27 July 2008

Ukraine: Developers vs human remains

A Jewish group recently asked the Ukrainian government to halt construction on an Odessa site containing remains of some 26,000 Jewish victims executed in the fall of 1941.

According to the AP article in the English-language weekly Kyiv Post, a developer may be building a shopping mall on the site:

The Jewish community in Odessa says a developer has begun building what it believes will be a shopping mall on the site of a burial ground. When construction workers began digging they found bones, skulls and children's toys, said Avrohom Wolf, the chief rabbi for Odessa and southern Ukraine. He said the builder has taken away all the remains it dug out and said he has no clue where to search for them. Wolf would not name the company, in hope of finding a solution.
The victims were executed shortly after German troops invaded the Soviet Union. The barren site is near the city center, was marked by several Jewish memorials, but not officially registered as a cemetery.

"It is difficult to describe how horrible it looked - hundreds and hundreds of people, hands, legs, skulls," said Wolf, who with other Jewish leaders wrote to Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and asked her to intervene. Local officials, he said, had tried to help but failed.

The letter called the construction an insult to the memory of the dead; the government declined comment.

According to historians, about 1.4 million of Ukraine's 2.4 million pre-war Jewish citizens were executed, starved or died of disease. Remains are in common graves, ignored and unmarked.

Similar cases have occurred in other Ukrainian locations. In Belarus, construction for an apartment house began on a pre-WWII Jewish cemetery in Vinnitsa; the community fought to stop it.

1 comment:

  1. This is a good time to remind TTT readers of the DNA Shoah Project: http://public.arl.arizona.edu/shoah/

    If you are a first or second degree relative of someone murdered in the Holocaust, you can submit a DNA sample to the DNA Shoah Project so that when unearthed remains are DNA tested, there is hope of identifying the deceased. The sample involves a simple cheek swab and there is no charge to participate in the project.
    Judy Simon