Subject :Holocaust Survivor in Macedonia Cheers Move to Mark Jewish Past of Bitola
BITOLA, Macedonia, April 7 (JTA) -- It can be easy to miss, tucked away on the outskirts of the town whose 70 grand mosques pay more obvious testament to its Turkish past.
But plans are under way to revive this key symbol of Macedonia's Jewish past -- its 500-year-old Jewish cemetery.
Sadly, the burial site, together with a single memorial to Holocaust victims, is all that remains to pay homage to Bitola's vibrant prewar Jewish population. Like its Jews, the five synagogues and Jewish school all disappeared as a result of the Holocaust.
Decades of socialism left the grass growing over the graves -- and Jewish culture buried -- in a country where ethnic tensions have recently flared.
All that could soon change, however. An ambitious $190,000 plan is in progress to restore the cemetery, which contains approximately 2,000 graves and is one of the oldest in the Balkans, and turn the site into a memorial park. It is to contain 3,200 plants, one for each Bitola Jew deported to Nazi death camps.
Organizers hope that by next March, the 60th anniversary of the deportation of the town's entire Jewish population to Treblinka concentration camp, the restoration will be complete.
A new pavilion housing a tiny museum to the town's former Jewish population has just opened at the cemetery and a second room will recreate a typical Jewish home in Bitola in the 1940s. The museum contains text and photographs of the city's former Jewish residents