Ukrainian Rabbi Bleich joined John Berman on CNN on Wednesday morning to talk about Putin's fake "denazification" mission in Ukraine and the heartbreaking destruction of the Babyn Yar Holocaust memorial, built in honor of the over 33,000 Jews murdered in Kyiv by the Nazis during World War II.
Berman opened by showing horrific footage of the continued aerial attacks on Kyiv and talked about how one was
an "attack on this television tower in Kyiv yesterday. This air assault on that tower near this tv tower is Babyn Yar. The site of the murder of 30,000 Jews in one day in 1941."
The Chief Rabbi of Ukraine, Rabbi Bleich, serves on the supervisory board for Babyn Yar and quickly corrected Berman, saying: "So, first of all, let me correct you. The bomb didn't fall near the site. It fell on the site. The television tower, as well as the television building are all built on the territory of the old Jewish cemetery of Kyiv, where the Jews were taken as they were being killed in Babyn Yar. That's where they were gathered. The attack is basically like a hit right into Babyn Yar, the territory of what we call Babyn Yar." Gut wrenching.
The Rabbi went on, saying: "What it tells me is it's as frightening as ever. We understand there is nothing more valuable than life. We will do anything to save a life. We save a life, we save a world. With the fight against the people of Ukraine, to civilians, to kindergartens, children's homes, buses, to people on the street, we thought that was the worst thing that can happen. Suddenly a site where tens of thousands of Jews were murdered once in 1941. Then their memory again murdered by the Soviet regime, not giving them a chance for any memory from 1945 until 1991. And in 1991, had Ukraine became independent, we started to build a memorial to the people. For 30 years, trying to give them what they should have had which is the proper memory. And then this fellow, who says he's coming to fight the neo-fascists in Ukraine, comes and bombs that place, the memorial to the Jews from the Fascists. It is watching a maniac coming to destroy the place. It reawakens the images of the Holocaust. It is symbolic honestly that all the never-again talk has to become never-again action. That's what I think of this."
He then shared this haunting story: "In the words of a Holocaust survivor, I'll tell you last night a woman in Kyiv said 'god made me live through two wars. Why did I have to go through that and now this again?' She said this bomb should wake up those people, those victims of Babyn Yar, let them come out and fight against the Russians to get them out of this country."
Berman followed up with this question: "You hear the lies from Vladimir Putin, the idea he wants to de-nazify Ukraine, he claims. What do you feel when you hear those words?"
The Rabbi did not mince words: "I'll tell you the truth, it reminds me of World War II. It reminds me of a dictator who says 'I want to save my people and therefore I'll kill them. I want to save my people and there are I'll kill others whom I think may be want to do something bad to my people.' I lived in Ukraine for 32 years. The Jewish community in Ukraine blossomed in the last 30 years since the independence. We have Jewish schools, synagogues. we're part of the society. The de-nazification should be taking place in Russia, not Ukraine. And the Nazi that should be denazified is Vladimir Putin."
As Berman was wrapping up the interview, the Rabbi interjected with this profoundly moving closure: "I want one last thing to say. I want one last thing to say. That is enough with words. And I want to call out from here to the entire world, let's get up and do something. We can still stop him. We couldn't stop Hitler in World War II. Maybe we could have, but we didn't. But now we could stop him. The world can stop him. NATO can stop him. The United States can stop him. We can save millions of lives by destroying his echelon, 37-mile long tanks and armored vehicles where he will destroy the capital of Ukraine and the people that live there. It's time for the world to do something."
If social media existed in World War II, this is what we would have seen and heard. We say never again, but again is now.