Ukraine Destroys Historical Synagogue

Ukraine is destroying Jewish history by tearing down an old and prestigious synagogue to build a hotel for soccer championship games.

Tzvi Ben Gedalyahu,

Golden Rose Synagogue
Golden Rose Synagogue
Israel news photo: Wikimedia Commons

Ukraine is destroying Jewish history by tearing down an old and prestigious synagogue – in which Nazis killed Jews while partially burning it down – in order to build a hotel for European soccer championship games next year.

The Nazis destroyed 42 synagogues in the city of Lviv, once known as Lemberg and later called Lvov, most of whose residents were Jewish until the Nazi regime swept through the area.

The “Golden Rose” synagogue dates back to the 16th century and is one of the few remaining reminders of the once-flourishing Jewish community in the city.

The demolition is illegal under Ukrainian law, according to the London Telegraph’s Tom Gross, who said he witnessed the beginning of the demolition. .

“It is not only morally wrong for bulldozers to drill through the last traces of this vibrant past without first giving the handful of remaining Jews here a chance to restore this site, or turn it into a place of memorial. It is legally wrong, too. Ukraine's own laws are designed to preserve such historic sites,” he wrote.

The Golden Rose synagogue is protected as a heritage site under the United Nations’ UNESCO agency, but the agency has not commented on the demolition. Gross noted that UEFA, the European soccer organization, also has not issued a statement despite its campaign to "kick racism out of football".

The Golden Rose synagogue was led in the 17th century by Rabbi David HaLevi, one of the greatest jurists of 17th century Ashkenazi Jewry. Ukraine previously has desecrated his grave, building a market over it.

During the Holocaust, 420,000 Jews, including more than 100,000 children, were murdered in the Lviv area. but Gross noted, “You will hardly find any reference to this in the official guide books or in the museums of Lviv. There is no monument to the murdered Jews in Lviv's old town”

He related, “A few elderly people still remember. One woman who approached me last week as I stood at what used to be the ghetto entrance told me she remembered as a child seeing Jews whipped as they were forced to walk on their knees back and forth for hours until they collapsed and were then shot while Nazis laughed.”

One account of the Nazi horrors, “In the Sewers of Lvov” by author Robert Marshall, cited the survival of 10 Jews while Nazis used dogs to sniff out and murder hundreds of others who were hiding.

“The Lviv authorities know it is an outrage to destroy the remains of the Golden Rose, which is why last week they placed a tall fence around the planned hotel site and closed off most of the street so hide it from view,” Gross wrote.

He said Lviv resident Meylakh Sheykhet has been trying for years to stop the destruction of more Jewish historical sites.

”The Holocaust has not stopped here; the destruction goes on," Sheykhet told Gross. "Over the tombstones of some of history's greatest rabbis there are now movie theatres, discos and car parks.”

The Citadel, a building where the Nazis tortured tens of thousands of Jews to death, was converted into a luxury hotel two years ago. The hotel is owned by the same man who is the deputy regional governor responsible for the preservation of culture and heritage.

Part of the old Citadel building still is preserved but is planned to be converted ito a casino for the Euro games next year,

Poland’s Honorary Consul in Haifa, Oded Feller, told Arutz Sheva that he wrote letter of protest to the Foreign Minister of Ukraine and expects "not only a halt to the demolition but also restoration of the old synagogue.”