Babyn Yar synagogue opens in Ukraine


A synagogue designed by Basel-based architect Manuel Herz for the Babyn Yar site in Kyiv, Ukraine, held it's official opening on May 14. It is a pop-up synagogue that stands in the tradition of the wooden synagogues of Eastern Europe that were all destroyed during the Holocaust. It is a building that is inspired by the children’s pop-up book.

It unfolds from a very much oversized wooden interpretation of a prayer book (Siddur), and can be folded up after each use. The Architectural Board is developing a 100-year-plan as a memorial and museological landscape; the synagogue is the first project to be realized.

The Babyn Yar ravine was the site of the second largest single massacre during the Holocaust: on September 29 and 30, 1941, 33,771 Jews were murdered there by German killing squads.

Robert Jan van Pelt is a member of the Architectural Board of the Babyn Yar Foundation, which is entrusted with the 130 hectare site that includes seven different landscapes, two cemeteries, many buildings. Apart from participating in the project as a client, van Pelt wrote a book about the project that places Herz’s synagogue project in the history of Jewish space. This book, entitled How Beautiful Are Your Dwelling Places, Jacob, will be published by Zürich-based publisher Park Books in English, Ukrainian and Russian for the 80th anniversary of the 1941 massacre in September 2021.