In Rostov-on-Don, as many as 300—both Jews and non-Jews—were present when a plaque at the Zmievskaya Balka memorial site was finally replaced. In a compromise between the Jewish community and local government, the plaque now identifies Zmievskaya Balka as the site of the largest mass killing of Jews by Nazis in Russian territory.
In August 1942, the area’s Jews were ordered to appear at a designated site on the outskirts of the city, ostensibly for their own safety. Over the course of two days 27,000 people—the large majority of them Jews—were shot to death there.
In 2011, much to the dismay of local Jews, government officials removed the original plaque which had been installed in 2004, remembering Jews as victims of the Holocaust who were killed there, and replaced it with one that made no mention of Jews.
“It was a very painful event for Jewish survivors and children of survivors who felt that once again, they were betrayed,” said Rabbi Chaim Danzinger, Chief Rabbi of Rostov.
After attempts to have the plaque replaced through legal avenues failed, negotiations led by RabbiAlexander Boroda, Chairman of the Board of the Federation of the FJCR, and Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar, with the Ministry of Culture, a text was agreed upon that would name Jews as the prime target of the killings by Nazis, but would not mention the Holocaust.
Following the memorial event, Rabbis and government officials then participated at a dinner in the shul with local Jewish students. “The Jewish life that is growing here is remarkable. Students who knew absolutely nothing about their heritage are now embracing a Jewish lifestyle, hungry to learn, to practice and to belong.” It is, he said, more than any memorials, “the most meaningful way to memorialize the Jews murdered in the Holocaust.”
by Baila Olidort – Rostov-on-Don, Russia