The trail of Jewish history in eastern Europe is a mixed one. Pogroms and random anti semitic murders during the centuries were a fact of life. The coming of the Soviets and their antipathy to religion in general squeezed most of the remaining vitality out of the Jewish religious community, which was already losing members due to changing values and emigration.
Nevertheless, there was a long history of a rich communal lifestyle full of tradition, and close family relations, with a joy and a love for life and learning.
The Nazis and their accomplices came along and decimated the remaining Jewish population with an unmatched vehemence and a lack of any discernible human feelings that defies belief. Many Belarussians stepped up to save their Jewish neighbors, some losing their lives in the process. The population of Belarus in general saw 25% of the population lost during the war years of 1941-1945, the villages and cities ravaged during a brutal occupation.
Driving through the Belarussian countryside, there are numerous monuments at murder sites where Jews were marched en masse into the forest and shot and buried in mass graves. There is an incredible sadness to being there at these spots, knowing the horror that occurred beneath your feet. There is also a feeling of appreciation for a country that remembers its own.
The photos are of two random sites we passed on our trip to Mir and Volozhin. 800 were murdered at one, 1600 at the other.