Babyn Yar Massacres Remembrance Day in Ukraine Date in the current year: September 29, 2024

Babyn Yar Massacres Remembrance Day in Ukraine Babyn Yar Massacres Remembrance Day is a Ukrainian memorial day observed annually on September 29. It was created to commemorate the victims of massacres, who were mainly Jews, that were carried out by the German occupation forces during World War II.

Babyn Yar (also spelled Babi Yar if transliterated from Russian) is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv. During the Nazi occupation of Kyiv, it was the site of mass massacres that claimed the lives of more than 100,000 Jews, Romanis, Soviet POWs, and Ukrainian nationalists, including poet and activist Olena Teliha and her husband Mykhailo.

Kyiv was occupied by Axis forces on September 19, 1941. Several days later, Nazi leaders decided to exterminate the city’s Jews, who went to the site of the massacre believing they were just going to be relocated because the order for Jews to gather on September 29, 1941 at a specified place mentioned bringing documents, money, valuables, and warm clothes.

Instead of being relocated, however, over 33,000 Jews were shot at Babyn Yar on September 29 and 30, 1941. It was the first and most well-documented massacre at Babyn Yar to occur during the Nazi occupation of Kyiv. In the months that followed, more than 100,000 residents of Kyiv, mostly civilians, were executed at Babyn Yar.

For a long time, the Soviet authorities tried to downplay the tragedy and actively discouraged highlighting the fact that it was mostly Jews who fell victims to the Babyn Yar massacres. There wasn’t even a memorial to commemorate the victims of the tragedy for the first two decades after the war.

The situation began to change during the 1960s. After a massive spontaneous rally that took place on September 29, 1966 – the 25th anniversary of the tragedy – and was attended by notable Ukrainian dissidents Ivan Dziuba and Viktor Nekrasov, talks began about erecting a monument to the Babyn Yar victims. However, it took another decade to actually erect it.

An official memorial to Soviet citizens and POWs shot at Babyn Yar was opened in July 1976. Its unveiling was met with harsh criticism outside the Soviet Union because Jews were not specifically mentioned as the main victims of the massacres.

Following the independence of Ukraine, over two dozen monuments and memorials have been erected at and around Babyn Yar. They include a Menorah-shaped monument to the Jewish victims of the massacre, a monument to the children shot at Babyn Yar, monuments to Ukrainian nationalists, Ukrainian Orthodox Christian priests, concentration camp prisoners and Ostarbeiters, and Romani genocide victims, and a few other monuments and memorials.

In 2016, a group of Jewish oligarchs with strong ties to Russia announced the creation of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center. Some Ukrainian historians and activists condemned the project as pro-Kremlin and anti-Ukrainian. In 2017, they began to develop an alternative project, the Babyn Yar National Historical and Memorial Reserve, with the assistance from the Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Sciences. As of 2022, the memorial center was still under development.

Babyn Yar Massacres Remembrance Day is observed in Ukraine on September 29. It is marked with solemn remembrance ceremonies at Babyn Yar, as well as educational and memorial events held by the Institute of History of Ukraine, various Jewish organizations, and other stakeholders.

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