Posted by: Steven Page, Political Officer
On September 28, 1941, signs were posted across Kyiv, ordering the city’s Jews to gather the following day on the corner of Melnykova and Doktorivska Streets (present day Melnykova and Dorohozhytska Streets). Those who gathered were led to Babyn Yar, a ravine northwest of Kyiv, where Nazi soldiers shot some 34,000 Jews on September 29-30. This was the start of a bloody campaign, which over the next two years claimed the lives of tens of thousands of Jews, Roma, Ukrainian nationalists, prisoners of war, and others — an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 in all.
For nearly five decades, the Soviet authorities refused to acknowledge the extent of the brutality, particularly against Jews, at Babyn Yar, instead preferring to more generally focus on Nazi violence against the Soviet people. The collapse of communism introduced a period of openness and discussion about the massacre of Kyiv’s wartime Jewish population at Babyn Yar. Visiting U.S. dignitaries — including former Presidents George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton — have since visited the site to remember the innocent victims, to learn from past mistakes, to continue the fight against bigotry and hatred, and to take a stand against violence and tyranny.
On September 18, Ambassador Pyatt followed this tradition of remembering when he joined Chief Progressive Rabbi of Ukraine Oleksandr Dukhovny to honor those murdered by the Nazis at Babyn Yar. Rabbi Dukhovny explained the tragedy that befell Kyiv’s Jewish population and others who opposed Nazi rule. Rabbi Dukhovny also shared the heroic stories of survivors and Ukrainians who defied Nazi orders and protected Jews during the occupation of Kyiv. Ambassador Pyatt left a visitation stone at the Menorah Monument — a Jewish tradition honoring the dead.
President Clinton stated during his 1995 visit to Babyn Yar, “In the quiet of this place, the victims of Babi Yar cry out to us still. Never forget, they tell us, that humanity is capable of the worst, just as it is capable of the best. Never forget that the forces of darkness cannot be defeated with silence or indifference. Never forget that we are all Jews and [Roma] and Slavs. Never forget.” It is in this spirit of remembrance that Ambassador Pyatt and the entire Embassy will continue to advocate for justice for Ukraine’s many religious, ethnic, and other minority groups to ensure that this type of tragedy is not repeated.