No Haven for Nazi War Criminals, Ukraine Leader Promises Delegation
The Ukraine’s president promised a Jewish delegation his republic will never give asylum to Nazi war criminals and will prosecute anyone charged with crimes against Jews in World War II, a rabbi said.
President Leonid Kravchuk made the comment during a meeting Wednesday with Edgar F. Bronfman, leader of the World Jewish Congress, and author Elie Wiesel, said Yankel Bleich, an American rabbi living in Kiev, the republic’s capital.
Bronfman and Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor who was given the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, were in Kiev to mark the anniversary of the Babi Yar massacre, which took place at a series of ravines outside the city 50 years ago this month.
Kiev officials plan to declare Sept. 29 an official day of mourning for the 35,000 people who were killed by Nazi occupiers there, Bleich said.
Nearly all of those killed were Jews. They were rounded up by security men including Ukrainians, stripped naked and shot dead by teams of Nazi SS men within a 24-hour period. Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war and others were also victims of the massacre.
It was one of the first major slaughters of the Holocaust, which eventually claimed 6 million Jewish lives in the war. Fearful that such mass killings would attract attention, the Nazis set up a series of concentration camps where Jews were gassed to death.
The delegation headed by Bronfman was unable to be in the Ukraine on Sept. 29, so its members came Wednesday to pay tribute to the victims with prayers and a visit to the massacre site.
Afterward, they met with Kravchuk, who gave them assurances the Ukraine would not become a haven for war criminals, Rabbi Bleich said.