The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky today unveiled a new monument commemorating the Babyn Yar massacre. At the ceremony, marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the start of eightieth year commemorations of the massacre, messages of support and appreciation were broadcast from international leaders, including Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin.
The monument, titled “A Glimpse into the Past” was commissioned by the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC) and created by prominent Ukrainian artist and architect Anna Kamyshan. It includes a tree with broken branches, as a metaphor for a life cut short. At both ends of the tree stands untreated stone boulders. Each one includes a viewfinder through which can be seen pictures taken by the German photographer and propagandist Johannes Hähle in the aftermath of the Babyn Yar massacre. The stone boulders stand at the exact spot where the original photographs were taken, pinpointed by researchers at BYHMC.
President Volodymyr Zelensky, who unveiled the new monument, said “Today’s ceremony signals the beginning of our eightieth anniversary commemorations for the tragedy of the Babyn Yar massacre. It is our national and moral duty to remember the victims of the Holocaust who were murdered here in Ukraine and in Eastern Europe. The monument which I unveiled today and the wider construction of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is an essential part of this. Babyn Yar represents a dark moment in Ukraine’s history, but by commemorating it in this way, we create light and hope for the future.”
At today’s ceremony, messages were broadcast from a number of global dignitaries including Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin, who thanked Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky and Natan Sharansky (Chair of the Supervisory Board at BYHMC) for their contribution towards commemorating the tragedy. He said “There has been no crueler, no more concentrated instance of mass killing than that of Babyn Yar. Thirty-three thousand seven hundred and seventy-one Jews, including infants, children, women and the elderly, were slaughtered for two days in the valley of killing at Babyn Yar. This land in the suburbs of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, cried silently. Never in the history of Europe has there been such a large-scale, effective extermination operation carried out in such a short time.
“We must not partake in the sin of forgetfulness and denial. I thank you, those who stand guard over memory and do everything possible to make sure nobody forgets. Let the memory of our brothers and sisters who were slaughtered at Babyn Yar, and at other extermination sites, be engraved in our hearts forever.”
Additional messages were sent by Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Supervisory Board at BYHMC, Malcolm Hoenlein, Executive Vice Chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Jack Rosen, President of the American Jewish Congress and Mark B. Levin, Executive Vice Chairman and CEO of the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry.
Today’s ceremony was the first of a series of commemorative events to mark the eightieth year since the Babyn Yar massacre. 33,771 Jewish victims were shot at the Babyn Yar ravine by the Nazis during just two days, 29 and 30 September 1941. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians, Roma, mentally ill and others were shot thereafter at Babyn Yar throughout the Nazi occupation of Kyiv.
It was also confirmed today that President Zelensky has approved the establishment of a committee to oversee the eightieth anniversary commemorations. The Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal and the Head of the Presidential Administration, Andrii Yermak were appointed as co-chairmen of the committee, whose full title is the “Organizing Committee for the Holocaust Memorial to the Babyn Yar tragedy and strategic development of the historic Babyn Yar area in Kyiv”. The committee of around 60 members so far, is comprised of academics, communal leaders and other dignitaries from Ukraine and across the world.
At today’s ceremony, Head of the Presidential Administration Andrii Yermak commented “The establishment of this committee is another important milestone towards developing a fitting commemoration of the Babyn Yar tragedy and its victims. I thank the impressive list of prominent figures on the committee for their involvement. For too long, the story of Babyn Yar has evaded the historical record and the collective public memory. With the leadership and help of this committee, the upcoming 80th anniversary will be a significant step towards correcting this.”
In a parallel development marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, a European Parliament Working Group (“Babyn Yar – Memory for the Future”) called for “our colleagues, members of the European Parliament and Members of National Parliaments to commemorate” the eightieth anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre during 2021. Co-Chair of the Working Group and Member of the European Parliament, Monika Benova said, “I believe this should be a common effort shared between Europeans and Ukrainians.”