Invading Russian troops destroy historic synagogue building in Ukrainian city of Mariupol

The Mariupol Synagogue was built in 1882.

By Ben Cohen, The Algemeiner

Russian troops have destroyed a building in the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol commemorating the synagogue that was once housed there, the city council reported on Wednesday.

In a message posted to the Telegram platform, the council in Mariupol — scene of some of the worst atrocities of the ten-week-old war — asserted that the invading Russian forces had “confirmed their shameful status as racists.”

The message stated that “Russia’s ‘liberators’ are destroying everything in their path and have already surpassed the Nazis in the number of war crimes. Like the Germans during World War II, they are destroying Jewish community buildings. In Mariupol, the Russian army destroyed the building of the ‘old synagogue’ and the community center. Real barbarians of today!”

The post was accompanied by photographs showing the building in ruins. Originally constructed in 1882, the synagogue building had more recently become a site for the remembrance of the local Jewish community; last October, it hosted an exhibition commemorating the 1941 massacre of Jews in the village of Agrobaza in the Donetsk region.

During the 1930s, the synagogue was seized by the Soviet authorities. The subsequent period of Nazi occupation resulted in the synagogue being used as a hospital and as an assembly point for forced laborers who were being deported.

Following World War II, the synagogue building went through several different incarnations, being utilized consecutively as a medical school, a secretarial school, a gym, a government office and a maritime school, local broadcaster 24tv reported.

The broadcaster reported that prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Mariupol council had intended to return the building to the Jewish community for use as a synagogue. It quoted the city’s rabbi, Menachem Mendel Cohen, as saying that the building was in good condition.

“We hope that this plan will still be able to be implemented after the occupation is ended and the city is returned to Ukraine,” the council said.

Separately, Russia claimed on Wednesday that nearly 700 more Ukrainian fighters had surrendered in Mariupol, more than a day after the authorities in Kyiv ordered the garrison in the battered city to stand down. Some Ukrainian fighters have yet to surrender, however.

“Unfortunately, the subject is very sensitive and there is a very fragile set of talks going on today, therefore I cannot say anything more,” Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boichenko told the Reuters news agency. He said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the Red Cross and the United Nations were involved in talks, but gave no further details.