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
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