Andrew Baker AJC
Andrew Baker of the American Jewish Committee speaks during a new conference in Berlin, Germany, Jan. 21, 2011. Photo by AP
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The American Jewish Committee announced this weekend that they have formed an international coalition for the protection of mass graves of Holocaust victims in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.

The coalition, which will focus on research and expertise of leading organizations to identify the mass graves needed protection, will be funded by the German government.

“This is a long-term effort that will not be accomplished easily and perhaps never completely, but we shall properly honor the memory of these Holocaust victims,” said Rabbi Andrew Baker, AJC Director of International Jewish Affairs.

Last year before the annual anniversary for the liberation of Auschwitz on January 27, 1945, AJC called for “a concerted and comprehensive effort to identify, protect and memorialize the mass graves of Holocaust victims throughout Eastern Europe.”

“It is important to remember that the Holocaust did not begin in Auschwitz,” said Rabbi Baker. “It began 70 years ago with the mass killings of Jews who lived in the towns and villages that came under German occupation as Nazi troops marched eastward. Before the death camps and crematoria were planned and built, more than one and a half million Jews were shot and buried in shallow unmarked graves.”

Alongside the AJC, members of the coalition to protect and memorialize the mass graves include the Conference of European Rabbis, the Committee for the Preservation of Jewish Cemeteries in Europe, the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and the German War Graves Commission.

Other organizations participating in the endeavor are the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, the Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies, the Union of Jewish Religious Communities in Poland, the Brussels-based Lo Tishkach, and the Belarus Jewish Community.