Prosp. Chornovola – Lviv Ghetto Victims memorial
Photo courtesy of Ilia Levin, 2009
DescriptionThe Sholem Aleichem Jewish Culture Society in Lviv initiated the construction of a monument to the victims of the ghetto. A project for the monument had already been proposed at the time by sculptor Luisa Sterenstein of Jerusalem, a former resident of Lviv. The general budget of the project, which was subject to several revisions due to the inflation of the 1990s, comprised over 500,000 Soviet rubles. In spite of the obstacles, the construction was eventually successfully completed, and on August 23, 1992, the memorial complex to the victims of the Lviv ghetto (1941-1943) was officially opened.
The Lead-up to Construction:
- In a session of April 25, 1988 the Executive Committee of the Lviv State Regional Administration passed the resolution No. 157 “On the Plan of Erecting Memorial Signs and Artistic and Memorial Plaques in the Lviv Region in 1988-1990”. Construction of a series of memorials to the victims of the Nazis was planned, however erection of a special monument to those killed in or from the Lviv ghetto was not initially envisioned (DALO, R-221/3/701). Eventually the project of erecting memorial signs was incorporated into an earlier “complex program Kultura.” The “Implementation Plan for the Complex Program Kultura” for 1989 noted, in its paragraph on “Monumental Propaganda”: “Erect monuments,” including, among others, a monument “to the victims of Fascism”. However, this plan implied, above all, victims among the Soviet soldiers. (DALO, P-3/62/839).
- The Sholem Aleichem Jewish Culture Society approached the authorities with the idea of erecting a monument to the victims of the ghetto. The project at that point fit in with the parallel process of «introducing into the masses the ideas of proletarian, Socialist internationalism and Soviet patriotsm, fighting the manifestations of bourgeois nationalism, national narrow-mindedness and egotism, chauvinism…» (DALO, P-3/62/594).
- After the proposal to erect a monument to the victims of the Lviv ghetto was included in the proposed list of monuments “to the victims of Fascism” the City Executive Committee allocated the space for the memorial in the outskirts of the city, at the end of Pelekhatoho (now Yeroshenka) St., behind the Jewish cemetery.
- The Sholem Aleichem Jewish Culture Society in Lviv insisted on a change in the monument's location. «[The selection of] This space seemed extremely ill-advised, as it lay beyond the limits of the former ghetto and did not correspond to historical realities. After drawn-out negotiations, the local authorities agreed. An area was allocated – in the vicinity of the infamous «Death Gate» along the Simsotrichchia Lvova (Seven Hundredth Anniversary of Lviv) St. – precisely where the tragedy had taken place» (Arkadii Parkhomovskii, «Po dolgu zhyvykh,» // Shofar, No. 15, August, 1992, p. 5).
- While the details of the memorial construction were being extensively discussed, the Israeli-based sculptor (and once-Lviv resident) Luisa Sterenstein elaborated a project of the monument and presented it for consideration. Sterenstein created the project together with her son Yoel Schmukler.
Sources of Funding:
- The monument's project proved relatively expensive. Its cost continued to grow due to the inflationary processes of the 1990s. The initially approved budget comprised about 100 thousand Soviet Rubles. However, by the time the project was finally implemented, it grew almost sixfold. The total sum of funds raised consisted mostly of private donations, the exact sums of which are very difficult to establish.
- The local authorities initally provided 10 thousand Rubles for the implementation of the monument's construction project, while the Lviv Jewish community raised another 20 thousand. At the time, this sum amounted merely to a third of the project's cost. (Miron Pavlov, «Zhertvam evreiskogo getto» // Vechirnii Lviv, No. 33, August, 1992, p. 4; «Uvekovechit pamiat zhertv getto» // Shofar, No. 9, 1990, p. 9).
- The Sholem Aleichem Society turned to Mykola Horyn (then Deputy Head of the Lviv Regional Council of National Deputies). Horyn signed a letter to the heads of the local companies and organizations with a request for financial support in constructing the monument. Many groups of employees responded to the request. (Arkadii Parkhomovskii, «Po dolgu zhyvykh» // Shofar, No. 15, August, 1992, p. 5).
- In August 1991 the Lviv-born Israeli businessman Saul Lilien donated a significant contribution to the cause of the monument's consruction. The exact sum of his donation is not known, however it is known that it comprised a third of the project's cost at the time (which soon rose again). (Ibid.)
