The cemetery of Czernowitz

In 1930, at the last pre-war census he ethnic composition of Czernowitz/Chernivtsi, the capital city of Bukovina and the easternmost merchant city of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire – which was called both “little Vienna” and “Jerusalem upon the Prut” – was the following: 27% Jewish, 23% Romanian, 21% German, 18% Ukrainian, the rest Polish, Hungarian, Rusyn, Czech, Italian, Greek and other nationalities. And although the Second World War turned this Babelian polychromy much greyer, nevertheless the cemetery, which always reflects two or three generations earlier conditions, bears witness to the coexistence and not rarely coalescence of all these peoples. It is not unusual to see on the same tomb both Ukrainian and Polish names, or a German-language epitaph of a Romanian person.

The Jewish cemetery is only separated from the Christian one by a narrow road, so that by stepping out from the one you can immediately enter the other, making it easier for the former citizens of Czernowitz who usually had beloved deads laying in both cemeteries.

The dome of the Jewish mortuary towers above the two cemeteries, and it is visible from any point of both, forming particular views with their tombs. It seems to have survived the war relatively intact, and its decay can be dated rather at the last decades, since the inhabitants of Jerusalem upon the Prut transferred their headquarters to Jerusalem upon the Kidron.

A memory wall, erected of gravestone fragments, is standing next to the mortuary. The stones probably are not victims of wartime vandalism, since the majority of the vast cemetery is intact. It was rather the remains of the decaying old tombstones – as the inscription suggests – which the city council tried to preserve in this way.

The Jewish relics of Czernowitz under Romanian occupation were much less devastated during the Second World War than those in neighboring Galicia. The majority of its Jewish population, for whom the city’s mayor, Traian Popovici managed to secure exemption from the Transnistrian deportation, also survived the war. The vast cemetery stretching along behind the mortuary, where there were burials even as late as the 70s, has preserved a multitude of beautiful gravestones. And the former diversity of Czernowitz is well attested by the fact that, just like those in the Christian cemetery, they also show German, Polish, Romanian, Russian, Hebrew, Yiddish and other names and inscriptions alike.

1 comentario:

Art dijo...

How fascinating! and all your photos really bring it to life!