Euroasian Jewish News
Israel trying to keep Ukrainian town from turning Holocaust-era mass grave into real estate
Israeli Ambassador to Ukraine Rabbi Joël Lion has sent off an urgent request to the mayor of Poltova, Ukraine to intervene to keep the site of a Holocaust-era mass grave from being used for a real estate development.
Shortly after the Germans reached Poltava in September 1941, thousands of the city's Jewish residents were shot to death. A number of non-Jewish locals were also executed there.
Lion wrote to Poltava Mayor Oleksandr Shamota: "As a representative of Israel, the state of the Jewish people, and as the son of Holocaust survivors, I am speaking in the names of those who cannot speak any longer and calling on your conscience and [that of] your city council members to stop this historic injustice."
Lion urged Shamota to "listen to the voices of the victims."
"As the Bible says in Genesis 4:10, 'The voice of your brother's blood is crying to me from the ground.' I expect immediate action. You have the authority to choose between justice and injustice," Lion pressed the mayor in his letter.
Lion copied the Ukrainian prime minister and culture minister as well as the heads of local Jewish communities, stressing that evidence collected by both the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial and a Ukrainian government body, thousands of Jews and gentiles alike had been executed by the Germans at the site in question.
At one time, Poltava was an important Jewish center in eastern Ukraine. Israel's second president, Yitzhak Ben-Zvi, was originally from Poltava.
At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the city was home to some 13,000 Jews, who comprised approximately 10% of the city's population. The Germans occupied Poltava in September 1941, although many of the city's Jews managed to flee before the Germans arrived.
When the Germans asked the Jewish community to provide a census of the city's Jewish residents, they received a list of some 5,000 Jews, most of whom the Germans proceeded to execute in mass shootings carried out in September and November 1941. The bodies of the victims are still buried there.
by Eldad Beck