The following statement was released by the Ukrainian Congress of America Committee on September 28.
The Ukrainian Congress Committee of America (UCCA), the representative organization of nearly two million Americans of Ukrainian descent, recalls with deep sadness one of the darkest chapters in genocide history – the massacres by Babyn Yar. At the end of September, 80 years ago, during the Nazi occupation of Kiev, the horrific slaughter of tens of thousands of innocent men, women and children began in Babyn Yar (which means “ravine of old women” in Ukrainian). Although this is only one site among many of the Holocaust that terrorized all the Jews of Europe, it is a site of particular tragedy for Ukraine.
Within 36 hours, more than 30,000 Jews were forced from their homes in Kiev, taken to the Babyn Yar ravine and ruthlessly slaughtered by Hitler’s henchmen as part of their final solution to rid Europe of the Jewish people. Following this first mass execution, a restricted area around Babyn Yar Ravine was cordoned off with barbed wire. The killings, however, did not end. Over the following years, the mass grave swelled with tens of thousands of other victims.
During the last years of World War II and until the German retreat from Kiev, Babyn Yar became a real battlefield, where around 170,000 victims – among them Jews, Ukrainians, Poles, Roma, political opponents, the clergy, the UPA [Ukrainian Insurgent Army] Soviet members and prisoners of war – were ruthlessly murdered.
As the German armies began their retreat from Soviet Ukraine, the Nazis attempted to cover up the evidence of the massacre. This was followed by decades of Soviet propaganda that hid the truth about the atrocities committed in the ravine. For years after this tragedy, the Soviet Union barely recognized the Babyn Yar massacre. It was not until Ukraine renewed its independence in 1991 that the few survivors of those early days in Babyn Yar, as well as international Jewish and Ukrainian communities, were allowed to openly mourn the innocent victims of Babyn Yar.
During a week-long commemoration in 1991, a newly independent Ukraine officially recognized this painful page in its history, ending a 50-year Soviet silence on the massacres and opening a new positive chapter in Judeo-relations. Ukrainian.
The UCCA strongly condemns the heinous crimes of genocide committed 80 years ago in Babyn Yar, as well as the inhumane atrocities of the Holocaust which resulted in the deaths of millions of innocent victims. We mourn the loss of the tens of thousands of Jews, Ukrainians and others murdered for no reason in Babyn Yar, and will continue to honor the memory of the victims, restore their dignity taken away by Hitler’s criminal orders, and to pray for the rest of their eternal souls.
May the Babyn Yar tragedy, a dark page in history shared by the Jewish and Ukrainian peoples, continue to be taught to succeeding generations so that the memory of these terrible events may never be extinguished. May she also remind us of the need to show honor and dignity to our fellow human beings, whatever our differences, or perhaps because of them, for we are all unique and precious members of the human race.
Never forget! ная пам’ять!