(JHE) — City authorities in Tallinn are allocating €400,000 for the development of the site of the destroyed Old Jewish Cemetery into a memorial area and park, with information panels, marked grave sites, and restored walls, paths, and chapel.
In a press release, Monika Haukanõmm, district mayor for Kesklinn (central Tallinn), said the architectural firm of Loovmaastik OÜ had won the tender to carry out the work, which she told Estonian public radio should be completed by the end of 2021.
“The project includes restoration of walls and the construction of new walkways and landscaping, as well as installation of benches and lighting,” she said.
The Old Cemetery, on Magasini street in the Veerenni district, functioned from probably the late 18th century until the New Cemetery at Rahumäe was opened in 1909. (According to the Estonian Jewish Museum, it was officially closed in 1910 but the last burial took place in 1930.) The cemetery was surrounded by a limestone wall and had some impressive mausolea, a funeral hall and a second chapel, as well as an elaborate gate.
It was destroyed by Soviet authorities in the 1960s and a car park, garages, and repair shops were built on the site in 1967.
All that is visible today is a commemorative marble slab, whose inscription in Estonian reads (in translation): “Here was the Jewish cemetery from the eighteenth century until the end of the 1960s.”
In April 2019, archaeological work was carried out at the site in preparation for the planned renovation and creation of a memorial area. The Tallinn city web site said the aim was “to obtain data on the historical gateway and the foundations of the chapels and to specify the extent of the funeral site.”
The work was carried out by an archaeology NGO commissioned by the City Planning Department’s Heritage Department, in cooperation with the Jewish community, which also took part in general discussions about the future of the site.