History workshop "Leonid Lewin" Minsk

Learning at the authentic location

Remembering for a common future

“The History Workshop Minsk, at the site of the former Minsk Ghetto, is a particularly important project. Here, the International Association for Education and Exchange Dortmund, IBB Minsk, and the Union of Belarussian Jewish Organisations and Communities, work together in creating a good future through remembering the past.“


Johannes Rau,

Former President of the Federal Republic of Germany

Understanding the present together

“The History Workshop is a world of remembrance of my and our shared past. This is a house filled with the life stories and the suffering of people who survived the tragedy but weren’t able to report on it, but also of contemporary witnesses, which can authentically report on what happened. This is our plea to the peoples of the world for understanding the present together, and through the tragic past.“

Michail Treister,

former prisoner at the Minsk Ghetto, Leader of the Union of former ghetto prisoners and resistance fighters

Learning at the authentic location

Lively meetings of contemporary witnesses and the younger generations are right on top of the agenda at the History Workshop “Leonid Lewin”. About 150 contemporary witnesses of the holocaust and of forced labour participate in the active educational work with young people.

These vivid history lessons for children and youths have a long history in the educational work of IBB Dortmund and Minsk, who, since 2000, repeatedly invited contemporary witnesses from Belarus to speak at German schools.

History Workshop remembers its co-founders

Since its opening in 2003, the History Workshop Minsk is a joint project of:

  • IBB “Johannes Rau” Minsk,
  • IBB Dortmund, and
  • the Union of Belarussian Jewish Organisations and Communities

In 2015 it was renamed to History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” Minsk.


Peter Junge-Wentrup, General Manager IBB Dortmund

Dr. Viktor Balakirew, Belarussian Director of IBB Minsk

Galina Lewina, Vice-Chairwoman of the Union of Belarussian Jewish Organisations and Communities

The secret of reconciliation is remembrance

Atrocities which are hard to imagine

Taking account of the years of war and occupation is both horrifying and unimaginable: Every fourth Belarusian did not survive the war, more than half a million Belarusian and European Jews were forced into Ghettos and, at different locations, exterminated. Right up to the present, the national memorial site Chatyn is the tragic symbol of how this lust for destruction and extermination was unleashed: 628 villages were, save a few survivors, razed. Of the 400 000 forced labourers deported to Germany, a third never returned home. For a German-Belarusian project like IBB, the necessity to come to terms with guilt, and to create a space for remembrance and reconciliation, remains a guiding principle for action.

This is our creed for our work

That such a time of dehumanisation shall never repeat itself, is the creed and responsibility, shaping the work of IBB “Johannes Rau” Minsk to the present day. It wants to enable both a learning from history for later generations and a process of reconciliation with the survivors through encounter, support and dialogue.

From this objective developed one of the most hopeful and sustainable projects, without peer in Eastern Europe: The History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” Minsk.

Our current publications

Within the framework of our diverse research projects, the History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” published more than 40 research contributions, documents and material collections, conference documentations and memorial volumes.

A specific focus is on the autobiographical memories of contemporary witnesses, which are published in the series “Living testimonies from Belarus“: Survivors of ghettos, concentration camps and forced labour talk about their fates.

An overview of all publications of the History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” can be found here.

Learning from history for a shared future in Europe

Cooperation with many partners

The History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” is continually in contact with:

  • 18 different Belarusian victim associations
  • International historians
  • International universities (Belarusian State University, Minsk State Linguistic University, University of Gießen, Bonn, Hamburg, Jerusalem, and others)
  • Holocaust memorial centre in Ukraine (Dnepropetrovsk)
  • German Historical Institute Warsaw
  • German-Russian Museum Berlin-Karlshorst
  • Yad Vashem Centre for Commemoration
  • Auschwitz Memorial, and many more

Programmes and focal points

The continuing work of the History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” Minsk encompasses:

  • A project in oral history, with Belarussian contemporary witnesses of war and of National Socialism
  • The creation of a virtual media centre with reports from contemporary witnesses, memories, etc. (Internet archive)
  • Research projects “Minsk Ghetto”, “Extermination Camp Trostenez”
  • Social projects with volunteers “Bridge of Generations”, “Aging in dignity”
  • Further education for teachers and lecturers
  • Publications
  • Conferences, seminars, discussion forums, clubs
  • Permanent exhibitions and special exhibitions
  • Excursions and
  • Trips with contemporary witnesses

Our work has many supporters

The History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” is backed by many supporters:

  • Honorary Patriarch Filaret, former head of the Belarussian Orthodox Church
  • Archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz, head of the Catholic Church in Belarus
  • Protestant Church of Hesse und Nassau
  • Evangelical Church of Westphalia
  • Foundation “Remembrance, Responsibility and Future”
  • Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany in Belarus
  • Municipal council Minsk
  • 300 private supporters in Germany


Social Projects

“Bridge of Generations” (since 2012) and “Aging in Dignity” (until 2011) are social projects of the History Workshop “Leonid Lewin”, focusing on the emotional and mental well-being of survivors and victims of the terrors of National Socialism. Many of these are excluded from social life, due to their traumatic experiences, their age or their loneliness. The History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” offers these people a broad spectrum of meetings, leisure activities and excursions, appropriate to their interests and needs. This includes the shared solemnisation of memorial days, birthdays, creative pursuits in film and theatre, different clubs, reading circles, and much more.

Our archive of contemporary witnesses

In order to safeguard the harrowing memories of former prisoners of ghettos or concentration camps and forced labourers for future generations, the History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” presents video documents, photographs, letters, diaries and other personal documents on the internet. The archive already consists of 65 life histories in German and Belarusian language, with English translations to follow.

It is the task of the History Workshop “Leonid Lewin” to make such historic material, documents, and traces, systematically available to amateurs and historians from all over the world, and to continually work on the archive’s expansion.

Here you can find the archive of contemporary witnesses.

More about the archive

Preserving memories

IBB Dortmund and Minsk support initiatives to create a place of memorial and remembrance for the murdered victims of German tyranny who remained nameless. An important example is the former Jewish Cemetery in Minsk. Here, at the location of the former Minsk Ghetto, memorial stones remember the thousands of deported citizens of Hamburg, Bremen, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Bonn, Frankfurt, Berlin and Vienna.

Everywhere, the municipal parliaments of the European cities involved supported the work of citizens’ initiatives to come to terms with this forgotten chapter of history and to research the names and life histories of the deported.