Development Site - Changes here will not affect the live (production) site.

Two Soviet Artists’ Attempt to Commemorate the Massacre of Jews at Babi Yar

Sept. 18 2017

After reading the late Yevgeny Yevtushenko’s groundbreaking 1961 poem “Babi Yar”—about the massacre of over 33,000 Jews at the ravine of that name outside Kiev—the composer Dmitri Shostakovich was immediately moved to set it to music. But doing so risked raising the ire of a regime eager to repress memory of the Holocaust. Alex Ryvchin relates:

In the two decades between the massacre and the publication of Yevtushenko’s poem, the official policy of the Soviet Union was to avoid mention of such massacres or else to deny their fundamental character as acts of genocide. Over 1.3 million Jews were killed in sites like Babi Yar throughout the Soviet Union. Most of the killing fields remain neglected and unmarked.

The Soviet authorities had good reason to deny the nature of these crimes. For one, an invading army freely hunting and massacring over a million civilians throughout the land made a mockery of supposed Soviet power. There was also the deeply uncomfortable reality that Ukrainians and other peoples cobbled together in the officially harmonious Soviet Union had in many cases been willful participants in the killings of their fellow citizens.

By the 1950s, [furthermore], the Soviet Union had also become the foremost proponent of anti-Zionism, provided the Arabs with arms, and stood in visceral opposition to the state of Israel. Soviet propaganda denounced the Jews as “rootless cosmopolitans” and “bourgeois nationalists” for seeking a homeland of their own—in no small part because of the failure of European states to prevent their wholesale slaughter. . . .

[I]n a state where even laying flowers at a killing field was seen as criminal subversion, a symphony by the most celebrated composer of the day, the lyrics of which chart the history of anti-Semitism from show-trials and pogroms to Anne Frank, could not proceed without incident. The conductor was interrupted during final rehearsals with a request from the minister of culture to drop the offending first movement. He refused. The singer was then conveniently called up to perform at the Bolshoi. The TV broadcast [of the symphony] was cut. Still, the production proceeded at immense personal risk to everyone associated with it, not least Shostakovich himself.

Today, the denial of the Babi Yar massacre of Jews through enforced silence has been replaced by simply drowning out the genocide through a preponderance of monuments and counter-monuments to each group affected by Babi Yar. This reflects the complexity of modern Ukraine and its discomfort with truly addressing how a community [largely] assimilated into Soviet society could be plucked from its ordinary metropolitan existence and delivered to the hell of the ravine under the watch, and in part, by the hand, of their Ukrainian neighbors.

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at Tablet

More about: Anti-Semitism, Arts & Culture, Holocaust, Music, Poetry, Soviet Jewry, Ukraine, Yevgeny Yevtushenko

Germany’s Bid to Keep Israel off the UN Security Council

March 21 2018

The Jewish state has never held a temporary seat on the United Nations Security Council. For the first 50 years of its existence, it was denied membership in any of the UN’s regional groups, which control candidacies for these rotating seats. Then it was finally admitted to the Western European and Others Group, which promptly agreed to wait another twenty years before approving Jerusalem for a Security Council candidacy. Now, Benny Avni notes, Germany is poised to block action:

As a good-faith gesture, the Western European and Others Group promised Israel that it and Belgium would run uncontested for the two open 2019-20 [Security Council] seats. Then, in 2016, Germany announced it would also run—even though it already served as a council member [multiple times, including] as recently as 2011-12. . . . [U]nless Belgium yields, Israel’s hopes for UN respect seem doomed for now—and maybe for the foreseeable future.

Why? Diplomats have been telling me Israel violates too many Security Council resolutions to be a member—as in the one passed during the last weeks of Barack Obama’s presidency, which marked Jewish holy sites as occupied Palestinian territory. But is building a porch in [the West Bank town of] Ma’ale Adumim really such a huge threat to world peace?

How about, then, a report released last week by UN experts on the Security Council’s North Korea sanctions? It found Germany violated a council ban on sparkling wines, exporting $151,840 worth of bubbly and other luxury goods to Kim Jong Un’s cronies. Or how about, as the Jerusalem Post’s Benjamin Weinthal reports, German companies exporting to Iran banned materials that were later used in chemical attacks in Syria?

Never mind. Germany (and Belgium) will surely benefit from the UN’s habit of magnifying Israel’s violations beyond all proportion. Thus, Israel’s petition to join the most prestigious UN club will likely be rejected, thanks to a late entry by a shameless [and] cynical German power play against the Jewish state.

You've just used your last free article this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already a subscriber? Sign in now

Read more at New York Post

More about: Germany, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-German relations, United Nations