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Use our multimedia maps, and explore the family pictures, archival material, and personal stories of 21 Jewish Holocaust survivors to get a unique insight into the rich Jewish heritage of these two European cities.
The Jewish Cemetery is located just outside the city center and its size is impressive: Its 25,000 graves on an area of one million square meters are hard to overview. The best view is probably from the upper floors of the ten-story apartment block next to the cemetery wall.
The renovation of the long-neglected cemetery began in late 2018 but even today, entire areas are still badly damaged or barely accessible. Graves and food paths are covered by thick vegetation, and visitors can see many broken or fallen tombstones. A large number of tombs in the eastern part date back to before World War Two.
In a Centropa interview, Boris Dorfman recalls his grandmother Brucha Zinger, née Rosenfeld, who was born in Chişinău in the 1860s and was laid to rest in the cemetery during the Romanian period:
I remember my grandmother when she was old. She was a short, burly woman who always wore a black dress. She died in 1937 and had a traditional Jewish funeral. Almost the whole town came to pay last respect to her. She was carried all the way to the Jewish cemetery on the outskirts of town. A mourning prayer was recited over her grave. This cemetery was destroyed after the war when Soviet authorities were trying to destroy the memory of the Jews who lived in this town. Now there is a park on the spot, which has almost become part of the center of Chişinău.
Until the late 1950s, the Jewish cemetery used to be even larger than it is today, as historical records prove. The oldest part, from around 1820, had to give way to the Parcul Alunelul. Only the upper part of the cemetery has been preserved and is still used as a Jewish burial site.
If you pass the entrance gate and move along the cemetery wall to the left, you will reach the oldest part of the preserved cemetery. The cemetery wall itself is worth a look: inscriptions and signs on stones refer to the fact that tombstones of the abandoned cemetery were used to build the new wall.
In the oldest part, you come across Beit Taara, the ruins of the former mourning or grave synagogue. The building is in poor condition, but you can guess its former grandeur. Here the preparations for burials were carried out, the ritual washing of the body and the putting on of the shroud. The victims of the 1903 pogroms were buried close to the ruin; they are also the oldest graves in the cemetery. The Torah scrolls that were defiled during the pogrom are buried under a striking red brick tomb.
The majority of the graves date from the 20th century, many from the Soviet era. Bella Chanina’s family is also buried here:
In the late 1940s Grandmother returned to Chişinău from Moscow. She was missing Moldova. She died in 1950. We buried my grandmother at the Jewish cemetery, and, as required, she was wrapped in a takhrikhim. My mother didn’t allow me to go to the cemetery: those whose parents are living should not go to the cemetery. I remember my mother grieving: ‘How far away we buried Granny. Oyfn barg’ [‘To grief’ in Yiddish]. There was a flat area and then a slope in the cemetery. Nowadays my Granny’s grave is by the entrance to the cemetery, since the former area of the cemetery was given to a park in the 1960s.
Some graves of well-known people can be found in the cemetery. If you follow the main path straight ahead, you will reach the tomb of Ihil Shraibman just before a junction on the right. In 2004, a year before his death, the well-known Yiddish writer shared his life story in a Centropa interview. A few meters further on the left is the tomb of Lazar Voliovich, a well-known doctor from Chișinău also mentioned in several Centropa interviews.
The Jewish cemetery is, however, not the only site where Chişinău´s Jews are buried. The huge cemetery “St. Lazar ”, one of the largest cemeteries in Europe, is located on the northern part of the city. It also has a Jewish section where more than 10,000 Jewish graves are said to be located.