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Talks with the Russian Holocaust Research and Education Centre

With a handful of ideas and proposals for cooperation projects, Professor Ilya Altman, Head of the Russian Holocaust Research and Education Centre in Moscow, came to the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen late in March. Accompanied by Natalja Anisina, he first took a guided tour to get an overview of the documents the ITS archives keep on the Holocaust and had talks afterwards. “I am impressed with the possibilities of research and the technical equipment”, said Altman.

On the initiative of the Moscow centre and the House of the Wannsee Conference, a group of teachers and heads of museums from Russia, the Ukraine and Belarus undertakes a one-week journey to Berlin every year to bring themselves up to date on latest research concerning the history of National Socialism and the persecution of the Jews. Altman suggested to include the ITS in this program or to organise a special exchange. “At the ITS, one may gather above all experience in conducting research in archives and in utilizing the documents for the educational work”, said Altman. “And the ITS could back the activities of the centre by giving lectures and offering seminars, thus, raising the Russian public’s awareness of the institution.” 57 of the altogether 83 Russian republics and regions have already entered into cooperation with the Moscow centre in educational issues.

Besides, Altman has in mind an exchange of information between historians and archivists. The Russian Holocaust Research and Education Centre has only recently published 1000 copies of the second edition of an encyclopaedia on the Holocaust on the territory of the former Soviet Union. This book is the first one to bring together information on the most important actors of the Holocaust and details on all settlements within the occupied territory of the USSR. “Wide-ranging international cooperation has made it possible for us to compose the encyclopaedia“, reported Altman.

In his view, another cooperation potential may grow from his lectures at Moscow University. “Here, the Second World War is brought more into focus”, said Altman. “I will discuss with the students how to utilize the material kept at the ITS. It is vital to combine handling archival material and learning lessons from history in this context.”

Altman’s proposals will be the subject of further discussion and debate in the weeks to come. “Cooperating with the Moscow Holocaust Centre on publications and an exchange with teachers from the Russian Federation would be useful for both sides“, said ITS historian Dr Susanne Urban. “On the one hand, the history of the Holocaust on Russian soil, still little known in the Western world, might find more attentive listeners through endeavours by the ITS. On the other hand, the ITS might actively contribute to commemorating the victims of Nazi Germany who at the time had been Soviet citizens. Thus, both sides might profit by each other’s experience and remembrance.”