A Letter of Concern by Ukrainian Historians Regarding the Plans to Construct the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center.
On September 28, 2016, during the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Babyn Yar tragedy in Kyiv a plan was announced to create Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (http://prostir.museum/ua/post/38005). The project was initiated by Russian billionaires of Ukrainian descent Pavlo Fuks, Mykhaylo Fridman, Herman Khan and a Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Pinchuk.
In early February 2017, in Kyiv an expert meeting took place, gathering Holocaust historians, mostly from abroad, to discuss the concept of the future memorial (http://www.istpravda.com.ua/short/2017/02/13/149532/).
Based on the information available to the public, the project has raised a number of considerable concerns from the well-known Ukrainian historians specializing in Ukrainian-Jewish history, the Holocaust, World War II, historical memory and interethnic relations. Their reasoning was laid out in a common letter, addressed to their colleagues chosen as experts of the Memorial Center.
Below you can find the full text of that letter:
On February 7-8, 2017 you took part in an expert meeting organized by Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center. With regard to this we would like you to consider our common appeal.
- We fully support the idea of creation in the Ukrainian capital of a memorial center embracing museum, research and educational compounds and representing the history of the Holocaust – the most tragic page of the Jewish history and one of the most ferocious genocidal acts of the previous century.
- We find unacceptable the construction of a memorial center on the terrain of Babyn Yar itself or on the territory of one of the former cemeteries. According to the presently available information, the construction works are planned exactly on the site of the Jewish cemetery that was destroyed during the Soviet rule. The location of the former cemetery is confirmed by all historical maps (http://www.kby.kiev.ua/komitet/ua/reserve/art00087.html).
- We believe that singling out the so-called “Holocaust by bullets” from the general history of the Holocaust in Europe is artificial and far-fetched. If such an approach is accepted, it may become another attempt, this time on the level of historical memory, to restore the common Soviet civilizational space and by its means to exploit the painful topic of the Holocaust to advance neoimperialistic ideas of the “Russian world”.
- During the Second World War the Ukrainian territories were occupied by different states which defined means of persecution and murder of local Jews. Namely, up to a quarter of 1,5 mln murdered Ukrainian Jews were killed in Nazi death camps on the occupied Polish territories.
- Therefore, we find it appropriate that the future museum should embrace the whole complexity of the Holocaust history, matching the level of other similar world-known centers. The Museum of the Holocaust in Ukraine should reflect the context of World War II and the Holocaust in Europe to foster complex incorporation of the issues to the new historical memory of the Ukrainian people.
- The Jewish tragedy turned Babyn Yar into a world Holocaust symbol, Jews making up two-thirds of the 90-100 thousand victims murdered and buried there. Nonetheless, Nazi occupation made Babyn Yar into an execution spot not only for Jews, but everyone considered an enemy by the Nazis: Roma, Ukrainian nationalists, Soviet POWs and partisans, prisoners of Syretsky concentration camp, hostages and mentally sick. After the war Babyn Yar became the place of a technological disaster – Kurenivska tragedy – and the site of struggle for the right to commemorate the victims of the Holocaust.
- In the light of above, we find it wrong to limit Babyn Yar exclusively to the history of the Holocaust, ignoring other victims and other dramatic moments connected to the site. Such an approach will only emphasize memory wars over Babyn Yar which has been the case for many years by now.
- Though it is obvious that the history of murder of Kyiv Jews must be at the heart of a Babyn Yar Museum, we strongly believe that a Holocaust Museum and a Babyn Yar Museum should be separate institutions focusing on different aspects and contexts of the tragic XX century.
We sincerely hope that you as our colleagues will understand and support our view and further present it to the funders and directors of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center.
Prof. Hennadiy Boryak, Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine
Dr. Petro Dolhanov, Rivne State University of Humanities
Prof. Maksym Hon, Rivne State University of Humanities
Prof. Oleh Kozerod, Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine
Prof. Oleksandr Lysenko, Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine
Prof. Oleksandr Mayboroda, Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine
Prof. Ivan Monolatiy, Vasyl Stefanyk Precarpathian national University
Vitaliy Nakhmanovych, Historian, Museum of History of Kyiv
Dr. Tetyana Pastushenko, Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine
Prof. Ivan Patrilyak, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
Dr. Anatoliy Podolskyi, Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies; Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine
Prof. Olena Styazhkina, Institute of History of Ukraine of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine
Dr. Oleh Surovtsev, Yuriy Fedkovych Chernivtsi National University
Prof. Ihor Turov, Kuras Institute of Political and Ethnic Studies of the National Academy of Science of Ukraine.