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It Had Its History
The Jews of Russia
Following the postwar years the entire cultural life of the Jewish people was liquidated at one stroke. Practically every Jewish writer, artist, composer and to some extent musicians, were arrested and exiled and some executed.
With the German invasion of the Soviet Union in June 1941, millions of Soviet Jewish citizens found themselves in what had once been the old Tsarist Pale of Settlement. Many were evacuated by the Soviet government to Central Asia. Those who were caught by the advancing German army were doomed.
There were special roving military and SS units called Einsatzgruppen. Their units murdered over 1,200,000 Jews in places such as Babi Yar near Kiev and Ponary on the outskirts of Vilna.
The Red Army liberated the concentration camp Maidjanek on July 23, 1945. Between 1941-1945 more than 500,000 Jews served in the Red Army, and at least 200,000 were killed in action. The Jewish population in 1939 was 3,550,000 and in 1946 2,665,000.
With the fall of the Iron Curtain, the floodgates of emigration opened. There was a mass exodus of one million Russian Jews who made aliyah. It is said that anti-Semitism in Russia is on the wane and that synagogues and Jewish community centers are sprouting up again in small towns and villages. The Chief Rabbi of Russia Berl Lazar, said that local Jewish organizations finally are taking root and flourishing after having been suppressed during the 74 years of Communist rule that ended in 1991. “Today,” he said “ we see Jewish schools, Jewish kindergartens, charity canteens, various cultural programs and lots of music and artistic groups in towns where Jewish life had not existed at all.” Today there are about 1 million Jews in Russia, and a “Prime Minister who shows a positive attitude towards Jewish life.”
There were the “refuseniks” who languished in jail but walked out waving to the world, there were the Russian Jewish partisans who blew up German military trains, there were the Black Years and the exiles doomed in labor camps. There was the Hebrew teacher Chalameiser, with the “little beard of curly tuffs,” sitting outside before the lesson, in the Russian cold, taking out a lump of black bread, an onion or two, sometimes a pickle, invariably a handful of salt in a clean rag. That was his breakfast. "I don’t remember,” the writers’ memoirs continue, “very clearly just what we studied together, but he was indelibly engrossed on my memory, all of him, with all his poverty, his patience, kindness.”
Forerunner of the “refusenik,” forerunner of the “partisan,” of the “exiled,” of the “beaten,” the Russian Jew, “All of him.”
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