By a large majority, the Ukrainian parliament has decided to turn International Holocaust Remembrance Day into an official commemoration day in the country, the Interfax news agency reported Tuesday.
The world marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp. The parliament also decided to mark the 70th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre this year with a series of special events.
The decision of the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine’s parliament) was unequivocal, with 331 of 450 representatives voting in favor of commemorating the Jews murdered in the Holocaust in an annual state memorial day, and marking the 70th anniversary of the massacre in the ravine west of Kiev with special events.
According to the official document, a committee will be appointed to plan official ceremonies and events for the Babi Yar massacre anniversary in early October.
In September 1941, after the Nazi occupation of Ukraine, Babi Yar turned into a battlefield. More than 100,000 people were murdered and buried at the site. Some 33,000 Jews were slaughtered there within two days, on September 29-30.
Kiev’s Jews gathered near a local cemetery, expecting to be taken to ghettos on trains. Instead, they were ordered to undress and were shot in groups into the ravine, which turned into a mass grave. Soviet prisoners of war, gypsies, psychiatric patients, opposers of the Nazi regime and many Ukrainian citizens were murdered in Babi Yar later on.
In August 1943, the Nazis tried to cover up the crimes they committed at the site. For weeks, hundreds of prisoners engaged in burning bodies and scattering the ashes.