Ukrainian president approves Babyn Yar memorial concept

The physical and ideological concept for the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC) have been unveiled for the first time, and constitute a massive and ambitious project to educate on and commemorate the Nazi’s mass murder of Jews outside Kiev and the Holocaust in Eastern Europe more generally. The plans have now been given approval by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. According to the BYHMC organization, the complex at the site of the Babyn Yar ravine will cover an area of some 150 hectares, and include a dozen buildings to educate the public about the Nazi-era atrocities and memorialize the victims. The project will include a museum to commemorate the Babyn Yar massacre; a structure depicting the names of the victims; a museum to commemorate the Holocaust of Ukrainian and Eastern European Jewry more broadly; a religious and spiritual center including a synagogue, church and mosque; an educational and scientific research center; and a multi-media center amongst other structures. The very first synagogue at the site, plus an additional exhibition space are scheduled to be completed this year, ahead of the eightieth anniversary of the Babin Yar massacre, which will be commemorated in September 2021. The mass murder at Babyn Yar in the Ukraine was one of the worst single massacres during the Holocaust in which more than 33,000 Jews were shot dead at the ravine outside of Kiev on September 29 and 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.

In September 2020, Ukraine’s government represented by the Minister of Culture Oleksandr Tkachenko, under the auspices of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with BYHMC, represented by Supervisory Board member Ronald S. Lauder, to promote the construction of a fitting memorial to the Babyn Yar tragedy.Last month BYHMC presented its plans for the Memorial Center to President Zelensky and the culture minister. The president welcomed the plans and instructed the culture minister to promote the opening of a synagogue and an additional exhibition space in the complex during this year, which marks 80 years since the Babyn Yar massacre.President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky has given his approval to the plans and described the center as critical for memorializing the Holocaust. “The Babyn Yar massacre and the Holocaust of the Jews of Ukraine are an important and tragic chapter in the history of our country,” said Zelensky.“The establishment of the Babyn Yar Memorial Center, the construction of which will begin during the 80th year since the terrible massacre, is essential for the commemoration of the Holocaust. As Europe’s largest mass grave, Babyn Yar represents unimaginable destruction. Thanks to these plans, it will become a place of peace, reflection and tranquility.”The artistic concept for the museum complex are being formulated by BYHMC’s artistic director Ilya Khrzhanovsky, best known as a film director, in cooperation with several international experts in museum development.Khrzhanovsky, who designed the memorial center’s concept, said that the project would see the construction of a museum complex “expanding across the entire territory where one of the greatest tragedies of the Holocaust took place” and would be “a place of commemoration and learning, of observation and doubt.”Said Khrzhanovsky “It will transform a place of killing and destruction into a sacred space. It is designed in a way that everyone can connect to a life that was and is no longer. The construction of this complex will keep the story of the Jews of Ukraine and Eastern Europe alive.”Chair of the Supervisory Board of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, Natan Sharansky, who was born in the Ukraine, noted that he knew nothing about the Babyn Yar massacre during his childhood, due to the Soviet policy of suppressing memory of the tragedy after the Second World War.“The concept which was presented is both very interesting and amazing,” said Sharansky. “It demonstrates how the museum and educational center will not only both be high quality, but at the same time different from many other Holocaust centers. As such, it will help fill a vacuum in the field of Holocaust studies.”

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