NGO to use aerial drones to map out Jewish burial sites across Europe

The effort will be funded by the European Union during a time when antisemitism is on the rise across the continent, with many of the recent acts targeting Jewish cemeteries in particular.

February 28, 2019 02:20
2 minute read.
DETAILS ON a Jewish grave in Poland

DETAILS ON a Jewish grave in Poland. (photo credit: REUTERS)


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The European Jewish Cemeteries Initiative plans to use aerial drones to survey 1,500 Jewish cemeteries in countries where the Holocaust significantly impacted the attrition of the Jewish population throughout Europe – including in Ukraine, Greece, Moldova, Slovakia and Lithuania.

EJCI, a German-based NGO, is responsible for protecting Jewish burial sites throughout Europe, especially in places where the Nazi army attempted to wipe out existing populations of Jews.
Once discovered, EJCI will not only map out the burial site locations, but will also erect fences around the locations “so people know there’s a Jewish cemetery [there],” said EJCI chief executive Philip Carmel.

The effort will be funded by the European Union during a time when antisemitism is on the rise across the continent, with many of the recent acts targeting Jewish cemeteries in particular.
In the latest incident, a Jewish cemetery close to Strasbourg, France, was vandalized and some 100 gravestones desecrated and spray-painted with swastikas.

One of the gravestones was daubed with the words “Black Wolves,” a terrorist far-right separatist group from the Alsace region, in a village called Quatzenheim.
In an attack in 1976, the Black Wolves group set fire to and destroyed the Natzweiler-Struthof Nazi concentration camp located in Alsace.

In December, a Jewish cemetery in the nearby town of Herrlisheim was also desecrated: 37 gravestones were spray-painted with swastikas and other graffiti.
Jewish Agency chairman Isaac Herzog denounced the desecration of the graves, describing it as “another severe incident that underlines the antisemitism virus attacking Europe and threatening Jews in the streets,” adding: “Governments, wake up.”

The attack came as dozens of rallies against antisemitism were held last Tuesday evening across France, in response to the series of high profile antisemitic incidents that rocked the country in recent weeks.

The rallies were organized by 14 political parties and took place in as many as 60 cities.

President Emmanuel Macron, together with President of the Senate Gérard Larcher and President of the National Assembly Richard Ferrand, went to the Holocaust memorial to “express their solidarity with the Jewish community in France” and to “reaffirm their commitment to the values of the republic and their common determination never to give in to hatred and violence,” L’Express reported.

Last Friday evening, teenagers shot a Jewish man with an air gun outside of a synagogue in Sarcelles, in the northern suburb of Paris, lightly injuring him.

A couple of weeks ago, “yellow-vest” protesters hurled antisemitic abuse at French-Jewish philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, while a tree planted in memory of Ilan Halimi, who was brutally murdered in 2006, was chopped down ahead of a memorial event for him in Paris.

A government report released last week found that antisemitic attacks had spiked by 74% in 2018, a significant jump over the previous year.

The EJCI will request volunteers from each of the designated countries to assist in efforts to fully map out Jewish burial sites across Europe, and will employ them to help maintain the sites after the initiative is complete.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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