Jan 22, 2020

Survivors of the Holocaust heard

It was at the height of World War II when more than 10,000 Jews fled the ghetto of the German-occupied city of Minsk in Belorussian Soviet Socialist Republic. Many were captured and killed, but many others reached the safety of the forests where partisan units were fighting the Germans.

The stories of some of the few thousand survivors of Minsk adorn the pages of a recent book by Barbara Epstein, Ph.D., professor in the history of consciousness department at UC Santa Cruz.

On Thursday, Epstein will be at Fresno State talking about her book “The Minsk Ghetto 1941-1943: Jewish Resistance and Soviet Internationalism.” The lecture will take place in Agricultural Sciences 109 at 4 p.m. There will be no charge to attend.

Epstein’s book chronicles the relatively unknown struggle of more than 80,000 Jews behind the walls that confined the Minsk ghetto, a space of only 2 square kilometers and 34 streets. Some of the accounts describe how Minsk’s inhabitants were forced to live amongst the rubble of buildings in an area so dense that only 1.5 square meters were allotted for each person. The book also portrays how disease, hunger, beatings and even executions were a daily routine there.

The book also details how, unlike the ghettos of Warsaw and Vilna, the communist-led resistance within the Minsk ghetto and the Belorussian counterparts on the outside were able to bring in supplies or make a way for thousands to escape torture and death. Many heroic efforts were stinted and many lives were lost as a result.

Besides her recent work, Epstein is the author of several books, including “Political Protest and Cultural Revolution: Nonviolent Direct Action in the Seventies and Eighties.” She also writes for numerous publications on cultural politics and social movement.

She also helped found JANIP (Jewish Academic Network for Israeli-Palestinian Peace) an organization bringing together scholars and administrators to discuss resolutions to the conflict in the Middle East and encourage self-determination.

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