IHRA Chair’s Statement on Ukraine and Babyn Yar

Ambassador Ann Bernes condemns Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine in her first act as IHRA Chair.

IHRA Chair Ambassador Ann Bernes states, “In my first act as IHRA Chair, I wish to echo yesterday’s United Nations General Assembly resolution and I condemn in the strongest possible terms Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified military aggression against Ukraine. By its illegal military actions, Russia is grossly violating international law and the principles of the UN Charter. I am shocked and deeply saddened by the violence and loss of life that have occurred in various parts of Ukraine over the past days.

“I reject the inaccurate and inappropriate use of the term ‘denazification’ to justify this aggression. By comparing and equating Ukraine’s democratically elected government and their actions with the murderous policy of Nazi Germany, the history of the Holocaust is being grossly distorted and misused. Such distortion erodes our understanding of the Holocaust, disrespects its legacy and undermines democratic values.

“I also deplore the damage caused by air strikes carried out in the direct vicinity of Babyn Yar. Babyn Yar is a gravesite and place of memory for around 100,000 Jews, Roma, Ukrainian civilians, and Soviet prisoners of war who were brutally murdered by Nazi Germany and their collaborators. The preservation of authentic sites like Babyn Yar is essential to safeguard evidence of these crimes, to honor the victims and to allow space to grieve as well as learn.

“As IHRA Chair, I underline the importance of the international community’s ongoing efforts to counter Holocaust distortion and safeguard remembrance of the Holocaust. The IHRA contributes by strengthening Holocaust education, remembrance and research and by countering the influence of historical distortion, hate speech and incitement to violence and hatred.”

Babyn Yar was the site of one of the largest mass shootings of Jews in German-occupied Europe. It occurred on September 29–30, 1941. Germans continued to perpetrate mass murders at this killing site until just before the Soviets re-took control of Kyiv in 1943. During this period, Germans shot Jews, as well as Roma, Ukrainian civilians, and Soviet POWs.