We are delighted to report that last week we finished construction on fencing at four cemeteries in the Ternopil region of Ukraine: the old and new cemeteries in Budaniv, and the old and new cemeteries in Vyshhorodok.
The old Jewish cemetery in Budaniv contains around 20 intact tombstones, with the oldest discovered by ESJF dating to the beginning of the 19th century, although given there are records of a Jewish community in the town as early as the 18th century, there may once have been older burials which are no longer marked. It was found to be severely overgrown and showed traces of vandalism, both from during the war and the intervening decades.
The new Jewish cemetery was found to contain around 30 tombstones. The last known Hasidic burial in the cemetery took place in 1940, not long before the Jewish community of the town was deported to the Belzec death camp in November, 1942. When ESJF first visited the site, it was severely overgrown and strewn with refuse.
The old Jewish cemetery in Vyshhorodok contains around 15 intact tombstones, dating back as far as 1736, with the latest burial found by ESJF dating to 1810. The new cemetery was found to be better preserved, containing around 500 tombstones dating between 1902 and 1938. In 1921, the Jewish community of Vyshhorodok numbered around 944, making up roughly 96.7% of the town’s population. However, after occupying the town, Nazi forces confined the Jewish population to the Vyshnivets ghetto in March 1942, then proceeded to execute the entire community during the ghetto liquidation in August of the same year. Since then, both cemeteries fell into disrepair, becoming severely overgrown. When ESJF first visited, the sites were being used as grazing spots for livestock.
These four cemeteries, visited in 2019 in the course of our European Commission-funded survey efforts, illustrate the importance of ESJF’s work, as in the absence of the communities that built them, they were on a path of degradation which would eventually have led to their disappearance. However, thanks to these new protective measures, funded by the Auswärtiges Amt Foreign Ministry of the Federal Republic of Germany, they finally have the protection they need.
Thus far, in 2020 ESJF has fenced 18 new cemeteries across 4 countries, with new projects currently underway in Serbia, Belarus, and Moldova. We are pleased to report that, in spite of the restrictions imposed on our work by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are still on target to complete fencing at 30 new sites by the end of the year.