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First Public Holocaust Education Center Opens In Romania


The “Holocaust Cellar,” located in the pre-war childhood home of Elie Wiesel in Sighet, Romania, opened on 18 May.

The “Holocaust Cellar” will become a new feature of the Holocaust museum in the courtyard of the old Jewish Ghetto of Sighet in Maramures County. The cellar will serve as a learning center dedicated to the 13,000 local Holocaust victims.

“I am honored and deeply moved that my cherished home in Sighet has become a place Romanians and others can learn about the crimes of the Holocaust, and how the Jewish community was wiped out,” said Wiesel. “The opening of the Holocaust Cellar supports my life’s efforts to ensure that humanity never forgets the evil that took place there and throughout Europe.”

The opening is sponsored jointly by the Romanian government, the City of Sighet, the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, the Romanian Jewish Federation and Limmud FSU.

The ceremony was the first in a series of events marking the 70th anniversary of the deportation of the last Jews of northern Transylvania to Auschwitz-Birkenau in 1944. A concert memorializing Holocaust victims was also held on 17 May.

Among those participating in the weekend events were Romanian Religious Affairs Minister Viktor Opaschi, Deputy Education Minister Irina Cajal, Sighet Mayor Ovidiu Nemesh, Romanian Chief Rabbi Rafael Sheffer and Cantor Yosef Adler, Harry Marcus, head of the Sighet Jewish community, Ben Helfgott, a leader in the British Holocaust survivor community and UK delegate to IHRA, members of Limmud FSU, and prominent journalists.

Photo: Elisabeta Ungurianu, director of the Wiesel Institute in Romania, Chaim Chesler, the initiator of the project, Claims Conference vice president Ben Helfgott and Sighet Mayor Ovidiu Nemes. Credit: Marc Israel Sellem.