The memorial, dedicated to about 60 victims unearthed in a forest area near the village of Popricani, took place in the Jewish cemetery of Iasi in northeastern Romania. Archaeologists unearthed the mass grave in November.
Quoting witnesses, the Elie Wiesel institute said more than 100 Jews — men and women, including elderly people, and children — were buried there. The site was in an area through which Romanian and German troops advanced at the start of their invasion of the Soviet Union.
“We gathered here to bury remains of 60 Jews murdered 70 years ago … This moment marks a duty of ours,” Aurel Vainer, head of the Federation of the Jewish Communities in Romania told Reuters.
“This is a moment of remembrance which shall represent a lesson of history that must never be forgotten.”
An international commission headed by Nobel laureate Wiesel said in 2004 that between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were killed in Romania and areas it controlled during World War Two as an ally of Nazi Germany.
Many of them were slaughtered in pogroms such as the 1941 killing of 15,000 Jews in Iasi — which had a particularly large Jewish population — or died in labour camps or on death trains.
Romania has only recently started to come to terms with its role in the extermination of Jews, admitting for the first time in 2003 that it took part.
After Romania switched sides in the war in 1944, communist regimes did little to uncover the killings while nationalist governments after 1989 also kept them under wraps. Romania was home to 750,000 Jews before the war, but only 8,000-10,000 remain.
The memorial ceremony was also boardcasted (event 8 AM) live over the internet at https://live.fcer.ro.
Last year VIN News reported that The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe issued a strongly worded statement in London on Tuesday, November 23, 2010, stating that this was the first time ever that a national government is openly declaring its intention to proceed in the disturbance of the graves of Holocaust victims.” This was in reference to a mass grave discovered in 2010, in the town of Popericani, near Yass.
The general area of Yass (Iasi) is known to be the place of several mass massacres of Jews during the Holocaust and presently abuts a military domain.
Romanian authorities immediately secured the area and allowed no entry. The remains of hundreds of bodies were unearthed and brought to laboratories for “forensic testing.” The bodies are those of men, women, and children. Many bodies were clothed in identifiably Jewish garments. The laboratory work is required by law whenever an unattended body is found, to determine whether a crime was committed and, if so, to prepare for prosecution, if possible. In addition to human remains, live WWII munitions were found there as well. Several months had since passed and the human remains were not returned to their resting place as is required by Jewish halachic law.
After protracted tactful behind-closed-doors efforts, a proclamation was issued in November of 2010, by the Rabbinical Board of the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, led by the Rabbi Elyakum Schlesinger, greatly respected London Rosh Yeshiva, and joined by Romanian Chief Rabbi Menachem Hacohen. That was followed by the reception on Thursday, March 3, of a delegation of NY based organization Admas Kodesh by the Honorable Marian Parjol, Consul General of Romania, at his offices in the Consulate General building in New York.
The delegation was led by Rabbi Sholom Eliezer Teitelbaum, brother of the Satmar Grand Rebbe Aaron Teitelbaum and Rav of the 15th Avenue Satmar Beis Medrash in Boro Park. The meeting had the participation of Honorable Jules (Yitzchok) Fleischer, Member of the United States Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad. In addition, Rabbi Yoel Landau, Board Member of Admas Kosdesh; and Rabbi Benzion Loeb, Satmar Dayan and Chairman of the Rabbinical Board of Admas Kodesh, and Rabbi Gershon Tannenbaum, Director of the Rabbinical Alliance of America; took part. Also present were Gary (Gershon) Schlesinger, Executive Board Chairman, United Jewish Community Advocacy Relations and Enrichment (UJCare), and Moshe Vizel, Political Liaison for the United Talmudical Academy School Systems of Satmar.
The Consul General warmly received the delegation and discussed the problem in detail, giving his personal assurances that he will endeavor to intercede with all the necessary levels of authority that have jurisdiction in the matter.