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Holocaust museums in 4 countries condemn Russia's actions in Ukraine as war crimes

A menorah memorial at the entrance of the Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, was damaged in Russian shelling last month.
Sergey Bobok
AFP via Getty Images
A menorah memorial at the entrance of the Drobitsky Yar Holocaust memorial outside Kharkiv, Ukraine, was damaged in Russian shelling last month.

More than a dozen Holocaust museums from four countries have come together to condemn Russia's acts of brutality in Ukraine and support an international investigation into alleged war crimes and genocide.

In a joint statement released Monday, signatories from 17 museums throughout the United States, United Kingdom, Canada and South Africa said they were speaking out in response to reports of mass graves and acts of brutality against Ukrainian citizens by Russian armed forces.

The participating U.S. institutions are based in states including Illinois, Florida, Texas, Indiana, Washington, Ohio, California and Missouri. Others are located in England, as well as Canadian cities like Vancouver and Montreal, and the South African cities of Durban and Johannesburg.

They all said they were motivated by their shared mission of honoring survivors' wishes to educate people about the horrors of the past, as well as working toward a future in which such histories are not repeated.

"So it is with sorrow that we see yet another atrocity in Ukraine, 80 years after the 'Holocaust by Bullets' in which Jewish men, women, and children were shot and buried in shallow graves," they wrote. "We are angered by today's stories of children with their hands zip tied and buried in shallow graves. We are angered by the horrific reports of rape and wanton destruction of lives by the Russian army. These are war crimes, and if we, as the bearers of history, do not speak out, then we have failed in our mission."

The signatories went on to express their support for the International Criminal Court's investigation into whether Russia committed war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. They also urged their governments to "do more to stop these atrocities and assist those who have been brutalized."

Russian President Vladimir Putin invoked World War II when announcing his decision to invade Ukraine in late February and has repeatedly described "denazification" as one of the goals of the offensive — a claim thatscholars told NPR distorts both history and reality. Notably, Russian attacks have damaged the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial site in Kyiv and killed a 96-year-old Holocaust survivor in Kharkiv.

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.

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