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Biblical understanding about Israel

October 20, 2016

Ukraine suppresses the memory of the Holocaust

By Gerhard Wilts.. Plaintively sounds the Kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the deceased, over the desolate churchyard outside Mariupol. When rabbi Menachem Cohen falls silent only the muffled artillery of the Ukrainian fighters is audible in the distance. Peace seems far away still.

Somewhere in this field my grandfather lies, Irina Kleiner sighs. The little Jewish woman is standing next to the ‘Black Monument’, a sombre place with a Jewish menorah and a couple of commemorative plaquettes, some ten kilometres outside Mariupol. The East Ukrainian city is located on the present frontline between the pro-Russian separatists and the Ukrainian army, but was already in the Second World War a gory scenery of violence and Jew hatred. Kleiner points over the hilly terrain with withered grass, next to a cemetery in a bad state of maintenance. “Time and again bones of murdered people are being found here.” She brings back memories of her mother who escaped the pogrom in Mariupol, but the sad condition of the monument symbolizes the lack of attention for the horrible history of the Jews in Ukraine. Around the memorial the weeds are flourishing. In the grass lie plastic bottles, the blue paint is flaked off the benches and there is a poor wreath of artificial flowers lying against the plinth of a metres high menorah. 

Plaquette in Mariupol with rabbi Cohen (Photo credit: Nederlands Dagblad)

(Photo credit: Nederlands Dagblad)

Unknown places of execution
On 20st and 21nd October, 1941 sixteen thousand Jews were murdered by the Nazis, together with Roma and political prisoners on this spot. Today little reminds us of this massacre. Along the road no information sign points at this sinister place. “Everywhere in Ukraine you can find these kind of unknown execution sites”, rabbi Menachem Mendel tells us. He immigrated from Israel to Mariupol eleven years ago. He points at a white dilapidated stone building behind him, a few hundred metres away from the monument. In that shed hundreds of Jewish men, women and children had to sleep the night in that freezing cold October night in 1941, because the Germans didn’t have enough bullets to massacre sixteen thousand Jews in one day. The Nazis had summoned the Jewish inhabitants of Mariupol the day before to meet in the building of the local high-tech university. From there they drove the Jews like cattle to the execution site. When they arrived on foot they were shot on the edge of a mass grave. “Many German soldiers didn’t know how to kill so many people at the same time. The sight of babies being tossed in the air, clubbed to death or riddled, were horrible”, Cohen says. “The last victims were buried alive. A couple of days later the bodies were pillaged by local residents who were after golden teeth, watches and other jewellery.”

Memorial with in the distance the shed where hundreds of Jewish men, women and children had to sleep the night in that freezing cold October night in 1941, because the Germans didn’t have enough bullets to massacre sixteen thousand Jews in one day (Photo credit: Nederlands Dagblad)


“Only after I had children of my own I started to realize what my mother went through”, says Irina Kleiner. “She often used to take us to this place for a Sunday walk. Now I come here every year together with my son and tell him about the massacre. Many victims remained unknown; ultimately some four thousand names were discovered, of the rest we only know that they are missing.” At the high-tech university of Mariupol a silvery plaquette of weeping faces reminds of this immense drama. But in the schools attention for the Ukrainian ‘Holocaust of bullets’ is not big. Anti-Semitism is raising its head again. Cohen: “During class very often is spoken about the murder of Soviet citizens, but not of Jews. In the last few years right-wing extremists hand out flyers with swastikas.”
One of the few survivors of the Mariupol pogrom is 86-year old Vanda Siemionovna Vasilieva. As a ten-year-old girl she escaped the massacre. “When the Germans invaded our country we had no idea what we as Jews could expect in Ukraine”, she tells. “In October 1941 two German soldiers came to our house, they summoned my mother and me to come to the high-tech university. We had to bring food for three days and our most important belongings. I could barely escape”.
Vasilieva went into hiding until the Russians liberated Mariupol. “My mother was killed, I lived”, she says. Not until 2013 she committed her bitter childhood memories to paper. “Because I felt obliged to tell everyone what happened in my life as a Jewish woman.”

