78 years ago Hitler’s “death factory” was destroyed. This day in 1945, troops of the 1st Ukrainian Front liberated prisoners of the Nazi largest death camp, Auschwitz-Birkenau. Babyn Yar, Sobibor, Chelmno, Treblinka, Belzec and Majdanek. These are all places of bloody extermination where millions more Jews, Roma and other nationalities were massacred.
The scale of Holocaust tragedy, unfolding, in particular, on our land, is shocking – of the six million Ukrainian civilians murdered during World War II, a quarter of them were Jews. And taking into account those who died on the frontline, we lost about 60% of the pre-war Jewish population inhabiting Ukrainian territories.
Millions of Ukrainians in the Allied armies, the Ukrainian liberation movement and Soviet partisan units with weapons in their hands resisted the Nazi invasion and later the Holocaust. Thousands and thousands of Ukrainians from the occupied territories risked their lives to save Jews. Approximately two and a half thousand Ukrainians, one tenth of the total number, were awarded the official title of Righteous among the Nations.
For centuries Ukrainians and Jews have lived together on the same land, in a common country. So we Ukrainians understand the sorrow of the Jews as our own.
Today Ukraine, together with the rest of the world, honors the memory of Holocaust victims and prays for those who went through hell of total extermination. This day is a reminder to us what an exacerbation of imperial folly, a policy of anti-Semitism, xenophobia, hatred and chauvinism can lead to.
And it is our responsibility to learn this lesson from history and unite to prevent a repeat of tragedies like the Holocaust.
Eternal memory to the innocently tortured victims.