Ukrainian president backs Babi Yar massacre memorial

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Babyn Yar memorial’s supervisory board that he supports its construction, the memorial center has said.

BABI YAR, from the German archives. (photo credit: BEV SYKES/FLICKR)
BABI YAR, from the German archives.
(photo credit: BEV SYKES/FLICKR)
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has given his backing to a planned memorial center in Kiev for the Babi Yar massacre that took place during the Holocaust.
The Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center was initiated in 2016 by four Jewish Ukrainian billionaires as a private initiative. It has had minimal government involvement, and no government officials are on the supervisory board.
During an online video conference last week, Zelensky told the Babyn Yar Memorial Center Supervisory Board he supports its construction, the center said.
“The establishment of the memorial is extremely important for our country,” Zelensky told the board, according to a press statement from Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center. “Its history contains a lot of tragic pages. But we must bear them in mind and tell the coming generations about them.”
“Such moments should stay in the history of Ukraine,” he said. “They are in our talks, in our memory, in books. It would be very good if this project were brought into life and we built history together with you.”
 Zelensky reportedly emphasized the importance of remembering the Ukrainian Righteous Among the Nations who saved Jews in the Holocaust.
During the video conference, it was agreed upon that a working committee led by the head of the presidential administration, Andrii Yermak, would be formed to “coordinate on the framework of the memorial’s establishment,” as well as to prepare for the 80th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, which will be next year.
The mass murder at Babi Yar in the Ukraine was one of the single worst massacres during the Holocaust. More than 33,000 Jews were shot dead at the ravine outside of Kiev on September 29-30, 1941, after the Nazis conquered the region earlier that month.
In the following months, the Nazis shot and murdered tens of thousands of non-Jews at the same location, including Soviet prisoners of war, Soviet civilians, Roma and others, with some 100,000 people perishing at the site in total during the two-year Nazi occupation of Kiev.
Natan Sharansky, head of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center Supervisory Board, said the history of Babi Yar is of importance to the Jewish people, as well as other nationalities, including the peoples of Ukraine, Belarus and Poland.
“We have a common goal – to fight for the freedom and democracy of our peoples,” he said. “This initiative is not just a monument. It is going to be a critical memorial, with the museum and a research center contributing to raise the degree of tolerance in society and playing a global role in Ukraine’s positioning in the world as well as its international recognition.”
“Such institutions throughout the world are established in partnership with the state and supported by its key officials,” Sharansky said.