Among those attending the event were the Chief Rabbi of the Ukraine, Azriel Chaikin; three chief regional rabbis; regional and city representatives; and Roald Hoffmann, a Zolochiv Holocaust survivor and winner of the Nobel Prize for chemistry. Prof. Hoffmann has recounted his experience as a child survivor of the Holocaust in Zolochiv, and his feelings on revisiting his native town, in the International Herald Tribune.
The Jewish presence in Zolochiv dates back to 1565, becoming firmly established in the early 17th century. Zolochiv's Jews were an accepted part of life before the Second World War. Jews were allowed to live throughout the city and were instrumental in its political, economic, and social development. Jews participated in many professions and trades and established schools, orphanages, and an elderly home. Notable Jewish natives of the town include the Hasidic rabbi, Yekhiel Mekhl, the Maggid of Zloczow (c. 1731-1786); the Yiddish poet, Moshe Leib Halpern (1886-1932); and the photographer Weegee (born Arthur Fellig) 1899-1968.
In 1939, hundreds of refugees from Western Poland fled to Zolochiv to escape the Germans. The Jewish community welcomed them. After heavily bombing the town, German forces occupied Zolochiv on 2 July, 1941. By 4 July local farmers had initiated a pogrom, killing 3,000-4,000 people in just three days, 2,000 of whom were killed in front of the castle. That month German forces established the Judenrat, a board of prominent Jews providing liaison between the Jewish community and German forces. The Judenrat was forced to assist in evacuating Zolochiv Jews. In August, 2,700 Jews were herded into cattle cars and sent to the death camp of Belzec. A second mass expulsion in November led to the deaths of 2,500 more. In December the Germans established a ghetto, housing roughly 7-9,000 Jews. By April of 1943 its inhabitants had all been taken outside the city, shot, and buried in mass graves - many of them still alive. Roughly 6,000 were killed. Many Jews remained in hiding, but they were hunted down by German forces and also killed. The Red Army liberated Zolochiv on 18 July 1944. Few survivors remained: most fled immediately.