Harold Ohayon
A Wandering New Yorker

Upon the Ashes of Our Dead

How quickly the world forgets. Or perhaps it doesn’t truly forget, but willfully ignores what has happened in the past. In a shocking and heart wrenching trend, several Eastern European countries have engaged in a direct assault on the memory of the Jews butchered and massacred during the Holocaust. While Eastern Europe is no stranger when it comes to minimizing or glossing over complacency with the Nazi regime, these current undertakings add more insult to the injuries.

If one glances over maps of Eastern Europe, one will find countless storied and ancient settlements. Side by side with these, one can also find more obscure locations that gained infamy due to the events that occurred during the Holocaust: Auschwitz, Babi Yar, Liepaja, Ponary. Countless of these sights mar the landscape of Eastern Europe, a haunting reminder of what transpired several decades ago. And while some of the more infamous locations are actively preserved and memorialized, many others are ignored or lay forgotten. Others still, in a shockingly disrespectful manner, are actively desecrated without hardly a bat of an eye.

Within the territory of the Lithuanian city of Kaunas sits the Seventh Fort. In 1941, the area became an instrument of terror as the Nazi regime established a concentration camp there. Around 5,000 Lithuanian Jews were massacred within the Seventh Fort complex. Any decent person would assume that such a tragic piece of real estate would be cordoned off and left in peace to serve as a reminder to the future generations of what transpired there. The sad reality of the Seventh Fort, however, is that it has become a popular location to have weddings. How sickeningly warped that a site of abject horror is now a spot to festively dance, drink and sing. One wonders if the Lithuanians that indulge in such grave desecration would partake in weddings if Lithuanian partisans or nationalists were buried underfoot. Probably not, as the Lithuanians are staunchly proud of their history. But since the dead are Jews, they toss reservations aside and open another bottle of vodka.

Sadly, such disgraceful displays and actions are not limited to Lithuania. In the Ukrainian city of Poltava, a shameful housing development project aims to build new structures atop the corpses of 5000 Jewish men, women and children. In Belarus, in the city of Brest, construction workers recently found the bodies of 1000 Jews killed during the Holocaust. While the bodies were removed and reburied, the housing project is still underway. The burial spot of those ruthlessly and sadistically taken from the world will soon be the setting for luxury condominiums. What has happened to any sense of common decency? Would the Belarusians or Ukrainians build atop the graves of their countrymen? Would they want to live in structures that stand on the execution spots of innocent Ukrainian and Belarussian citizens? The answer is quite clear, and all the more depressing because these counties care so little for the Jews that were massacred within their borders.

The Jewish people have suffered enough. How many more indignities should we be expected to endure? Europe is littered with the graves of our fallen brothers and sisters. The continent is haunted by the wails and screams of those who were fed to the flames. At the very less, these countries should respect our dead. The best way they can do this is to persevere the sites of slaughter, educate their populaces about what occurred, and make sure that the memories of those lost are never forgotten. But it appears, however, that the opposite is occurring. The memories are being erased, the sites are being turned into luxury homes and dance floors, and the local populations actively seek to eradicate the remnants of history. But while these individuals may frolic, rejoice and celebrate upon the gravesites of our ancestors, they should not be under the impression that we shall forget what happened there. Indeed, the blood of our lost shall never cease crying out from the grave. And we shall never turn a deaf ear to them.

About the Author
Expat New Yorker living in the Land of the Rising Sun: Trekking to random parts of the globe, debating countless things under the sun, and attempting to learn to cook Korean food.
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