Mass Grave of Soviet Murder Victims Found in Transnistria

By Matis Glenn

Site where mass graves were found (Chief Rabbi’s office)

A mass grave of people, mostly Jews, murdered by Communists during the Soviet Union era was discovered in Transnistria, according to the office of Rabbi Pinchas Saltzman, Chief Rabbi of Moldova.

The grave was found near Tiraspol, capitol of the breakaway Moldovan state, which is allied to Russia, when government workers were renovating an old army base in an operation related to the Russia-Ukraine war.  

The Bolshevik Revolution that took place in Russia in 1917 under the leadership of Vladimir Lenin, began one of the darkest and murderous periods in world history.  Throughout the decades of communist rule, millions of innocent people were murdered, tortured, and expelled from their homes.

“The sights were shocking,” Rabbi Pinchas Salzman, Chief Rabbi of Moldova said in a statement. “It is unfathomable to the human mind, how the Communist government treated people just because of their religion and belief.“

While working on the area, large pits were discovered one after another, filled with thousands of people that were killed, alongside personal items such as shoes, clothing, wallets and mugs. Documents were found at the site detailing the names and circumstances of the murder victims, killed there between 1917-1930 under the rule of the dictators Lenin and Stalin. Most of the victims were Jews who were convicted of practicing and teaching Judaism, having connections to Eretz Yisrael, or otherwise opposing Communism.

The documents also describe the lives of the Jews under communist rule; the Jewish schools that operated in hiding, the attempts to establish contact with Jewish organizations in the world and the local organizations that were dedicated to performing mitzvos in secret. Among the dead were men, women, and children.

In recent weeks, the President of the Republic Vadim Krasnoselski contacted Rabbi Salzman and informed him and Mr. Yuri Kreichman, the chairman of the Jewish community in Tiraspol, about the discoveries and that the administration wants to give the murdered proper respect and burial, and to erect a monument in their memory.

“The earth is soaked in the blood of innocent Jews and non-Jews, during that time terrible acts were committed on our land that deserve all condemnation and our job is to make sure that such acts do not happen again, G-d forbid,” President Krasnoselski told Rabbi Salzman in a conversation.

“Thanks to the strong connections with the local government, which goes out of its way for the Jewish community, we started to provide a dignified and proper burial for those thousands who were killed al kiddush Hashem,” Rabbi Saltzman said. “In the coming period, together with local volunteers and from around the world, we hope to map the rest of the killing pits and turn the place into a burial site without moving the bodies and disturbing the rest of the murdered, in accordance with Jewish law.”

Three mass graves have ready been found, and according to estimates there are six or seven more mass graves. According to local experts, the number of those murdered is between thousands and tens of thousands, most of them Jews.

Rabbi Saltzman with government workers(Chief Rabbi’s office)
Rabbi Saltzman reciting Kel Maleh at the site (Chief Rabbi’s office)

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