After close to a year of negotiations, representatives of Russian Jews killed by Nazi hit squads 71 years ago have convinced local officials to replace a memorial plaque some Jews felt downplayed aspects of the massacre.
On August 11, 1942 the Nazis rounded up 27,000 people, more than half of them Jews, and slaughtered them on the outskirts of the town of Rostov, according to the Russian Jewish Congress (RJC). The Rostov massacre is widely acknowledged to be one of the worst mass killings of Russian Jews during the Holocaust.
Controversy erupted last year in Rostov however, after news agencies reported that officials in the town had replaced a 2004 memorial plaque with one that did not mention the Jewish victims of the massacre. This new plaque mourned the thousands of “peaceful citizens of Rostov-on-Don and Soviet prisoners-of-war” who died at the edge of the Russian city, but did not specify who the citizens in question were, according to the BBC.
At the time, Rostov’s Deputy Culture Minister Valery Gelas said the change was in line with current historical data and had been approved by the relevant cultural authorities, reports the BBC. RJC president Yuri Kanner countered that it was important to point out who exactly was shot at the site, per the BBC.
This December, the two factions finally reached a compromise regarding the wording of the memorial.
Following a lawsuit filed by the RJC, the Rostov Memorial Council has officially agreed to revise the text of the plaque to read, “The largest site of mass killings in the Russian Federation of Jews by the Nazi invaders during World War II,” reports the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
While Rostov will not be bringing back the original 2004 plaque, the RJC’s Yanner told JTA that the move was “a wise decision by the city administration and a compromise which cools down the tensions around the largest Holocaust grave in Russia.”
The Russian Jewish Congress’ Holocaust Memorial Board chairman Yuri Dombrovsky echoed Yanner’s sentiments, noting that the plaque’s revised wording is symbolic in a country that has not always been open about its darker secrets.
“For many decades, under the communists’ rule, the state denied the Holocaust,” Dombrovsky told the JTA.