24 June 2015

Bershad, Oy Vey... (Bershad - 2750 km)

(Bershad, 20.06.2015 - 21.06.2015) Different from the last stages of my journey, in Bershad the awareness for the Holocaust is omnipresent. It stands to reason since in 1941 Romanian forces transformed this city into the Bershad Ghettowhere thousands of Jews, so many of them from Bukovina and Bessarabia, were starved to death. Among the victims were the grandparents and the aunt of Miriam Suss from Melbourne, Australia. Thus Miriam and her cousin Sabina Brecher (née Ziller), born in Czernowitz, became the driving forces behind placing a memorial at the mass grave site on the grounds of the New Jewish Cemetery; see Miriam's 2002 report at Ehpes.

The first memorial, erected after World War II (Photo: Yad Vashem Photo Archives), is in close vicinity to the new one, both of them commemorating the 12,000 victims buried at this mass grave. From Yefim Vygodner, the devotedly acting chairman of the local Jewish Community, we learn more about both the two memorials, presumed we do understand "a bissele Jiddisch".

Was it the introduction to Yefim Vygodner by Andrzej Polec from Warsaw, was it the hospitality of the Jews from Bershad, was it their vivid interest in my travel experiences or was it at the end of the day my feeling of attachment to them? I don't know, any way, the reception in the two hundred years old synagogue by about half of the remaining - fourty - Jews of Bershad was awesome. The range of our discussion reached from trivial issues such as the disastrous state of Ukrainian roads or an emergency repair of a pierced motorcycle tire, up to the comprehension of Adolf Hitler's Seizure of Power in 1933 in conversation with Holocaust survivor Yosl Kogan.

The visit to Bershad was both an intellectual experience and one for the senses too, but photography is capturing - if at all possible - the atmosphere just partially.

This applies to the Sunday morning farmers' market on Lenin Road too, the main road, which formerly divided the lower and the upper sections of the Bershad Ghetto. Bershad, oy vey Bershad!

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