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Tags: ukraine | holocaust | survivors | russia | jewish

Ukrainian Holocaust Survivors: We Started Life With War, We'll End Life With War

Ukrainian Holocaust Survivors: We Started Life With War, We'll End Life With War
Moshe Reuven Azman, Chief Rabbi of Ukraine and Kiev, speaks to AFP journalists as he poses inside a synagogue located in central Kiev on April 22, 2019. (Sergei Supinsky/AFP via Getty Images)

By    |   Friday, 25 February 2022 05:28 PM EST

While the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused panic across the country, the fear is heightened in the Jewish community, where Holocaust survivors and their families share a long history of trauma.

Avraham Wolff, Odessa's chief rabbi, told the Los Angeles Times that he got a call from a 90-year-old Holocaust survivor Thursday morning as the invasion was underway.

The man could hardly speak he was so upset, Wolff said.

"He cried and cried, and I just listened to him," he told the Times. "I told him that everything is okay, the Russians are not coming to kill us, these are not Nazis."

For weeks, the rabbi had purchased several tons of supplies and prepared to evacuate thousands of Jews if Russia invaded; however, Wolff's plans changed when the drivers he hired fled the city.

Now he spends his time feeding and reassuring members of his congregation, many of whom are elderly and afraid to leave their homes.

Ukraine was once home to the second largest population of European Jews, after Poland, however, the community started to disperse after anti-Jewish riots under Russian czars in the late 1800s compelled large numbers to emigrate to the United States.

An estimated 1.2 million to 1.4 million Ukrainian Jews were killed in the Holocaust, according to Wendy Lower, a historian at Claremont McKenna College. While hundreds of thousands died in gas chambers or in mass shootings, others died from malnourishment in ghettos.

Many survivors moved to big cities after the war was over, and, in the following decades, rising antisemitism prompted many to flee to Israel.

Today, Ukraine is home to tens of thousands of Jews and the country has a Jewish president. Kyiv, its capital, has several Jewish schools.

In a statement widely criticized as a pretext for the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this week that his military operation sought the "denazification" of Ukraine.

Elka Inna Markovitch, the wife of the chief rabbi of Kyiv, told the Times she is nervous because of the long history Jews have of being used as scapegoats.

"Very often when things go wrong, the Jews are to blame," she said. "... This is also very scary."

The Jewish Agency for Israel, an organization that helps Jews settle there, told the Times it had opened an emergency hotline to help Ukrainians move to Israel.

Markovitch said she has decided to stay — for now — because she needs to care for the elderly. She said she visited a 104-year-old Holocaust survivor a few days ago who had held her hand and asked for her support.

"They're terrified, there's no other way to describe it," she told the Times. "They say, 'We started our life with the war, and we'll end our life with war.'"

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Politics
While the Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused panic across the country, the fear is heightened in the Jewish community, where Holocaust survivors and their families share a long history of trauma.Avraham Wolff, Odessa's chief rabbi, told the Los Angeles Times that he got ...
ukraine, holocaust, survivors, russia, jewish
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2022-28-25
Friday, 25 February 2022 05:28 PM
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