June 30, 2017

ESJF surveys on Jewish cemeteries in central and eastern Ukraine reveal alarming cases of desecration and neglect

As our national survey of Jewish cemetery sites across Ukraine continues, we have noted some alarming results regarding the true state of Jewish burial sites in regions east of the Dnieper river. Jewish settlement in these areas generally began later than in the western regions of the country; however, while the density and sheer number of sites is lower than in the west, these areas are still home to numerous sites, where the Jewish communities ceased to exist as a result of the Shoah.

The ESJF is now completing surveys of sites in Dnipropetrovsk oblast, having recently rounded up work in Poltava and Sumy oblasts. Initial results from these regions have revealed the urgent need for fencing at most sites, which are under threat from agricultural encroachment, demolition, and vandalism. In some instances, empty graves have been discovered, with bones strewn across the surface of the sites. In such cases, the ESJF organises immediate reburials with the help of the closest Jewish communities, and prioritises the sites for fencing projects, making contact with the local authorities and arranging for police to pay close attention while the resources are gathered.

Data from these sites is soon to be published by the ESJF. The ESJF has already surveyed close to 300 sites in Ukraine, and expects to visit around 2,000 sites across the country in the space of the next 12 months. To the west, work in Rivne oblast and the majority of Zakarpatia has been completed.

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