Swastic graffiti on Babi Yar Holocaust memorial.
(photo credit: COURTESY ANNA LENCHOVSKA)
KIEV – The Holocaust memorial at Babi Yar in Kiev was discovered defaced by graffiti swastikas on Monday, the second time in less than two months that the site has been desecrated.
Anna Lenchovska, executive director of the Congress of Ethnic Communities of Ukraine, discovered the Nazi symbol spray-painted on two stones flanking the memorial’s giant menorah when leading a tour of schoolchildren at the site, where more than 33,000 Jews were murdered during the Holocaust.
“I was with a group of school youngsters. I approached and said that it is very often vandalized and then I saw it myself. I think almost every year it happens, unfortunately.”
Babi Yar had previously been desecrated in September, only days before Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko paid a state visit to the site, declaring that “Ukraine will never allow recovery of fascism, persecution along ethnic, language, religious or other lines.”
Russia has consistently leveled accusations of anti-Semitism against the Ukrainian government, claims which both officials and Jewish leaders deny.
An attempted firebombing of a Kiev synagogue prior to Rosh Hashana and a series of anti-Semitic incidents, including the stabbing of a Kollel student last year, raised fears of increased anti-Jewish attitudes, but the subsequent electoral failures of the far Right have largely mitigated the concerns of members of the Jewish community, many Ukrainian Jews have said.
Local Jewish leaders like Josef Zissels of the Va’ad of Ukraine have compared their country favorably to Western European countries like Belgium and France, where attacks against Jewish targets and street harassment are much more common.
“Ukraine lacks... important factors, which define the current significant manifestations of anti-Semitism in Western Europe,” such as a large Muslim immigrant population and “the anti-Israeli rhetoric that has been fashionable in the last dozen years among the left wing intellectuals,” Zissels has written.