One week into the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the latter country’s largest cities continue to face escalating assaults by land and air. Warfare has already impacted Ukraine’s cultural property, with works by the beloved Ukrainian self-taught artist Maria Prymachenko destroyed during the reported burning of a museum in Ivankiv. Yesterday, a Russian projectile struck near the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv, where more than 33,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis in a two-day massacre during World War II.
Ukrainian authorities reported that five people were killed in the attack. A monument to Holocaust victims was not directly hit, but a nearby building the center planned to use for a new museum was damaged.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the attack, saying, “To the world: what is the point of saying ‘never again’ for 80 years, if the world stays silent when a bomb drops on the same site of Babyn Yar? At least 5 killed. History repeating…”
Babyn Yar is one of Europe’s largest mass graves for Jews murdered in the Holocaust. It is close to Kyiv’s main radio and television tower, a known target of the Russian military. The tower and memorial are in a heavily populated area of the city with several apartment complexes nearby.
Natan Sharanksy, advisory board chair of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, said in a statement, “[Russian president Vladimir] Putin seeks to distort and manipulate the Holocaust to justify an illegal invasion of a sovereign democratic country is utterly abhorrent. It is symbolic that he starts attacking Kyiv by bombing the site of the Babyn Yar, the biggest of Nazi massacre.”
Museums dedicated to Jewish art and history worldwide have similarly decried the bombing. The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum said that it was “outraged at the damage inflicted on the Babyn Yar memorial by Russia’s attack today.” The Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, a U.K. charity, wrote on Twitter that it was “horrified” to hear of the strike.
In a speech last week, Vladimir Putin described the impending invasion as seeking the “demilitarization and denazification of Ukraine,” and called Ukraine’s leaders “neo-Nazis.” Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky is Jewish.
According to the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center’s materials, as many as 100,000 Jews, in addition to prisoners of war and Roma people, were killed at the site between between 1941 and 1943. The center is developing a new museum complex to commemorate the victims, scheduled to open in 2026. A museum in the complex was set to open later this year.