Some of us started the day at 6 am with a one hour walk around the center of town and the old city. It is quite an impressive city with a very European flavour to it..many churches and statues to past leaders and kings. It is clean and seems to be well run. There were still remnants from the recent EuroCup Soccer Championships including this flower clock in the centre of Lvov.
Our tour of the city started with the old Jewish Hospital Originally known as the Jacob Rappaport Hospital in the name of the Jew who raised most of the money ( from his own pocket as well) – now a maternity hospital. Our guide Tanya was born in the hospital after the war and told us that very few people in Lvov know of it’s history.
She took us on a tour of the outside to discover traces of Jewish symbols which the Germans tried to obliterate. They were not entirely successful – as Tanya pointed out.
Tanya showed us the Pharmacy annex to the Jewish Hospital
At the back of the hospital was the old Jewish cemetery which had been completely flattened and most of it today is an open market. Some original stones from the headstones were found and brought back to the site but besides a few random words in Hebrew it is impossible to identify to whom they belonged to.
We then drove to one of the main Jewish quarters of Lvov from before WWII and saw the one remaining building that was a synagogue before the war.
We also visited a small Jewish support centre in Lvov where they provide educational and other support services. We were shown a small museum on the history of the community.
From there to the main holocaust memorial in Lvov – a large and powerful statue depicting pure agony.
Our guide Tanya gave us a detailed explanation of how the Jews were collected and moved into the area where the monument stands and from there taken to gas chambers, the Janowska concentration camp near Lvov or to be killed on the outskirts of the town.Many of the old and young children were shot under the railway bridge right next to where the memorial stands, Tanya related.
( See pictures from this day in Lvov)
From there we went to the Lvov train station where some 500,000 Jews from all over Galicia passed through on their way to the death camps. The numbers are mind-boggling and I find myself trying to imagine the excruciating suffering that people must have experienced. Tanya told us that her father had been the station master there prior to the war and when he returned after Lvov was liberated ( he had had the foresight to take his family to Russia ahead of the German invasion in 1941) he said the main station building had not changed very much. Just one small round building had been added and the main station had been refurbished.
Haim Kreisberg ( for our group ) and I crossed the railway lines to photograph the old and rusty cargo wagons sitting on the tracks…they looked eerily like the ones that could have been used to transport Jews. It is a hot July day and I again find myself trying to project what it must have been like locked in the crowded wagons – hardly able to move and the thoughts and physical pain that Jews suffered in those journeys to their deaths.
From there we were taken to see the new Jewish cemetery in Lvov – graves from the 1950 s and onwards. Tanya told us that the monument at the entrance was a rare expression of the holocaust which had been put up during the Soviet era.
From there we went to see the re-furbished Synagogue of Lvov. Very ornate walls and ceilings and a very impressive Shul by any standards. Our Israeli guide Angela told us that despite the huge investment in refurbishing the Shul – they hardly have any minyans and haven’t had a wedding or a Brit for a very long time. As Bilha ( from our group) said “the Shul is another monument to the Jewish Community that once thrived in Lvov”. I found it a bit “too ornate” and crowded with paintings and images on the walls and ceilings.
( see video and pics – still to be posted)
Continuing our tour we then went to see the area of the Janowska concentration camp. Part of the area today is an active prison and has foreboding walls (probably some of the original ) topped with barbed wire and electric wiring.
At the one end of this huge area on the outskirts of Lvov ( “conveniently” located near the railway station and easily contained by the walls and fences ) is a very large stone placed there by the Lvov Jewish community (illegally – according to Tanya). On the stone is a plaque commemorating the horrific deaths of hundreds of thousands of Jews in that camp.
We held a modest but moving ceremony and sang hatikva at the end. Angela read a couple of emotional texts and Yossi Rand also read a poem.
I was the last to leave the site as I took a few more pictures and as I turned to leave a large black and rather evil looking German Shephard (Alsation) dog appeared in the area where we were standing….quite a spooky feeling given that Alsations were extensively used by the Nazis. How many dogs tore through the flesh of Jews during the holocaust ?
So we ended our tour this afternoon and I now need to process and deal with the flow of information and experiences I have had in the last week….
In the evening after dinner, each member of the group gave his/ her personal summary of the trip and provided feedback to Angela who organized and accompanied us on the trip. This lasted about 90 minutes and each person was filmed. Lots of positive, heartfelt and grateful words were expressed by speakers to the group and to Angela.
First few comments in Hebrew from the Margalits and Yossi Ran.
Other members of the group
and other members of the group summarise the tour
further summaries from members of the group
Angel Mendel (organiser and guide) summarises
I commented that it had been an incredibly meaningful trip for me and it had partially ” closed a circle ” amongst the many connected with my heritage. Having a first generation member in the group like Shmuel Wachtel gave the whole experience an extremely important dimension and his particular personality, story and physical stamina at 83 was an inspiration to us all. One member of the group commented, so rightly, on how he had come through the holocaust and yet remained such a positive and inspiring person with a message for future generations.
Sharing experiences with members of the group also added an important richness to the week’s visit to this area. Each person brought a different dimension but there was general consensus that we all benefited from hearing those stories and witnessing the places they were connected to.
We all agreed that something needs to be done to ensure the protection and maintenance of the Jewish memorial sites in and around Boryslav and Drohovitz. This will be presented as a challenge to members of the B & D organization.