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German, Israeli presidents mark 80 years since Nazi slaughter of Jews in Ukraine – Expat Guide to Germany

The presidents of Germany, Israel and Ukraine on Wednesday marked 80 years since the Nazis slaughtered more than 33,000 Jews in Kiev during one of the worst single massacres of the Holocaust.

As part of the commemorative ceremonies, Ukrainian authorities also unveiled an installation created by renowned performance artist Marina Abramovic.

Located at the Babi Yar memorial complex, the “Crystal Wall of Crying” — an allusion to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem — consists of 75 large quartz crystals embedded into a 40-metre-long wall of black anthracite.

On September 29-30, 1941 more than 33,000 men, women and children, most of them Jews, were killed at the Babi Yar ravine outside Nazi-occupied Kiev, the capital of ex-Soviet Ukraine.

Babi Yar, also called Babyn Yar, was the scene of mass executions until 1943: up to 100,000 people were killed there, including Jews, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war.

Speaking at the ceremony, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said that the fight against anti-Semitism “must go on”.

“It pains me and makes me angry that anti-Semitism is also growing stronger again in Germany — especially in Germany,” he said. “The evil spirits of the past are showing themselves today in a new guise.”

Israel’s Isaac Herzog said that the world must make sure that such massacres never happen again.

“We must ensure for the whole of humanity – from this wretched place, of all places – from a place where the world bore witness, knew, and was silent – that there shall never, ever be another Babi Yar,” he said.

Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelensky called the massacre a “black, ugly page in world history.”

“Babyn Yar is a common tragedy of the Jewish and Ukrainian peoples,” Zelensky said.

– ‘Earth moved and moaned’ –

US officials also paid their respects.

“On this anniversary, we honour the memory of all those lost at Babyn Yar,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a poignant statement released on Wednesday.

Blinken pointed out that his Jewish stepfather “had lost almost everyone he loved in the Holocaust” and quoted from a report by a member of the Babi Yar killing squad.

“Not everyone who was shot died immediately. Some suffocated under the weight of the bodies,” Blinken said. “The earth around the ravine moved and moaned for days after the mass killings.”

In May, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center unveiled a symbolic wooden synagogue built in the shape of a book.

But plans to build another memorial at the site have sparked controversy in Ukraine.

Russian filmmaker Ilya Khrzhanovsky, who is artistic director of the memorial centre, has been criticised for plans to turn the future complex into a “Holocaust Disneyland” offering visitors a chance to experience the massacre in the role of either victim or executioner.

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