The Molotov-Von Ribbentrop non-aggression pact ultimately led to the annexation of large swaths of territory into the Soviet Union. The Jews of eastern Poland and the Baltic States now had to acclimate to the realities of Soviet Jewish life. With the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union – Operation Barbarossa – on June 22, 1941, the mass shootings of Soviet Jewry began.
The Holocaust in the Soviet Union was unique in many respects. The Einsatzgruppen SS killing squads, along with local collaborators, murdered the Jews of the Soviet Union through mass shootings outside of the towns. Survival under Nazi occupation was rare, and was only possible by escape to the unoccupied areas of the Soviet Union or by serving in the Red Army. The Soviet government appointed the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee, headed by leading Soviet Jewish writers and intellectuals. They generated publicity regarding the Holocaust, and gathered data which was eventually published as the Black Book.
The postwar Stalinist repression of Jewish life was one of the darkest periods of Jewish history in the Soviet Union. Sustaining Jewish life became nearly impossible, and those who struggled to do so did it heroically and against all odds.
This series on the history of Soviet Jewry is sponsored by Shuvu – Chazon Avraham, a network of schools in Israel whose student body is primarily composed of children of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Support Shuvu’s educational projects here: https://www.shuvuusa.org/donate
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