Recently, officials in Lviv, Ukraine have announced that they will no longer use Jewish headstones as paving materials. In 1947, Soviet authorities built a local market using Jewish headstones as pavement for it. Meylakh Sheykhet, UCSJ’s Ukraine Bureau Director, was instrumental in lobbying for the headstones’ removal.
The gravestones will be transferred to the only remaining Jewish cemetery in the area.
Below is a translation of the letter Meylakh Sheykhet sent to the mayor of Lviv regarding a variety of issues involving Jewish cultural preservation, including the use of headstones as pavement:
Mr. Andriy Sadovy
Mayor of Lviv
February 18, 2013
Dear Mr. Sadovy:
In response to your letter dated December 13, 2012 we would like to state the following:
On April 23, 2010 the Lviv City Council Executive Committee issued Decision No. 446 wherein it resolved to carry out the International Design Competition for Sites of Jewish History in Lviv in order to “motivate to reconsider and represent the important places in Lviv connected with the history of the Jewish community as part of a multicultural heritage of the city.”
Decision No. 446 is illegal as it involves land issues for the abovementioned places that can be decided upon exclusively by the elected members of the Lviv City Council.
In addition to the Lviv City Council Executive Committee the following organizers of the International Design Competition for Sites of Jewish History in Lviv were announced at a public hearing: Ukrainian-German project entitled Municipal Development and Rehabilitation of the Old City of Lviv jointly executed by the Lviv City Administration and German Society for International Cooperation GTZ (headquartered at the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, Bohomoltsya 6 St., Lviv).
Decision No. 446 of the Lviv City Council Executive Committee was adopted in spite of its contents, which stated that the responsibility for the implementation of the competition was assigned to the Executive Committee, but during the public hearing, contrary to this, the responsibility for the competition was assigned to Sofiya Dyak, project coordinator at the Center for Urban History of East Central Europe.
As seen from the text of the Decision, the legal basis of the competition was grounded in the municipal regulations of the Lviv City Council Executive Committee, without providing justification for this decision from relevant substantive law of Ukraine and international agreements, including the Agreement with UNESCO for the preservation of Ensemble of the Historic City Centre that had been inscribed in the World Heritage List.
The Lviv City Council Executive Committee breached the competition procedure in several ways:
- The pre-requisite conditions of the competition were not agreed with the Department of Cultural Heritage of the Lviv Regional State Administration, the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine and the UNESCO World Heritage Centre in Paris, France and with the Jewish community of Lviv and the world.
- Contrary to the Decision No. 446 the Lviv City Council Executive Committee removed itself from liability for the competition, delegating the powers to a foreign organization that has not been designated by any authority in the Decision No. 446.
- The requirements mentioned in points 1.1 … 1.4,2.2 … 2.3, 3.1 … 3.15 of the Decree No. 231/806 dated November 30, 2004 by the State Committee of Ukraine on Building and Architecture at the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine were not kept.
- The Law of Ukraine on Architectural Activity as well as the Regulation for the Organization of Competitions was not taken into account in the Decision No. 466 of the Lviv City Council Executive Committee.
- The competition lacks important provisions:
5.1 Restrictions according to the special status of areas inscribed into the UNESCO World Heritage List.
5.2 Special status of the land of burial sites at the Old Jewish Cemetery (Krakivsky market), places of mass execution by the German Nazis and the territory of the Yanivsky Camp, as recognized by the laws of Ukraine, international agreements between Ukraine and the United States as of March 4, 1994, the Vienna Convention 1969.
At the public hearing, the members of the City Council and Executive Committee, the Ukrainian community leaders, and representatives of the Jewish community of Lviv stated that the international competition and the way it was organized did not comply with the laws of Ukraine and international agreements, the interests of preserving the Jewish heritage in Lviv. It was stated that this competition had become a misrepresentation of historical truth, illegal appropriation of land, illegal granting of land to be used for the trading lots of the Krakivsky market and to build a hotel on Fedorova St. – the land, which belongs to the Lviv community – through unlawful delegation of crucial powers to foreign organizations, namely the German Technical Cooperation GTZ, project for the Municipal Development and Rehabilitation of the Old City of Lviv (Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, Bohomoltsya 6 St., Lviv).
