The "Holocaust Cellar" will become a new feature of the Holocaust museum in the pre-war home of Nobel Prize-winning author Elie Wiesel, in the courtyard of the old Jewish Ghetto of Sighet in Maramures County. The cellar will serve as a learning center dedicated to the 13,000 local Holocaust victims.
The opening, which will take place on Sunday, is sponsored jointly by the Government of Romania, the City of Sighet, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Romanian Jewish Federation and Limmud FSU.
Other events include a concert memorializing Holocaust victims on Saturday night, after Shabbat.
"I am honored and deeply moved that my cherished home in Sighet has become a place Romanians and others can learn about the crimes of the Holocaust, and how the Jewish community was wiped out," said Professor Elie Wiesel. "The opening of the Holocaust Cellar supports my life’s efforts to ensure that humanity never forgets the evil that took place there and throughout Europe."
In 1944, two days after Passover, the Jews of Maramures County, in northern Transylvania, were rounded up and forced into 13 ghettos. Eventually, 131,639 Jews from Marmures County were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, and most were exterminated.
Between 280,000 and 380,000 Romanian and Ukrainian Jews were murdered or died during the Holocaust in Romania and the territories under its control. An additional 135,000 Romanian Jews living under Hungarian control in Northern Transylvania also perished in the Holocaust, as did some 5,000 Romanian Jews in other countries.
'Ensuring Jews' story will not be forgotten'"The story of the Jews who lived in North Transylvania has not been widely told until now, and we’re proud to help begin this next chapter," said Chaim Chesler, chairman of the Memory Committee of the Claims Conference. "The education center commemorates the terrible fate that befell the Jews of this area, and ensures their story will not be forgotten."
"This is the first time that Sighet organizes such a major event in memory of its active and vibrant Jewish community," stressed the ceremonies' Israeli initiator, Pnina Zilberman, a second generation to the town's survivors.
She said she received a great amount of support from the manager of the Elie Wiesel Memorial House in Sighet, Alina Marincean, as well as from the young mayor, Ovidiu Nemesh.
Only several Jews live in Sighet, which has a population of some 44,000 people today. About 100 Jews from all over the world will participate in the ceremonies. Only few of them are Holocaust survivors and most are members of the second generations. Elie Wiesel will not attend the events in his hometown for health reasons.
The inauguration of the Holocaust education center will be attended by Romanian Minister of Religious Affairs Viktor Opaschi; Deputy Minister of Education Irina Cajal; Ben Helfgott, vice president of the Claims Conference and a leader in the UK Holocaust survivor community; Romanian parliament members; Romania's Chief Rabbi of Rafael Sheffer; cantor Yosef Adler; Sighet Mayor Ovidiu Nemesh; Harry Marcus, head of the Sighet Jewish community and other leaders of the Romanian Jewish Federation; prominent journalists from Israel, the United States and Romania; and members of Limmud FSU.