(JTA) – Before murdering tens of thousands of Jews at Babi Yar near Kiev, Nazi troops dumped at the killing site dozens of Jewish headstones they had stolen from Jewish cemetery, researchers in Ukraine discovered.
“The tombstones were removed from a local Jewish cemetery during the Holocaust and thrown into the same ravines where over 150,000 Jews, Roma people and Ukrainians were murdered during the Holocaust,” Marek Siwiec, a former Polish politician and current head of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, said in a statement earlier this week about the discovery.
Siwiec’s organization extracted last month 50 headstones from the Babi Yar ravine, where Nazis and local collaborators murdered more than 50,000 Jews starting in September 1941.
Enjoying a mandate from the Ukrainian government, Siwiec’s organization, which was set up last year, is heading international efforts to commemorate the Babi Yar tragedy in a manner befitting its scale. Despite many failed initiatives to do so, Jewish victims are memorialized at the site only by an unfenced six–foot menorah, which is situated near a dumping ground for industrial waste and is vandalized regularly.
“The significance of Babi Yar is of upmost importance, at this horrendously difficult site, the largest single act mass murder of Jews took place during the Holocaust, with 37,771 brutally murdered during a two-day period, it is our duty not just to remember this site but also proactively learn from the darkest days of human history to build a better future,” Siwiec said in the statement about the discovery.
Additional headstones from Jewish graves are scattered in the ravine but they require careful excavations to be extracted intact, according to Jonny Daniels, founder of the From the Depths organization, which promotes the commemoration of the Holocaust in Poland. Daniels visited the site earlier this week to see how From the Depths, which has focused on restoring pillaged headstones in Poland, could assist the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, Daniels said.