- After an article on the tragedy of the Lviv ghetto was published in the New York-based newspaper Novoe russkoe slovo (New Russian Word), a fundraising committee was established in Boston to support the monument's construction. The committee was headed by Semen Zaslavski. In two months the committee raised a substantial sum of money, which it transferred to Lviv. (Ibid.)
- The final amount raised was supplemented by funds from the Regional budget (with support of Stepan Davymuka, Representative of the President in the Lviv Region). (Miron Pavlov, «Zhertvam evreiskogo getto» // Vechirnii Lviv, No. 33, August, 1992, p. 4.)
- Thus, the general budget of the project comprised over 500 thousand Soviet Rubles.
Erection of the Monument:
- The model and project of the monument were approved by the City Arts Council. In light of the scale of the project, a separate board was created, dedicated to the construction of the monument, which was headed by Leon Plager. Architect Vasyl Plikhivskyi elaborated the project for the monument's site.
- The construction of the monument was entrusted to the Street Repair and Construction Administration (DRBU-5, in its Ukrainian acronym), which continued its work despite funding shortages. At the time the Administration was headed by Ya. Schur.
- «To mount the sculpture… Luisa Sterenstein, the monument's author arrived from Israel. With her participation, five highly qualified engravers: Myron Buhay, Borys Vovk, Ihor Kushlyk, Yurii Sikachevskyi, Viktor Chyzhykov, led by Petro Chervyn, head of the trade corporation, mounted the figure within the month [of August]. Elements of the figure were cast in copper. Development and dendrological works were carried out at the same time.» (Arkadii Parkhomovskii, «Po dolgu zhyvykh» // Shofar, No. 15, August 1992, p. 5.)
On August 23, 1992 the opening celebration of the monument took place.
- The general construction project for the monuments to the «Victims of Fascism», which series included the monument to the executed Polish professors by Emanuil Mysko in Suvorova (now Sakharova) St., the monument to the Soviet soldiers by the Lysynychi forest, the monument to the victims of the Nazi concentration camps in the territory of the Citadel, and the monument «in Pelekhatoho St» – or the memorial complex to the victims of the Lviv ghetto, which was eventually moved to Simsotrichchia Lvova St., envisioned a general competition. (DALO, P-3/62/593, p. 112; 122)
- Four monuments were approved in various years as the result of the competition, including the project for a memorial to the fallen of the Lviv ghetto. Construction of all the monuments was subject to vigorous discussions, as the result of which the implementation of some of the project was postponed. Thus, the monument to the executed Polish professors, construction of which was approved in 1967, was discussed in Party sessions until the late 1980s. (DALO, P-3/62/593, p. 48)
- The monument to the victims of the Lviv ghetto was constructed, based on a project by the Israeli-based sculptor Luisa Sterenstein, who was later present at the monument's mounting and ceremonious opening. Sterenstein completed the project together with her son Yoel Schmukler.
- The project for the site of the monument was completed by architect Vasyl Plikhivskyi.
- The copper elements of the sculpture were cast by the Street Repair and Construction Administration – 5 (DRBU-5, in its Ukrainian acronym), which at the time was headed by Ya. Schur.
Symbolically the monument was cast as an image of an old man frozen in grief and prayer, lifting his head and hands to the sky. Despite the static character of the figure, it appears dynamic, which effect was achieved thanks to the technique of creating the sculpture from separate and distinct pieces of metal. This dynamic communicates a sense of faith and vulnerability. One hand of the sculpture is made into a fist – symbolizing the supressed pain and desire for revenge, the other hand is lifted, palm upwards, in a supplicationary and questioning address in prayer. The old man's head is turned skyward, symbolically doomed not to see the developments beneath, as though frozen in the recollection of the tragedy. This artistic presentation supplies the sculpture with rhetorical and questioning power.
The man's figure is not alone, it is incorporated into the monument's ensemble. A marble path leads up to it, an imitation of the «gate» or «road of death». To the sculpture's right is an imitation of gravestones, while behind the man's back is a tree, planted at the monument's opening as a sign of peace and continuing life. At the sculpture's feet are stone ruins and debris of gravestones, a symbol of death and destruction.
