Yama (“Pit”) Memorial Complex in Minsk

Minsk

Sculpture, monuments, memorials

The junction of Zaslavskaya and Melnikaite streets is marked with sorrow. Here the monument, devoted to the victims of the Holocaust, is located.

In Minsk, within the entire period of Nazi occupation during World War II, Jewish ghetto had been existed, where the Nazis rounded up Jews, including local people and the citizens of other countries. Here, on the 2nd of March 1942, implementing a policy of genocide, the Nazis shot about 5000 prisoners of the Minsk ghetto, including 200 orphans fr om children’s home, along with their teachers and educators.

People were driven into a pit and shot without mercy and compassion. If in the houses of the ghetto they did not find anyone, the houses were blown up, so as the people who hide couldn’t survive. Only 13 prisoners of the ghetto survived hiding in a crypt near the old Jewish cemetery before the liberation of Minsk from the occupants. These figures are really striking.

The first obelisk was set up at Yama in 1947, it was a modest wall, with memorial text in Yiddish and Russian. For a long time it was the only memorial to victims of the Holocaust on the territory of the Soviet Union with text in Yiddsh.

The authors of the memorial in its present version are L. Levin, A. Finsky, E. Pollack. It dates to 2000. The idea, embodied with architectural and sculptural means is very impressive. Along 17 granite steps are sculptures of twenty-seven figures from the ghetto, made of metal, which represent more collective characters, going to eternity. They are left to walk a few steps and die on the bottom of the pit. The metal surface is left rough, with cracks, and is perceived tragically and harmoniously: the death is ahead, distorting the features, shapes, faces. And neither the sky help, no matter how much one refers to it in a silent call (the first leading figure), nor talent (closing figure with a violin, which implies a simultaneous incarnation of peaceful national spirit).

In this mournful string of people, children in the naive hope of saving cling to adults. A modern visitor of the memorial, descending into the pit, held the same path as each of the condemned martyrs: they are frozen forever and while passing by every figure you feel the sorrow and enter into the spirit of the horror that happened.  It was achieved by the author’s artistic techniques. At the bottom, in front of paving-stoned ground, a wall of black stone is set up, an analogue of the former, with a commemorative plaque to remember.

And people do remember. In commemoration of this tragic event, pilgrimage to the site of the memorial and traditional mourning meetings occurs.

Noble and humane people, who under penalty of their death saved Jews during the war from certain death, are also remembered. A significant part of the memorial complex is the Path of Righteous Men of Belarus which is located not far from it. In their honor, lime trees have been planted and each tree has a metal plate with the name of a righteous man set onto it.

When reconstruction of the memorial was undertaken no machinery was used and all work done by hand, a process which took eight years to complete. It means that the Pit is a place of mourning, a place of sacred memory, a place wh ere every visitor passes from contemplation to understanding and compassion, and then - to humanism.

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