Jewish Leaders Recognize 80 Years Since Babyn Yar

Kyiv, Ukraine

. . . William Daroff, CEO, and Malcolm Hoenlein, Vice Chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, are participating in the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar massacre this week in Kyiv, Ukraine.

Babyn Yar was the site of unspeakable horror on September 29 and 30, 1941, when nearly 34,000 Jewish men, women, and children were murdered by the Nazis and their Ukrainian collaborators. To mark the 80th anniversary of this atrocity, several special events organized by the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center and the government of Ukraine are taking place featuring survivors of Babyn Yar as well as descendants of those who were killed.

In addition to their participation in these events, Daroff and Hoenlein are joining mission participants from NCSEJ: the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry to meet with Ukrainian and other world leaders on the sidelines of the commemoration. The Conference leaders also participated in events with Israeli President Isaac Herzog, whose first state visit is to attend the Babyn Yar commemoration.

Hoenlein, who serves on the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center's Organizing Committee, said “This important initiative comes at a critical time when Holocaust denial and distortion are surging and Holocaust ignorance is becoming endemic amongst younger generations. In addition, the passing each day of the treasured remaining survivors of the Holocaust is even more painful and impactful. Who will give testimony to the indescribable horrors and to the limitless evil that took the lives of six million Jews, among them a million and a half children? In Babyn Yar, the most prominent site of the ‘Holocaust by bullets,’ 33,771 Jews were individually shot by Nazis and their local collaborators between September 29-30, 1941. Ultimately 100,000 Jews and non-Jews were killed at this site. The very earth cries out ‘remember, gedenk, zachor. It is your obligation to protect future generations. Don’t let the memories, the lessons, the warnings die also.’ This expansive undertaking with multiple museums will enable all who visit to hear those distilled voices and join in pledging Never Again. We must hold all those responsible then, as well as now, to account. We are here to echo that declaration and declare our support.

“I was honored to chair the session with the project’s founders, who have demonstrated deep commitment, both financial and personal, to make this essential project a reality.”

Daroff, who studied the history of Eastern European Jewry and the Holocaust at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, Poland, remarked, “The Holocaust for many decades served as a dark warning to Europe, a sign of where antisemitism can lead. But American Jewry has a long and proud reputation of coming to the aid of our co-religionists in Europe, and it still has an important role to play today. One of our greatest priorities in Europe is to preserve and increase awareness of the Shoah by means of educational programming. A recent survey finds a woeful lack of Holocaust awareness even in the US and other polls find European populations claiming that Jews have too much power and care too much about the Holocaust. Our work is clearly cut out for us and we will not be remiss in our duties."

“I am honored that I am present in Kyiv for this solemn occasion, and I hope to return home with an even deeper understanding of the atrocities that befell our people during the horrific period it recalls. But sadly, as the ongoing threat of antisemitism still plagues us to this day, we must continue to fight with all we have and with all the true allies we can muster.”

This week, Daroff published a column in The Jerusalem Post entitled European Jewry’s Cause Is Our Own: https://www.jpost.com/opinion/the-welfare-of-european-jewry-is-american-responsibility-opinion-681045

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