Tallinn’s Old Jewish Cemetery opens after reconstruction

Tallinn’s Old Jewish Cemetery in Veereni was opened on Thursday after several years of reconstruction.

By ERR News | Photos by Ilja Shmidt

The renovation work aimed to turn the former cemetery, which was destroyed in the 1960s, into a “dignified green space” that takes both the “historical significance of the place and the current circumstances” into consideration.

The second and final stage of the work ended this week and representatives of the Jewish community and Tallinn City Council gathered to mark the event at the cemetery on Magasini tanäv.

Alla Jakobson, a representative of the Estonian Jewish community, said remembering is one of the most sacred obligations in the Jewish tradition.

“Today we are opening the Old Jewish Cemetery. A place that connects the present with the past and, most importantly, with the future. We thank the city of Tallinn for supporting this very important project for us,” she said in a press release.

Deputy Mayor of Tallinn (Center) Vladimir Svet said the cemetery was destroyed in the 1960s “but the memory remained”.

“The stone fence kept the memory, as did the memories in the hearts and thoughts of the people. Now we have one more memorial place in Tallinn. It is certainly a worthy place to reminisce about the past and think about the future, especially these days,” he said.

“Restoring the cemetery means restoring historical justice. I hope that the injustice that is happening now will also soon come to an end, and the Jewish people will be able to live in peace: both in Israel and throughout the world.”

The renovation work cost approximately €1.6 million.

The former chapel in the Jewish cemetery. Source: tallinn.ee

The Old Jewish Cemetery is the earliest-known Jewish burial site in Tallinn and dates back to the 1840s.

The area was surrounded by a limestone wall in 1870-1880, complete with gates, a guardhouse, and a chapel that was later followed by a funeral chapel. The city stopped issuing burial plots for the cemetery in the 1920s when the new Jewish cemetery was opened in Rahumäe.

The old cemetery was destroyed during the Soviet occupation in 1963. In 1967, a car depot, repair workshop, and car park were built on the site and the demolition waste, including headstones, was used to construct coastal reinforcements between the Russalka monument and the Old City Harbor.

Some of those headstones were rediscovered during the construction of Reidi Road in 2017.

Rebuilding the cemetery was green-lit at the beginning of the 2020s.

You can learn more about the cemetery and its history here in English, Russian, or Estonian.

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