A massive black menorah stands before the monument as a sign of eternal remembrance and respect. The monument's ensemble stands on the historic site of the Lviv ghetto, behind the «iron ravine», then in the outskirts of the city. The newspapers of the time described the silhouette of the man, which is the central figure of the monument, as «black, as though scorched».
Companies that participated in the monument's construction:
- DRBU – 5; Street Repair and Construction Administration, headed by Yaroslav Schur
- BMU «Ukrpobutprombutmontazh», headed by Yefym Kravetskyi
- «Zakhidnaftohazbud» Trust, headed by Stepan Maykovych
- PO «Luch», Hryhorii Tabun
- «Hidronaftokhim» Institute, Hryhorii Nalyvaiko
- MP «Promenit», Borys Guberman
- SMU «Ukrtorhbud», Mykhailo Ginzburg
- Iron and Steel Construction Factory, Yevhenii Maksiutynskyi
- «Oblrembudtrest», Volodymyr Udovenko
- Domobudivnyi kombinat No. 1 («House Construction Company No. 1»), Petro Khaba
- Goods and Funds Stock Exchange, Stanislav Herasymchuk
- «Prohres-1» Coperative, Natan Rabynovych
- NTTM of the Shevchenkivskyi District of Lviv, Volodymyr Pavliv
- Regional Committee of the Professional Union of Trade Unions, Dmytro Pykh
- “Promkhimsantekhmontazh” Trust, Mykhailo Soroka
- Mechanization Administration of the “Lvivprombud” Trust, Myron Koptsiukh
- SU-16 “Ozdobbud”, Roman Konyk
- Sculpture Factory, Yurii Syranchenko
- “Lvivholovpostach”, Yaroslav Chekhovskyi
- The initiative to construct a monument commemorating the victims of the Lviv ghetto came from the Sholem Aleichem Jewish Culture Society, which was instituted at the Lviv Regional Committee constituonary assembly on August 30, 1988. The Society was founded by the Lviv Regional Branch of the Ukrainian Cultural Fund; the Lviv Regional Organization of the Writers' Union of Ukraine; the Lviv Regional Organization of the Ukrainian Society for the Protection of Monuments of History and Culture; and the Lviv Regional Branch of the «Ukraine» Society. The writer Aleksander Lizen was elected head of the newly formed Society, which joined 250 people, in addition to 23 Council Members. The Society's objective was proclaimed as «the popularization of Jewish cultural heritage, and the study of the Jewish language» (DALO, P-3/62/367)
- Documents pertaining to the monument's construction mostly spoke of the «Monument in Pelekhatoho Street». Whether consciously or not, the idea of commemorating the victims of the Jewish ghetto was not advertized in official documents.
- According to the document «On the work on preservation, restoration and use of regional architectural landmarks», the «monument in Pelekhatoho Street» was to be constructed by 1990. In fact, however, construction took two years longer.
- The paragraph «Monuments, memorial signs, artistic and memorial plaques» of the same document proposed «… to construct memorials «to the victims of Fascism». This envisioned construction of a series of memorial signs to commemorate the «liberation» of Lviv by the Soviet authorities and remind of the victims of the Hitlerite regime. The series of monuments included a monument to the executed Polish professors by E. Mysko in Suvorova (now Sakharova) St., a monument to the Soviet soldiers by the Lysynychi forest, a monument to the victims of the Nazi concentration camps on the territory of the Citadel, and the monument «in Pelekhatoho St.» - the memorial complex commemorating the Lviv ghetto victims, evetually moved to Simsotrichchia Lvova St. (DALO, P-3/62/593, p. 112; 122)
- The objective of the extensive memorial project «To the Victims of Fascism» was partially reflected in the «Theses in support of the Kultura program». The Theses noted: «The Kultura project should reflect also everything positive that was created in the years of the Soviet government; in light of contemporary ideological, educational and aesthetic demands…». Thus, the point of the project was rather to crown the Soviet powers' victory over Fascism. (DALO, P-3/62/839)
- The report «On the Activities of the National Cultural Societies in the Lviv Region» read at the session of the Lviv Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine of April 10, 1989, which was held at the Party Regional Committee Political Education Building, proclaimed: «Over the past two years, an extensive network of national cultural, awareness-spreading, and ethnographic societies, has been created and is active in the city of Lviv, and in the region, to aid the spiritual and cultural rebirth of the various national groups living in the Lviv region…» (DALO, P-3/62/594). Communist Party Secretary Volodymyr Honcharuk said, in his introductory address, held at the very same session: «Considering the multinational composition of the population, much attention [must now and] in future be given to the creation of an environment that would allow citizens of any nationality to feel at home in the [Ukrainian Soviet Socialist] Republic» (DALO, P-3/62/594, p. 34)
- On July 7, 1992, speaking at the International Conference on Antisemitism in Brussels, then-Ukrainian President Leonid Kravchuk held a report, entitled «No Antisemitism in the Republic [of Ukraine], either on the Political, or State Level», in which he said:
«The present reform of the social and political life of Ukraine has radically changed the status of the Ukrainian Jewry. Today the Jews constitute the second largest national minority (after the Russians), and number over 480 thousand people (0.9 per cent of the population)…»
Of the total numbers of Jewish populatoin, 7.5 per cent are leaders of companies and organizations, while 39 per cent are specialists in engineering and technical sciences. Over 53 per cent are employed in medicine, scholarship and education, culture and the arts.
