Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky addressed participants of the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony in Bukovina

The address of the President of Ukraine was read by Vasyl Hostiuk, Deputy Head of the Chernivtsi Oblast State Administration on 6 September 2019.

To the participants of the ceremony to commemorate Holocaust victims in Bukovina

Ladies and Gentlemen!

The Holocaust. When we hear this word, it conjures up images of horror, pain, and despair on the black-and-white film of the chronicles of those times. It is hard to believe today that just under eight decades ago Europe was gripped by the madness of anti-humanism.

This was one of the worst tragedies of the twentieth century, and in July 1941 it reached Ukrainian Bukovina and Chernivtsi, a historically multinational, multidenominational, and friendly region. The peaceful coexistence of the ethnic groups in the region was then poisoned by the basest and vilest manifestation of the Nazi regime—ethnic hatred.

Tens of thousands of Bukovinian Jews were tortured, killed, or deported. A place of mutual openness and shared history was ravaged by the “brown plague.” In fact, the way of hatred that leads from a human being to a humanoid without conscience, honor, and dignity is very short. When a person crosses the line, he or she becomes capable of anything: humiliating prisoners, deriding their faith, torture, and killing.

I was horrified by the story of a Chernivtsi rabbi who was brought to the square to clean the shoes of Nazi officers and forced to watch his synagogue burn and his faith being destroyed before he himself was killed.

Let us commemorate and pray together today—whether it is in a synagogue, church, mosque, or other holy place—for the innocently tortured victims of the Holocaust.

Memory eternal to them!

No matter how dark the night, there is always a ray of light that gives hope and comfort. Although we now remember, in pain, those dark pages of history, we need to also remember the luminous figures and good deeds. I want to bow before the people who, even at the cost of their lives, saved thousands of Jews throughout Europe from inevitable death during World War II. The State of Israel calls them Righteous among the Nations, and the search for them and their stories is still ongoing, including in Ukraine.

I am sincerely grateful to the organizers of the ceremony, to all who have joined in, and simply to all those who care and have been able to come today and commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.

Volodymyr Zelensky

Translated from the Ukrainian by Vasyl Starko
Edited by Peter Bejger