Protecting Memory addresses a chapter in the history of National Socialist extermination policy that for many decades received little attention, namely the mass shootings of Jews in the German-occupied territories of eastern Europe. The project’s goal is to protect the forgotten mass graves of more than one million Ukrainian Jews and to transform these sites into dignified final resting places.
To this end, memorial sites have been built at five west Ukrainian locations: Bakhiv, Kyslylyn, Ostrozhets, Prokhid, and Rava-Ruska. Markers document the history of the once thriving Jewish communities and their destruction. For these markers, use was made of archival sources as well as eyewitness interviews conducted by organizations such as Yahad-In Unum and the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies.
On the initiative of AJC (American Jewish Committee), the international coalition “Protecting Memory” was convened in 2010. Members include:
- The Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe
- The Conference of European Rabbis
- The Ukrainian Jewish Committee
- The Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies
- Yahad-In Unum
The German War Graves Commission (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegesgräberfürsorge) and the Central Council of Jews in Germany played an advisory role.
The German federal government established a special fund for the establishment of memorials at mass shooting sites of Jews in Eastern Europe. Protecting Memory began its work in 2011 as a pilot project funded by the Foreign Office of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Historical research for the project was conducted by Mikhail Tyaglyy, Svetlana Burmistr, and Ray Brandon.
The historical advisory board consists of Dr. Andrej Angrick (Hamburg Foundation for the Promotion of Science and Culture), Dr. Ulrich Baumann and Uwe Neumärker (both from the Foundation for the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe), Prof. Habbo Knoch (University of Cologne), Dr. Thomas Lutz (Topography of Terror Foundation), Prof. Günter Morsch (Foundation for Memorial Museums in Brandenburg), and Dr. Günter Schlusche (Berlin Wall Foundation), and Dr. Andriy Portnov (Humboldt University).
Vitalii Boborov and Dr. Anatoly Podolsky of the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies developed an education program about the Holocaust for teachers and students.
The memorials built by Protecting Memory are dedicated to all of the Jews murdered in mass shootings during the Holocaust. By erecting these five memorials, the project hopes to draw attention to this dimension of Nazi violence in Ukraine and to promote the dignified commemoration of Ukraine’s Holocaust victims as well as a comprehensive reexamination of the past.