Speech 2008

In May 1942 starting on the 5th, - Lag B'Omer in the Jewish calendar, on this spot, fascists and their henchmen murdered over 3,000 Jewish people – men, women, children, babies. Like Jews all over Europe, they were punished for having committed an unforgivable crime, the crime of having been born Jews. The murderers buried their victims, not in a grave, but in an unmarked pit near the cemetery we are here to rededicate. Not only did they intend to destroy their victim’s lives, but also to erase the memory of their existence. picture by Frank Swartz What went through the minds of the murderers: that if no one knew that the Jews of Dokshitsy had lived then no one would know how they had died? That they could prevent THEIR children and grandchildren from holding them accountable and reviling the memory of THEIR existence?

We only know that, if so, they failed. The terrible memory of a great crime can burn itself into the earth itself, reaching into the hearts and minds of future generations. It can touch those who have no connection to the victims other than a common humanity.

But sometimes a common humanity is more than enough.

Those who came to live in Dokshitsy afterward needed to know about who had lived here before them. Who were they? How did they live? Why did they die? And what do WE, who don't know anything more about them, owe them?

And so they asked these questions. And having learned about the lost Jews of Dokshitsy and their fate, they felt a NEW need and responsibility. They felt the need to honor their predecessors whose lives had been so unjustly taken from them. They bound themselves to thwart the intentions of murderers to have their crimes forgotten.

Sadly in 1965 the cemetery was declared a park and destroyed. Many of the tombstones lay under a road for 40 years. The work of the fascists, who had tried to blot out the memory of their victims, as well as their lives, seemed to be succeeding.

But it didn’t succeed. The people of Dokshitsy STILL remembered. They STILL felt the same obligation to the past. In 2005, 100 tombstones were discovered while repairs were being made to Pionorsky Street. In December 2005, after the tombstones had been rediscovered, G.N. Portyanko wrote ”We would like to discuss with you the methods of resolving this situation in the best way so that all our actions do not seem to be blasphemy regarding the buried and also we would like to correct a mistake that was done many years ago.”

My father Maurice Ginsburg was born in Dokshitsy. I, Aaron, his only son, have a passion for Jewish history, and more recently my family history. Sometimes, fortune favors the prepared mind. Early in 2006, I learned about G. N. Portyanko’s letter. I was ready. I resolved to help the people of Dokshitsy save their history, a history that was so dear to me.

And so in November 2007 I received a letter from S.M. Demeshko: “Dokshitsy Regional Magistrate considers it is necessary to preserve the remnants of the Jewish Cemetery: to beautify the place, to install a memorial…We hope for your support and understanding in the intention to create a Memorial to the hundreds of Jewish citizens of Dokshitsy.”

Those letters started what we celebrate today, motivating descendants of the lost Jewish Community of Dokshitsy from all over the world to work with the people of Dokshitsy. Their goal became ours.

We have come from the United States, South Africa, and Russia, to help complete what the people of Dokshitsy began. It is true that we are here to honor our lost ancestors and secure the dignity of their final resting place. But we are also here to honor the people of Dokshitsy, a community that refused to let a past injustice stay buried. A community that proved what Ann Frank said, “in spite of everything, people are still good.”

Delivered by Aaron Ginsburg in Dokshitsy May 2008

written by Rob Benjamin and Aaron Ginsburg