Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center hosted an informational exhibition and a public conference in the European Parlament

On June 20th, the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in cooperation with Ioan Mircea Pascu, Vice-President of the European Parliament and in partnership with the Judaica Institute Ukraine hosted an Informational Exhibition and a Public Conference in the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium.

While there are more than two hundred museums throughout the world dedicated to the topic of the Holocaust, there still are none in Ukraine. The aim of this exhibition and conference was to attract the attention of the international community and together reflect on the place of the tragedy, Babi Yar. BYHMC genuinely aspires to show the value of heritage and memory and to support Ukraine’s endeavor in developing a democratic society on a foundation of a pluralistic picture of history.

During the Public Conference “Babi Yar, the Place of Common Sorrow”, the participants talked about the value of a policy of memory in the building of Europe with the reference to the Babi Yar tragedy. The discussions mainly focused on the importance of Holocaust studies with an aim to prevent history from repeating itself and on the important role memorials play when contributing to a better mutual understanding. 

In the opening speech of the conference, the host, Mr. Ioan Mircea Pascu, Vice-President of the European Parliament, said: "The tragedy of Babi Yar was frightful. Our future generation should be aware and always remember such inhumane crimes. These exhibitions and such memorials are extremely important since they serve as a fundament for the growth of democratic society."

Ms. Rebecca Harms, MEP from the Greens, Germany, noted that: "I am speaking as a German today. Not as a member of the European Parliament and friend of Ukraine that you know. Thanks to my teachers I understood the history of my country, the guilt and responsibility. Babi Yar is the place in Ukraine where one of the most awful slaughtering of Jewish Ukrainians happened. Our German past gives us responsibility for the future of Europe. We have to support Ukraine’s aspiration and efforts to come closer and closer and join the EU. But it is of immense significance today to defend the sovereignty of Ukraine. The past is the prologue to our common better future."

Oleh Haryaga, Head of the Shevchenkivskyy District State Administration, showed his strong support of the BYHMC initiative to open a memorial center in Kyiv: "This museum has to unite the whole nation around this project. As long as Kyiv stands, there should be a place to commemorate the victims of Babi Yar."

After the Conference, the Informational Exhibition “Babi Yar, the Place of Common Sorrow” opened its doors to the public. Head of the mission of Ukraine to the EU, Mr. Mykola Tochytskyi, who opened the exhibition said: “It is impossible to convey what happened in Babi Yar 76 years ago. We, the later-born generations, need to remember and mourn, and to do that we need more than mere numbers and facts. That is why such exhibitions are so important and valuable”.

Mairead McGuiness, first Vice-President of the European Parliament, laid her emphasis on the importance of the memorial construction for the further development of the democratic society. In addition, she reassured that during her visits to the schools, she will educate youth on the topic of Holocaust.

During her speech, Director of Judaica Institute Ukraine, Julia Smilyanskaya, said: “75 years have passed since the tragedy. Today Babi Yar is a place for tens of monuments, for meetings, for public gatherings attended by the high officials, for tourists and Kyiv citizens, for both adults and kids. Can we assume that the catharsis has passed and the task of memory preservation is completed?

Unfortunately, no. We don’t know how many people died in Babi Yar, we don’t know their names. There is no museum dedicated to this appalling tragedy. Therefore, this exhibition brings Ukrainian society one more step closer to building a civilized attitude to one’s past. This is an attempt to look into the eyes of those deceased in Babi Yar and understand what they are trying to tell us today. Philosopher M. Gefter called this process "Dialogue of the living with the living dead." And only we, who live today, can lead this dialogue.”

The informational exhibition “Babi Yar, the Place of the Common Sorrow” discovers texts, documents, biographies, photos, geography, topography, history, stories about righteousness, attempts to destroy the memory of the tragedy and the fight for its preservation. The main narrative leads the viewer through the history of Kyiv Jews before and after the WWII, exploring the tragedy of Babi Yar and other places of Jewish extermination throughout Ukraine.

The informational exhibition and public conference were attended by Ioan Mircea Pascu, Vice-President of the European Parliament, Rebecca Harms, MEP from the Greens, Germany, Adam Snub, Chargé d'Affaires, U.S. Mission to the EU, Mykola Tochytskyi, Head of the mission of Ukraine to the EU, Julia Smilyanskaya, Director of Judaica Institute Ukraine, Oleh Haryaga, Head of the Shevchenkivskyy District State Administration, Hannu Takkula, MEP from Finland, and Bastiaan (Bas) Belder, MEP from the Netherlands.

It is planned to display the exhibition in the European Parliament building in Brussels till June 23rd. Afterwards the materials will be returned to Ukraine and are then to be shown to Ukrainian society in the nearest future.


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