«Over twenty culturological civic organizations arose, and twenty-three religious Jewish community have been officially registered in Ukraine on the wave of national renaissance.»
«For the first time in fifty years, the veil of silence has been lifted above the historical truth of the martyrlike death of the tens of thousands of innocent people…»
«A resolution has been passed on the construction of a new memorial complex on the site of mass exectuions in Babyn Yar…»
«At the forty-sixth session of the United Nations General Assembly last year  Ukraine has distanced herself from… the resolution that equated Zionism to racism»
The report ended by saying that «the facts presented are substantial manifestations of a new direction [being taken] in all sides of the social life of contemporary Ukraine».
- August 20, 1992 saw a memorial evening dedicated to the victims of the Lviv ghetto held at the Maria Zankovetska Drama Theater. Words of welcome in Yiddish and Ukrainian were spoken by Aleksander Lizen. Professor Jakob Honigsman spoke on the tragedy of the Holocaust. After addresses from Levko Riznyk, Head of the Lviv Organization of the Writers' Union, and Meir Pylchyk, a visitor from the USA, the evening was continued by a concert involving Jewish artistic groups.
- Beginning in academic year 1992-1993, the Lviv University Department of History began a training program for specialists in the history and culture of the Jewish people. The significance of this development was that after over five decades of silencing, «Jewish Studies» were re-introduced in Ukraine. The Lviv University was the first university in Ukraine to introduce this field of study. A special focus was to be placed on the history of the Galician and Ukrainian Jewry.
- In the Summer of 1992 the Academic Library of the Lviv University organized an exposition, entitled «An executed culture», dedicated to the Jewish Antifascist Committee and the work of its members, figures of literature and sciences, and victims of the Stalinist policy of antisemitism.
- Victoria Yakovleva
- edited by Natalka Ryms'ka
- Vdovichenko, G., «Zdes mukami propitan kazhdyi kamen…» // Vysokyi Zamok, August 27, 1992, No. 102, p. 3.
- Komskii, B., «Eto nado ne mertvym…» // Shofar, No. 16, 1992, pp. 1-2.
- Nakonechnyi Ye., Shoa u Lvovi, ed. by V. M. Trypachuk, Lviv, 2004, 350 pages.
- Pavlov, M., «Zhertvam yevreiskogo getto» // Vechirnii Lviv, No. 33, August, 1992, p. 4.
- Parkhomovskii, A., «Po dolgu zhyvykh» // Shofar, No. 15, August, 1992, p. 5.
- Honigsman, Ya., «Sozdanie i gibel Lvovskogo getto» // Shofar, No. 15, August, 1992, p. 3.
- Schodennyk Lvivskoho hetto. Spohady rabyna Davyda Kahane, ed. by Zh. Kovba, Kyiv: Dukh i Litera, 2003, 267 pages.
- State Archive of the Lviv Region (DALO-R): f. 221, op. 3, spr. 701.
- Party Archive of the State Archive of the Lviv Region (DALO – P): f. 3, op. 62, spr. 367; DALO, f. 3, op. 62, spr. 593; DALO, f. 3, op. 62, spr. 839; DALO, f. 3, op. 62, spr. 594.