Delegations from more than 40 countries gathered in Kyiv, Ukraine, on September 27 to commemorate the 65th anniversary of one of the worst atrocities of the 20th Century -- the Babyn Yar massacre, according to the U.S.Department of State.
In September 1941, invading Nazi troops killed more than 33,000 people, most of them Jews, at the ravine near Kiev. In the months following the massacre, German authorities stationed at Kiev killed thousands more Jews at Babyn Yar (also spelled Babi Yar), as well as non-Jews including Roma (Gypsies), Communists and Soviet prisoners of war. It is estimated that some 100,000 people were murdered at Babyn Yar, according to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“We have a responsibility to help our children understand what happened here and at similar sites across Europe. Through education, we can help protect future generations from a similar fate,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in Kiev.
Spellings, the head of the U.S. delegation to the commemoration, said the tragedy at Babyn Yar remains relevant today as the world continues to deal with intolerance.
“In the 20th century, we saw what happens when ignorance and prejudice go unchallenged, and we must teach our children to confront these forces in their own lives. A more hopeful, peaceful future depends on advancing the values of respect, compassion, and freedom and that begins with education,” said Spellings at the Kiev Opera House.
“The perpetrators tried to hide their crimes from the world, but your presence today shows they failed. The dead were buried and burned, but their lives will not be forgotten,” she said.
Other members of the U.S. delegation included U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor Jr.; Vincent Obsitnik, a former member of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America`s Heritage Abroad; Gregg Rickman, the State Department`s special envoy for combating anti-Semitism; and Fred Zeidman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council.