On October 6, Babyn Yar hosted an official memorial ceremony for the victims of the tragedy with the participation of the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky and the Presidents of Germany and Israel – Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Isaac Herzog. During the event, the world-famous conceptual artist Maryna Abramovych presented a new memorial object – "Crystal Wall od Crying" which symbolically continues the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem.
The official ceremony to the 80th anniversary began with a performance of Symphony No. 13 by Dmitri Shostakovich, "Babyn Yar," based on a poem by Yevgeny Yevtushenko, performed by the German State Symphony Orchestra. The orchestra and choir conducted by Thomas Sanderling seemed to be trying to convey the enormity of the tragic events, and the soloist appeared as the protagonist and observer of all that was happening. For the first time in a symphony, the composer sought not only to express his idea in music, but also in words.
During the official ceremony of honoring the memory of the victims of Babyn Yar, a new object was presented by the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, the "Crystal Wall of Crying" by the world-famous conceptual artist Maryna Abramovych.
The "Crystal Wall of Crying" is a symbolic continuation of the Wailing Wall of the Jerusalem Temple. It is constructed of anthracite and rock-crystals, and it is a monument to the Babyn Yar tragedy and the Holocaust. It creates a special space where everyone can remember and reflect on the tragic events of the past. Visitors interact with crystals located at the level of the head, chest, and abdomen. This interaction is aimed to restore the connection between private memory and collective memory through body sensations.
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, the President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier and the President of Israel Isaac Herzog walked together with Maryna Abramovych to the "Crystal Wall of Crying". They were followed by the First Lady of Ukraine Olena Zelenska, Prime Minister of Ukraine Denys Shmyhal, CEO at the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center Max Yakover and artistic director Ilya Khrzhanovsky.
"In the first two days, the Nazis executed 33,771 Jews in Babyn Yar, – the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky emphasized in his speech. – Almost all the men were at the front. And mostly elderly people, women, and children were executed here. The Nazis did not spare children under the age of three, they did not kill them, not counting them. A Nazi plane circled over the ravine day and night, drowning out the shots. However, it couldn't drown out the suffering. In the next two years, almost the entire Jewish population of Kyiv was executed here by the Nazis. Later, they killed Roma, Ukrainians and prisoners of war. At the Nuremberg Trials, it was about 100 thousand people. New studies suggest about 200 thousand. For the Nazis, these figures did not matter, unlike us".
Zelensky added that the tragedy of Babyn Yar has affected everyone who considers themselves human beings. After all, what happened here was a crime against the concept of "human being" itself.
It is symbolic, he stressed, that the President of Israel and the President of Germany are present here today. Zelensky also thanked everyone who came to share with us the common pain of the 80th anniversary of the terrible tragedy of Babyn Yar.
"There was a time when they tried to simply ignore the page of Babyn Yar, to live as if it didn't exist. There was a time when they stopped being silent, however, "started talking" doesn't mean "started acting." I am glad that after so many arguments and obstacles, we have finally started moving ahead. Together with the public, with the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, investors, historians, scientists, architects and many other experts, the state has begun the process when the Memorial Complex and the National Historical-Memorial Reserve "Babyn Yar" will finally be created. Every month, new objects have already been appearing here, which in a few years will become part of a single large-scale memorial complex of Babyn Yar. It will allow everybody to fully experience the horror, and pain, and suffering brought to humanity by Nazism, racism, antisemitism, xenophobia and intolerance. Yes, unfortunately, it won't help the killed ones, but it will help those who live. Those who should know about it, remember it, pass it on to their children, pass it on to their grandchildren", – noted the head of state.
We must promise humanity that Babyn Yar will never happen again, stressed the President of Israel Isaac Herzog: "In Jerusalem, in the Knesset, there is a drawing of an artist who was born in Ukraine. It is a picture of children, women, and the elderly, along with a Nazi soldier pointing a gun at them... and there's a woman holding a little daughter and folding a baby to her chest. I went up the stairs a thousand times and always looked at this picture, and stopped. And every time leaders from all over the world came, I showed them this picture as we need to teach future generations that there wasn’t such a terrible murder as killing by bullets during the Holocaust. The worst thing is that the sun was shining and the birds were singing and at the same time Nazi machine guns were working for two days. And the lives of tens of thousands of Jews from Kyiv were crossed out. The fate of entire families was crossed out."
