Israeli And German Consulates Collaborate To Restore Chinchpokli Jewish Cemetery, Sole Holocaust Memorial In India

Israeli And German Consulates Collaborate To Restore Chinchpokli Jewish Cemetery, Sole Holocaust Memorial In India

Mumbai's small Jewish community, which is estimated to number a few thousand, has very few memories of the Holocaust survivors who are reported to have reached India.

Manoj RamakrishnanUpdated: Thursday, April 18, 2024, 02:14 AM IST
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The Chinchpokli Jewish cemetery, which has the only memorial in India to European Jews who fled Nazi persecution, will be restored in a joint project between the Israeli and German consulates in the city.The cemetery, which has over a thousand graves, is also the resting place of about 17 German, Polish, Austrian, and Czechoslovakians who were among the 2500 Jews who sought shelter in British India during World War II. A majority of the refugees left for the United Kingdom after India's independence, but a handful stayed back and died here.

The marble tablets embedded in the walls of the cemetery's small hall, inscribed with the names of the refugees, make the site the only Holocaust memorial in India.The cemetery's restoration plans will include the installation of a plaque to commemorate the survivors, restored tombs, landscaping, and ornamental gates, among other things. The cemetery, located along the busy Central Railway corridor, is hidden behind high walls.Details of the project are still not available, but Israeli embassy officials said the work to renovate the cemetery and the graves will start shortly.The memorial will be included in the 'Jewish Route' an itinerary of Jewish sites, including synagogues, cemeteries, and sites associated with the Jewish settlement in India. 

Tracing the Roots Of Holocaust Refugees Buried At Chinchpokli Cemetery

Information on the identity and numbers of the refugees buried at the cemetery are sketchy, and currently, available information is based on a book written by a researcher who had visited the cemetery. There is no information if those buried in the cemetery have descendants in India or abroad ndia. The Israeli embassy has contacted the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, Israel, which maintains a database on victims and survivors of the massacre, for help in identifying the families of the refugees.

"We sent the names to Yad Vashem to confirm if they have families that passed away in the holocaust and are trying to gather more information about them," said a member of the staff at the Consulate General of Israel in Mumbai. "What is believed is that they have run away from Europe during World War II and before that and reached India. We have no idea how many came."

Chinchpokli Cemetery And Mumbai's Jewish Community

The cemetery at Chinchpokli was set up in 1878 by Elias David Sassoon, a member of the wealthy and philanthropic Sassoon family. A marble tablet on the cemetery's gate says that the burial ground was created in memory of Sassoon's son, Joseph, who died in Shanghai a decade ago. The cemetery has graves of members of the Sassoon family. Solomon Sopher, chairman and managing trustee of Sir Jacob Sassoon and Allied Trusts, said that the cemetery was being restored. 

Mumbai's small Jewish community, which is estimated to number a few thousand, has very few memories of the Holocaust survivors who are reported to have reached India. Rivca Elias, a member of a Reformed Jewish group in the city, said that, as a five-year-old in the 1950s, she had a dentist who was of Polish origin. "He lived in Churchgate, but left India a few years later," said Elias. In the sixties, the city had a Rabbi of Polish origins, named Hugo Gryn, who grew up in Britain after surviving the Holocaust as a child. He left India after two years of service with the Reformed Jewish community. 

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