The Simon Wiesenthal Centre has reacted angrily to the revision of a memorial to the Russian Jewish victims of a large-scale massacre in southern Russia, condemning the move as “a form of ‘memoricide’”.
Addressing the Russian Holocaust Centre of Moscow on the 70th anniversary of the Zmievskaya Balka (Snake Ravine) atrocity in Russian city of Rostov, the Centre’s Director for International Relations, Shimon Samuels, invoked the 2011 removal by Russian authorities of a plaque by a mass grave of the victims, identifying the majority of the men, women, children and elderly buried within as Jews.
Referring to the newly-worded memorial, which instead pays generic tribute to “the peaceful citizens of Rostov-on-the-Don and Soviet prisoners of war”, Samuels described the “theft” of the plaque as “a form of ‘memoricide’, twice murdering the victim – in both life and posterity”, and called on the authorities to “promptly return the previous plaque or provide a new truthful narrative”.
A representative of Rostov official present at the ceremony spoke of the victims being determined by “lists compiled by functionaries”, which in turn “sent people to their deaths”. Among those victims was the Jewish psychoanalyst Sabina Speilrein, who featured in the recent film A Dangerous Method. Also present at the ceremony was Rostov native, former Chief Rabbi of Israel and current Tel Aviv Rabbi Meir Lau, who was there to honour the memory of Righteous Gentile Fedor Michovichenko who saved him as a child prisoner of Buchenwald concentration camp.
Speaking of the memorial ceremony, Samuels related: “Each of the over one thousand mourners at the commemoration donned a yellow star armband marked ‘Jude’ (German for ‘Jew’). Though emotionally disturbing, this marked a gesture of defiance. To wear it inspired our collective obligation to the faithful transmission of memory across the generations.”
After a local teacher related instances of Holocaust revisionism in German high school education, in glorifying Hitler as a champion against Soviet Communism, the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which has a bilateral cooperation with the Russian Holocaust Centre of Moscow, offered the use of its documentary footage to be taught in Rostov high schools to counterpart falsified historical accounts.
Zmievskaya Balka refers to a ravine outside the Russian city of Rostov where 27,000 Jews and Soviet civilians were marched to their death by the Germany army on August 11 and 12, 1942. Jewish women, children and elderly were gassed in trucks before being buried together in a mass grave. An annual memorial is held on the site to commemorate what was the largest-scale Holocaust massacre on Russian terrirtory.