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2,500 Persons from Major Cities in USSR at Babi Yar to Memorialize Victims of Nazi Massacre

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Some 2,500 people from several Soviet cities gathered yesterday at Babi Yar, outside of Kiev, to memorialize the 100,000 people–most of them Jews–who were massacred there by the Nazis exactly thirty years ago, the Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry reported today. A spokesman for the Union told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency he spoke by phone last night to Boris Krasny, a 37-year-old Soviet-Jewish engineer who helped organize the memorial, and was told that “this was the first gathering which can be called a national or an all-Soviet Union gathering of Jews. We had delegations from Moscow, Leningrad, Odessa, Sverdlovsk and Vilnius.” Krasny was reported to have added, however, “the people from Kharkov were not permitted to get off the train by the police and could not participate.”

The demonstrators reportedly laid 42 floral wreaths with Hebrew and Russian inscriptions on the site of the mass graves. The Deputy Mayor of Kiev had the police seize three wreaths, according to the Union spokesman. But the 300 Soviet police at the site made no arrests. Last August, 12 Soviet Jews, including Krasny, were arrested on Tisha B’Av for placing similar wreaths on the Babi Yar graves. Those arrested were held for 15 days and their heads were shaven.

Yesterday morning officials of the City Council commemorated the deaths of those murdered at Babi Yar, but according to the Union spokesman, they carefully avoided mentioning the Jewish victims. Some Ukrainians and Russians–presumably friends of the Jews being rounded up by the Nazis–were also murdered at Babi Yar. A telegram was reportedly sent by those gathered at the Jewish demonstration yesterday to Israeli President Zalman Shazar and the people of Israel. It declared the Russian Jews’ solidarity with the people of Israel and mourned the tragedy of Babi Yar and of the Jewish people, declaring firmly that such tragedies would never again be permitted to happen. “We declare no ‘never again,'” the telegram is said to have read.

A report from London indicated that a separate telegram was also sent by a group of Kiev Jews to the government of Israel. That message stated: “We mourn together with the rest of Jewry those done to death in the massacre. Our only hope is the State of Israel. She is our life. Please help those who want to return home to the Jewish State. The American Jewish Conference on Soviet Jewry reported that similar memorial demonstrations were at Rumbuli, near Riga in Latvia, and in Ponar, near Vilna in Lithuania, where the Nazis carried out other mass executions.

Meanwhile, a total of about 50 people attended traditional Yom Kippur services held in New York yesterday by Dr. Mikhail Zand, the noted Soviet Jewish scholar, at the Isaiah Wall, near the United Nations. The services were held there as an act of solidarity with Soviet Jews who have not been allowed to emigrate to Israel. The Babi Yar deaths were also commemorated. Services expressing solidarity with Soviet Jews were also held at Jerusalem’s Western Wall and throughout the US.

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