Russian President Vladimir Putin attended the unveiling ceremony for a new memorial dedicated to the heroes of the resistance movement in concentration camps and ghettos during World War II. The memorial is housed in the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow.

Museum Trustee Board chair Viktor Vekselberg, Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar and president of the Federation of Jewish Communities Alexander Boroda took part in the June 4 event, together with Aron Bielski, the youngest of the four Bielski brothers—Jewish partisans who helped rescue Jews from extermination by the Nazis.

Both Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu participated in the laying of the monument’s foundation stone on International Holocaust Day a year ago.

At the ceremony, Putin said “memorials are a great thing; we certainly need them. But the most important thing is to keep the memory of this past alive in our hearts. Only that can save us from reliving the tragedies we are remembering here today. What happened to the Jewish people is, no doubt, one of the greatest tragedies and, at the same time, one of the most extraordinary chapters in the history not only of the Jews, but of humankind, as a whole.”

From left: Museum Trustee Board chair Viktor Vekselberg, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar. Credit: Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center.

He added that owing to the fortitude and the grit displayed by the prisoners, as well as their desire to resist at all costs, “the death machine which the Nazis thought to be perfectly tuned and totally invulnerable” was shattered.

The monument is an abstract composition of black and white marble, which depicts hands pulling open a door’s shutters. Five glass flasks with candles stand alongside. The composition integrates an interactive screen with a map and information on the uprisings in concentration camps and ghettos. Construction cost approximately $276,000.

In his remarks, Vekselberg said “a people that forgets its own past has no future. That is why the memorial we are unveiling today in the museum is an important symbol of the enduring painful wound and the awesome memory—a reminder to all of us living today that we must do all we can to never let something like this happen to us again.

“Today, we see terrifying examples of monuments being torn down, and history being fudged and rewritten,” he continued. “Despite all that, we will continue to build, remember, cherish and honor.”