The Min­sk Ghet­to, 1941 – 1943: Jew­ish Resis­tance and Sovi­et Internationalism

Bar­bara Epstein
  • Review
By – January 13, 2012

Any study of the Min­sk ghet­to is fas­ci­nat­ing. Unfor­tu­nate­ly, there have been too few stud­ies of this reveal­ing sliv­er of life in the his­to­ry of the Holocaust. 

Bar­bara Epstein asks a seri­ous ques­tion, a ques­tion that is in many ways unique to Min­sk. How is it that in Min­sk Jews and Social­ists were able to col­lab­o­rate, and was that coop­er­a­tion the recipe that saved so many Jews of Minsk? 

In Min­sk, the Jew­ish lead­er­ship of the ghet­to resis­tance and the ghet­to were, in many ways, cut from the same cloth as the Social­ists who were part of the under­ground fight­ing the Nazis out­side the ghetto. 

The author was blessed with a set of remark­able trans­la­tors who also served as her guides and researchers. Because of their efforts on her behalf Epstein is able to prove that, in many cas­es, the lead­ers of the Social­ist under­ground and the Jew­ish lead­ers were friends. Belarus is not a very easy place to nego­ti­ate but Epstein was giv­en remark­able access and spo­ken to with tremen­dous frank­ness even now, so many years after the War. 

Using a pow­er­ful series of inter­views com­bined with the infor­ma­tion she col­lect­ed, Epstein reveals that before World War II, few Min­sk towns­peo­ple dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed between Jews and non-Jews. The peo­ple of Min­sk went to school togeth­er, worked togeth­er, and shared in each other’s fam­i­ly events. They lived as neigh­bors and there was lit­tle ten­sion in the years lead­ing up to the War. Bar­bara Epstein argues that it fol­lowed nat­u­ral­ly that the groups would work in col­lab­o­ra­tion dur­ing the War. 

Epstein’s book sheds light on some of the nuances and com­plex­i­ties that made the Holo­caust what it was. It is a tes­ta­ment to the great­ness of peo­ple who stood up against evil.

Mic­ah D. Halpern is a colum­nist and a social and polit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor. He is the author of What You Need To Know About: Ter­ror, and main­tains The Mic­ah Report at www​.mic​ah​halpern​.com.

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