Belarus memorial, Jewish cemetery rededicated

The non-Jewish leaders of a town in Belarus rededicated its Jewish cemetery.

The Dokshitsy cemetery was rededicated May 22, the holiday of Lag B’Omer. On this day and succeeding days in 1942, some 2,800 adults and children, the last of the town’s Jewish population, were taken to a pit across the street from the burial ground and murdered by the Nazis. The original cemetery was destroyed by the Soviets in 1965.

In initiating the restoration project, the town’s non-Jewish authorities said in a letter they wanted “to correct a mistake that was done many years ago and to create a memorial to the hundreds of Jewish citizens of Dokshitsy.”

Aaron Ginsburg, an American genealogist whose father was born in Dokshitsy and the president of the Friends of Jewish Dokshitsy, said he was “dumbfounded” that the non-Jewish locals initiated the project and “had to quickly overcome any preconceptions about their attitude to the town’s Jewish past.”

Descendants of former Dokshitsy residents and others from the United States, Israel, South Africa and Russia, as well as the town’s mayor and Belarus officials, recited the Mourners’ Kaddish at the newly restored cemetery and the site of the massacre across the road.

“It is hard not to cry when I think of the overwhelming experience we had today in Dokshitsy,” Ginsburg told JTA after the ceremony. “The town rolled out the red carpet from beginning to end. Our mission was a success, and we will be going back.”

Cape Town resident Joe Polliack, who traces his family’s presence in the village back 200 years, said of the rededication ceremony, “It’s something you just can’t describe.”

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