Why Minsk Was Different

Barbara Epstein

in The Minsk Ghetto 1941-1943

Published by University of California Press

Published in print July 2008 | ISBN: 9780520242425
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520931336 | DOI:
Why Minsk Was Different

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  • Modern History (1700 to 1945)


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This chapter discusses the extraordinary collaboration between the Jews and the Byelorussians in Minsk during the Holocaust period. Three factors point to the partnership of Jews and Byelorussians. First, the Minsk underground was a vehicle for cooperation between Jewish and Byelorussian resistance. Because the underground was organized and led by the Communists, joint resistance and mutual assistance were taken for granted. Second, Minsk for two decades had been under the rule of the Soviet Union before the beginning of war. Under this rule, Jewish assimilation had been strengthened, hence forging strong ties between the Jews and Byelorussians. Third, Soviet internationalism paved the way for wartime solidarity in Minsk. This sense of internationalism was built upon a long-standing current in Byelorussian history and culture of what were for the region relatively good relations between Jews and Byelorussians. Moreover, nationalism, which is a major force of anti-Semitism, did not occur in Byelorussia. This chapter begins by outlining the history of Jewish/Byleorussia relations in Minsk before and during the war. It then discusses the history of pogroms in Russia and the incidence of violence in Byelorussia as well as its economic and political history, and the ways in which these factors diminished ethnic animosities. The chapter ends with different accounts of the results of Communist rule in pre-war Byelorussia and elsewhere, as well as the emergence of wartime ideology that linked patriotism with internationalism.

Keywords: Jews; Byelorussians; Minsk; Soviet internationalism; Jewish assimilation; pogroms

Chapter.  16201 words. 

Subjects: Modern History (1700 to 1945)

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