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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Babi Yar Remembered 65 Years Later

APUkrainian and Israeli soldiers taking part in the 65th-anniversary commemoration of the Babi Yar massacre.
KIEV -- The notices were posted around the capital of Soviet Ukraine: All Jews living in the city of Kiev and its vicinity must report by 8:00 on the morning of Sept. 29, 1941, to the corner of Melnyka and Dokterivska streets (near the cemetery).

They were told to bring their ID cards, money and fresh clothes. Most thought the Nazi occupiers were deporting them to a Jewish ghetto. Some even arrived early in hope of getting a good seat on the train.

What met them that morning was death.

Forced to undress, the Jews were herded in groups -- men, women and children -- to the edge of a ravine. For 48 hours, the Nazis gunned down the crowd until at least 33,771 Jews had been massacred -- a number recorded by the German shock troops -- their lifeless bodies toppling down the embankment. In the ensuing months, the ravine would fill with an estimated 100,000 bodies, including other Kiev residents and Red Army prisoners.

Ukrainian and foreign dignitaries are preparing to mark the 65th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, which Jewish leaders call a grim foreshadow of the Nazis' "final solution" that killed 6 million European Jews, with two days of solemn commemorations starting Tuesday evening.

Four presidents, including Israeli President Moshe Katsav, and 1,000 guests representing 41 countries will attend the commemorations. Ukrainian officials are calling the event an effort to show the world that the country has completely shaken off the Soviet-enforced silence that clung to the tragedy for decades.

"Even though our state was not responsible for this crime, our nation and our society feel a need to condemn unambiguously this crime against humanity, this crime against the Jewish people and this crime against the Ukrainian people," said Markiyan Lubkivsky, a senior presidential aide.

The tribute, initiated by Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, come as Ukraine's Jewish community has grown increasingly frustrated by manifestations of anti-Semitism. Last year, there were a series of attacks on Jews near a downtown synagogue, and anti-Semitic books and literature continue to be sold openly in some kiosks around the city center.

"In every country of the world, we have a very big problem and this problem is called the disease of xenophobia and anti-Semitism," said Moshe Kantor, founder of the World Holocaust Forum and chairman of the European Jewish Congress.

"We must pay attention to this disease because we have seen that 65 years ago, this tragedy happened, mass murder in Kiev -- and the world was absolutely tolerant toward this event. Europe was absolutely tolerant."

Ukraine was once home to a thriving Jewish community; about 20 percent of Kiev's population of 875,000 was Jewish before the war. Today, there are 103,000 Jews in all of Ukraine, according to official data, but the real number is believed to be several times higher.

"Every Ukrainian city has its own Babi Yar," said Roman Levith, 73, who survived because his mother managed to get new passports with Ukrainian-sounding last names that fooled the Nazis. Six of his relatives died.