An initiative to set up a monument to victims of the Lviv ghetto was taken by the Sholem Aleichem Society of Jewish Culture (1988). The monument was installed in 1992 under a project designed by sculptor Luiza Shterenshtein and architect Vasyl Plikhivskyi. A place near the railway bridge was chosen for its location, where the main entrance to the ghetto had been located.
In 1988 the Lviv regional executive committee approved the "Plan for the construction of memorable signs and artistic-memorial plaques in the Lviv region in 1988-1990" (No. 157, April 25). According to the document, in particular, the installation of memorials to victims of the Nazis was planned; however, the construction of a separate monument to victims of the Lviv ghetto was not stipulated at first (DALO Р-221/3/701). The "Culture Integrated Program" implementation plan provided also for the construction of monuments to "Victims of Fascism." However, it was first of all about victims who were soldiers of the Soviet Army (DALO П-3/62/839).
Meanwhile, the Sholem Aleichem Society of Jewish Culture in Lviv appealed to the authorities with an idea of installing a monument to those who died in the ghetto. The idea was just in line with the process of "popularizing the ideas of proletarian, socialist internationalism and Soviet patriotism among the masses, the struggle against manifestations of bourgeois nationalism, national limitations, and selfishness, chauvinism ..." (DALO P-3/62/594).
The city executive committee listed it among planned monuments to "Victims of Fascism" and allocated for the memorial a place on the outskirts of the city, at the end of Pelekhatoho (now Yeroshenka) street, behind the New Jewish Cemetery. The Sholem Aleichem Society insisted on changing the location: "The place seemed extremely unfavorable as it was located outside the former ghetto and did not correspond to the historical realities. After long negotiations, we finally succeeded in convincing the local authorities. A place was allocated near the tragically known "gate of death" on 700-richchia Lvova street, exactly where the tragedy took place(now prosp. Chornovola; it was in this place just behind the railway bridge that the main entrance to the ghetto was located – author)" (Parkhomovskiy,"Po dolgu zhyvykh", Shofar, No. 15, 1992, 5).
This monument, as well as the monuments to the executed Polish professors on vul. Suvorova (now Sakharova), to the Soviet military in Lysynychivskyi forest, and to those killed in the Nazi concentration camps on the Citadel Hill, was to be constructed on a competitive basis (DALO П-3/62/593:112; 122)
Within the framework of this contest, four monuments were approved in different years, including a draft of the monument commemorating the dead in the Lviv ghetto. The contest was accompanied by heated debate (DALO П-3/62/593:48).
The proposed project was designed by sculptor Luiza Shterenshtein, a former Lviv citizen and, at that time, a resident of Jerusalem, who developed it together with her son Yoel Schmukler. The area around the monument was designed by architect Vasyl Plikhivskyi.
Sources of funding
The monument project was expensive, its cost was constantly rising as a result of inflation in the early 1990s. The approved budget of the project was initially about 100 thousand rubles, and by the end of the implementation it increased almost six times. The total amount consisted mostly of private donations, whose exact amount is difficult to establish.
At first, the local authorities allocated 10,000 rubles for the project, and the Jewish community of Lviv collected 20,000. Thus, they collected about a third of the value (Pavlov, "The victims of the Jewish ghetto", Vechirniy Lviv, No. 33, 1992, 4; "Perpetuating the memory of the ghetto victims", Shofar, No. 9, 1990, 9). Then the Sholem Aleichem Society appealed to the deputy head of the Lviv Regional Council of People's Deputies, Mykola Horyn. He signed a letter to managers of local enterprises and organizations with a request to provide financial assistance for the construction of the monument. The request was responded by employees and management of many companies.
In August 1991, Saul Lilien, an Israeli businessman and a native of Lviv, made a significant contribution to the construction of the monument, about a third of the cost of the project. After an article about the tragedy of the Lviv ghetto was published in New York's Novoe Russkoe Slovo (New Russian Word) newspaper, a committee was created in Boston to raise funds for the monument construction. The committee was headed by Semen Zaslavskiy. In two months a large sum of money was collected by the the committee and transferred to Lviv (Parkhomovskiy, "Po dolgu zhyvykh", Shofar, No. 15, 1992, 5). Further, the funds were supplemented with some amount from the regional budget, due to the assistance of Stepan Davymuka, the representative of the President in the Lviv region (Pavlov, "The victims of the Jewish ghetto", Vechirniy Lviv, No. 33, 1992, 4). The total budget of the project amounted to over 500 thousand karbovanets.
The project of the monument was approved by the City Art Council. Due to its scale, a separate directorate for the construction of the monument was organized, led by Leon Plager. The monument site was designed by architect Vasyl Plikhivskyi.
A fencing around the site was constructed by the city building department "Ukrpobutprombudmontazh", later the foundations were laid. The monument itself was produced at the Road repair and construction department ("DRBU-5").
Sculptor Luiza Shternenshtein, together with chasers Myron Buhay, Borys Vovk, Ihor Kushlyk, Yuriy Sikachevskyi, and Viktor Chyzhykov, mounted the copper statue in August. At the same time, the landscaping works were going on.
On 23 August 1992 the ceremonial opening of the monument took place.
In the 1992-1993 academic year, the History Faculty of Lviv University introduced a course on the history and culture of the Jewish people with a special focus on the history of Jewry in Galicia and Ukraine, which marked the end of more than fifty years of the "research on Jewry" ban.
In the summer of 1992, the exhibition "Executed Culture" dedicated to the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee and the creativity of its members — literary and scientific workers, victims of Stalin's anti-Semitic policy — was organized at the Scientific Library of Lviv University.
The memorial complex consists of an alley, at the beginning of which there is a metal menorah (ritual candlestick) and a granite table with the inscription "Remember and keep in heart", its Cyrillic font resembling Hebrew letters. Along the alley there are symbolic gravestones on both sides, a symbolic "road of death" is paved in the middle. The alley ends with an allegorical figure of a man with his head and arms raised to the sky. His one hand is clenched into a fist as a symbol of suppressed pain and desire to take revenge, the other hand is extended with the palm upwards as a sign of supplication and questioning in prayer. The old man's head is turned up to heaven, as if he is doomed not to see the events below, frozen in recollecting the tragedy. At the foot of the sculpture there are stone ruins and fragments of gravestones as a symbol of death and destruction, while behind the figure one can see a tree planted at the opening of the monument as a sign of reconciliation and continuation of life.
Companies that participated in the monument's construction:DRBU – 5; Street Repair and Construction Administration, headed by Yaroslav Schur;