Russian Jews win Rostov Holocaust commemoration fight

(JTA) — The city of Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia has agreed to acknowledge the Jewish identity of Holocaust victims killed there by Nazis.

The municipality’s Memorial Council last week announced its decision to revise a memorial plaque at the city’s Zmievskaya Balka mass grave so it mentions the Jewish identity of the majority of the roughly 27,000 bodies buried there in 1942, the Russian Jewish Congress said.

New Mt. Sinai Cemetery advertisement

The text will read: “The largest site of mass killings in the Russian Federation of Jews by the Nazi invaders during World War II.”

The revision is the result of a protracted legal fight by local and other Jews for recognition, which started two years ago, after city officials replaced a 2004 plaque which mentioned Jews with a new plaque that did not.

The text that the city placed commemorated “mass killing by the fascists of captured Soviet citizens.”

Russian Jewish Congress President Yuri Kanner told JTA that the second revision was “a wise decision by the city administration and a compromise which cools down the tensions around the largest Holocaust grave in Russia.”

In October, a Russian court rejected a petition by the Russian Jewish Congress that the court order the city to return the 2004 plaque which mentioned Jews. The congress sued after city official refused to revise the plaque they had placed.

Yuri Dombrovsky, chairman of the Russian Jewish Congress’ Holocaust Memorial Board, told JTA that the revision is a sign of progress in Holocaust commemoration efforts in the former Soviet Union. “For many decades, under the communists’ rule, the state denied the Holocaust,” he said.

He also said that some Jews are not content with the new text since it does not contain the word Holocaust, but added he believed “it’s the only possible solution.”