As the world commemorates the Holocaust on Jan. 27, Ukraine is also doing its part to honor the victims of the World War II-era genocide of European Jews.

In 2020, commemorative ceremonies have been titled “Six Million Hearts in Ukraine.”

They will be held in almost all Ukrainian cities, where mass murders of Jews took place – Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv, Bila Tserkva, Nikopol, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Chernivtsi, Odesa and other smaller cities.

On Jan. 26, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke in front of former prisoners of the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp and their families during his official visit to Poland.

“Today, we are full of pain and sadness for the millions of Holocaust victims. It is a terrible tragedy for the Jewish people and a tragic lesson for all of humanity,” he said.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko also honored the memory of the victims.

“Today is a sad day. These painful and horrifying pages of history must teach us humanity, tolerance and respect to each other, no matter what nationality, race, creeds or social status one has,” he wrote on his Facebook page.

International commemoration

International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the 1945 liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, the largest Nazi German death camp in Poland, where over 1.1 million people were killed.

Although many countries have begun to mark this memorial day since 2006, Ukraine only started in 2012.

The year 2020 marks 75 years since the liberation.

Six million Jews — or two-thirds of Europe’s Jewish population — were killed by the Nazi regime. The Nazis also killed millions of other people, including ethnic Roma, gay men, prisoners of war, and many more.

Ukrainian history

Ukraine experienced the horror of the Holocaust firsthand. On Sept. 29-30, 1941, Nazis and local collaborators massacred 33,771 Jews at Babyn Yar ravine in Kyiv. During the ensuing two years, around well over 100,000 more people were killed there, including Jews, Ukrainian nationalists, Soviet prisoners of war and Roma people.

People attend a memorial rally to mark the 78th anniversary of the Babyn Yar tragedy in Kyiv on Sept. 29, 2019. (Oleg Petrasiuk)

During his visit to Poland, Zelensky also emphasized that more than 2,500 Ukrainians who risked their own lives to save Jews from the Nazis were awarded the title of Righteous Among the Nations.

He called on the international community to prevent any manifestation of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and racism.

“Stop evil before it will become dangerous to humanity,” said Zelensky.


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