History Is Revealed in the New Exhibition Telling the Story of the Babyn Yar Ravine Massacre
The show will be on display at Koffler Gallery until the end of Holocaust Education Week on November 12, 2023
Photography by Rebecca Tisdelle-Macias
Babyn Yar is a 160-hectare site in Kyiv, Ukraine where the first large-scale massacre of the Holocaust occurred in 1941. Eighty years later, the Babyn Yar Synagogue designed by Jewish, Basel-based architect Manuel Herz was conceived in an effort to reclaim and memorialize the site’s historical, political and spiritual contexts.
For the first time, the story of this profound landmark has been documented for global audiences by way of The Synagogue at Babyn Yar: Turning the Nightmare of Evil into a shared Dream of Good — an international multidisciplinary exhibit premiering now at Koffler Gallery adjacent to Trinity Bellwoods Park.
In partnership with Herz, the work was a collaborative effort supported by Canadian historian and curator Robert Jan van Pelt, Canadian architect Douglas Birkenshaw and Dutch architectural photographer Iwan Baan. In its timely context, The Synagogue at Babyn Yar distinctly links three moments in time of global resonance – the original 1941 massacre, the creation and dedication of the wooden synagogue and the current Russo-Ukrainian War.
“We believe this exhibition is the most comprehensive account to date of the story joining the dots from WWII to the present day,” says Anthony Sargent CBE, Koffler Centre of the Arts interim director. “As we honour, mourn and acknowledge the appalling events that happened at Babyn Yar, we also cherish Manuel Herz’s visionary synagogue, expressing so joyfully a wish for peace and for a better collective future.”
Upon entering the exhibit, entrants encounter an ante-room recording of the Babyn Yar massacre, giving context to the rest of the installation by means of short texts and an expansive selection of images. In the gallery’s main space, you’ll be encapsulated by high-resolution panoramic mural images created in a unique collaboration between renowned Toronto photographer, Edward Burtynsky and Ukrainian photographer, Maxim Dondyuk. Additionally, The Synagogue at Babyn Yar features a display of documents, artifacts, models and a detailed projection of the painted ceiling of the synagogue itself.
Beyond its historical significance and educational value, The Synagogue at Babyn Yar is a testament to the role of architecture in commemorating the landmark’s history, but also in reestablishing a living Jewish presence on the site today. Appropriately, the exhibit’s Koffler Gallery premiere reflects the Koffler Centre of the Arts’ continued mission to to help people engage with complex issues in respectful, constructive ways, through art.