(JTA) — A memorial to Jews murdered during the Holocaust near Kharkiv was damaged by Russian shelling Saturday, according to Ukraine’s government.
Photos from the site showed the memorial’s 9-foot-tall menorah with damaged branches. The memorial is a visual echo of one at Babyn Yar, the site of a massacre of Jews near Kyiv, that Ukrainian leaders said was damaged in a strike in the war’s early days.
Beginning with Babyn Yar, Ukrainian leaders have repeatedly invoked the Holocaust in seeking to galvanize support in their war against Russia. That happened again after the bombing at Drobitsky Yar, where 15,000 to 20,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis in December 1941.
Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s minister of foreign affairs, posted a picture of the damaged menorah to Twitter Saturday. “Why Russia keeps attacking Holocaust Memorials in Ukraine? I expect Israel to strongly condemn this barbarism,” he wrote.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who is Jewish, spoke about the damage to the memorial in his Facebook live address Saturday night.
“During World War II, the Nazis executed about 20,000 people there,” Zelensky said, according to The New York Times. “Eighty years later, they are killed a second time. And Russia is doing it.”
The memorial at Drobitsky Yar was erected in 2002 after members of the Jewish community in Kharkiv raised $700,00 to build the memorial complex. Memorials for the victims of the Holocaust built during the Soviet era typically did not mention Jews and Jewish communities were often barred from putting up specifically Jewish memorials until after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“The idea for a memorial originated with the Jewish community and we helped raise money for it,” Irina Chemerovska, executive director of the Jewish House cultural center in Kharkiv, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2002. “But it took years before everything came together and we were granted permission to build on the site.”