The Jewish Cemetery on Gorechi Hill, Zelena Street in Chernivtsi originated in 1866 and more than sixty thousand are buried there. An old Orthodox and a Jewish cemetery were united in one historical reserve. In the book “Ghosts of Home” by Marianne Hirsch and Leo Spitzer, the authors note that in 1998 the cemetery was greatly neglected. The domed mortuary was an empty shell, with doors ripped from their frames. Hebrew writing was still visible on an inside wall but the walls were riddled with holes and graffiti.
In 2002, the Heritage Foundation for Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries, a.k.a. Avoyseinu, was established as a nonprofit to assist Jews to restore Eastern European Jewish cemeteries. They even publish a newsletter, available in English or Yiddish, detailing restoration and cleanup efforts. The Chernivtsi cemetery is not one of their projects, but their website has detailed information on their many projects.
A number of projects have been initiated in recent years to document and to rehabilitate the Chernivtsi cemetery.
In 2008 the Czernowitz Cemetery Clean-up Project was initiated. Volunteer youth groups, through Service Civil International cleaned up weeds and bushes to prepare paths to be re-cemented or graveled, as well as photographing graves. Ukranian soldiers joined the clean-up effort in July 2011 – photos HERE.
Additionally, in 2005 a project was proposed by a Helmut Kusdat to restore the mortuary. His photos HERE detail the condition of the Leichenhalle (mortuary). We also have Helmut to thank for various published maps of Cernauti and other resources, including a book published in 2001, “Illustrated Guide Through the Bukovina”
The Czernowitz Burial Register Project was completed around 2011 – initiated and funded by the Jewish Genealogical Society of Ottawa. The graves were photographed so data could be recorded, which is now part of the JewishGen databases. The translators working on the project accomplished a tremendous task. The total entries were 60k, with 3,200 from the Chernivtsi cemetery alone (Cemetery IDUKR-00389)
Blei Family Graves
My great-grandmother Gusta (Hebrew name Golde) Sandberg Blei also lies there, in Area 133/Parcel 21D/Plot 23. She died on 19 August 1934. Also Chaim Blei, my great-great grandfather who died in 1924 (Buried in Area 109/ Parcel 46b, Plot 177). Gusta was married to Salomon Selig Blei, Chaim’s son. Their children were Aaron, Alter, Regina, Ettel (my grandmother), and Mina.
My great-aunt Mina (Hebrew name Mindel) Blei Reinstein is buried there (data and grave photo from JewishGen). She died in Cernauti in 1932 on 19 July, 1932, at age 34, and is buried in Areas 119 & 126 / Parcel 21C / Row 8, Plot 152. Her gravestone is rather grand.
Besides the graves and mortuaries you would find in any cemetery, there are four mass graves:
- Jewish soldiers from WW1
- Mass grave for Turkish soldiers from WW1
- The remains of 695 Romanian soldiers who died during WW2
- Mass grave of 400 Jewish citizens of Chernivtsi killed in 1941-1942
The Vanished World blog has detailed coverage on cleanup efforts at the Chernivtsi Jewish Cemetery. They additionally offer a download of a free hi-res PDF calendar. Our cemetery is Miss September. DOWNLOAD HERE