Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Community Battles to Save Jewish graves

Europe’s largest Jewish cemetery, located in east Berlin, is a vast jungle of overgrown headstones and crumbling monuments decaying so fast that the city has mounted a campaign to rescue it.
Weissensee Cemetery’s grand tombs date to the heyday of Jewish life in Berlin in the early 20th century, but they have been left untended and fallen into disrepair because the sons and daughters of the 115,000 people buried here were killed in the Holocaust.
“Very little was done to maintain the site in communist times, and we don’t know where the money is supposed to come from to restore it,” said Maya Zehden, a spokeswoman for Berlin’s 12,000 strong Jewish community.
“We are preparing an application to get the cemetery recognised as a Unesco World Heritage Site.”
That would place Weissensee in the same league as the Great Wall of China, the pyramids of Egypt and the rock-carved city of Petra in Jordan.
Berlin says it is too strapped for cash to finance a complete overhaul, but is backing the application for world heritage status that would guarantee long-term funding from the federal government.
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