Jews digging graves 311.
(photo credit: German Federal Archive)
KRAKOW – The municipality of Lviv, Ukraine, recently announced its decision to
stop using Jewish headstones as paving materials.
follows a protest by members of the town’s Jewish community, who claim that
hundreds of the old tombstones are still used as materials for construction
In the years following World War II, the Soviet Red Army used
the tombstones to build the town’s roads, sidewalks and the central Krakivsky
Market, as well as for rebuilding structures that had been destroyed in the
The market was built on the site of a Jewish cemetery that had
been devastated during the German occupation.
Authorities in Lviv have
promised Jewish community leaders that the gravestones will be transferred to
the only local cemetery that was not destroyed during the war, the town’s two
main synagogues having been destroyed in the Nazi bombardment.
fragments of Jewish headstones were also found in villages outside of Lviv, and
local residents said that they were waiting for the municipality or the Jewish
community to return them to their original locations. Lviv authorities said that
they will collect the headstones from around the city, if they can find the
For the past twenty-five years, Meilakh Sheikhet, 59
– the head of a social-religious non-governmental organization in Lviv and
Ukraine’s representative on the Union of Councils for Jews in the former Soviet
Union – has been the driving force behind the preservation of western Ukraine’s
decaying Jewish cultural heritage.
Speaking to the Jewish news channel
JN1 about the tombstones, Meilakh said, “You could see writing in
Every epitaph tells us the life story of the person it was
written for. Every day, there is a desecration of cemeteries happening here. The
market blasphemes everybody. Many people have approached us, and we have many
letters supporting the request to remove this market.”
Meilakh received a
$32,000 grant from the US government in 2010 for an archaeological investigation
of the site of the Golden Rose synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Ukraine, which
was destroyed by the Nazis in 1941. However, due to a legal dispute with a
developer who wants to build a hotel on the site, the dig has not yet taken
In 2011, he uncovered 200 mass graves in Lviv and, thanks to large
donations, was able to preserve more than 180 cemeteries and grave sites in
Ukraine in recent years.