Commemorating Babyn Yar is first of all for the living to remember – World Jewish Congress


Babyn Yar is a separate tragedy, it should get proper explanation and attention in the society.

Kyiv, September 28, 2016. The primary aim of the events that commemorate victims of Babyn Yar is to draw public attention to the tragedy. The opinion was expressed by Laurence Weinbaum, director of the Israel Council on Foreign Relations, acting director general of the World Jewish Congress (Israel) and a Holocaust historian at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. “If during these [commemoration] ceremonies people begin to question what happened in Babiy Yar and say: ‘I grew up in Soviet Ukraine and I even have not heard about this place and suddenly I realize that at my doorstep a terrible tragedy took part’ I would consider that they were successful. Commemoration events are to pay homage to the dead but they are also very much for the living in order to increase our understanding of these things,” said Weinbaum.

He said the Jewish community highly appreciates the level of commemorative events in Kyiv. “Had somebody asked me at that time [during the Soviet era]: could you imagine the situation in which you would return here decades later and see the President of Israel being welcomed in Kyiv, the capital of independent Ukraine, as an honored guest and the occasion being commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the destruction of the Jews of Kyiv, I would not have been able to imagine such a turn of events,” noted Weinbaum.

He emphasized that the complicated historic legacy that Ukraine inherited is another challenge for its civil society. “The way that the Ukrainian society comes to deal with this – and we’re talking about the process that will take many years and generations – will certainly define the success or failure of the Ukrainian civil society,” Weinbaum said.

He also emphasized the need to identify the names of the people responsible for mass killings of Jews in the Babiy Yar instead of using the general term “Nazi”. According to Weinbaum killings of Jews resulted from the politics of the Nazi Germany however local people also took place in its implementation, similar to the way it was happening throughout Europe.

Laurence Weinbaum is also of the opinion that the tragedy of Jews should be considered separately from tragedies of other peoples and groups during the World War II. “As a historian I make a distinction between what happened to Ukrainians in the 1930s and during the World War II and the Holocaust. These were the two terrible stories but they are different stories,” he emphasized.