Sources on the Destruction of the Jews in the Nazi-occupied Territories of the USSR, 1941–45 (Armonk, 1993), 77104. For the most recent and comprehensive portrayal of Soviet evacuation policy, see Manley, Rebecca, To the Tashkent Station: Evacuation and Survival in the Soviet Union at War (Ithaca, 2009).

105. Until today, especially older generations do so. “Especially when these were young men who fought far away from home and nobody else would do it, locals take care of their final resting place.” Stanislav Leonenko, interview, Beshankovichy, June 5, 2016.

106. Pollack, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 20.

107. Beorn, Waitman Wade, “Walking in the Footsteps of the Vanished: Using Physical Landscapes to Understand Wehrmacht Participation in Einsatzgruppen Killings in Belarus,” in Earl, Hilary and Schleunes, Karl A., eds., Expanding Perspectives on the Holocaust in a Changing World (Evanston, 2014), 300–1.

108. Mikhailovskaia, interview, 2016.

109. For instance, trees were planted to cover up the death camp Sobibor; see Jan Piwonski in Shoah. Directed by Claude Lanzmann. London: British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 1985; cf. McGlothlin, Erin, “Listening to the Perpetrators in Claude Lanzmann's Shoah,” Colloquia Germanica 43, no. 3 (2010), 250.

110. Pollack, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 25.

111. Patterson, David, “Death and Ghetto Death,” in Sterling, Eric J., ed., Life in the Ghettos During the Holocaust (Syracuse, 2005), 162, 171; Pollack, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 28.

112. Brinkley, Robert and Youra, Steven, “Tracing Shoah,” in “Special Topic: The Status of Evidence,” special issue, PMLA 111, no. 1 (January, 1996): 125.

113. Pollack, Kontaminierte Landschaften, 40.

114. On the awkward “interplay between stigmatization and memorialization” see Fleming, Katherine, “What Remains? Sites of Deportation in Contemporary European Daily Life: The Case of Drancy,” in Giaccaria, Paolo and Minca, Claudio, eds., Hitler's Geographies: The Spatialities of the Third Reich (Chicago, 2016), 359.

115. GAVO, f. 1745, o. 1, d. 9, l. 1 and 42 (Minutes of Beshenkovichy's Council of Delegates, 1946). A survey of the relevant local newspapers (Zaria and Vitsebskii rabochi) of the years in which trials against local collaborators took place did not yield any articles about people who had worked in Beshankovichy, while (former) residents of other locales stood trial; and archival research has not produced any documentation either.

116. See, for instance, Rudling, Per Anders, “The Invisible Genocide: The Holocaust in Belarus,” in Himka, John-Paul and Michlic, Joanna B., eds., Bringing the Dark Past to Light: The Perception of the Holocaust in Postcommunist Europe (Lincoln, 2013), 71f.

117. See Fleming, “What Remains?,” 358.

118. Oushakine, Serguei Alex., “Postcolonial Estrangements: Claiming a Space Between Stalin and Hitler,” in Buckler, Julie A. and Johnson, Emily D., eds., Rites of Place: Public Commemoration in Russia and Eastern Europe (Evanston, 2013), 302, 304.

119. Koselleck, Reinhart, “Formen und Traditionen des negativen Gedächtnisses,” in Knigge, Volkhard and Frei, Norbert, eds., Verbrechen erinnern: Die Auseinandersetzung mit Holocaust und Völkermord (Munich, 2002), 21.

120. See, for instance, a memorial for the mass killing of more than 700 Jews in Mir, ulitsa Oktiabrskaia, in November 1941.

121. Johnson, Nuala, “Cast in Stone: Monuments, Geography, and Nationalism,” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 13, no. 1 (1995): 63.

122. Santner, Eric L., “History beyond the Pleasure Principle: Some Thoughts on the Representation of Trauma,” in Friedländer, Saul, ed., Probing the Limits of Representation: Nazism and the “Final Solution” Cambridge, Mass., 1992), 144 (my emphasis).

123. For another adoption of the concept of “narrative fetishism” to analyze larger societal tendencies in the Soviet and post-Soviet context, see Ushakin, Sergei, “Nam etoi bol΄iu dyshat΄?,” in Ushakin, S. and Trubina, E.G., eds., Travma: Punkty. Sbornik statei (Moscow, 2009), 1719.

124. Friedländer, Saul, “History, Memory, and the Historian: Dilemmas and Responsibilities,” New German Critique, Special Issue on the Holocaust, no. 80 (Spring-Summer, 2000), 5.

125. On the alliance between constructions of memory and nation-states, see Gómez-Barris, Macarena, Where Memory Dwells: Culture and State Violence in Chile (Berkeley, 2009), 13.

126. See Meinig, D.W., “Symbolic Landscapes: Some Idealizations of American Communities,” in Meinig, D.W., ed., The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays (New York, 1979), 164.

127. See Bratachkin, Aliaksei, “Memory of the Holocaust and the Jewish identity in Belarus after 1991,” Belarusian Review, Special Jewish Issue (2016): 9097; Leonid Smilovitsky, “The attitude toward Holocaust in the former Soviet Union and in modern Belarus,” The Point Journal, May 8, 2016, (last accessed June 12, 2017).

128. Cole, Holocaust Landscapes, 227.

I am grateful to Anne Knowles, Erin McGlothlin, Harriet Murav, Trevor Sangrey, and the anonymous reviewers of Slavic Review for their comments on earlier drafts of this article. I am indebted to Olga Shparaga, Aleksei Bratochkin, Irina Makhovskaia, and Stanislav Leonenko for their generous support and many meaningful discussions during my recent visits to Belarus.

Split Memory: The Geography of Holocaust Memory and Amnesia in Belarus

  • Anika Walke


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