Novogrudek today: the town remembers

After the end of the war Novogrudek was taken into the new Socialist Republic of Belarus, part of the Soviet Union. Very few Jews remained and the town became effectively closed to those living in the West. Many of the Jewish community and religious buildings had been destroyed by the occupation or by bombardments. All that remained of the Jewish presence was memories.

In the 1990’s after the collapse of the Soviet Union some Jews decided to return to Novogrudek on visits. What they found was bleak. Many of the Jewish sites had been left to decay, others had been knocked down or destroyed for post war rebuilding.

Some of those Jews who had reached the United States after the war were able to provide photographs and information about the town and its community, which otherwise would have been lost. This proved invaluable to the survivors of Novogrudek’s Jewish community, who decided to create a Novogrudek memorial book in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1963.

In the 1990’s Jack Kagan was responsible for putting up a number of memorials to those who were killed by the Nazis in Novogrudek. Along with other survivors of the town he also visited Novogrudek to remember his family and community that had been destroyed.

Those memorials are now a permanent part of the town’s heritage. Novogrudek today is learning to remember it’s past. Commemorating the Holocaust and the Jews that were destroyed has become part of the town’s calendar. However, the Holocaust and the subsequent antisemitism has resulted in hundreds of years of Jewish life being destroyed. The memory of that community has now to be kept alive by the children of those who survived and the good will of the current day Novogrudek citizens.

Jack is in regular contact with current residents of Novogrudek, and still visits there. With his help the new generation of Novogrudek is learning about the communities that it has lost.