Chisinau (Kishinev), today capital of the Republic of Moldova, became known for the notorious anti-Jewish pogrom of 1903. However, by1920, about 260,000 Jews lived in Moldova, and some villages were made up of Jews by 80 percent.
During World War II, about 200 concentration camps and ghettos were set up in Moldova (or Bessarabia, as it was then known). Hundreds of thousands of Jews, Roma and other persecuted minorities were murdered there.
Today, the Jewish community of Moldova plays an important role in building a cohesive society as well as preserving the memory of the past .
On 27 Januar, Moldova marked National Holocaust Remembrance Day for the first time. Over several days, the Jewish Community, in collaboration with the government of Moldova and with the financial support of the European Union and the Council of Europe, organized a series of commemorative events, including theater and musical performances.
Several hundred people brought flowers to the Memorial to the Victims of Fascism, built on the place where mass execution of Jews, Roma, Russians, Moldovans took place during the war. The monument created by sculptor Aurel David during the 1960s was reconstructed last year at the initiative and due to the funding of the Jewish community, with the support of private donors and international partners. Community leaders, high rank officials, diplomats, as well as the representatives of civil society attended the gathering.
On 28 January, a press conference was held with the participation of Moldovan government members, the heads of the EU Delegation, the Council of Europe Office, and the OSCE Mission in Chisinau, as well as representatives of international organizations and foreign embassies. All participants stressed the importance of keeping the memory of the tragic events, and expressed appreciation for the contribution the Jewish community has made in promoting Holocaust remembrance.
Jewish community President Alexandr Bilinkis highlighted the importance of Moldova's decision to introduce in its official calendar Holocaust Remembrance Day. At the same time, he expressed the community’s regret over the insufficient involvement of state authorities in the achievement of other important goals such as the development and introduction of an educational program on Holocaust Remembrance in schools, the creation of a museum of Jewish history and culture, modifications in the current legislation to punish Holocaust denial, the restitution of the expropriated communal property.
Moldova declared independence in 1991 as part of the dissolution of the Soviet Union.