86-year old Vanda Siemionovna Vasilieva showing a picture of her mother (Photo credit: Nederlands Dagblad)

Disrupting the silence
has suppressed her role in the horrible persecution of the Jews in the Second World War for almost seventy years. The French priest Patrick Desboi, whose grandfather was imprisoned in a German concentration camp in Ukraine, disrupted the silence. He heard countless testimonies of Jews about the pogrom in Rava Ruska. In this Ukrainian city, near the Polish border, sixteen to eighteen thousand Jews are murdered in cold blood on four different sites. “Some eyewitnesses never spoke about it. But at the end of their lives they could not keep their vow to stay silent, they wanted to talk about their childhood horrors before they would die”, said Desbois last month in an interview with the British newspaper Daily Mail. “About the genocide too much is still unclear. Tomorrow the survivors will be gone, opponents will deny the events and say that the Jews are forging history.”

Collecting evidence
During his search it wasn’t difficult for Desbois to collect evidence of the Holocaust. In many villages and cities mass graves can be found.” He documented countless testimonies, among which are very unnerving experiences. “Thousands of Jews were killed by the Nazis just for fun, out of anger, boredom or when drunk.” At a rough estimate 1.6 million Ukrainian Jews were executed, but this ‘Holocaust with bullets’ hardly got any attention. Desbois wants to disrupt the silence. In May 2016 he unveiled a monument in Rava Ruska for the Jewish victims, the first one dedicated to this pogrom. “Until now there was only a memorial commemorating the Soviet prisoners.” According to Desbois at least six thousand mass execution sites are still not located. Rabbi Cohen hopes that for the victims of the pogrom in Mariupol still a worthy monument will be erected. “When it rains heavily here, in the field near the Black Monument, sometimes so much soils washes away that bones are being exposed. I saw them wit my own eyes. It is my profound wish that this mass grave is well covered with earth and enclosed with a fence.” Sunk in deep thought he turns to the Black Monument and says his Kaddish, modestly and with tear-filled eyes.

Rabbi Cohen (Photo credit: Nederlands Dagblad)

Babi Yar the greatest massacre of Jews that took place in a single day
Exactly 75 years ago, on 29th and 30th of September, 1941 in the ravine Babi Yar near Kiev 33,771 Jews were killed by the Nazis, ten days after the German occupation of the Ukrainian capital. The massacre is at the centre stage during a conference this week in Kiev. “If you take the Jewish history out of the Ukrainian history then the history of Ukraine is irrelevant”, says Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder to the participants of the conference. “Who doesn’t want to be responsible for what has happened chooses to be without history. It has to do with who you want to be as a nation. Nations weren’t built on oblivion, but on responsibility. It is never to late to show remorse”, according to Snyder. Adrian Karatnycky of the Ukrainian Jewish Centre (UJE) added that Ukraine “has a Soviet version of history, a glorious battle of victory and hardly any eye for the victims.” Babi Yar is the biggest once-only bloodbath of the Holocaust. The Jews from Kiev expected to be brought to labour camps. They had to hand over their possessions and clothes. In the ravine the victims had to line up in rows of ten lying down on the soil, face down. The Germans shot them with machine guns, covered the bodies with a thin payer of mud after which the next group had to lie on top of them. About thirty Jews survived the two-day SS-orgy of blood. In the following months again thousands of Jews, Roma, communists and Russian prisoners of war were killed at Babi Yar. The total death toll is estimated to be over 100,000. At their withdrawal for the Red Army halfway 1943 the Germans fiercely tried to destroy the evidence of the massacre by grinding and burning the bones. The three hundred prisoners that had to excavate the remains were killed afterwards. The ravine is a tree park now. Since 1974 there is a monument near the ravine, but the inscription doesn’t mention any Jewish victims. In 1991 a menorah (candleholder) was placed in commemoration of the murdered Jews.

Nederlands Dagblad (with permission)
Thursday September 29, 2016
By Gerhard Wilts

Handing out food parcels in Mariupol by Christians for Israel Ukraine. Photographs below.

Photo credit Christians for Israel Ukraine

Photo credit Christians for Israel Ukraine

Photo credit Christians for Israel Ukraine

Photo credit Christians for Israel Ukraine

God is fulfilling His promise to His people, in our generation!
We need your help!

This winter we from Christians for Israel Ukraine plan to pack 30,000 food parcels and to distribute them everywhere in Ukraine to Holocaust survivors and poor lonely Jews, Jewish refugees from Eastern Ukraine where the war continues unabatedly and through small Jewish communities! Winter is already in the land with temperatures around zero! The ingredients for the food parcels are purchased at a wholesaler in Ukraine.

Food parcels, costing € 10 or US $ 12 contain the most elementary food products and are packed by volunteers and distributed throughout Ukraine.
Are you prepared to donate one or more food parcels? We need your help urgently!
 Donate in €  Donate in US $

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