THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary (Kiev, Ukraine) _______________________________________________________________________ For Immediate Release May 12, 1995
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT HONORING THOSE WHO DIED AT BABI YAR Menorah Memorial Kiev, Ukraine
12:12 P.M. (L)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Rabbi. To the people of Ukraine, and especially to the veterans of World War II and the children who are here.
Here on the edge of this wooded ravine, we bear witness eternally to the consequences of evil. Here at Babi Yar, almost 54 years ago, more than 30,000 men, women and children were slaughtered in the first three days alone. They died for no other reason than the blood that ran through their veins. We remember their sacrifice, and we vow never to forget.
In late September 1941, the Nazi occupying army ordered the Jewish population of Kiev, together with their valuables and belongings. "We thought we were being sent on a journey," one survivor recalled. But instead they were being herded to the ravine, stripped and shot down. By year's end, more than 100,000 Jews, 10,000 Ukrainian Nationalists, Soviet prisoners of war and gypsies had been exterminated here.
The writer, Anatoly Kuznietzov, was a child in Kiev during the war. He remembers the day the deportations began. "My grandfather stood in the middle of the courtyard straining to hear something. He raised his finger -- do you know what? -- he said with horror is his voice. They're not deporting them -- they're shooting them."
Years later, Kuznietzov brought the poet, Yevgeny Yevtuschenko, to Babi Yar. And that night, Etuschenko wrote one of his most celebrated poems: "Over Babi Yar there are no memorials. The steep hillside, like a rough inscription. I am frightened. Today I am as old as the Jewish race. I seem to myself a Jew at this moment." These words speak to us across the generations -- a reminder of the past, a warning for the future.
In the quiet of this place, the victims of Babi Yar cry out to us still. Never forget, they tell us, that humanity is capable of the worst, just as it is capable of the best.
Never forget that the forces of darkness cannot be defeated with silence or indifference. Never forget that we are all Jews and gypsies and Slavs. Never forget.
May God bless this holy place.
END12:17 P.M. (L)