Experts gathered in Kiev in mid-December for a first meeting to discuss plans to establish a Holocaust museum in the empty and dilapidated ceremonial hall at the vast Jewish cemetery in Chernivtsi (Czernowitz), Ukraine.
“The idea is to restore it and create a museum of the Holocaust as a branch of the Chernivtsi Museum of Jewish History and Culture of Bukovina,” stated an article on the Chernivtsi city web site and on the web site of the Euro-Asian Jewish Congress.
The Religious Information Service of Ukraine reported that Germany was willing to allocate €100,000 to the project to cover part of the estimated €400,000 restoration of the building, and some private donors were also lined up.
Attending the meeting were the Director of the Chernivtsi Jewish Museum Nikolay Kushnir, as well as other artists, historians, representatives of NGOs, teachers, researchers, and Jewish activists. Among them were Leonid Finberg, the director of the Kiev-based Research Center of History and Culture of East European Jewry, Anatoly Podolsky, the director of the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies, and Josef Zissels, the chair of the Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities (Vaad) of Ukraine and one of the founders of the Chernivtsi Museum of Jewish History and Culture of Bukovina.
The meeting took place at the office VAAD. According to the reports on the session, Zissels stressed the need to to “already start looking for designers and experts in the organization of museum exhibitions, and to establish contacts with all interested organizations and individuals who are willing to participate in the project.”
The Ceremonial Hall was built in 1905-06. It is marked by an eleven-meter high concrete dome, over a large central hall and two side halls.The museum project foresees a first stage, to renovate the building, which is in poor condition, and then a second phase to install the exhibition.
“One should breathe life into it,” Religious Information Service quoted Kushnir as saying.
It has long been said that somehow we must remember the innocent victims of the Holocaust. Moreover, the city of Chernivtsi was directly affected by this – at least 35,000 residents were killed in this way. At the Jewish cemetery, there are two mass graves of Jews who were killed in the Holocaust. There are not all the victims of the Holocaust. For some of them died in Transnistria, where Jews were deported from Chernivtsi. This is the territory of Vinnytsia and Odessa regions. In fact, it was not one person who came up with the idea. Many people are involved – historians, people from Bukovyna, even citizens of other countries. Including Austrians, who even helped in the project reconstruction. Now Germany came out with an initiative to partially finance the renovation of the building. The museum is the second stage. But it is important for us to discuss its concept, because it is important for the builders, because the building should be adapted to the museum.