The lesser-known story of the over 1.5 million Soviet Jews who were killed in and around their villages is now being extensively documented in a new section added to Yad Vashem's Web site Monday in honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The project, "The Untold Stories: The Murder Sites of the Jews in the Former USSR," chronicles the killing of Jews from 51 different communities in Ukraine, Belarus, Lithuania, Latvia and Russia.
The project gives people a sample of 101 out of the thousands of killing sites in the area. Dr. Lea Prais of Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research said she hoped this site made people remember all of the small villages and "the way it was done, the cruelty, the violence." For each location, there is information about the community, the killing sites and what was done to commemorate the victims after the Holocaust.
The site also links visitors to related Yad Vashem resources including lists of names, photographs, educational sites, testimonies, and many new video clips from the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education collection. The information was compiled over three years from Yad Vashem's own archives, private collections, and various books and resources about Soviet Jews.
"We are exposing the surfer to the historian's workshop, to how the historian works," Prais said. She mentioned that the large collection of sources let visitors learn about the events from the perspectives of the victims, the perpetrators, the bystanders and the saviors.
The project also teaches about a positive part of the Holocaust's legacy in the former Soviet Union.
"You have to point out the commemoration after the war," Prais said. According to her, commemorating the Holocaust made many Jews under communist rule remember and preserve their Jewish identity.