During World War II Babyn Yar, like Auschwitz in present-day Poland, became a prominent symbol of the destruction of the European Jews during the Holocaust. This deadly process began in September 1941 with the murder of nearly 34,000 Jews and continued over the next several years with the shootings of tens of thousands more Jews as well as the Roma people, the mentally ill, Soviet prisoners of war, Ukrainian national activists, Communist party members, and ordinary residents of Kyiv taken as hostages. These people were stripped of their dignity as individuals and subjected to inhuman brutality and then murdered. Babyn Yar became one of the most traumatic sites in the Ukrainian experience of World War II.
Marking this most recent anniversary of the Babyn Yar tragedy allows us to understand that the past is not some ossified construct, but rather a dynamic phenomenon open to new discoveries. Every era and every generation contributes its own vision and interpretation of the Babyn Yar tragedy. These are expressed in a variety of dimensions: commemorative, mutual recognition, philosophical, and anthropological. Finally, there is a generational aspect to the reinterpretation of this tragedy, as every generation does this in its own way.
This volume was prepared under the sponsorship of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter as part of its seventy-fifth anniversary of Babyn Yar Project held in Kyiv, Ukraine, 23–29 September 2016. The editors appreciate the support of the sponsor and recognize that the views expressed in this volume are not necessarily those of the Ukrainian Jewish Encounter.
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Babyn Yar: History and Memory was designed with a general readership in mind. Therefore, while the authors are all scholars, the book does not contain a scholarly apparatus traditionally associated with extensive footnote references and bibliography. Instead, the editors asked contributors to provide a list of books and articles for further reading. These lists are placed at the end of each chapter, and brief references within the text identify the source of a quotation from a work in the further reading list.