Mass Grave Erected in the Rovno District, Ukraine, for Kedoshim, Hy”d

At the unveiling of the mass grave in Rovno.

The Rabbinical Center of Europe in collaboration with the Ohalei Tzaddikim Association inaugurated a matzeivah on graves of Jews who were murdered during the Holocaust and buried together in mass killing pits in the towns of Matiivka and Pustomyty in the Rovno district.

Dozens of mass Jewish burial pits exist throughout Ukraine and its surroundings.

The Rabbinical Center of Europe and the Ohelei Tzaddikim Association, headed by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Gabay, are working together to commemorate the memory of the 80th anniversary of the outbreak of World War II and the destruction of European Jewry.

The tombstones were erected as a memorial in the towns of Taibka and Postomiti in the Rovno district, deep in a forest approachable by foot only. The memorials have been inaugurated for those killed in the mass graves of the area. The place was discovered by residents who were eyewitnesses to the brutal murders and sought to clear their consciences.  The information was passed on to the local Rabbis and from there it reached the Rabbinical Center of Europe.

Residents noted that this was one of the most impassioned events they ever attended, as the memorial ceremony took place on the day of remembrance for the murder of the last 5,000 Jews in the Rovno ghetto. Exactly 79 years before, on 28 Tammuz, the last Jews were transported to the depths of the Kostopol Forest, where they were murdered, thus eliminating the Rovno ghetto.

All the speakers noted with astonishment the fact that the ceremony was held on the exact date of the chilling past. Rabbi Shneur Schneerson, the local Chabad shaliach, has always gone to the mass grave in Kostopol Forest every year on Memorial Day with the Jews of Rovno, and asked at the event to include the Rovno kedoshim who were murdered in Kostopol in the memorial prayers.

The ceremony was attended by the director-general of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, Rabbi Arie Goldberg, and the Secretary of the Council of European Rabbis, Rabbi Avraham Abba Torezki, Rabbi of Rovno-Wolin and district Rabbi Shneur Schneerson, the local mayor, district governor, Jewish community leaders and senior government officials. They noted their admiration for the RCE’s initiative, with the help of the Ohalei Tzaddikim association, who have so far erected 25 mass graves throughout Europe in memory of Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust in Ukraine, and plan to continue the project in other cities.

Rabbi Avraham Abba Torezki recited Keil Malei Rachamim at the emotional event that took place over the graves of the thousands of martyred Jews who were killed in 1941, Hy”d.

During the ceremony, Roman Perkovich, a local non-Jew, spoke in awe about his memories of those difficult days when he was a seven-year-old boy. “My uncle told me about a Jewish woman who arrived on Friday with two little girls to escape the Nazis. She showed him a bag with gold coins and told him she was willing to pay any amount he asked if he hurried to take them with his horse and cart to the synagogue in Sotchin as long as they arrived before Saturday because she did not want to desecrate the holy day. He quickly took them, and until the day he died he was left with the riddle of whether they managed to be saved or whether they perished.”

He went on describing the severe cruelty of the Germans in those days. “My mother told me that she saw from the window a Jewish woman walking with a bag hiding a baby inside from the Germans. It may have been her daughter. Apparently, the baby was crying, and the woman bent down to try to calm her down. Just then a German soldier passed by. He noticed what was happening, pulled out a gun and calmly shot dead a woman and a toddler and continued on his way.”

The Director General of the RCE, Rabbi Arie Goldberg, thanked the chairman of the RCE, Rabbi Menachem Margolin, who has reinforced the historic project with the Ohalei Tzadikkim Association, and said: “We came here to tell the whole world that we do not forget those who were murdered and died al kiddush Hashem.  The inauguration of the ‘mass graves project’ is a message to the world and especially to Ukraine. Decades ago, when the Germans spread anti Semitic propaganda there were those who said that these were just words and speech, and no one was harmed by it. The days passed and the words turned into harsh murder. Six million Jews were massacred. Words can kill. Jews walked in the woods, came to this place and the hundreds of words became machine guns that murdered men, women and children here in this place, on the land we stand on. The Rabbinical Center of Europe aims to erect a memorial for those thousands of Jews who were murdered and at the same time continue to strengthen the Jewish identity of the Jews in Europe and proudly carry the torch of the people of Israel. ”

He went on and thanked the local Chabad shaliach, who massively assisted the RCE in organizing the event and even brought a group of local Jews from the city to show that the light of Judaism continues to shine.

Rabbi Schneerson is currently in the midst of a fundraising campaign for the construction of a mikveh and a synagogue. “This is the winning answer to the German oppressors who sought to murder the Jewish body and soul. We are here and continue to grow and develop,” Rabbi Goldberg said.