Ukraine unveils folding 'pop-up book' synagogue at site of Babyn Yar massacre

·2-min read

By Ilya Zhegulev

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine unveiled on Friday a synagogue built of wood and designed to unfold like a pop-up book at a site commemorating the victims of one of the single biggest massacres of Jews during the Nazi Holocaust.

The colourful new synagogue is part of a memorial project for the victims of the Babyn Yar massacre that marked the start of the Holocaust in occupied Soviet Ukraine, in which a pre-war Jewish population of about 1.5 million was virtually wiped out.

Nazi German forces shot dead an estimated 34,000 Jewish men, women and children on Sept. 29-30, 1941, in a large ravine called Babyn Yar on the edge of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The ravine is also known as Babi Yar.

The opening of the synagogue coincided with Ukraine marking on Friday its first Day of Remembrance for Ukrainians who saved Jews during World War Two.

"Their feat is an example of humanity and self-sacrifice," President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Twitter.

The structure of the Swiss-designed synagogue can be collapsed using a hand winch. In its expanded form, it has a retractable roof, balcony and benches, and its walls are decorated with prayers and blessings.

Its creators wanted to remind visitors of a prayer book, a Bible, or the magic of a pop-up book where "new worlds unfold, that we could not imagine before. In a sense, the pop-up book can act as a metaphor for the Synagogue," they said in a statement on their website.

Ilya Khrzhanovsky, artistic director of the Babyn Yar complex, told Reuters that only old oak was used to build the synagogue, collected from all regions of Ukraine.

"It should be a tree that remembers the world before the Holocaust," Khrzhanovsky said in an earlier interview.

(Editing by Matthias Williams and Gareth Jones)