Natan Sharansky speaks at Babi Yar
Natan Sharansky speaks at Babi YarJewish Agency

Jewish community heads from around the world on Monday participated in a special ceremony in memory of the Jews who were murdered and buried in Babi Yar in Ukraine. The event took place under the sponsorship of top members of the Jewish Agency, which is chaired by Natan Sharansky. The JA's Board of Governors is meeting in Kiev, Ukraine, for the first time.

Sharansky laid a wreath on the memorial at Babi Yar, in memory of the Jews murdered there in 1941 by the Nazis. “Babi Yar and Auschwitz are two examples of a crime unmatched in history,” Sharansky said. “The Nazis turned the Jews into objects of such hatred that it seemed almost natural to murder them. We must remain alert to prevent the new versions of anti-Semitism, in the form of demonization and delegitimization of Israel from taking hold. The double standard we see today makes it almost natural to work for the destruction of Israel,” he said.

On Sunday, the World Forum of Russian-Speaking Jews (WFRJ) unveiled a new model of a memorial to be built at Babi Yar. Alexander Levin, a leader of the Kiev Jewish Community, said that the site will enhance the connection of Jews around the world with the site. Also to be built will be a community center and a study hall. “Where the Jews were murdered, they will study Torah,” Levin said.

Some 50,000 Jews were murdered at Babi Yar in a massacre that began on September 29, 1941. Within two days, the Nazis had murdered 34,000 Jews. The massacre is considered the largest single mass murder event of the Holocaust. Over the next year, another 15,000 Jews were taken to the site and murdered. All of them were buried in the large pit that Jewish victims had been forced to dig before being murdered. Altogether, some 100,000 people are thought to be buried there.

The current Jewish memorial (one of about a dozen altogether) at the site was built in 1991, but has not been kept up. The new memorial, Jewish Agency officials said, would bring back to the forefront of consciousness one of the worst chapters of the Holocaust years.