Memorial unveiled for Ukrainian Jews massacred in Holocaust

The headstone was placed over a mass grave for 1,200 men, women and children killed in Sadigura.

Rabbis and European Jewish leaders unveil memorial headstone for Jewish community murdered in Sadigura, Ukraine during the Holocaust.  (photo credit: RABBINICAL CENTER OF EUROPE)
Rabbis and European Jewish leaders unveil memorial headstone for Jewish community murdered in Sadigura, Ukraine during the Holocaust.
For the Jews of Sadhora, Ukraine, a shtetl located near the border with Romania and Moldova known in Yiddish as Sadigora, the Red Army’s victory over the Wehrmacht and its collaborationist ally the Romanian Army in July 1944 did not bring an end to its wartime persecution.
The community’s destruction was ensured when the Russian command, following its defeat of the Axis forces, allowed local Ukrainian and Romanian gangs a “24-hour window to do with the Jews as they will.”
This weekend a tombstone and memorial for the 1,200 Jews murdered during this day-long pogrom was unveiled at the mass grave by the Rabbinical Center of Europe (RCE).
In 1842, Rabbi Yisroel Friedman, known as the Ruzhiner rebbe, relocated his hassidic court to the town that was then part of remote Bukovina in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. By the early 20th century there were between 3,000 and 5,000 Jews living there.
Although the dynasty’s leader, Avrohom Yaakov Friedman (1884-1961), the third Sadigura rebbe, fled to Mandate Palestine in 1938, several thousand Jews remained in the shtetl. Most perished in the Holocaust.
Today the hassidic group is centered in Bnei Brak.
Speaking at the unveiling in a trembling voice, a woman who lived through the mass murder recalled how the Jewish and non-Jewish children “played together... and suddenly our Jewish friends began to disappear one by one,” according to a statement from the RCE.
Other residents who lived in the shtetl at the time explained how they could feel the “earth burning underneath their feet” even days after the massacre.
“About 1,200 Jewish men, women and children were murdered and buried [in the pit] – some of whom were still alive,” the RCE highlighted. “The mass grave and the hidden testimonies were found in part by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Glitzenstein of the nearby city of Chernivtsi.”
He reached out to the RCE in order to establish a headstone on the mass grave.
Among those who attended the ceremony were the district’s governor, Eiom Vasilovitz, Israel’s ambassador to Ukraine, Joel Leon, RCE general director Rabbi Arye Goldberg, Chief Rabbi of Jetimore and Western Ukraine Rabbi Shlomo Wilhelm, and members of the Jewish community who survived the massacre.
Goldberg said at the ceremony that the RCE and its 700-plus rabbinical members across Europe have taken this “very important mission upon themselves,” and is in the process of an extensive operation to locate and establish tombstones on other Jewish mass graves in Ukraine.
“We are collecting evidence and as many testimonies possible from elderly Jews and Ukrainians who still remember,” Goldberg explained. “We then locate the mass graves and only after a team of experts confirms the findings, we establish tombstones for the memory of the victims.”
RCE and European Jewish Association chairman Rabbi Menachem Margolin emphasized that “the special activity for locating and establishing tombstones on the tombs of the victims was held in parallel with the effort to further and renew Jewish life throughout the Ukraine, as well as the restoration of synagogues and mikvahs.”
Ambassador Leon recited the kaddish prayer during the ceremony, and said that the embassy was conducting “a special program for training Ukrainian teachers how to teach the lessons of the Holocaust in schools throughout the country.”
Leon said he “calls upon the new Ukrainian president and members of the Rada (Parliament in Kiev) to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definitions of antisemitism.”