Ukraine memorial of Holocaust: Remember Babi Yar!

Ukraine memorial service for the Holocaust: Remember Babi Yar!

 

Over 1,000 religious and political leaders, in addition to members of the public, marked the massacre of more than 34,000 Jews murdered by National Socialist forces in 1941 in just two days. The memorial took place on September 27 at a ravine near Babi Yar Ukraine where Jews were systematically shot to death by Nazi forces from September 29-30, 1941. In addition, a conference on the Holocaust was organized jointly by the Government of Ukraine, the Yad Vashem Memorial of Israel, and the World Holocaust Forum.

 

Survivors recall that Jews in Ukraine were told 65 years ago to gather warms clothes and belongings as if they were going on a journey in the custody of their Nazi captors. They were instead ordered to strip naked and then were machine-gunned in their thousands by Nazi guards and their bodies left in a pit prepared for them. Witnesses recall that Nazi soldiers laughed and taunted their victims before murdering them. Some observers claim that the world’s silence in the wake of Babi Yar served to embolden the Nazi’s “Final Solution” and carry out further massacres, atrocities, and mechanized death-camps.

 

At the memorial service, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, and Israeli President Moshe Katsav, solemnly processed behind an honour guard of Ukrainian soldiers bearing flowers to mark the place where the victims fell. Both of the dignitaries spoke to the assembly, while witnesses, liberators, and survivors – as well as some now recognized as Righteous Gentiles by the Israeli Government – were also on hand. Representatives from other countries were also present. The memorial was the brainchild of Russian Jewish businessman and founder of the World Holocaust Forum Vyacheslav Moshe Kantor. “Most people today simply don’t know what happened here”, said Kantor who added that the idea for the memorial came to him some years ago when he noticed children playing soccer at the site of the massacre. Some observers express misgivings that the site is now used as a park for picnickers and children’s sports. The September 27th memorial was held at a Soviet era monument, while a more private memorial service was held by Jews at another nearby monument in the form of a menorah.

 

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Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat and the editor of Spero News.

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