2019-06-04 17:41:00

Putin attends unveiling of monument to heroes of resistance in concentration camps

Moscow, June 4, Interfax - Russian President Vladimir Putin has attended the opening of a monument to heroes of resistance in concentration camps and ghettos during the Second World War.

The monument stands on the grounds of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center. The first stone was laid on the International Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2018 in the presence of President Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

"Today, we have gathered to open the monument to the heroes of resistance in Nazi concentration camps and ghettos. I am very glad to be here today. Monuments, it's good, necessary, but the main thing is that we preserve this memory in our hearts, in our soul. And then tragedies like those we're talking about today will not happen. What happened to the Jewish people is doubtless one of the most tragic, and at the same time greatest pages not just in the history of the Jewish people, but in world history," Putin said at the ceremony.

Thanks to the bravery of camp prisoners, the strength of their spirit and the will to fight "the machine of extermination which the Nazis thought was well-run and absolutely invulnerable" was destroyed, he said.

In all, there were 98 bids from Russian architects, sculptors and artists for the design of the memorial. The winner was the Saratov-based architect Oleg Fandeyev.

Viktor Vekselberg, who chairs the museum's board of trustees, told journalists that the monument's opening was an important event for him personally.

"The opening of the monument is extremely symbolic and important. And to me, it is of great personal significance because all of my paternal relatives - I don't know what would be the right word, because a ghetto is no life - were residents of such a ghetto in the small town where I was born and lived there for about two years. And then this whole ghetto was destroyed by occupiers, that's over 10,000 people, they were taken to the woods, shot, and buried in mass graves," Vekselberg said, adding that among those who died were 16 of his relatives.

"Only Dad escaped, because he had fled and joined the resistance, then fought," he said.

This unforgettable page in the familial history "should by no means be forgotten," Vekselberg said.

As for the bids the contest's organizers received, such enthusiasm shows that many people are not indifferent and remember and want to be part of such events, he said. Vekselberg thanked all bidders for participating, and noted that the winner had "managed to convey, in black white, in this architectural solution, the whole will, the desire to survive, to fight, and overcome - these human qualities should always stand guard against any manifestations of a nationalist nature, and prevent their possible repeat."