History and Significance in the Annual Babi Yar Memorial

On Sunday, September 27th, the Mizel Museum will host the Annual Babi Yar Memorial at Babi Yar Park in Denver. This ceremony specifically remembers the more than 200,000 people massacred at the Babi Yar ravine outside of Kiev, Ukraine, from 1941 to 1943, but is ultimately a memorial for all lives lost during the Holocaust.

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Entrance pathway to Babi Yar Park

The creation of a space in Denver dedicated to the lives lost at the Babi Yar ravine began as the idea of the Committee of Concern for Soviet Jewry, a group of Jewish residents of Denver who, among other initiatives, wanted to raise public awareness of the atrocities that occurred outside Kiev. Initially they requested naming rights to a street, but circumstances led them to the creation of a living memorial instead, Babi Yar Park. Larry A. Mizel, founder of the Mizel Museum, was an early supporter of the park’s creation, and when it came time to transition stewardship of the park away from the Babi Yar Park Foundation to a more permanent organization, the Mizel Museum was a logical choice.

The Mizel Museum is proud and honored to be a steward of the park, and is committed to using the park to continue educating about and honoring the victims of the Babi Yar massacre. It is with this education and memorialization in mind that we host the annual Babi Yar memorial. We want to take this opportunity to explain why our remembrance ceremony is designed the way it is.

The Spring of Life in The Grove of Remembrance at Babi Yar Park

The Spring of Life in The Grove of Remembrance at Babi Yar Park

Why is the memorial held in September?

While the slaughter of Jewish civilians, gypsies, Ukranians, and other individuals occurred at the Babi Yar ravine throughout 1941 to 1943, the first massacre occurred from September 29, 1941 to September 30, 1941, when over thirty-three thousand Jewish citizens of Kiev were murdered. In recognition of this, the Annual Babi Yar Remembrance Ceremony occurs on the Sunday in September that falls closest to September 29th.

Why do we leave carnations in front of the memorial?

Traditionally, stones or pebbles are left on Jewish graves rather than flowers. However, leaving carnations on a Russian grave (including Russian Jewish graves) was a Soviet-era tradition. As the bodies of most victims of the Babi Yar massacre were never properly buried, we honor the tradition that would be followed if they had a gravesite.

The Boxcar Bridge at Babi Yar Park

The Boxcar Bridge at Babi Yar Park

Why do we have a keynote speaker?

Many aspects of our program are designed to memorialize, such as the blessing by the rabbi, the student speakers reciting words written by Holocaust victims and survivors, and the moving musical tribute we close with. As an educational museum, it’s important to share new scholarship related to the Holocaust and to Jewish life during that time to ensure that the park functions as a vehicle for preserving and communicating the memory of historic traumas while providing conditions for healing traumatic wounds.

If you are interested in attending the Babi Yar Remembrance Ceremony, please register here.

If you would like to schedule a tour of Babi Yar Park with one of our educators, please email details@mizelmuseum.org

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