Babyn Yar is a wooded area with a deep ravine located in the west of Kyiv, Ukraine, that used to mark the edge of the city. It is the site of one of the worst massacres of the Nazi regime, when on September 29th and 30th, 1941 approximately 35’000 Jews were shot and killed by German troops. Over the following weeks and months an additional 100’000 Jews, Soviet prisoners of war, communists, Ukrainian nationalists, Roma, and patients of a nearby psychiatric hospital were murdered within the grounds of Babyn Yar. A ‘holocaust by bullets’, represents one of the worst atrocities of our modern era.
The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Foundation has started a process of implementing a series of smaller and larger interventions over the coming years to commemorate the history of the site in all its complexity. The Babyn Yar Synagogue represents the first building within this initiative. It is meant as a synagogue that will commemorate the history, but also reestablish a living Jewish presence on the site today.
If we conceptualize the synagogue as a building typology in its purest essence, we can consider it as a book. During the religious service, a congregation comes together, to collectively read a book – the Siddur (the book of prayers) or the Bible. The shared reading of the book opens a world of wisdom, morals, history, and anecdotes to the congregation. It is this notion that informs the design of the new Babyn Yar Synagogue.