[Cz-L] Report on trip to Chernivtsi

From: flo heymann <floheymann_at_hotmail.com>
Date: Mon, 02 Jun 2008 12:25:47 -0400
To: Czernowitz-L_at_cornell.edu
Reply-to: flo heymann <floheymann_at_hotmail.com>

Report on trip to Chernivtsi

Dear friends,

This is a report on our trip to Chernivtsi to
discuss the Jewish museum. Leo, Florence and
Marianne arrived by air from Kiev and we want you
all to know that the flight on Aerosvit from Kiev
to Chernivtsi on the new Saab 340 plane was very
pleasant and totally unproblematic. We arrived
Tuesday May 27.

A nice surprise as well, was the hotel Magnat
Luks in the center of the city near the
Ringplatz. We had large rooms with plasma TVs,
large baths, even Jacuzzis; the hotel is moderate
in size, centrally located, and we recommend it
highly. Unfortunately there is no breakfast
served but they do make good coffee. They also
do not accept credit cards.

Cornel joined us the first evening and we all
went to Café Vienna to have dinner with Josef
Zissels who spent the next day with us as well.
We met with Natalya Shevchentko on Wednesday
10:30 -2; we had a translator, Uliana, and then
another, Natasha. Joseph Zissels took us out to
lunch in a lovely restaurant outside the city.
We continued to meet after lunch until evening,
also with Margit Bartfelt-Feller who was in
Chernivtsi for her book presentation with her
daughter, and with several researchers working on
the museum. On Thursday, Josef and Nalalya
prepared a tour of Jewish sites in Chernivtsi for
us, including two synagogues (the new Chabad
house that will include a school, a community
center, a mikvah, etc. is being renovated now by
Rabbi Menachem Glitzinshtein whom we met), the
Jewish school and the inside of the old Grosse
Schul (which is also being totally refurbished
and cleaned up. This was very instructive for us
because it allowed us to see the museum planners'
vision of the future of Jewish life in
Chernivtsi. We worked on the museum all of
Wdnesday morning, Thursday afternoon and a good
part of Friday. In addition to Josef Zissels and
Natalya Shevchenko, we met several local
historians who are in charge of some parts of the
exhibition, including Oleg Surovtsev - a
professor of History at Chernivtsi University,
who is researching and designing the Holocaust

The museum construction is well underway. The
allotted space within the Jewish House is really
quite small: two rooms, attractively repainted
and refurbished, will contain twelve display
cases (reflecting the 12 Jewish signs of the
zodiac, related to the Jewish calendar). A
frieze with pictures of synagogues and other
buildings of the Bukowina will hang above the
display cases, and a model of the Czernowitz
temple will be in the center of one of the rooms.
We had some very interesting and productive
discussions with Natalya and we all learned a
great deal. Her background in museology is
impeccable and she has studied Czernowitz Jewry
for many years. She was a central player in the
creation of the memorial to the Jews killed near
the Pruth by Einzatsgruppen in 1941. We
concluded that the museum has two principal
functions that explain the basic layout of the
exhibit. Having understood these functions we
understand better the choices that are being
made. As we see it, the first function is to
give a historical account of two hundred years of
Jewish history in the entire Bukowina, with equal
emphasis on urban and rural Jewish life. This
means a presentation of the movement from the
shtetl to the Stadt, and from religion to civic,
cultural and political urban life. The second
function is to support the present-day revival of
Jewish life in the region. In this sense the
museum is one of a number of new Jewish religious
and pedagogical institutions that are emerging in
this region of the Ukraine. For example, the
Jewish school in Chernivtsi teaches Jewish
history but not specifically the history of the
region: the museum could fill in this gap. The
intended audience for the museum consists of
local Jews, as well as the local non-Jewish
community, as well as tourists drawn to the city
and to the 600th Anniversary celebrations.

The design of the exhibition is limited by the
materials that are available to the curator and
to the local historians working on its physical
implementation, and this is where our group comes
in. A museum needs original objects and
documents but they have very few on hand at this
point. Each of these objects and images have to
be precisely documented and authenticated. IF
sufficient to attract the attention of viewers
and to give the museum the weight and importance
it deserves. Especially important are objects
that reflect everyday life, so that the
distinctive civil culture of Czernowitz will be
able to come alive. They are also very
interested in Judaica: if anyone has objects to
donate, especially objects that are
characteristic of Czernowitz Jewry, please
consider doing so.

We spent the majority of our time on a few issues
that seemed central to us and to which we felt we
could contribute. First, we urged the museum
planners to reconsider the balance between
religious and secular life in Bukowina - which,
at this point, is heavily weighted towards the
religious - and, in their religious displays, to
focus on local habits and practices, rather than
generally applicable ones. Second, we also
hoped that a somewhat greater emphasis would be
given to the contribution of Jews and their
central role in trade, business and economy. Our
main discussion topic with Natalya and Oleg dealt
with the wartime displays - the Russian year
40/41 and the Holocaust display. There is little
original material on the Russian year - there are
virtually no photos, nor documents and the
display job is very difficult. We made some
proposals about some types of documents that
could be displayed: quotations from testimonies,
for example, or portraits of individuals who were
either deported by the Soviets or fled to the
Soviet Union, as well as the report of the French
cultural attaché in Chernovtsy who collected oral
testimonies he wrote up immediately, etc. We
also stressed that the Russian year should not
receive equal attention as the Holocaust, but
should be secondary in relative importance.

The Holocaust display poses the greatest
difficulties for the museum planners for a host
of political, ideological and historical reasons.
Besides the political reasons, the historical
interpretation of this unique Holocaust story
poses difficulties to Ukrainian historians,
concerning the possibility of collaboration and
bribes, the implication of Ukrainians and
Romanians in the atrocities committed. We
emphasized that despite these difficulties, this
story is extremely important to tell, that it is
indeed unique and that the story of rescue is
inspiring and worthy of special attention.

The display will focus on three periods: 1. the
summer of 1941, the shootings by the Pruth, and
the issue of various orders concerning Jews; 2.
The formation of the ghetto, the deportations in
41 and 42, the issuing of authorizations to
remain and the role of Popovici, and the
dissolution of the ghetto; 3. Jewish life in
Cernauti during the rest of the war years.
There will not be displays on Transnistria, just
some images of the deportations.

We left happy that there would be a museum and
with the hope that this is only a small beginning
of a larger and more ambitious project. Although
we don't agree with all the choices and emphases,
we are confident that the historical display will
be accurate and responsible. The materials we
delivered are helpful but, as we said above, the
museum needs originals.

Marianne, Leo, Cornel, Florence
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Received on 2008-06-02 16:25:47

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