KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine will commemorate on Wednesday the anniversary of a massacre at Babi Yar, a grassy ravine in Kiev where Nazi forces killed 34,000 Jews in two days 65 years ago.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, whose father was imprisoned at the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II, will host Israeli President Moshe Katzav, as well as his Croatian and Montenegrin counterparts.
Thirty foreign delegations, including from Moscow and Washington, are expected to attend the event and an exhibition about the tragedy that is set to open on Tuesday.
The commemoration ceremonies are to start by the monument to the memory of the victims of the Babi Yar (Woman’s Ravine) massacres on Wednesday -- to be followed later in the day by an international forum entitled ‘Let My People Go.’
The forum on xenophobia and anti-Semitism is being organised jointly by Ukrainian authorities, the World Holocaust Forum and the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial.
‘The Holocaust didn’t come out of nowhere, it formed gradually. It’s only by examining closely the microbes called anti-Semitism that we can understand where they come from,’ said Moshe Kantor of the European Jewish Congress.
The massacres at Babi Yar were on a scale that defies comprehension.
Nearly 34,000 Jews, many of them elderly, women and children, were forced to gather at Babi Yar by German troops just days after the Nazi invasion. They were shot along the ravine’s edge on September 29 and 30, 1941.
Some 800,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed in the war.
Ukraine today has around 500,000 Jews -- the fourth largest Jewish population in the world after Israel, Russia and the United States.
The ravine continued to be used for executions and up to 60,000 more people -- Jews, Roma, resistance fighters and Soviet prisoners of war -- were killed there until 1943.
Before retreating from the advancing Red Army in 1943, Nazi troops exhumed and burned the corpses at Babi Yar in a last-ditch bid to hide the atrocities committed there.
But the secrets of Babi Yar became part of the accusations against senior Nazi officials at the Nuremberg trials and a monument was erected in Soviet times to the memory of the victims.
Soviet authorities, however, sought to play down the sensitive Jewish component of the history of Babi Yar. Anniversary gatherings were banned at the site and there was an attempt to build a stadium there in the 1960s.
In 1991, the Jewish community erected a menorah-shaped sculpture nearby.
Source: Khaleej Times