With the opening of the Blagovshtshina/Trostenets memorial, the largest extermination site in the former Soviet Union now takes its place on the map of European remembrance sites. It was only in recent years that the Federal Government was able to work with Belarus to examine the past together and thus pave the way for a culture of shared remembrance. On Friday (29 June), Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier opened the memorial site together with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, Austrian President Alexander van der Bellen and Czech President of the Senate Milan Štěch. It is to be a place where future generations can learn and which prompts dialogue. The Federal Foreign Office will continue to closely accompany this process.
Keeping responsibility alive
At the opening of a memorial for tens of thousands of murdered Jews and resistance fighters in Belarus, Steinmeier warned against suppressing the memory of Nazi crimes: “Today, this responsibility means that we must keep the memory of the things that happened here alive. I can assure you that we will uphold our debt of responsibility, also defending it against those who say it will eventually be paid off”. The plans to build a memorial site first took shape in 2013 when the Belarusian Government commissioned the city of Minsk with constructing the Maly Trostenets memorial site. The Federal Foreign Office made available 500,000 euros for the project and funds were also donated by the German War Graves Commission and by other sources in Germany including six German cities from where Jews were deported to the Minsk Ghetto and then on to Maly Trostenets.
Parallel to the building project, a German-Belarusian commission of historians created the joint touring exhibition “Maly Trostenets extermination site - history and remembrance” which was financed by the Federal Foreign Office and has been displayed in various places in Germany from November 2016 and in Belarus from March 2017.