Ukraine, Germany and Israel mark 80th anniversary of Nazi massacre of 33,771 Jews
The massacre took place within 48 hours in Babi Yar, a ravine in Kiev months after the city fell under Nazi occupation in 1941. Ukrainian collaborators were involved in the massacre.
Volodymyr Zelensky, president of Ukraine, and his counterparts from Israel, Isaac Herzog, and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany attended a ceremony in the Ukrainian capital on Wednesday to mark the September 29-30 massacre.
The commemoration saw the opening of an interactive installation by the conceptual artist Marina Abramovic called the “Crystal Wailing Wall”.
The thick wall made of coal with large quartz crystals sticking out is a symbolic extension of Jerusalem’s western wall, Abramovic said.
Zelensky is Ukraine’s first ethnically Jewish president and most of his grandfather’s family was killed during the war.
The comedian turned politician is not publicly religious.
“It is imperative to keep speaking about this horrific event and learn its lessons,” Herzog said ahead of his first state visit as president.
Natan Sharansky, a former political prisoner in the Soviet Union and human rights activist, said: “Babi Yar is the biggest mass grave of the Holocaust … the most quickly filled mass grave.”
He said although Ukrainians collaborated with the Babi Yar at least 2,600 Ukrainian families hid Jews at great personal risk.
Ukraine’s Holocaust memorial center said: “Despite confessions, evidence and testimonies being submitted as late as the 1960s by some of the Nazi soldiers who carried out the murders, only a few of those involved ever faced justice for their heinous crimes. They were between 20 and 60 years old.
It continued: “They were educated and uneducated, they included engineers and teachers, drivers and salespeople. Some were married and some were not. The vast majority of them returned to live a normal life after the war. They testified at trial and were found not guilty, except for very few commanders, not the soldiers who carried out the horrific massacre.”
The memorial centre, which is still under construction, is dedicated to the 2.5 million eastern European Jews who were killed during the Holocaust.
An estimated 1.5 million Jews died in Ukraine alone during the Second World War.
Ukraine’s parliament last month passed legislation defining anti-Semitism and establishing punishments for anti-Jewish hate speech.
The Babi Yar massacre in 1941. Picture credit: YouTube