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Historian Timothy Snyder: Babi Yar A Tragedy For All Ukrainians

Historians in the News
tags: Ukraine, Timothy Snyder, Babi Yar



U.S. historian Timothy Snyder says there are several lessons to draw from Babi Yar, where more than 30,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis on September 29-30, 1941. One is that it was a tragedy for all Ukraine. Another is that we must stop thinking about people in terms of ethnic categories or be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past.

Snyder, a professor at Yale University and an expert on the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust, spoke with RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service correspondent Natalia Churikova in Kyiv, in Ukrainian. The following is a translation:

RFE/RL: Seventy-five years ago on the outskirts of Kyiv at Babi Yar ravine, 33,771 Jews were shot in just two days. Babi Yar has become a symbol of the destruction of Ukrainian Jews just as Auschwitz has become a symbol of the destruction of the Jews throughout Europe. Why is it not only a Jewish tragedy, but a Ukrainian one, too?

Timothy Snyder: First of all, we have to remember that Ukrainian Jews lived on the territory of Ukraine hundreds of years before the Soviets and before the war.

Secondly, Jews along with all other Ukrainians lived through, for instance, the Holodomor [the mass famine of the 1930s]. Some Ukrainians have said that Holodomor is our tragedy and the Holocaust is the tragedy of Jews. That is not completely true, because during the Holodomor, many who lived on Ukrainian territory, including Jews, Russians, Poles, and others, were annihilated.

It seems to me that in order to understand the link between the experiences before the war and during the war, it is necessary, first of all, to understand that the war brought radical changes, then the Soviet system collapsed and those who lived before the war changed their relations with others. ...

Read entire article at Radio Free Europe


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