For the first time, the Estonian History Museum will curate an exhibition on the Nazi occupation and its devastating effects on Estonian Jewish community.
A prominent place in the exhibition is given to the memories of Isidor Levin, 95 - the last living Jew who survived the Nazi occupation in Estonia, ETV reported on Wednesday.
Although the Nazi occupation during the Second World War was brief, it is a sensitive subject, said Olev Liivik, a researcher and curator at the museum, adding that the upcoming exhibition is the first of its kind in Estonia.
According to Liivik, the aim of the exhibition is to record the period from various aspects, looking at it through the eyes of someone who lived in Estonia at the time but was not an Estonian.
Levin was born in Latvia but considered Estonia his home. Although protected by his Latvian citizenship, the Nazi authorities came to suspect him and he spent time in prisons in Petseri, Tallinn and Poland. The researchers looked at his experiences in these various prisons and the people who helped him during the occupation.
Levin, who specialized in oriental studies, theology and other humanities at the University of Tartu, said the legendary religious philosopher and teacher Uku Masing and his wife Eha saved his life. The couple was honored as Righteous Among the Nations for protecting Levin.
“I couldn’t hide anywhere, I could just influence the line of thinking of my adversaries. I just wanted to prevent people from calling me a Jew,” Levin told ETV.
Granted cultural autonomy by the Republic of Estonia in 1925, the Jewish community in Estonia thrived and in the 1930s, it numbered more than 4,300. The cultural autonomy was abolished after the Soviet invasion in 1940 and with the imminent threat of a Nazi occupation, the majority of Estonian Jews escaped or were evacuated to the Soviet Union.
Estonia was declared Judenfrei or “clean of Jews” at the Wannsee conference in 1942, where Adolf Hitler's "Final Solution" was planned. Work camps were later set up to house Jews from other European countries. According to the estimate of the Estonian History Commission, around 1,000 Estonian Jews and 10,000 foreign Jews were killed on Estonian territory during the Nazi occupation.
The preparations for the exhibition are scheduled to be completed by the end of the year.