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Ukraine signs memorandum supporting Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center

On the 79th anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre, Ukraine’s government signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC) to promote the construction of a fitting memorial to the tragedy. During an online memorial ceremony new research was presented, revealing previously unknown details of the Babyn Yar massacre.

The Babyn Yar tragedy was one of the largest instances of mass murder during the Holocaust. There were 33,771 Jewish victims who were shot at the Babyn Yar ravine by the Nazis in just two days – September 29-30, 1941 – while tens of thousands of Ukrainians, Roma, mentally ill, and others were shot thereafter throughout the occupation of Kyiv. The memorandum on the memorial was signed by Ukraine’s Culture and Information Policy Minister Olexsandr Tkachenko and BYHMC supervisory board member Ronald S. Lauder.

The signing took place at Babyn Yar after the official memorial ceremony commemorating the anniversary.“We must not forget the tragedy of Babyn Yar. We understand that this is the history not only of Ukraine and of the Jewish people, but a tragic history of the whole world,” said Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky, who attended the official memorial ceremony. “People, especially youth, should be able to come and see the place where thousands of Jews were shot, to really remember one of the greatest tragedies of the twentieth century.

We must all understand that this cannot happen in the modern world, or in the future.”Lauder, who is also the President of the World Jewish Congress, said, “Today's announcement marks an extremely important milestone. Almost 80 years after the atrocities at Babyn Yar, the tortured souls that were lost here will finally be remembered with an International Memorial Museum. I cannot stress how important this is, because the only way to stop another Babyn Yar from happening again is by teaching young people about how and why this took place. I would like to express my gratitude to the Ukranian government, and President Zelensky specifically. Today Ukraine is taking a giant step forward towards remembrance, and towards justice.”

The memorandum states that preservation and restoration of the memory of the Babyn Yar tragedy constitutes an integral component of the memory of the Jewish people, the national memory of the Ukrainian people, as well as other peoples of the world who have fallen victims to and witnesses of the Nazi regime crimes. Later in the day, global leaders participated in an online memorial ceremony hosted by BYHMC.

Although the museum is due to open its doors in 2026, BYHMC already operates twelve education and commemoration programs. A selection of current research initiatives was presented at the ceremony, which have yielded new discoveries about the Babyn Yar massacre. One initiative, The Names Project, has uncovered the identities of more than 900 previously unknown Babyn Yar victims.

A separate program has utilized state-of-the-art topographic, forensic tools, and historical photos to identify the exact location of the massacre for the first time, recreating the area in a 3D model. During the online ceremony, President Reuven Rivlin said, “Tens of thousands of Jews, including babies, women, children, and the elderly, were massacred during just two days in this valley of death. This valley has witnessed two sins: The sin of destroying human beings and the sin of destroying memory.

The sin of destroying human beings has already been done. We can never bring the dead back to life, but we must never be complicit in the second sin. ”Natan Sharansky, chair of the supervisory board at BYHMC, recalled growing up in Soviet-ruled Ukraine, where the memory of Babyn Yar was intentionally suppressed. He said, “Babyn Yar is a symbol of the Soviet Union’s efforts to physically erase memory. They took the most tragic part of our history and tried to make it disappear. Thanks to an independent Ukraine, the policy was fully changed towards the memory of the Holocaust.”

Alan Rosenbaum