Kontakt TV: Dr. Paul Robert Magocsi on the Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of Babyn Yar

Dr. Paul Robert Magocsi

Professor Paul Robert Magocsi of the University of Toronto and the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter outlines the background for the program commemorating the 75th anniversary of Babyn Yar in Kyiv. The Holocaust has been embedded in the Western mindset through extensive educational efforts. Auschwitz is a symbol and important marker for the Holocaust, yet it is one of many symbols. Scholars have now been studying to a greater degree the two fundamental “styles” of the Holocaust.

The deliberate murder of Jews and others in death camps such as Auschwitz dominates Western memory. But there is also the lesser-known “Holocaust by Bullets” that occurred in Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. The most symbolic example of this other Holocaust is a ravine outside of Kyiv called Babyn Yar, where nearly thirty-four thousand Jews were killed on September 29-30, 1941. Tens of thousands more Jews, as well as non-Jews considered racial or political enemies of the Nazis, were killed afterwards throughout the period of the German occupation.

Ukraine is a post-communist society attempting to draw closer to Europe and the question of historical memory is vital. The UJE felt that part of its mandate was to help Ukraine create a proper and very respectful commemoration of the horrors of Babyn Yar, and to place it in an international context at the highest level.