Monday, May 18, 2009

Ukraine: Lo Tishkach Foundation Issues Report on Jewish Cemeteries

Ukraine: Lo Tishkach Foundation Issues Report on Jewish Cemeteries

(ISJM) The Lo Tishkach Foundation has published another in its series of legislative and practice reports, that examine the situation – especially the legal situation - of Jewish burial grounds in different countries in Europe. The Preliminary Report on Legislation & Practice Relating to the Protection and Preservation of Jewish Burial Grounds was prepared by Andreas Becker for Lo Tishkach with the support of the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany & the Conference of European Rabbis. It uses as its starting point the 2005 report Jewish Cemeteries, Synagogues, and Mass Grave Sites in Ukraine, published by the US Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. If someone is interested in obtaining a copy, they may contact Lo Tishkach at

The Lo Tishkach European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative was established in 2006 as a joint project of the Conference of European Rabbis and the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany. It aims to guarantee the effective and lasting preservation and protection of Jewish cemeteries and mass graves throughout the European continent. Identified by the Hebrew phrase Lo Tishkach (‘do not forget’), the Foundation is establishing a comprehensive publicly-accessible database of all Jewish burial grounds in Europe, currently featuring details on over 9,500 Jewish cemeteries and mass graves. Lo Tishkach is also producing a compendium of the different national and international laws and practices affecting these sites, to be used as a starting point to advocate for the better protection and preservation of Europe’s Jewish heritage.

The following summary text is extracted form the report:

Report Findings

• Numbers: According to surveys carried out in 1995-1996 by the Jewish Heritage Preservation Committee under the umbrella of VAAD and in co-operation with international research institutes, there are currently about 1,200 known Jewish mass graves and up to 1,000 Jewish cemeteries in Ukraine. Since the Soviet Union did not hold records on Jewish cemeteries, the Committee’s survey is currently the most comprehensive list of Jewish burial grounds in Ukraine.

• Ownership: Municipalities own the majority of cemeteries in Ukraine. The land of mass grave sites may also be privately owned. Many Jewish burial grounds, however, are abandoned, not recognised as such and receive no legal protection. Only a very small number of burial grounds are Jewish-owned.

• Maintenance: Pursuant to Ukrainian burial legislation, municipalities are required to maintain the burial grounds that they own. Typically, special municipal companies take care of this. However, since many Jewish burial grounds are not recognised as such, they receive no public maintenance whatsoever or have to rely on private initiatives.

• Legal situation: A number of provisions in different bodies of law may be used to campaign for better protection and preservation of Jewish burial grounds in Ukraine.
They include the Ukrainian constitution, legislation on the freedom of conscience and religion, burial legislation, cultural heritage legislation as well as the criminal code. However, the lack of identification and municipal and state recognition of numerous Jewish burial grounds remains the single most important obstacle to extending legal protection to these sites.

• Recommendations:

• Identification of all Jewish cemeteries and mass graves in Ukraine;

• Legal recognition of all burial grounds as such in order to protect these sites from future development and other threats;

• A negotiated solution between the Jewish community, municipalities and the national government on ownership and maintenance of currently unrecognised Jewish burial grounds;

• Demarcation and signposting of currently abandoned burial grounds, both to
afford better protection and to protect the memory of those who perished in
the Holocaust

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