One of the deadliest single massacres in the history of the Holocaust, the Babyn Yar mass killing committed by the Nazis in Kyiv, Ukraine, on September 29 and 30, 1941, heartlessly stole the lives of more than 33,000 Jewish men, women, and children. Standing in solidarity with Queens’ Jewish and Ukrainian communities, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards Jr. traveled to Ukraine earlier this month to participate in a series of events commemorating the 80th anniversary of the massacre.
“It may seem like an eternity since the Nazis and their co-conspirators committed one of the most appalling acts of mass murder ever seen in human history. But with antisemitism and political extremism on the rise around the globe, it has never been more important for us to look back at events like Babyn Yar and pledge to never allow that kind of hate to take hold in our world ever again,” said Borough President Richards. “It was the honor of a lifetime to represent the Jewish and Ukrainian communities of The World’s Borough at this month’s powerful commemoration ceremony marking 80 years since the massacre — a powerful and emotional experience I won’t ever forget.”
Sponsored by the Assembly of Nationalities of Ukraine, the mission trip included numerous high-level meetings with Ukrainian elected officials, including members of the Ukrainian parliament, the Kyiv City Council and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yuschenko, as well as Israeli leaders like President Isaac Herzog and Ambassador to Ukraine Michael Brodsky.
Following a visit to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to observe the dangers of nuclear power, Borough President Richards participated in an official commemoration ceremony at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, led by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and featuring the unveiling of the Crystal Wailing Wall and other modern art exhibits memorializing the massacre.
Less than two weeks after Nazi troops entered the Kyiv, the occupying force arrested a significant portion of the city’s Jewish population and transported them to Babyn Yar, a ravine just outside the city. Forced to undress and enter the ravine, the victims were then shot in small groups. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 33,771 Jewish men, women, and children were killed in the massacre.
Mass killings of Jews, Soviet prisoners of war and other non-Jewish populations would continue at Babyn Yar for another two years, with an estimated 100,000 to 150,000 people being murdered at the ravine before the Soviet Union re-took control of Kyiv in late 1943.