On Sunday, August 11, was the 77th anniversary of the second largest mass execution of Jews in the FSU by the Nazi invaders. The largest mass murder took place in Baby Yar. On August 11-13, 1942, the Nazi’s murdered more than 27,000 men, women, and children from Rostov-on-Don. The Nazi’s marched the Soviet and Jewish citizens out of Rostov-on-Don to Zmievskaya Balka where they were penned up like animals and murdered viciously through various means including being shot, poisoned and gassed.
This year, the memorial of this horrific tragedy coincided with the memorial of the destruction of Jerusalem of old along with the holy temple. This mournful day, which is marked by fasting and lamentations every year, was significantly more poignant this year.
“Memorial events are a necessary moral obligation that we owe not only to the victims of Nazism but also to our children and our future. Today this is especially true as we observe how, in several countries, history is being ‘rewritten’. The preservation of our historical memory is a kind of vaccine against destructive errors. The Zmievskaya Balka memorial complex is a place that everyone should visit. It makes such a strong emotional impression – there is a physical, frightening silence to it – it is impossible not to think about the great value that it holds, its maintenance depends on each of us,” said Rabbi Alexander Boroda, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia (FEOR) at the memorial ceremony.
The memorial, which was first constructed in 1975, was designated as a memorial to ‘Soviet citizens’, not clearly stating that the majority of the victims were Jews. In 2004, the Jewish community added a plaque to the memorial stating that the victims of the tragedy were mostly Jews. Sadly, the plaque was removed by Rostov city hall. In 2014, the Chief Rabbi of Russia, Rabbi Berel Lazar helped get a new plaque set up. It now reads: “Here, in Zmievskaya Balka, in August 1942, more than 27,000 civilians of Rostov-on-Don and Soviet prisoners of war were exterminated by the Nazi invaders. Among the dead are representatives of many nationalities. Zmievskaya Balka is the largest place in the Russian Federation of the mass extermination of Jews by fascist invaders during the Great Patriotic War.”
In August of this year, the legal designation of the memorial was reduced by two-thirds. This means that the memorial ground is designated as a preserved site, but the actual burial place of most of the victims, which is near the site, is no longer designated as preserved. The Governor of the Rostov Region, Vasily Golubev, is apparently taking care of this issue.