Seventy-two years ago, the world witnessed the end of the war in Europe, celebrating an end to the fighting and mourning the millions whose lives had been lost. Now, on VE Day, Jews and Christians came together to remember 1,000 Jewish children who were murdered in one of far-too-many massacres carried out by the Nazis. The Times of Israel’s Sue Surkes tells about a Holocaust memorial near Uman, Ukraine, that was unveiled by people of faith last week:
As veterans across Europe turned out this week for annual ceremonies to commemorate the end of World War ll, some 70 Christians and Jews gathered Monday in a forest clearing in central Ukraine to unveil a memorial to 1,000 Jewish children murdered by the Nazis in April 1942.
The event – on the outskirts of the city of Uman — was an ode to reconciliation. A German pastor from Heidelberg, Johannes Zink, asked forgiveness on behalf of “fathers and grandfathers who may have been involved” in Nazi atrocities…
Ukrainian police and Nazi death camp prisoners turned up at the ghetto gates to take the children away. Those who could not be ripped from their mothers or fathers were taken together with their parents.
All of them were driven not to an orphanage, but to this forest where pits had already been dug. Then they were shot dead in a massive killing spree, after which their corpses were covered with dirt.
The assembled guests and dignitaries stood in shock on Monday as school principal Ludmilla Dozenko described how in August 1941, in a separate incident, the Nazis ordered a group of Jews in the nearby village of Talnoy to gather their belongings prior to being “taken to work” but then took them to a patch of forest nearby to be gunned down and covered in soil.
Some of the Jews had come with children, including one woman who had brought her two-year-old girl.
“Two boys, aged six and seven, managed to climb out of the pile of bodies at night,” Dozenko said. “But the pile was still moving.”
“The wife of a local policeman happened to walk by. She was too afraid to take the boys — she just urged them to run away from the area — but she managed to pull out the two-year-old girl and get her to a safe house with a Ukrainian family.”
Then Dozenko pointed to an elderly woman sitting with other survivors on a row of stools. “That two-year-old – Nina Levenberg – survived, and is with us today.”
In September 1941, 1,000 Jews – doctors, lawyers and teachers — were herded into a vast basement in Uman before the doors were locked and a car exhaust was shoved through a hole in the wall.
Just one person survived – a small boy, Yevgeny Emass — who had managed to breathe oxygen by pressing his nose against a crack in the wall and to escape without being noticed when the Germans opened the doors.
Now elderly, he too was at Monday’s dedication ceremony…