The question of proper preservation of the cultural heritage is regulated not only by the above-mentioned provisions of the substantive law and international agreements, but also by the Protocol of 1996 following a meeting in Lviv, recommendations of USAID and the Government of Ukraine Decree dated December 21, 2010 and the Vienna Convention 1969.
However, despite the need for implementation of the grant of the U.S. Embassy, the Lviv City Council organized a controversial competition, disregarding the existence of the U.S. Ambassador grant for scientific research in this same area of the medieval Jewish district of Lviv on 23-27, 28 Fedorova Street. Thus, the Lviv City Council turned a blind eye to the ongoing international cooperation in the project under the US Ambassador Grant, abandoning substantial assistance to the city of Lviv in the study and restoration of the medieval Jewish Quarter, and ignoring the decision of the Government of Ukraine and the request of UNESCO.
In view of the activities of the German Technical Cooperation GTZ, project for the Municipal Development and Rehabilitation of the Old City of Lviv and Center for Urban History of East Central Europe, at 6 Bohomoltsya St., Lviv – the decision to delegate them the powers of the Lviv City Council Executive Committee has translated into a conflict of interests – a situation that contradicts the Rule of Law in Ukraine and its international agreements.
The Lviv City Council Executive Committee continues to ignore the need to honor the memorial places of the Jewish people in Lviv and the surrounding, tortured by the Holocaust, namely:
- The Old Jewish Cemetery continues to be used at the behest of the Lviv City Council Executive Committee as a market place – the Krakivsky market – despite the status of this land as a burial site that forbids privatization and misuse of such land. Moreover, the Lviv City Council Executive Committee ignores the Decree of the Central Government dated December 21, 2012 – issued by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine concerning the inscription of the Old Jewish Cemetery in Lviv into the National Register of Monuments of Ukraine as a historical monument of local importance.
- The Lviv City Council Executive Committee continues to defend in court the illegal construction of the hotel on the Fedorova St. 23-28, ignoring legislation and international agreements of Ukraine, requirements of the World Heritage Centre in Paris, ignoring the unique surviving synagogue building complex Turei Zahav, built during 16th -18th century and not facilitating their authentic preservation. The construction of the hotel, if it were to happen, would ruin – with its physical weight, communication requirements and historical architectural disharmony – the historic environment and the remnants of Turei Zahav (Golden Rose) Synagogue.
- At the Citadel – Concentration Camp Shtalag-328, the site of the Tower of Death, where the German Nazis killed 20 000 Jews, among many other POWs from the countries of the anti-Hitler coalition – now operates a fashionable restaurant and other recreational facilities, disharmonious to this memorial site.
- Regarding the mass graves in Bilohorshcha, Lysynychi, Vynnyky, Brukhovychi, in Lviv on Pasichna Street – the Lviv City Council Executive Committee did not give any positive response to the documents submitted by our organization.
- With the acquiescence of the Lviv City Council Executive Committee there is an anti-Semitic “Jewish tavern” called At the Golden Rose and an anti-Ukrainian restaurant Kryivka.
Your references to the untidiness of the territory of the local Jewish history only emphasize the idleness on the part of the Lviv City Council Executive Committee in ensuring proper care for the historic sites (which does not cost so much) because timely and proper cleaning, monitoring respect for the parking ban on the holy memorial site of the Great Synagogue on Arsenalna square and other areas are part and parcel of the public utility services of the city. Actions of the Lviv City Council Executive Committee must clearly meet all the substantive law of Ukraine and international agreements in the field of preservation of historical and cultural heritage.
Hence we request you to:
1. Consider this letter and provide an answer based on the legislation of Ukraine and international agreements, the requirements of UNESCO.
2. Void the Decision No. 446 dated April 23, 2010 of the Lviv City Council Executive Committee.