The Jews of Pinsk, 1939-1943, Through the Prism of New Documentation
Since the collapse of the Communist bloc, many archives have opened their doors to researchers, and this research is only in its early stages. The article is based upon new archival material at Yad Vashem, acquired from the State Archives of the Brest District in Belarus and its branch in Pinsk. The documentation brings Pinsk to life, both under Soviet rule, when Jews lived in relative peace and quite a few of them worked for the authorities, and under German rule, when control over the Jews was exercised through the Judenrat, through the Jews’ liquidation. The documentation reconstructs Jewish life during the brutal German occupation and the community’s ever-persisting struggle until the bitter end. It allows for a more accurate estimate of the number of Jews living in Pinsk on the eve of the German invasion, as well as of the numbers murdered. The Judenrat’s efforts on behalf of the Jewish community are also documented in various fields: work, nutrition, supplies and welfare. The documents address subjects such as tax collection, fines and confiscations, statistics and personal documentation. The Judenrat tried maneuvering between the German demands and the needs of the Jews and fought against diseases and starvation. But at the same time the Judenrat pressured the Jews for contributions and confiscation of goods.