Žilina, July 6, 2021. At the Jewish Cemetery in Žilina in the northwest of Slovakia was planted the 17th Tree of Peace, this time dedicated to the Victims of the Holocaust. The whole event took place under the auspices of His Excellency Boaz Modai, Ambassador of the State of Israel to the Slovak Republic. The Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the Slovak Republic, Her Excellency Barbara Wolf, His Excellency Tomáš Galis, the Diocesan Bishop of Žilina, Mr. Mikhail Kapustin, the Chief (Liberal) Rabbi of Slovakia, the Mayor of Žilina Peter Fiabáne and Dr. Marek Sobola, founder of Tree of Peace and CEO of the NGO Servare et Manere, also took part in the event. The main partners of the planting event are the Jewish religious community in Žilina and Servare et Manere, Slovak non-governmental organization responsible for the implementation of the Tree of Peace. The Žilina memorial tree has a special name: “Tree of Peace in memory of Holocaust victims” and on the occasion of the planting, the Slovak Post (Slovenská pošta) issued an official Commemorative postmark with the same name and title.
Town of Žilina also did not escape key moments of our modern history either, and unfortunately it was also the scene of these sad events. By planting a memorial tree, Servare et Manere will commemorate Victims of the Holocaust not only from Žilina or Slovakia, but also all civil war victims of the European Jewish population during the WW2. About 6 million Jews were murdered during the Jewish ethnic genocide. From the territory of the then Slovak state, 68 000 to 71 000 Jews were deported to Concentration camps. These Concentration Centres have been set up for deportation from Slovakia: in Bratislava – Patrónka; Sereď – Jewish camp; Nováky – Jewish camp; Poprad – Barracks under Gerlach; Žilina – Military camp, Štefánik’s barracks. The Žilina Centre was intended for 2 500 Jews and began operating on March 21, 1942. Under the title of the Žilina Concentration Centre, there are on 92 sheets together with the appendix a list of 1 882 Jews from Žilina, including children and pensioners. The Presidium of the Ministry of the Interior abolished this centre on October 24, 1942 and leaving only the centre in Sereď and Nováky.
All present guests in their speeches recalled the importance of collective memory, fraternal love and understanding and also highlighted the tool of the project: the Tree – as a symbol of growth, prosperity and hope. At the end of his speech, Dr. Sobola, the founder of the Tree of Peace, emphasized: “Ladies and Gentleman, our project is not the memorial of wars. It is a memorial of the victims and historical memory. Our project celebrates peace. Let us therefore strive to respect others and live in peace and friendship. This is my dream and wish.” The Tree of Peace was planted together by the rare guests present, and the Bishop of Žilina, together with the Chief Rabbi blessed this work, which unites people of good will regardless of nationality, human race or religion, as a universal symbol of friendship, understanding between nations and common dialogue. Subsequently after blessing was next to the planted tree unveiled a Memorial Pillar with a plaque and basic information about the project and planting by Ambassador Modai and Ambassador Wolf. At the end of the event white doves were released from the planting site. Doves (Pigeons) are not only a symbol of peace but also the main symbol of this project and also symbolizes the message of peace and hope for a better future.
The Tree of Peace in Žilina has another peculiarity. After consulting with the Jerusalem Botanical Garden, we chose Platanus orientalis, also called Old World sycamore, as a memorial tree. This tree grows naturally in Israeli nature and at the same time will be able to grow in the same way in the conditions of Žilina, which we have amplified the symbolism of the 17th Tree of Peace.
The main goal of the International Tree of Peace Project is the promoting a message of peace through the planting of at least one Tree of Peace on every continent. The project was originally associated with the centenary of the end of the WW1. It has since evolved to having a more general focus of promoting ideas of peace and friendship amongst nations and spreading an ecological message through the planting of trees as a symbol of peace and remembrance with a respect to nature. One of the key tasks within the project is the establishment of international relations with organizations and projects with a similar focus. Servare et Manere recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the World Peace Bell Association (ワールドピースベル協会), Japanese international organization based in Tokyo. To date Trees of Peace have been planted in Uzbekistan, Liechtenstein, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, Germany, Serbia, the United States, Russia, Poland and Austria.
Gemeinsames Gedenken an die Opfer des Holocausts
Beim Pflanzen eines „Tree of Peace“ oder auf Deutsch eines „Friedensbaumes“ setzten Botschafterin Barbara Wolf und Botschafter Boaz Modai auf dem jüdischen Friedhof in Žilina ein sichtbares Zeichen der Völkerverständigung und der Hoffnung auf eine nachhaltige und friedliche Zukunft. Der Baum wurde anschließend durch Bischof Tomáš Galis und Rabbi Mikhail Kapustin gemeinsam gesegnet.
Die Deutsche Botschaft Pressburg bedankte für die Einladung und eine außergewöhnlich schöne und würdevolle Veranstaltung an Dr. Marek Sobola, Initiator des Friedensbaumprojekts und Leiter der NGO Servare et Manere und an Alle, die an der Veranstaltung in Žilina mitgewirkt haben.