Open Letter to the Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau from Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich
To the Hon. Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi David Lau.
President of the Chief Rabbinical Council.
3 Kislev, 5781.
Subject : Objections to the letter of Mr. Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Advisory Committee for the Construction of a Memorial Site at Baby Yar.
As His Excellency knows, we have approached you regarding the issues involved in establishing a memorial site in the designated area of Baby Yar. In response to all the facts we have presented to you, you have sent a warning letter to the group of initiators. As we learned, in response to your letter, you received a reply from Mr. Natan Sharansky, Chairman of the Advisory Committee of the Initiators of the Establishment of the aforementioned site.
In Mr. Sharansky's response, it was claimed, that as early as 2016, "Atra Kadisha" (the organization officially designated to rule on religious issues regarding Jewish cemeteries) conducted an in-depth inspection of the planned construction site and that no damage was found to the burial sites of the martyrs.
The initiators of the above planned project have publicly released their version of the "facts".
Unfortunately, Mr. Sharansky's remarks do not reflect reality. The planned construction site sits without a shadow of a doubt, on the site of the old Jewish cemetery that has been in use for many years.
We attach to this letter maps prepared by historical experts based on the archival documents. These maps have been synchronized to historical maps of the Baby Yar area from a century ago until now.
The above documents are available to any and all who wish to view them. It is quite probable that the initiators of the above-mentioned memorial site project are also aware of the true facts.
It is worth noting that in the entire area of Baby Yar, in addition to old cemeteries, lie the remains of at least 100,000 people who were massacred here during the German occupation under various circumstances and at different times who were buried here in a disorganized manner. There exist widespread traces of the massacre – carried out over several periods, and scattered over the entire surface of the area, in a way that cannot be accurately mapped, leaving the remains and ashes of the burned bodies, may the victims be avenged.
In addition, after World War II, a geological movement occurred in the area that caused the earth layers to move and realign. As a result, during various construction works throughout the area, the remains of bodies were discovered and observed in unexpected places.
Therefore, despite the claim of the developers of the construction of the memorial site, it has not now been possible to determine with certainty the exact location of the bodies of the murdered Jewish victims or their remains.
Please note that no confirmation / signature of the Atra Kadisha representative has ever been displayed on the site map or any other official document that would overlap the proposed construction site on the old Jewish cemetery site, which according to the construction initiators, was given to you.
The Jewish activists, who regularly monitor what is happening in the planned construction area, are not aware of any "research and testing work" carried out, according to Mr. Sharansky 'in 2016 by "Atra Kadisha" in the above-mentioned expansive area.
On the other hand, there is a ruling of the same "Atra Kadisha" from 2010 that prohibits all construction activity in the area of the old Jewish cemetery (subject to the initiative to establish a memorial site). This ruling is attached to our letter.
There is also a document by Rabbi Schlesinger (from the "Committee for the Preservation of Cemeteries in Europe" London) from 2010 which states unequivocally, that the above-mentioned memorial site extends over the area of an old Jewish cemetery, and that no construction should be permitted in this area.
Therefore, the reply of the Chairman of the Advisory Committee, Mr. Natan Sharansky, cannot be seen as a satisfactory one. We expect His Excellency to examine in a competent manner all the allegations of the initiators of the construction of a memorial site in Baby Yar out of genuine deep concern of desecrating the burial sites of Jews and other peoples.
It should be noted that over the years, government officials in the city have deliberately destroyed and desecrated the cemeteries of Jews and others under the pretext of building residences and public buildings.
These acts must be stopped.
It is inconceivable that the initiators of the commemoration of a terrible massacre in Baby Yar would lend a hand to the continued contempt for burial places.
(It should be noted that several parties have launched an international petition in protest against the construction of the above-mentioned memorial site.)
On behalf of the group of initiators for the protection of the martyrs of Baby Yar-
Rabbi Yosef Mendelevich, a former Prisoner for Zion
Rabbi Ze'ev Mashkov
Attached is a map of Jewish and Christian cemeteries at the site of the construction of a memorial center of the above-mentioned Friedman Group.