KYIV – Ukraine marked the 80th anniversary on Wednesday of the mass shooting of civilians at the wooded ravine of Babyn Yar in Nazi-occupied Kyiv, one of the biggest single massacres of Jews during the Holocaust.
Nazi troops at Babyn Yar gunned down nearly 34,000 Jewish men, women and children on Sept. 29-30, 1941. Over the two years that followed, around 150,000 people in total, mostly Jews but also including Ukrainians, Russians, Poles and Roma, were killed there.
“Two words, behind which more than 100,000 human lives. Two words, behind which millions of crippled fates. Two words, followed by 80 years of joint pain of the Jewish and Ukrainian peoples. Babyn Yar,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a statement.
“Two short words that sound like two short shots, but carry long and terrible memories for generations,” said Zelenskiy.
In silence, Zelenskiy took part in a ceremony near a monument of a Jewish menorah lamp erected to honour victims at the site. Flowers and wreaths were laid by soldiers, children and relatives of the victims.
Zelenskiy is Ukraine’s first ethnically Jewish president, although he is not publicly religious. Most of his grandfather’s family was killed during the war.
“The death conveyor in Babyn Yar did not stop until the liberation of Kyiv from the occupiers. Kyiv’s plot of land became one of the epicentres of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe,” Ukrainian foreign ministry said.
In May, Ukraine unveiled a synagogue built of wood and designed to unfold like a pop-up book at a site commemorating the victims of Babyn Yar.
Last week, the Ukrainian parliament passed a law defining anti-Semitism and establishing punishments for anti-Jewish hate speech.