Ukraine acts to remember the tragedy of the Jewish people

kiev (jta) | Ukrainian Jewish leaders have unveiled plans for a new major Holocaust museum and Jewish education center in the former Soviet Union.

On Monday, representatives of the Dneprpetrovsk-based Tkuma Holocaust Research, Education and Memorial Center were in Kiev along with the planned institution’s sponsors — the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, the Claims Conference and the Jewish community of Dneprpetrovsk — to provide details about the $3 million center, which will be known as the Ukrainian Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Construction was scheduled to begin Thursday in Dneprpetrovsk. The Ukrainian government also is providing some funding for the project, though the amount is unclear.

The multistory, multifunction complex, which incorporates a historic restored synagogue on the site, will serve as a memorial, community center and conference center, and will host lectures and seminars.

“The Holocaust and the history of the Jewish communities of Ukraine are the main themes of the future museum,” Tkuma official Mark Shlyak said.

“The tragedy the Jewish people survived is one of the most significant events of 20th-century European history,” he noted, but “there’s no museum in Ukraine that tells the history of Jewish life in Ukraine and about the Holocaust.”

Nearly a million Ukrainian Jews were murdered during World War II.

The director of Tkuma, Igor Shchupak, stressed that the complex will place the Holocaust within the wider context of Jewish life in Ukraine while simultaneously promoting religious tolerance.

Part of the exhibition will be devoted to Jewish life in Ukraine from the middle of the 18th century to the present, while also covering events like the Great Famine of 1932-1933, which affected all Ukrainians.

Displays also will show Jewish life in other parts of the Soviet Union from 1945 to 1991. A wide range of sources, including Jewish community members, are contributing photographs, documents and other artifacts.

“It will be a complex not only for Jews but for all Ukrainians,” Shchupak said. “The nature of totalitarianism is the foundation of genocide.’

Among the major international organizations contributing to the project is the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, one of the biggest providers of assistance to Jews in the former Soviet Union.

Shchupak said Tkuma hopes the Dneprpetrovsk museum complex will be completed within two years.