exploring the concerns of the South AFrican Jewish community
Michael Kransdorff argues that memory and commemoration of the Holocaust often does not give its due to those murdered in the "Holocaust by Bullets." He suggests that there is a particular imperative for South African Jews to remember this less well-known history.
MY first encounter with Mordechai Perlov came at a fortuitous moment. In 2015, a few weeks prior to our first conversation over drinks in his Johannesburg flat, Litvaksig -- the Jewish Lithuanian heritage organization, for which I volunteer as a research coordinator -- had discovered a misplaced file in the Lithuanian archives listing thousands of Jews who had been ‘evacuated’ from Lithuania to the USSR during 1941.
Initially I had hoped that this list might unlock the secret to some unknown rescue attempt of Lithuanian Jews as Nazi forces invaded the country. This would have been a remarkable discovery in a country where local collaboration was widespread and over 90% of the entire Jewish population was murdered. Mord scoffed at my suggestion. This was no humanitarian rescue effort. The people on the list were not Jews saved. Rather, like Mord and his family, they were Jews who were exiled and imprisoned in slave labour camps for being designated as enemies of the Soviet state. The majority would die of hunger, cold or disease.
"South African Jews have deep historical and cultural roots in Eastern Europe ... Nevertheless, we too have, until recently, also largely ignored the Eastern European Jewish experience in our commemoration of the Holocaust".