Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday night addressed all the Jews of the world following the Russian missile fire that landed close to Babi Yar, and in Uman, declaring: “Last night we were all bombed in Kiev. And we all died again in Babi Yar – from a missile attack …
“I now address all the Jews of the world – can’t you see what is happening? So, it’s very important that millions of Jews around the world won’t be silent. Nazism is born in silence. So, shout about the killings of civilians. Shout about the killings of Ukrainians.”
Jewish groups around the world condemned the Russian strike in the area of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, where tens of thousands of Jews were killed by the Nazis in a two-day massacre during World War II. Although, as former Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky clarified Wednesday morning on Reshet Bet radio, the Russians’ target was a tall television broadcast antenna nearby, the symbolism could not be lost on anyone with some knowledge of history.
If you possess some knowledge of history, you also remember that the Nazis and their enthusiastic Ukrainian collaborators participated in the September 29-30, 1941 massacre of approximately 33,771 Jewish civilians at Babi Yar. Local police took an active part in beating up the Jews in groups of 10 victims at a time, as they were herded to their mass grave.
The crowd was large enough that most of the victims did not know what was happening until it was too late, so by the time they heard the machine-gun fire, there was no escape. All of them were driven down a corridor of uniformed men in groups of ten and then shot.
All the Russians did was take down a TV antenna – although they should have been more careful with the memorial center. Somebody should teach history to the Russian soldiers as well.
Mass executions continued at Babi Yar until the Nazis evacuated Kiev on January 10, 1942. In addition to Jews, Babi Yar became a place of execution for the residents of five Gypsy camps, patients of the Ivan Pavlov Psychiatric Hospital, who were gassed and dumped into the ravine, and thousands of other Ukrainians, some of whom for minor violations.
Zelensky continued: “For any normal person who knows history, Babi Yar is a special part of Kiev. A special part of Europe. A place for prayer. A place of remembrance of the hundred thousand people killed by the Nazis. The location of old Kiev cemeteries. What kind of a person would you have to be to make a place like this a target for missiles? You are killing Holocaust victims for the second time.
“During the Soviet era, a TV center was built there, on human bones. And a sports complex. Outhouses. They built a park there. To erase the true history of Babi Yar. But why was it bombed? This is beyond humanity.
“Such a missile strike shows that our Kiev is completely alien to many people in Russia. They know nothing about our capital. About our history. But they have an order to erase our history. Erase our country. Erase us all.
“On the first day of the war, Uman, where hundreds of thousands of Jews come to visit every year, was brutally bombed. They were coming to pray. Then Babi Yar, where a hundred thousand Jews were shot.
“I am now addressing all the Jews of the world – don’t you see what’s happening? That’s why it is very important that millions of Jews around the world should not remain silent right now.
“Nazism is born in silence. So, shout about the killing of civilians. Shout about the killing of Ukrainians.”
I wish President Zelenskyy every good thing imaginable, and I pray that he survives the multiple assassination plots against him. I also pray for peace between Russia and Ukraine. But I find myself unable to weep for Ukraine. I’ve heard similar sentiments from other children of Holocaust survivors. We are sitting this one out.