Inauguration of the Moshe Mirilashvili Center for Research on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union at Yad Vashem
On 9 May 2016, Yad Vashem inaugurated the Moshe Mirilashvili Center for Research on the Holocaust in the Soviet Union, under the auspices of its world-renowned International Institute for Holocaust Research.
The Center was endowed by Michael and Laura Mirilashvili in memory of Michael's father Moshe. Alongside Michael and Laura Miriliashvili and their family, honored guests at the dedication ceremony included MK Yuli (Yoel) Edelstein, Speaker of the Knesset; MK Ze'ev Elkin, Minister of Immigration and Absorption and Minister of Jerusalem Affairs and Heritage; Avner Shalev, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Directorate; Rabbi David Lau, Chief Rabbi of Israel; Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, The Rishon LeZion, Chief Rabbi of Israel and Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Chairman of the Yad Vashem Council; H.E. Mr Alexander Shein, Ambassador of Russia to Israel; and H.E. Mr Paata Kalandadze, Ambassador of Georgia to Israel.
The event commenced with a memorial ceremony in the Hall of Remembrance, followed by the unveiling of a plaque in the Square of Hope. The inauguration ceremony itself took place in the Yad Vashem Synagogue.
Recalling the terrible events at Babi Yar, Avner Shalev declared: "Research is a vital component in processing the loss. It is imperative in building a consciousness of remembrance, and afterwards, to creating an identity that can comprehend the terrible rupture in the history of the Jewish people and the whole of humanity... Michael Mirilashvili - a man of vision - understands this, and extended his help so that together we could establish this Center, which will lead global academic research in the coming years and ensure the continued development of our mission."
Following the opening of major and local archives in the Former Soviet Union in the early 1990s, multi-disciplinary research into the wartime fate of the Jews in the USSR began to flourish. With the generous support of the Genesis Philanthropy Group, the European Jewish Fund and other donors, for the past several years Yad Vashem has invested efforts into researching the history of the Jews living in the Soviet Union before, during and after the Holocaust. The Mirilashvili Center is set to consolidate and augment these endeavors of Yad Vashem and lead groundbreaking global academic discourse in this field, strengthening ties with relevant researchers and organizations, encouraging international scholarly cooperation and advancing pioneering research in all related areas for many years to come.
Dr. Iael Nidam Orvietto, Director of the International Institute for Holocaust Research, gave an overview of current and future projects on which the Center will focus its efforts. Headed by Dr. Arkadi Zeltser, a world-renowned scholar of the Holocaust in the FSU, the Center will launch new areas of investigation, such as inter-ethnic relations between Jews and non-Jews in the Soviet Union during the Holocaust, and continue the Research Institute's ongoing projects in the field, such as "The Untold Stories" - an online investigation of the murder sites of the Jews in the Nazi-occupied territories of the FSU and "Jews in the Red Army" - an online database of Jewish soldiers who fought in the Soviet Army during World War II. The Center will also initiate international conferences and workshops in which it will present its research findings to senior and young scholars alike; and publish academic studies, articles, testimonies and collections of relevant archival documents for the benefit of the worldwide research community.
"Thanks to the generous support of the Mirilashvili family, we are now moving into a much more meaningful and systematic phase in various research projects regarding the Holocaust of the Jews in the Soviet Union," explained Dr. Nidam Orvietto."This new Center is both innovative and vital, and without doubt will contribute significantly to Holocaust research both around the world and specifically in Israel."
Before receiving the Key to Yad Vashem from Chairman Shalev, an emotional Michael Mirilashvili recounted his beloved father, in whose name the Center is dedicated: "I know that my father is looking down from the Garden of Eden and would be proud of this new initiative," he said. "The topic of the Shoah was something that I spoke about with him often; he lost his uncle during the Holocaust and he certainly understood the importance of the work of Yad Vashem and especially research focused on the Holocaust in the areas of occupied Soviet Union."
Yad Vashem's International Institute for Holocaust Research stands at the forefront of scholarly study on the Holocaust, providing comprehensive infrastructure for further investigation into this calamitous period in human history. The Research Institute is dedicated to advancing international research regarding the Shoah and fostering cooperative projects among academic institutions, as well as encouraging young scholars in their studies.
Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center, was established in 1953. Located in Jerusalem, it is dedicated to Holocaust commemoration, documentation, research and education. www.yadvashem.org
Memorial Service in the Hall of Remembrance in the presence of Chairman Avner Shalev, Michael and Laura Mirilashvili, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau, Minister Zeev Elkin, Rabbi David Lau, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, and Special Advisor to the Chairman of the Directorate Arie Zukerman