Help us mark Shoah sites, urge UK cou­ple

The Jewish Chronicle - - NEWS - BY BEN WEICH

“WHAT DEAD Jew doesn’t have some­one say Kad­dish? What dead Jew doesn’t have a head­stone that says some­thing about him or her? I find the whole thing in­com­pre­hen­si­ble.”

So says Michael Lazarus, an 82-yearold re­tired busi­ness­man from Hert­ford­shire, who has been trav­el­ling to Be­larus with his wife, Di­ana, ev­ery year for the past 14 years, to erect head­stones to mark the mass graves of those who per­ished in the Holo­caust.

In 2003, the cou­ple founded the Si­mon Mark Lazarus Foun­da­tion, which was then joined by Amer­i­cans Miles and Mar­i­lyn Ket­tler and War­ren and Bev­erly Geisler to form the Com­mit­tee for the Preser­va­tion of Holo­caust Vic­tims’ Mem­ory.

The com­mit­tee iden­ti­fies the lo­ca­tions of mass graves and co-or­di­nates the con­struc­tion of the memo­ri­als, each stand­ing at al­most six feet tall and in­scribed in English, Be­laru­sian and He­brew.

Es­ti­mates of the scale of the mur­der of Jews in Be­larus vary — in part be­cause the coun­try’s bor­ders have changed dra­mat­i­cally fol­low­ing the Soviet in­va­sion of Poland in 1939 — but Mr Lazarus has said there may be up to 2.5mil­lion eastern European Jews buried in thou­sands of sites, with­out any in­di­ca­tion that the re­mains are there.

“The vast ma­jor­ity of some­thing like 3,500 graves — Jewish graves — will never be marked, will never be known,” he said.

“It’s just un­con­scionable, it’s un­sup­port­able. We’re Jews. And I think we ac­tu­ally owe it to those peo­ple to mark the spot and say: ‘This is a Jewish grave. And at this site some­body came and said Kad­dish’.”

The cou­ple, who are mem­bers of the Hadley Wood Jewish com­mu­nity, are now look­ing for oth­ers to take up the reins and mark the re­main­ing sites.

Mr Lazarus called on young mem­bers of the Jewish com­mu­nity in the UK and else­where to be­come in­volved in the project, as well as the “large com­mu­nal or­gan­i­sa­tions and sy­n­a­gogues” to co-or­di­nate and fund it.

He said: “I think the big ques­tion is how the com­mu­nal bod­ies, the sy­n­a­gogue bod­ies, can help.

“What we do need is the Jewish com­mu­nity here to see this and to want to do some­thing about it — be­cause they could do it.

“I think it’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to do it and I’d like to think the Jewish com­mu­nity here and else­where will think it’s their re­spon­si­bil­ity, too.

“As long as we’re able to breathe Michael Lazarus at the Holo­caust me­mo­rial in Smole­vichi, Be­larus where more than 2,000 Jews were killed by Nazi troops in 1941. Above: the Ostrov me­mo­rial near Brest mark­ing a mas­sacre of Jews in 1942

we’re go­ing to do this,” said a de­ter­mined Mr Lazarus, “but we would like oth­ers to help.”

He said time is run­ning out in the race to mark as many of the thou­sands of sites still with­out some form of com­mem­o­ra­tion, be­fore the Holo­caust be­comes “just an­other piece of his­tory”.

As it leaves liv­ing mem­ory, Mr Lazarus said there was a “real dan­ger” that the vast ma­jor­ity of th­ese mass graves would never be marked.

The In­ter­na­tional Holo­caust Re­mem­brance Al­liance (IHRA) said of th­ese “killing sites” in Eastern Europe that they are “un­der-re­searched”, adding that it works to bring to­gether in­di­vid­u­als and groups — such as the Si­mon Mark Lazarus Foun­da­tion — to carry out me­mo­rial projects.

PHOTO: GETTY IM­AGES

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