Jews of Mir and their decendents visit Yad Vashem Museum
by Eliot Braun
On 18 October 2011, all the “Mirers” in Israel were invited to a special meeting at Yad Vashem to acquaint them with the new Mir exhibition on the Yad Vashem website. There was a large gathering representing at least three generations of “Mirers”, including a few born there.
The meeting started out with a two hour tour of the new museum, directed by two guides who led us back into earlier and then sadder times, prior to the war and into the period of the holocaust. Their extraordinary knowledge of the subject and their detailed explanations offered us highlights of this new exhibition especially associated with the story of Mir. For myself I can only say that this was a difficult and extraordinarily moving experience; one which left me emotionally drained.
Afterwards we all met in lecture room, where the creator of the Mir web exhibition, Yona Kobo, met with us and gave us an explanation of how it was built. Once again I was extraordinarily impressed by the knowledge and sensitivity and great interest shown by a member of the Yad Vashem staff. Unfortunately, the time allotted was short and we could only feel disappointed that our lecturer had to end her explanation when she did. I had the feeling she could have gone on for hours. For myself, and I know others felt the same, I was greatly impressed by her dedication to the project and I warmly recommend that anyone interested in Mir visit the website and tour the virtual exhibition. There are both English and Hebrew versions:
A Note on the Yad Vashem Mir Website Exhibition
That this came to fruition only within the last few months is primarily due to the work of the late Yisrael Shifron, long-time head of the Mir Association in Israel. The story goes back almost two decades after Yisrael visited Mir with Oswald Rufheisen/Pere Daniel and other “Mirers”. Then he hoped to persuade the Belarus authorities to make room in the castle for an exhibition on the Jewish Community of Mir. By collecting memorabilia and “schnorring” donations Yisrael managed to raise a sum sufficient to organize a plan for an exhibition. Unfortunately, the Belarus side of the arrangement never came to pass until very recently.
Within the last few years Yisrael came to realize that such a project was not going to happen soon and so he approached Yad Vashem with the idea of organizing a special exhibition in its museum. As it happened, they turned him down on the original proposal but made a counterproposal to have a “virtual exhibition”, a specialized part of the Yad Vashem website, devoted to the Jewish Community of Mir. Yisrael accepted it with alacrity.
Most unfortunately, Yisrael passed away before this plan could come to fruition, but he, with the full support of his wife, Dvorah, was the moving spirit behind it, as well as a generous contributor to its cost. Without his original vision, inspiration and his willpower, the project would never have come to pass. Yisrael was able to make most of the original financial arrangements for it including substantial support from the Holocaust Claims Conference. When Yisrael fell too ill to continue, he passed the torch on to Ronen Slutsky, who helped bring the plan to fruition.
A bitter-sweet announcement was made to us at this meeting. Recently, with the help of the Jewish Community of Minsk, and the financial support of the Claims Conference, the Belarus authorities in Mir have created a small exhibition on the Jewish Community. The Israeli contact person with the Belarus authorities is Mirer Sasha Galver. Would that Yisrael had lived to see that happen.