On the 75th anniversary of one of the most notorious atrocities of the Second World War, members of a broad international coalition gathered in Kyiv yesterday to announce their commitment to create a new memorial and educational center in Ukraine to commemorate the massacre at Babi Yar. Recognized by historians as one of the first major steps in Hitler’s “final solution to the Jewish problem,” the mass murders at the Babi Yar ravine began on September 29, 1941 and continued into 1943.
The goal of the Babi Yar Memorial Center is to honor the memory of all those who were killed by the Nazis at Babi Yar, to create awareness for the mass murder of Jews on the territory of Ukraine and the former Soviet Union and to foster tolerance and openness through keeping history alive and teaching the lessons of the past. The target date for the opening is 2021, which will coincide with the 80th anniversary of the massacre.
Despite the efforts of non-governmental organizations and political officials, previous initiatives to develop a Babi Yar memorial in Ukraine have faltered, hampered by the lack of awareness and understanding of the history of the Holocaust in Ukraine and other countries that were previously part of the Soviet Union.
“European values today are based on ‘never again’ after the Holocaust,” said Victor Pinchuk, Ukrainian businessman and philanthropist, “on the understanding that tolerance, rule of law and human rights must form the basis of our societies. People worldwide know that today Ukraine’s citizens are fighting for these values. But people don’t know sufficiently how much the tragedy of the Holocaust affected Ukraine, how much of Ukraine is a core part of this narrative. Addressing one’s history openly is at the core of modern European society. For all Jews who were killed in Ukraine by the Nazis, and for all Ukrainians who deserve a future in freedom, democracy, and a peaceful united Europe, we will finally build the memorial that should have been created long ago.”