When I woke up the sky was deep blue, the weather report promised 35 degrees. I decided to stay in the city and to walk to the Jewish cemetery and the nearby former concentration camp site. It was a sad walk.
One of the two old Christian cemeteries of Lviv (Lwow, Lemberg) has a Jewish section. There is no sharp separation between the Christian and the Jewish part. At some point you realize that there are no Christian symbols on the surrounding grave stones. Jewish symbols are, however, restrained and limited to a few Stars of David or a Menorah. Many graves are protected by an ohel or a high fence. Some grave stones therefore look like prisoners.
There is not a single tomb from the pre-war periode. The reason for this is in a few hundred meters distance. The concentration camp known as “concentration camp at Janowska road” or simply “Janowska” is nearby. The prisoners were forced to destroy the Jewish cemeteries in the city.
In Janowska concentration camp, over 100,000 people were killed, most of them Jews, but also Poles and Ukrainians from the resistance against the German occupation. Close to the former camp are mass graves. The inmates of the camp as well as inmates of the local ghetto or nearby Galician towns and villages were shot there by the Germans. To hush up the crime, the mass graves were opened, the bodies burned and the ashes dumped in about 50 troves in the territory.
After the war, a Soviet prison camp was built there, now there is a Ukrainian state prison.
Today there is a memorial in Janowska and several information boards. They ask for appropriate behavior in this place of suffering. However, I make a sad discovery. Throughout the ground holes have been dug. Some people search for metal objects. This can be objects from the war, non-ferrous metals or gold teeth and jewelery. Whatever they hope to find there, it is totally unacceptable. “Black archaeology” is unfortunately a common phenomenon in Ukraine. It is most disgusting when it appears in places of mass murder.
In a depressed mood I walk back to the city center. The sky is blue, the heat is muggy. On Svoboda Boulevard there are two temporary memorials to the war in the east of the country. Money is collected for the Ukrainian soldiers. After years of corruption the Ukrainian army is completely pillaged. People are dying because of a lack of bandages and medicines. A different time, another war and more suffering.
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Fortunately Mukachevo and Uzhorod cemetries are well kept. Mukachevo is the best example of special individual engagement of the the jewish comunity.
Dear Christian, I know the story you described is very sad. I am fighting the local municipality ignorance to the tragedy. The Ukrainian and Polish community is standing next helping in all means. It is very difficult to change the corrupted minds to better way of thinking and properply acting
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