From the 22nd to the 29th of June 2019, a group of five Austrians, three Germans and six participants from the Netherlands visited Christians for Israel Ukraine, to take part in a working trip.
Apart from seeing significant historical sites, packing food-parcels, visiting Holocaust survivors at their homes and meeting Jewish people at community centres, schools and an orphanage, we took part in the unveiling of a very special memorial in Bratslav- an urban-type settlement in Ukraine near the burial site of the famous Rabbi Nathan, the best student of Rabbi Nachman (buried in Uman).
The significance of this memorial is that it combines three different groups of people in its commemoration: Those who perished in the Holocaust, the victims of the Pogroms in Ukraine and the Righteous who risked their lives to save Jews.
As Christians for Israel helped to fund the memorial, Koen Carlier (UA), Marie-Louise Weissenböck (Chair C4I in Austria and Regional Director Europe) and Anemone Rüger (Project manager for helping the Holocaust survivors -appointed by Christians for Israel) were invited to speak. Other speakers were the Rabbi from Vinnitsa, the district governor who spoke on behalf of the Catholic church, a historian from Vinnitsa and the leader of the Jewish community in Bratslav.
Koen Carlier spoke about the commitment of Christians for Israel International to stand by the Jewish people and the work that he and his team have been doing in Ukraine for more than twenty years. Most Europeans had little knowledge of what happened in Ukraine during World War II, but as volunteers from different countries have come to help and learn about the history, reconciliation has started to take place. He pointed out that we cannot change the past, but we are called to shape a better future for the Jewish people in Ukraine and worldwide.
Anemone Rüger talked about an old German man who had it on his heart to express his love for the Jewish people, coming from a family of perpetrators, and presented the leader of the Jewish community a letter from him.
Addressing the Jewish community, Marie-Louise Weissenböck acknowledged the very dark past that Austria has with the Jewish people; Hitler coming from Austria and many Austrians who had joined the Nazis.
On behalf of the Austrian group she expressed her sincere regret for what people from Austria had done to the Jews in Ukraine and elsewhere.
Today, in a time where antisemitism again raises its ugly head, there are many Christians in Austria who stand with the Jewish people, lifting their voices against antisemitism and anti-Zionism and for Israel, she said. God has given us a second chance, which we are deeply grateful for and humbled by.
After reciting the El Male Rachamim, the Rabbi of Vinnitsa, together with Koen Carlier, the district governor and a historian from Vinnitsa unveiled the memorial.