Images on the Wall.
In the small rustic apartment in a kibbutz, a few miles outside of Jerusalem, a picture of three young women stands out.
It was years ago that I was in Israel, on a journalists’ mission. I remained after the mission to visit with a great aunt. She lived in a small apartment on the kibbutz, Kiryat Anavim, As a young woman, Sarah left her family behind in Ukraine, as she joined a group to found and develop the kibbutz.
Images on the Wall.
Sarah spoke little English, and my Hebrew was far from polished, but we were able to connect, relatively easily. She talked about those photos, relatives I would never meet. I learned of their tragic story, how Sarah’s two sisters, in fear of the approaching Nazis, took their own lives.
It’s some 80 years from 1941 when Hitler’s army devasted Ukraine. Those alive today would have been children then, but for them, the memories are likely still vivid.
On Tuesday Russian forces damaged Babi Yar, one of Europe’s most prominent Holocaust memorials, amid a brutal onslaught of Kyiv.
It was in late June of 1941 when German forces invaded the Soviet Union (of which Ukraine was a part). The Nazis rolled over Ukraine, and by autumn of 1941, mass killings of Jews began. In three years, the Nazis would kill 1.5 million Ukrainians (including a million Jews), with another 800,000 fleeing Ukraine.
Babi Yar, a ravine in Kyiv, was the site of a massacre by the Nazis and their collaborators from September 29-30, 1941, killing nearly 34,000 Jews.
The massacre was only surpassed overall by the 1941 Odessa massacre of more than 50,000 Jews in October 1941 (committed by German and Romanian troops), and Aktion Erntefest in November 1943 in occupied Poland with 43,000 victims.
In Babi Yar alone, between 100,000 and 150,000 people – Jews, Soviet prisoners of war, communists, Ukrainian nationals, were killed during Nazi occupation.
The Times of Israel estimates there are less than 200,000 Jews living in Ukraine when once there were 1.5 million. Many were killed in the Holocaust, others the victim of years of anti-Semitism and pogroms. Many Jews left Ukraine for Israel when the Soviet Union collapsed.