Remember Ostrava

Gravestones removed from the Jewish cemetery by the Nazis: They were dug out, and removed so that no trace of or monument to the Jewish community of Hlucin would remain. they were placed lining a drainage ditch, some kilometers from the cemetery. In January, workmen from the city of Hlucin public works department discovered the gravestones that had been separated from the cemetery for more than half a century. 

A message from Josh

            I went to Ostrava in the summer of 2006 primarily to play ice hockey for a Czech high school team in the local arena (the coach of my New York City based team is from Ostrava ).  After returning to America , I began to wonder about the Jewish community of Ostrava .  Had there been a vibrant Jewish community there, what was its history and what became of it during the Holocaust?  After doing research online and making contact with the Czech Heritage Action Initiative (CHAI) and the Jewish Community of Ostrava (JCC), I returned to Ostrava in the summer of 2007.  The trip was a meaningful and life-changing experience.  I spent time with various members of the Jewish community who took me to the JCC, the two Jewish cemeteries, and the newly discovered Jewish tombstones in nearby Hlucin, which had been discarded into a drainage ditch by the Nazis during the Holocaust.  My younger brother and I spent a day helping to unearth some of these tombstones.  It was an emotionally draining day.  Reading the tombstones and some of the broken pieces with Hebrew writing made me wonder about the lives of the Jewish people who had once lived in Hlucin.  The utter disrespect for the tombstones was overwhelming. (See my pictures above.)  The Jewish community hopes to begin work to restore dignity to the cemetery and create a memorial next spring or summer.  So far, there is no funding for this project.

            The Jewish community of Ostrava is mostly elderly.  Many Holocaust survivors are left dependent on the JCC for services which include assistance with homecare, meals, and transportation to and from rehabilitation. These services allow these elderly survivors to remain independent in their homes. We must put our knowledge of the Holocaust to use and help those elderly survivors who are living out their final years alone.  By providing the assistance necessary to allow them to remain in the comfort of their own homes we can ensure that their remaining days are dignified. Mr. Walter Kranz, a survivor of Thereisenstadt, is one of the sweetest and most energetic men I have ever met. (See his profile above.)  He is 85 years old and would like to remain independent and self sufficient in his home and not in a Czech elderly facility. 

            Please help this rapidly aging Jewish community in Ostrava and help restore dignity to the gravestones of former Jewish residents of Hlucin.  By helping these Holocaust survivors and Hidden Children of Ostrava and preserving the memory of those Jews who lived there though the restoration of its cemeteries, we can work towards Tikkun Olam the repair of the world. 

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From Right: Josh, his brother Jack, Coach Martin and Waltr Kranz

Jack and Josh with Jirina Garajova, Chairwoman of the Ostrava Jewish Community

 

Lisa B. Feder