Dealing with the Past and Jewish History in the Balkans - International Youth Workcamp

forumZFD and partners are organizing an international youth workcamp on “Dealing with the Past and Jewish History in the Balkans”. The idea behind the action is to promote peace, remembrance and understanding by supporting the revitalization of the abandoned historical Jewish cemetery in Bitola.

A neglected historical site and (almost) forgotten narrative…
The project will take place in Bitola, in south-western Macedonia. The country’s second largest city is a border town with its roots nestled in antiquity. Situated on trade routes which used to link Europe with the Orient throughout many centuries, the city had been a busy intersection in which members with different religious, cultural and national backgrounds have made their homes. The Jewish cemetery, which is considered to be the oldest and largest of its kind in the Balkans, testifies for the large Jewish community that lived here for almost five centuries. At the same time, it testifies for this community’s attrition as a consequence of the devastating blows that the city has suffered with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, the Balkan Wars and WWI. The cemetery ceased functioning in March 1943 when the devastation of the Holocaust completely wiped out the local Jewish community. Despite its immense cultural, educational and economic potential, the Jewish cemetery in Bitola is completely abandoned and neglected.

…transforming into a meeting point for remembering the past
In 2015, a local initiative was started to revitalize the cemetery to create a memorial park named “Home of the living memories”. The overall objectives behind the idea are to transform the neglected and abandoned historical site into a meeting point of remembrance of the past and for perspectives towards the future welfare of all, to revive the cosmopolitan spirit of Bitola and to publically promote values of understanding and peace. forumZFD and its partners Youth Cultural Center - Bitola, Holocaust Fund for the Jews of Macedonia and pax christi Aachen jointly organize an international youth workcamp in September 2016 to support the memorial park initiative. Through this we want to contribute to developing an inclusive culture of remembrance in Macedonia and the wider region.

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