International Holocaust Memorial for Nazi Babi Yar Ukraine Massacre
Jeremy Wimpfheimer and Daniel Epstein
Israel News Agency
21...... For two days in late September, a quiet ravine deep within the forests
outside of Kiev, Ukraine, will become the site of an international memorial event
for one of the bloodiest massacres of the Nazi Holocaust.
Babi Yar, the site was witness to the murder of more than 33,000 Jews over the
course of a five day period in the fall of 1941. While the event is well documented
by Holocaust historians and remembered by the families of its victims, the Babi
Yar massacre has become part of the "hidden Holocaust," according to
Moshe Kantor, organizer of the memorial ceremonies that will include the participation
of dignitaries from more than 40 nations.
"Most people today simply do not know what happened there," says Kantor,
President of the Russian Jewish Congress and Chairman of the Board of Governors
of the European Jewish Congress. "Most troubling is the fact that much of
the world was tolerant of the Nazi crimes that took place at Babi Yar and that
tragic permissiveness allowed more than 6,000 similar slaughters to take place
over the coming years - and all this before the ‘official’ death camps were even
than 40 nations, including Russia, the US and Israel have confirmed the attendance
of high level government officials. Ukrainian President Viktor Yushenko will be
joined by Heads of State from Croatia, Bosnia and Slovenia. "This is a moment
of truth for governments to determine what is their official position when it
comes to issues of anti-Semitism and xenophobia," says Kantor.
founded and leads the World Holocaust Forum www.worldholocaustforum.org,
which is coordinating the memorial, an organization dedicated to preserving the
memory of the Holocaust and educating the world about its important lessons for
all humanity. He believes the world today faces a critical danger if it forgets
the dangers posed by hatred.
In a rare interview which, ironically, took place five years virtually to the
minute after the Twin Towers were brought down during the September 11th 9/11
terror attacks in North America, World Holocaust Forum Chairman Viatcheslav (Moshe)
Kantor, warned sharply about the dangers of intolerance.
and xenophobia come in cycles. Some periods have more, some have less," commented
Kantor from Geneva. "But the world was absolutely tolerant of the events
at Babi Yar, and this single event became a defining moment in the way the Nazi
Holocaust progressed from that point onwary. World apathy enabled the Nazis to
move forward in their slaughter of six million European Jews."
points to disturbing expressions of hatred hatred directed toward Jews in many
cities around the world. These range from recent acts of violence against Jews
in Russia to the call by Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for an Iran conference
to deny the Holocaust. Kantor says, "Anti-Semitism on the social level is
growing around the globe. Now more than ever, the symbolism and warning of Babi
Yar must ring loudly, and we are ensuring that the terrible events of the past
are a lesson to modern society about the frightening dangers of intolerance."
commented that "President Yushchenko has a full understanding of the World
Holocaust Forum’s goals and motivations, why we are having this commemoration
ceremony in Kiev and what the final result should be.” “Russia once again is facing
a moment of truth," commented Kantor, referencing Russia’s decision to send
a senior delegation to the events. "President Putin said in his speech at
the 60th anniversary commemoration of the liberation of Auschwitz that he was
ashamed of the anti-Semitism and xenophobia that had surfaced in Russia. Once
a country declares that it should take meaningful lessons away from the Holocaust,
its people can start to improve their attitude towards racial intolerance."
Survivor's Eyewitness Account by Dina Pronicheva
"It was dark already...They
lined us up on a ledge which was so small that we couldn't get much of a footing
on it. They began shooting us. I shut my eyes, clenched my fists, tensed all my
muscles and took a plunge down before the bullets hit me. It seemed I was flying
forever. But I landed safely on the bodies. After a while, when the shooting stopped,
I heard the Germans climbing into the ravine. They started finishing off all those
who were not dead yet, those who were moaning, hiccuping, tossing, writhing in
agony. They ran their flashlights over the bodies and finished off all who moved.
I was lying so still without stirring, terrified of giving myself away. I felt
I was done for. I decided to keep quiet. They started covering the corpses over
with earth. They must have put quite a lot over me because I felt I was beginning
to suffocate. But I was afraid to move. I was gasping for breath. I knew I would
suffocate. Then I decided it was better to be shot than buried alive. I stirred
but I didn't know that it was quite dark already. Using my left arm I managed
to move a little way up. Then I took a deep breath, summoned up my waning strength
and crawled out from under the cover of earth. It was dark. But all the same it
was dangerous to crawl because of the searching beams of flashlight and they continued
shooting at those who moaned. They might hit me. So I had to be careful. I was
lucky enough to crawl up one of the high walls of the ravine, and straining every
nerve and muscle, got out of it."
to event organizers, two days of commemorations on Sept. 26th and 27th, will include
a series of Holocaust exhibits, lectures and concerts to be highlighted by a somber
march of participants from central Kiev to the Babi Yar site, retracing the steps
of the thousands of Jews who walked a similar path to their deaths 65 years ago.
It will be an emotionally charged walk on Wednesday afternoon from central Kiev
to the Babi Yar killing fields.
Focused on developing original educational initiatives to better inform people
about the realities of the Holocaust, the World Holocaust Forum has created a
European Holocaust Education program that will train teachers to relate to Nazi
crimes against the Jews to better foster tolerance between religions and nationalities.
the years, criticism has been levelled at several Eastern European governments
as well as Russia that these countries are not doing enough to actively combat
anti-Semitism. Ukraine was one of the countries mentioned. In July, the menorah-shaped
Holocaust memorial at Babi Yar, erected 15 years ago by the Jewish community,
was badly vandalized.
"Currently, Babi Yar is a place where kids play soccer. The games needs to
stop," observed Kantor.