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Remains of Jewish ghetto victims buried in Brest

Society 22.05.2019 | 16:57

BREST, 22 May (BelTA) - The remains of the Jewish ghetto victims found during construction works in the downtown of Brest were laid to rest in a ceremony in Brest on 22 May, BelTA has learned.

The ceremony was held at the Severnoye cemetery near the memorial sign commemorating 1,549 Jews massacred by the Nazis during the Great Patriotic War and buried at the cemetery. The ceremony bid farewell to 1,214 Jewish ghetto victims that were found and retrieved by members of the 52nd independent search battalion of the Defense Ministry in March this year. A group of ZAKA volunteers came to Brest from Israel to make sure the ashes of the innocent victims received a burial according to the Torah commands.

The memorial service was attended by city officials, representatives of the diplomatic missions of Austria, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Kazakhstan, Poland, Russia, Slovakia, United States, Ukraine, Czech Republic, members of the Jewish public associations and Jewish religious communities of Israel and Belarus, and the general public of the city of Brest.

Addressing the ceremony Brest Mayor Aleksandr Rogachuk said: “Today, in this place, we are burying a piece of our heart, a piece of our possible future. We are sorry for the people, for their unborn children. They could have become outstanding politicians, artists, economists, talented performers, writers, engineers, or doctors. These people could have made the city proud. Their interrupted lives are a big loss for us, for Brest, for Belarus. There is no forgetting about this terrible page of history called the Holocaust. It should remind all of us, especially the youth, how far one can go in hatred when he judges a human being by the color of the skin, nationality, religion.” Brest will continue working to perpetuate the memory of the victims of the war, the mayor said.

Head of the Union of Belarusian Jewish Public Associations and Communities Vladimir Chernitsky read out a letter of the World Jewish Congress. “The Belarusian government and Brest City Hall demonstrated exceptional dignity and respect to the memory of the Jewish residents of the city, who were killed cold-bloodedly by the Nazis during the war,” the letter runs.

Chairman of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America's Heritage Abroad Paul Packer expressed the gratitude for the efforts to preserve the memory of the Holocaust victims. We must never allow such evil be committed against Jews or any other nations. We must reaffirm our commitment to fighting a growing wave of anti-Semitism and other manifestations of bigotry which threaten to throw us back into the dark once again. I am deeply grateful to the Belarusian government and the local authorities. Your enormous efforts to preserve the Jewish heritage are highly appreciated in the United States and across the globe,” Paul Packer said.

Honored Artist of Russia, Brest native Elena Vorobei called the event very personal to her. “The genocide virtually destroyed my family. These graves mean concrete names for me. Some of my relatives were killed by the Nazis on the Bronnaya Gora, others in the Pinsk and Brest ghettos. It is simply a miracle that two persons from my family survived that period in history,” the actress said. She thanked everyone who remembers and honors the memory of the killed forefathers.

A memorial service was held at the mass grave and a minute of silence was observed in memory of the victims of the war. All the participants threw three handfuls of soil brought from the place where the remains were found.

Photos by Vadim Yakubenok

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