European Jewish Congress
National Holocaust Remembrance Day: Moldova on the way to recognising its past
National Holocaust Remembrance Day: Moldova on the way to recognising its past

The notorious pogrom in Chisinau in 1903, which according to some served as the premise for the Holocaust, made the capital the country known worldwide. By 1920 about 260 thousand Jews lived in Moldova and several villages were populated in proportion of 80%. However, more than 200 concentration camps and ghettos, from the period of the Second World War, were the places where from 200 thousand to 700 thousand of Jews, Roma and people of other ethnicities lost their lives.

Today, an important role in building a cohesive society, which preserves the memory of the past and moves towards a prosperous future, is being played by the Jewish Community of Moldova. Actively promoting its objectives, including the Holocaust Remembrance, the Community has succeeded in establishing a constructive dialogue with the authorities, but also with external partners.

The recognition of the 27 January as a National Holocaust Remembrance Day that was first marked in 2016 is considered a great success. Thus, the Republic of Moldova joined numerous states that have previously introduced this date in their national calendars.

Over several days, the Jewish Community in collaboration with the Government of Moldova and with the financial support of the EU Delegation in Moldova and the Council of Europe Office in Chisinau organized a series of commemorative events.

First, a theatre play, directed by maestro Iosif Shats, “The time of love and hatred”, after J. Sobol's play “Ghetto”, was presented on a symbolic stage - the former synagogue and now the Dramatic Theatre “A. Chekhov”. The performance deeply touched hundreds of spectators, overwhelmed with thrilling and profound messages.  

The next day, a Meeting Requiem was held in the capital. Several hundred people brought flowers to the Memorial to the Victims of Fascism, built on the place of mass execution of Jews, Roma, Russians, Moldovans and other innocent victims of the Shoa. The monument created by sculptor Aurel David in early 60s of the XX century, was reconstructed last year at the initiative and due to the funding of the Jewish Community, with the support of private donors and international partners. Community leaders, high rank officials, diplomats, as well as the representatives of civil society attended the Meeting.

On 28 January, a press conference was held with the participation of the Government members, heads of the EU Delegation, Council of Europe Office, OSCE Mission, representatives of the international organizations and embassies. All participants stressed the importance of keeping the memory of the tragic events, which have marked the destiny not only of the Jewish people, but of the entire world. The contribution of the Jewish Community in promoting Holocaust Remembrance has been highly appreciated, while reflecting upon the joint continuation of the started programs.

The President of the Jewish Community of the Republic of Moldova, Alexandr Bilinkis, reiterated the importance of the step made by the country, which introduced in its official calendar the Holocaust Remembrance Day. At the same time, he express the Community’s regret over the insufficient involvement of the state authorities in the achievement of other important goals. He referred to the development and introduction of an educational program on Holocaust Remembrance in schools; the creation of a museum of Jewish history and culture, which would include the Holocaust period;             modifications in the current legislation to ban Holocaust denial; restitution of the expropriated communal property etc. The list of these specific recommendations is included in a National Road Map on Holocaust Remembrance proposal, drafted a year ago, as a follow-up to the International High Level Conference dedicated to the 70th Anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau, which took place in Chisinau.

Messages of encouragement addressed to the Moldovan authorities were expressed at the press conference by the Head of the EU Delegation in Moldova, HE Pirkka Tapiola, and the Head of Council of Europe Office in Chisinau, HE Jose Luis Herrero. In their speeches, the diplomats urged Moldovan leadership to provide greater support in achieving common goals, taking ownership and creating a space dominated by respect for the past and security for the future.

It is important to note that Holocaust Remembrance programs are carried out in several countries, including the USA, where the Holocaust has not left directly any traces. The US authorities design and implement actions with impressive annual budgets to commemorate the victims of that massacre. For example, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington receives annually more than $52 million in government funds, and is free.

This practice is successfully applied in the countries of the European continent, too. Among them is Poland, where the Ministry of Culture in 2014, allocated 3.4 million euro to support the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum, created in 1947; the total budget of which being approximately 12 million euros at that time. A comparative analysis can also be applied with the reference to the legal framework. Unlike Moldova, neighbouring Romania issued a Government Ordinance, which prohibited and sanctioned for the Holocaust denial (including by imprisonment) back in 2002.

If we try to trace a parallel with Moldova, countries once affected by the Holocaust have done incomparably much in the last decades.

For now, it is the Jewish Community, which continues to provide its own resources for keeping the memory of the common past alive, restoring monuments of historical value and revealing facts, that are not reflected in the schoolbooks in Moldova. However, the official recognition of the National Holocaust Remembrance Day inspires optimism and defines the accountability of the government as well as of the society. The Republic of Moldova is not the first country that learns to look history in the face. Progress is possible when there is will and commitment.

Thursday, February 25, 2016
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