At the beginning of his speech, the President of Germany Frank-Walter Steinmeier read out the poem "Babyn Yar" by Evgeny Yevtushenko. He stressed that the tragedy of the Holocaust began with mass shootings in the towns of Eastern Europe. "The path to Babyn Yar is difficult for a German, for the Federal President of Germany. At the same time, I am grateful to be here today. Here, in Babyn Yar, almost 34 thousand Jews were killed by German troops in the last days of September 1941. These horrors were committed by the Germans, and there are not enough words to describe the scale of this crime. The crime against humanity – the Holocaust – did not begin with the death factories in Auschwitz, Treblinka, Sobibor, Majdanek, Belzek, it began earlier, during the aggressive campaign to the East, in the forests, on the outskirts of towns and villages. More than a million Jews fell victims of this "Holocaust by Bullets" in Ukraine. Here, in Kyiv, in Odessa, Berdychiv, Chernivtsi, and in many other places", – he noted.
A world-class museum should appear on the place of the tragedy of Babyn Yar. The chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center Natan Sharansky stressed upon. "This is a very ambitious project. We want to make a symbolic place, a place where they were about to erase memory, and now it will be a temple of memory, it will be a place of education, science, truth. This is a Jewish-Ukrainian project, it is very important for our history, as we have to know what happened here. Ukraine must become the leading nation in Europe, knowing the truth about the past and confidently looking into the future", – he stressed.
"In the Soviet Union, we could only learn about Babyn Yar from our grandparents, moms and dads. Everything was hushed up, and we lived in lies. But there was always a hope, there was a dream to tell about Babyn Yar, – noted Victor Pinchuk, businessman and philanthropist, member of the Supervisory Board of the Holocaust Memorial Center, – Only 5 years ago, on the 75th anniversary of this tragedy, we announced our commitment to create a memorial. We are aware of our enormous responsibility, and by "we" I mean a large team, several hundred people, mostly young Ukrainians, who create this memorial, who work here every day. Not to mention many famous artists, architects, sculptors. We have no right to make mistakes. This story must be told truthfully. We need to talk about what happened here. Those who come here will feel great pain, compassion. And I hope they will also feel pride, respect and admiration. Because here Ukraine is telling the truth about Babyn Yar. Only those who are willing to admit mistakes and tell the truth can be strong."
"Even earlier, before Babyn Yar, we and our families were in German-occupied territory, we witnessed the beginning of the "Holocaust by Bullets," injustice, extermination, murder, death, pogroms – said Borys Zabarko, the Chairman of the Association of Jews – former prisoners of ghetto and Nazi concentration camps. – After the terrible tragedy of Babyn Yar, the Nazi genocide engulfed our entire country. We don't have a single family that wasn't affected by the Holocaust. Even 80 years later, these bloody murders haunt us. The winds of historical change open up an opportunity to live in a new way, and if we want to spare future generations from such tragedies and find a way to civilize European nations, we must make efforts to ensure that the memory of the victims of Nazism and those people who fought against it will not be forgotten. If we allow the memory of the Holocaust to fade and the historical events associated with it to be denied, we ourselves will allow this tragedy to happen again. It could happen again if we do not tell the whole truth about what happened and how it happened, the truth about each person, about each executioner and victim, about each Righteous Among the Nations and the passive observer, traitor and collaborator."
He added that he believes that thanks to joint efforts, including those of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center team, the memorial complex will be completed here.
During the official ceremony dedicated to the 80th anniversary, Volodymyr Tarasov's jazz trio (Lauren Newton-voice, Mark Tokar – double bass, Vladimir Tarasov – percussion) performed a piece based on the text "The Last" by Chaim Nachman Bialik. The symbolic synagogue "Space for Reflection" was opened, where Joseph Malovany, the world-famous cantor, serving as Hazzan of New York's Fifth Avenue Synagogue, said a prayer. Cellist Mischa Maisky performed "Sarabanda" by Johann Sebastian Bach. Famous musician Gidon Kremer and soloists of the Kremerata Baltica Orchestra performed.