Spectators watch a musical performance led by Sandra Wong Thursday, Sept. 29, 2022, in Denver’s Babi Yar Park. The performance was part of an annual commemoration for the Babi Yar Massacre during the Holocaust. (Lindsey Toomer/Colorado Newsline)
Dozens of spectators gathered under unexpected sunshine at Babi Yar Park in Denver Thursday afternoon as the Mizel Museum hosted its annual commemoration to honor the 81st anniversary of the massacre at Babi Yar Ravine.
Museum founder Larry Mizel welcomed Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, who gave the keynote remarks, as well as Colorado Gov. Jared Polis to honor the occasion and remember the 34,000 lives lost at the Babi Yar Ravine in Kyiv, Ukraine, during the Holocaust.
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“Eye witnesses later said that the Earth around the ravine moved and moaned for days after the mass killings as if the land itself was rebelling against what it had been asked to hold,” Polis said of the atrocity. “We recognize that for much of the last 81 years the horrors of Babi Yar have not been remembered often enough. But those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
Polis emphasized that Babi Yar is once again under attack due do “Putin’s war of aggression in Ukraine,” and that it’s “critical” to continue Holocaust education in the Unites States. He said education is the first step to remembering atrocities and ensuring they never happen again.
“As time makes the events of the Holocaust more distant and takes from us the last few of the firsthand survivors, we must especially strive to ensure that the stories of resilience and courage and loss live on long after the firsthand accounts are gone,” said Polis, Colorado’s first Jewish governor.
Weiser comes from a family of Holocaust survivors — his mother was born in the Buchenwald concentration camp, and she and his grandparents were liberated a week after her birth by the 2nd Infantry Division of the U.S. Army. His mother remains one of the youngest living Holocaust survivors. He said the core message from the Holocaust — never again — remains more relevant now than ever, and that surviving the Holocaust shaped his family’s world view.
“In my family, we can commemorate one generation from my mom surviving the Holocaust to me serving as your attorney general — that’s what America is about,” Weiser said.
The recent rise in hate against communities including Jews, people of color and LGBTQ people, Weiser said, is a result of demonization and the rise of social media, and it’s important to watch what’s happening now before it turns into something worse. He said the Holocaust museum in Jerusalem draws attention to what came right before the Holocaust.
“It was a story of stereotypes that became dry kindling for the match that Hitler and the Nazis were able to bring to a flame that ultimately turned into genocide,” Weiser said. “So when we say never again, we cannot and should not only speak of genocides, but of the mass demonization that lays the groundwork for a genocide.”
Weiser reminded the crowd of how replacement theory — which he described as the idea that Jews want to replace “real Americans” with people of color and immigrants — fuels hate in today’s society, culminating in violence at Charlottesville, Virginia, the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and a grocery store in Buffalo, New York.
The commemoration included a musical performance by Sandra Wong, Joe D’Esposito and Jonathan Sousa.
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