: Global Post: Why Ukraine's newest Holocaust memorial is so important

10:23 Sep. 8, 2016

Global Post: Why Ukraine's newest Holocaust memorial is so important

The Space of Synagogues memorial was unveiled in Lviv on September 2, 2016 (Photo source: zaxid.net)

Lviv was home to 100,000-200,000 Jews before World War II, today they comprise only 0.3 percent of the city's population

Eli Brauner rarely makes it to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv. When he does, it's a painful experience for him.

His ancestors built a synagogue here in the late 16th century, believed to be the country's oldest partially preserved synagogue.

After the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in 1941, they burned the Golden Rose almost entirely to the ground.

"It's not easy to be here," says Brauner, an Israeli researcher who was born in Germany after World War II. "It's a beautiful city, but also a graveyard for 150,000 Jews."

Today, a new memorial stands near the remains of the Golden Rose, commemorating Jewish suffering in a city where the thriving prewar community was wiped away.

But it's no ordinary memorial. Local officials, experts and international planners all came together for what observers say is a Holocaust commemoration project that's an achievement in both historical memory and urban planning. They say it's an example for the rest of Ukraine, where monuments are often commissioned by bureaucrats or well-connected businessmen, with little input from experts or consideration for the local community.

Lviv, in particular, is a place where the two notions clash. For centuries, the city was a hub of Jewish life and faith, and home to 100,000-200,000 Jews before World War II. It was also the center of Ukraine's national revival, and remains a bastion of Ukrainian culture. Heated debate between local and international scholars continues to rage over the role local nationalists played in wartime pogroms.

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