Russia strikes Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site in Ukraine

Andriy Yermak, Chairman of the Ukrainian Presidential Office, said: 'Russia has launched a missile attack...These villains are killing Holocaust victims for the second time.'

 A blast is seen near a TV tower adjacent to the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 1, 2022.  (photo credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters)
A blast is seen near a TV tower adjacent to the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 1, 2022.
(photo credit: Carlos Barria/Reuters)

Russian missiles and shells struck the site of Babyn Yar, where tens of thousands of Jews were massacred during the Holocaust, during Moscow’s assault on Kyiv on Tuesday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenksy took to Twitter to condemn the attack.

“To the world: what is the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar?” Zelensky wrote. “At least 5 killed. History repeating…”

Andriy Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff, tweeted: “These villains are killing Holocaust victims for the second time.”

Ukraine State Emergency Services released photos and video of the fire and a collapsed structure at the Babyn Yar memorial and the adjacent Jewish cemetery.

Foreign Minister Yair Lapid spoke out against the attack but did not mention Russia.

 People place flowers during a ceremony at a monument commemorating the victims of Babyn Yar in Kiev (credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH) People place flowers during a ceremony at a monument commemorating the victims of Babyn Yar in Kiev (credit: REUTERS/GLEB GARANICH)

“We condemn the strike on the Jewish cemetery next to the memorial for the Holocaust of the Jews in Kyiv and the Jewish people in Babyn Yar,” Lapid said. “We call to respect the site... We continue to monitor the events and express our sorrow at the loss of human life.”

Lapid instructed Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky to offer Israel’s help with repairs to the site.

“We are saddened by this unnecessary war, by injury to innocent civilians, and damage to civilian installations, including Jewish sites such as the important Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial center,” said Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai. “We are praying for this war to end.”

Natan Sharansky, former head of the Jewish Agency and current chairman of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Advisory Board, slammed the attack and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin seeking to distort and manipulate the Holocaust to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign democratic country is utterly abhorrent,” Sharansky stated. “It is symbolic that he starts attacking Kyiv by bombing the site of the Babyn Yar, the biggest of Nazi massacres.”

Sharansky said that the memorial is meant “to preserve historical memory following decades of Soviet suppression of historical truth, so that the evils of the past can never be repeated. We must not allow the truth to – once again – become the victim of war.”

The memorial site’s leadership condemned Putin’s use of language related to the Holocaust to justify his invasion of Ukraine: “As experts who work with Holocaust research and commemoration, we are deeply outraged that the aggressor country has used genocidal rhetoric to justify its shameful actions,” they said. “Russia has vulgarly instrumentalized anti-Nazi rhetoric, and is trying to take on the role of a fighter against Nazism.”

On September 29-30, 1941, 33,771 Jews were systematically shot dead and buried in a ravine over the 48-hour period at Babyn Yar (Babi Yar in Russian).

As many as 150,000 people – Ukrainians, Roma, Soviets and the physically and mentally disabled – were murdered by the Nazis over a longer period, making the city Europe’s largest mass grave.Yad Vashem voiced its “vehement condemnation,” and called on the international community to protect civilian lives and historic sites.

“Rather than being subjected to blatant violence, sacred sites like Babi Yar must be protected,” said the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem. “Yad Vashem reiterates its call to refrain from abusing and distorting the memory of the Holocaust... History must be remembered accurately, and its moral lessons must be implemented truthfully by all.”A dedication ceremony was held in October at Babyn Yar, now a verdant suburban public memorial park.

Zelensky and presidents Isaac Herzog of Israel and Frank-Walter Steinmeier of Germany attended the ceremony, as well as Albanian President Ilir Meta and the private funders of the project, plus a number of prominent figures, current and former politicians, leaders of Jewish communities and others.

Zelenksy took to Twitter to condemn the world's silence on the attack. "To the world: what is the point of saying «never again» for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating…," he wrote.