No Hotel at Kiev’s Holocaust Site
Today marks the 68th anniversary of the killings at Babi Yar, an atrocity in Kiev, Ukraine in which 33,700 Jews were rounded up and executed over two days by the Nazis. The site, at the edge of a ravine, has become a sacred place for the family members who survived the killings, and as of yesterday, its sanctity will remain intact. Kiev Mayor Leonid Chernovetsky’s office said yesterday that he had vetoed a decision by the city council to build the hotel on the edge of the site, which would have been called Babi Yar, after wide protests from Jewish groups.
The controversy in Babi Yar is indicative of issues facing Eastern Bloc nations struggling to get a foothold in tourism. Kiev is looking for ways to expand its accommodations, as it currently has only 125 hotels and 17,000 beds, and needs sites where it can build hotels in order to prepare for the 2012 European soccer championship. But it’s also dealing with the aftermath of postwar anti-Semitic policies that failed to recognize the significance of the site for decades. For years following World War II, Babi Yar bore a plaque that only paid tribute to the “citizens of Kiev and prisoners of war” who died there. It was only in 1991, after the Soviet Union’s collapse, that a memorial was erected to recognize the Jewish lives that were lost.
As cities such as Kiev attempt to develop and expand their tourism efforts, it’s inevitable that they’ll also have to acknowledge some of the more sordid moments in their history. The key for them will be to not only focus on developing properties that will accommodate tourists, but on creating sites that will respect the history in the cities and inform visitors about the tragedies in their past.
Photo: In this Sept. 29, 2003 file photo, a man cries as he remembers all his family killed by Nazis at Babi Yar ravine, at the monument to victims in Kiev, Ukraine. (AP Photo/ Efrem Lukatsky, File)
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