Seventy years ago today an unfathomable horror happened within this city I now call home. The Babi Yar massacre took place 29-30 September 1941 and it is believed to be the single largest massacre of the Holocaust with 33,771 Jews killed.
That is almost 34,000 humans beings
killed mercilessly, senselessly murdered
within 48 hours
because they were born Jewish
If that isn’t horrific enough, from what I’ve read, for the next two years every Tuesday and Saturday people were brought to the ravine, lined up, and shot. Only about a third of those killed were Jews. Gypsies, POWs, Ukrainians who tried to help, and others were also murdered.
It is a tragedy I cannot begin to imagine or understand, except to know that just thinking about it brings me to tears.
Several weeks ago I visited the site of Babi Yar. I live about an hour by public transportation from the place where this atrocity happened and it is situated in the middle of a beautiful park. There are several memorials dotting the landscape: a large menorah commemorating the Jews, a looming Soviet style statue to remember the Soviet citizens and POWs, a statue dedicated to the children who were murdered, and a few others.
The statue for the children got to me a bit with the little girl and her outstretched arms, but standing on the edge of the ravine almost made me sink to my knees. I can’t explain it except to say that I felt a part of the weight of what happened there.
And this nation feels the weight of it too. It is another horrific tragedy, full of both pain and shame, that the Ukrainian soul is too accustomed to and too often (in my opinion) tries to be pushed aside instead of learning to heal.
Tomorrow (Friday) night I will be showing The Boy in the Striped Pajamas for our movie club. It seemed rather appropriate in light of the anniversary, but is a much more serious movie than we have shown so far this year. Please pray that students don’t just walk away thinking, “Well that was depressing,” but that we can really have a serious discussion following the movie.