BELARUS - THE JEWISH COMMUNITY
Belarus Cemetery Law was enacted in 2001 that applies to cemeteries of all faiths, including Jewish cemeteries. Some new addendums were added in 2007. Any cemetery unused for 25 years can be reclaimed for other purposes. Owning to the murder of entire Jewish communities by Germans and their Lithuanian, Latvian and Ukrainian partners in the 1941-44 period, the bulk of Jewish cemeteries fell under this law during the years 1966-69. [March 2009]
Links for Belarussian Jewry [March 2009]
MAPS of various Belarussian cities:
JewishGen's ShtetlSeeker references border changes to locate a given town. [February 2009]
2010 UPDATE ON CONDITIONS IN BELARUS: Communists started to destroy Jewish cemeteries in eastern Belarus in the second half of the 1930s. One example is the former Minsk Jewish cemetery, which was replaced by a stadium "Dinamo" in 1937. During WII, Germans used tombstones from Jewish cemeteries to build roads, dams, and forts. Also German Nazi collaborators executed Jewish population in the Jewish cemetery sites. Today these mass graves are commemorated with Holocaust memorials (Minsk, Novogrudok, Volozhin, Radun, Braslav, and Dolginovo). After the war, most of the Belorussian Jewish cemeteries were closed to new burials. In some places, the local population reused Jewish tombstones for their non-Jewish relatives and to build houses. In 1960s, Soviets started to build on the old Jewish cemeteries and replaced them with stadiums, such as in Grodno, Gomel, Brest; apartment complexes such as in Slutzk, Voronovo, Lida, Lyakhovichy, and Pinsk. Since the end of the 1980s after the fall of the Soviet regime, Jewish cemeteries began to get more attention, mostly from descendants and from Jewish organizations. Some cemeteries were cleaned, tombstones reerected and cleaned, photographed and catalogued. Belorussian Jewish organizations took responsibility to maintain some of the old Jewish cemeteries. Despite all the efforts, the majority of old Jewish cemeteries in Belarus are still abandoned. international Very few active Jewish cemeteries remain, some are in Bobruisk, Borisov, Mogilev, Vitebsk, and Orsha. One cemetery (with wooden tombstones and founded in 1568) is located in the village called Lenin. Some famous Rabbis are buried in Belorussian Jewish cemeteries, well known pilgrimage sites such as Borisov, Grodno, Radun, Volozhin, Slonim, and Mir. Source: Jewish Heritage Research Group in Belarus, 220002 Minsk, 13B Daumana St. tel/375-173-345612 and fax/375-173-343360.
P. O. Box 100, Minsk 220074, Republic of Belarus. Belarus Tel: +375 17 252 7314 Belarus Mob: +375 29 699 4016. Fax: +375 271 4736. London Tel: +44 20 7193 5474. Boston, MA Tel: +1 617 418 3202.
REFERENCE: History of Jews in Belorussia and Ukraine by Dymshytz, St-Petersburg, 1944. Almost all the cemeteries described are on hills, sometimes covered by woods. The most ancient ones were destroyed although some of them exist today on the original places. Many Jewish cemeteries are converted into Christians ones. Usually the stones are 1m-1.2-m high and 0.5-m width. The reverse side of the stone is not polished. The top of the stone is half-round and sometimes partially broken as an image of sorrow. The decor is very limited with sometimes a Star of David and sometimes blessing hands or menorah. The images are dated second half of the last century: in MIR-a bird, in SHARKOVCHINA-a lion, in DRUE and DISNA-a lion, a bird and floral ornamentation. Source: Irene Kudish