The History of Babi Yar Park

More than 30 years ago, visionary Denverites came together as the Babi Yar Park

Grove of Remembrance

Grove of Remembrance Photo by Paul Brokering

Foundation to memorialize a tragic and senseless act of terror with a gift of hope and life that would last in perpetuity.

Founded in 1971, Denver’s Babi Yar Park is a living memorial to the thousands of Jews, gypsies, Ukrainians and others who were murdered between 1941 and 1943 at the Babi Yar ravine on the outskirts of Kiev. The story of Babi Yar began on Yom Kippur in 1941, in the Ukrainian capital of Kiev. In a murderous rage conceived by Nazi minds and abetted by the complicity of Ukrainian officials, between 100,000 and 200,000 men, women and children were herded to the ravine’s edge, murdered and their bodies thrown into the now infamous ravine.

The connection between Babi Yar and Denver began in 1969 when the late Mayor William H. McNichols, Jr., designated 27 acres of park land at the corner of Yale and Havana as Babi Yar Park, at the request of The Committee of Concern for Soviet Jewry. The purpose of the park was to create “a place and an act that would demonstrate a unified public protest.”

This was the beginning of the promise to build a growing symbol of conscience that would become a landmark of national significance. The park was dedicated in 1971 by Elie Weisel. The  second dedication in 1983 marked the transformation from a reserved open space to a park, designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin as a profoundly sacred ground of remembrance, hope and protest against all acts of inhumanity.

The Ravine

The Ravine Photo by Paul Brokering

Today Babi Yar Park is a place for memorial gatherings, walking, biking, educational tours and quiet remembrance. It is a place that respectfully welcomes the voices of victims and survivors of world terrorism without speaking for them or representing their pain. It is a unique public landscape that serves as an active agent for culture and dialogue, and it functions as a vehicle for preserving, communicating and sharing the memory of historic traumas while providing conditions for healing traumatic wounds.

Mizel Museum, Denver Parks & Recreation and numerous community leaders are preparing for the next phase of development: The September 11 Memorial. Linking the memory of the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington to the memory of mass killings of Jews and others at Babi Yar began with a “memorial in transit” in August 2011—the transportation of sixteen pieces of steel from the site of the World Trade Center across the country to a new resting place in Denver. Watch for the opening of The September 11 Memorial in 2013.

Guided tours of Babi Yar Park provide compelling testimony about genocide, history and human rights abuses of the past, and speaks to inspiring a symbolic conscience for future generations. Babi Yar Park is located at the corner of Havana and Yale in Southeast Denver. To schedule a tour contact Deanne Kapnik at (303) 749-5019.

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