When a tragedy turns into a mere historical fact from a textbook it can easily be manipulated. When no witnesses of tragic events remain someone can cast doubt on these events. This is where Holocaust denial comes from. And this is why it took years until it evolved – the majority of those who remember what really happened during these days had to pass away.
The best way to resist Holocaust denial is to take a dry fact from a textbook and breathe life into it. In order to comprehend the essence and the reality of those atrocities, one has to experience it, to put this fact through his heart, to fit it on himself and his family. Since nothing is more convincing than when it happened to you, your family and your friends. This is why Genesis Philanthropy Group (GPG) sees its mission in supporting small grants for independent research of the history of Holocaust in the former USSR and thus multiplying a number of researchers involved in it.
As a part of this vision GPG supports a special project initiated by The Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial and The Liaison Bureau (Nativ). From January 7th through today, a seminar is being held at Yad VaShem for the young leaders from the Jewish communities in the CIS. Its participants were carefully chosen from a large number of people who filed applications for different volunteer projects related to the study of Holocaust on the territory of the USSR. After a sophisticated selection process twenty prominent projects were chosen by a jury and their developers were invited to join.
Participants from Moscow, St. Petersburg, Omsk, Odessa, Nikolayev and other cities came to Israel. But prior to that they took a unique Yad VaShem online course about the scantily explored parts of the history of the Holocaust in the Soviet Union. During the seminar itself they are exposed to a number of lectures by the leading experts on the history of the Holocaust and methods of sharing knowledge about it, also as a part of non-formal education.
But the most important part of this project will begin after the seminar is over and its participants return home to their communities. They will initiate their personal projects cooperating with different community and education systems. Projects aimed at a broad audience will be based on the history of their family and the history of the local Jewish community.
Tragically enough HaShoah spared very few Jewish families. But Holocaust at the territory of the Soviet Union is the least known part of it and possibly these new projects will throw light on some forgotten events and thus help perpetuating the remembrance of these tragic pages in the history of the Soviet Jewry.