On Thursday September 29th a Memorial to six thousand Jews who were executed by Nazis in Cosauti was opened in a moving ceremony that brought together people from across the Jewish and Roma communities.
The Holocaust in Moldova
The Holocaust in Bessarabia took place between 1941-1944. Bessarabia is the name of a region that makes up most of present-day Moldova. In August 1941, 49 camps and ghettos were created on the territory of Bessarabia, a region which forms much of present-day Moldova. The largest of these camps was in Vertuzhany (23,000 people), Secureni (20,000 people) and Edinet (13,000 people). Approximately 65,000 people were taken from their homes to live in barbaric conditions and perform forced labour on these sites. Many were killed or died of hunger and diseases while there. In Soroca district, where Cosauti is located, several transit camps were built to transport Jewish and Roma people to the largest ghettos and camps in Transnistria which became a concentration pointfor Jews from throughout Bessarabia.
Cosauti Holocaust Memorial is on the site of one of the largest transit camps where thousands of Jews were brought in groups before being moved to Transnistria. At Cosauti, 6,000 people were killed and their corpses were thrown into mass graves. The Memorial stands on the site of this atrocity.
“Behind me, the bodies of more than 6,000 people lie”
The opening ceremony of the Memorial was attended by members of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova and other countries, representatives of state administration, local leaders and foreign delegations. Among the speakers were Vice-Chairman of the Soroca region Svetlana Paunescu, President of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova Alexander Bilinkis, President of the Russian Jewish Congress and Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress Dr Yuri Kanner and Grigory Roitberg, an academic who serves as a member of the Bureau of the Presidium of the Russian Jewish Congress. Mr Roitberg was also the initiator and main sponsor of the reconstruction of the memorial.
“Behind me, the bodies of more than 6,000 people are buried in mass graves”, said Mr Blinkis in his affecting speech. “Some of the names found in historical archives are engraved on these stone sculptures. But it won’t bring back the dead. It will not lessen the pain of loss for those of you whose relatives and friends fell victim to this inhuman tragedy – the Holocaust. There is nothing heavier than the air in which the fear of death hovers, the pain of deprivation, the bitterness of loss. I want this to never happen again. I want us to live in peace and remember”.
Building Memorials in Moldova
The Memorial in the forest of Cosauti is the fourth in a series of monuments opened by the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova over the past two years. “For 30 years now, preserving the memory of victims of the Holocaust and preserving Jewish heritage, as well as educating future generations to understand what happened here between 1941 and 1945, to reject antisemitism and to reject prejudice of minorities has been one of the key pillars of our working agenda”, explained Alexander Bilinkis, President of the Jewish Community of Moldova.
Dr Kanner, president of the Russian Jewish Congress and the vice-president of the World Jewish Congress stated that the restoration of monuments is especially important: “Here we can pay tribute to everyone who does not exist, who did not leave descendants. I think that by keeping the Jewish commandments, performing tikkun olam, and building monuments, we make this world a better place.”
According to Mr Roitberg, the member of Bureau of the Presidium of the Russian Jewish Congress and the special envoy of the RJC on culture everyone who reads or learns about the Holocaust can feel a tremendous sense of guilt and sadness. He explained, “six million murdered Jews in Europe which included Nobel Prize winners, the best doctors, the best engineers, artisans and people who just lived, and deserved to live, their lives. They are not here. And when today they say that it’s time to forget and move on, I sometimes think: “Why? No, we need to remember to prevent this ever happening again!” Academician Roitberg expressed his gratitude to the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Jewish Congress for their assistance in getting this Memorial built.
The memorial prayer was read by Rabbi Daniel Muntean together with all those present.
The opening ceremony ended with the laying of flowers and stones in memory of those who died in Cosauti Forest.
The Memorial was built and now exists for all to see thanks to the participation and active support of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Jewish Congress.