For every Jewish mass grave – a sign, a name

From the Jerusalem Post by Oleksandr Feldman

If one goes beyond the outskirts of Kiev and continues deep into the forests of the neighboring village of Radomyshl, one soon enters an unmarked clearing. To the untrained eye, the gap in the trees appears random, and most passersby would likely admire the lush vegetation before continuing along the way.

The horrific reality rooted here, as in hundreds of other sites strewn around the Ukrainian landscape, tells a tragic, often ignored chapter in the incomprehensible history of the Holocaust.

Beneath the grass and lilies that now sprout unchecked lie the bodies of hundreds if not thousands of Jewish victims, summarily murdered during a brief span of days in early 1942. The massacre was carried out by Nazi killing squads acting alongside their local paramilitary collaborators. All too often, nearby villagers joined in, welcoming the chance to translate age-old hatred of the Jews into cold-blooded murder.

Beneath these grounds are the stories of remarkable families, families that exemplified centuries of Jewish traditions in the rich cultures of Eastern European Jewry.

With the crack of each killer’s bullet, lives were terminated without any chance to say good-bye.

The Nazis diabolically assumed that their Jewish victims would be quickly forgotten, and recognized that unmarked killing fields would quickly fade into the lush landscape. Incredibly, they were right, multiplying the crime.

Decades later, there is a growing fear that in this regard the Nazis may have succeeded. For even while historians try to document how many souls were lost to the Final Solution, if these clearings go forever unnoticed, the sacred lives lost in each spot will also vanish.

A life lost in the backwoods of Ukraine or Belorussia is no less valuable than one extinguished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Every one of the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis deserves to be remembered. There are many reasons why this effort is critical. But undeniably our most important motivation in preserving the memories of the victims of Nazism is to ensure that humanity never ignores, forgets nor diminishes the fact that these horrors occurred.

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