Between 70,000 and 100,000 people – including almost the entire Jewish population of Kyiv – were killed at Babyn Yar, a ravine in the Ukrainian capital city and the site of documented Nazi massacres during the Holocaust.
More than 80 years after those atrocities, and in the midst of ongoing war in Ukraine, efforts are underway by an international foundation to establish the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center in Kyiv as a means of acquiring, studying, and disseminating knowledge about the crimes committed at the site from 1941 to 1943.
In recognition and support of these efforts, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center has been selected to receive the 10th Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights at The Dodd Center for Human Rights. The ceremony will take place on October 25 and will launch the inaugural Human Rights Summit at The Dodd Center.
UConn President Radenka Maric said the awarding of the Dodd Prize in 2023 as well as the inaugural summit help to underscore the significance of this year’s 75th anniversaries of two landmark human rights treaties: The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide.
“In recent years democratic institutions have been under assault around the world,” says Maric. “The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is an exemplar of efforts in Ukraine to assure that recognition of past human rights atrocities help strengthen our resolve to uphold democracy today.”
For Daniel Weiner, UConn’s Vice President for Global Affairs and a professor of geography, the awarding of the Dodd Prize to the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is particularly relevant in connecting the past to the present.
“Recognizing Babyn Yar,” Weiner says, “is a reminder of the dangers of fascism and autocracy that go unchecked. And for many people in the world today, the struggle against those types of abusive regimes is more than history – it is lived experience.”
The Thomas J. Dodd Prize in International Justice and Human Rights, supported by the UConn Foundation, commemorates the distinguished career in public service of Thomas J. Dodd, who served as Executive Trial Counsel at the Nuremberg Trials, as U.S. Representative from 1953 to 1957, and as Connecticut Senator from 1959 to 1971.
Dodd continually fought against infringement and suppression of human rights in the United States and abroad during his long public career, and the collection of his papers and letters from his time prosecuting Nazi war crimes at Nuremberg are currently housed at the Dodd Center for Human Rights at UConn.
For Connecticut Senator Christopher J. Dodd, the opportunity to recognize the work of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is personally poignant.
“In 1975,” he says, “as an incoming member of the U.S. House of Representatives, I had the opportunity to visit Babyn Yar with my colleague, Elizabeth Holtzman. To walk the grounds of those atrocities, where so many had suffered and died, was to feel the power of that place and the power of its memory. Then, as now, Babyn Yar reaffirms the need for our abiding commitment to the rule of law and the promotion and protection of human rights.”
The Dodd Prize was established in 2003 and is supported by Senator Christopher Dodd and members of the Dodd family. Notable past recipients include former U.S. President Bill Clinton; the organization Physicians for Human Rights; the former Prime Minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern; and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Tony Blair.
The Dodd Prize was last awarded in 2019 to Attorney Bryan Stevenson and his nonprofit organization, the Equal Justice Initiative.
The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center aims to serve as a physical place of memory, a museum, an educational archive, and a center of scientific knowledge about the site’s historic atrocities and their modern-day impact.
In addition to the awarding of the Dodd Prize, a panel about Babyn Yar will be featured at the inaugural Human Rights Summit to be held on October 25, 26, and 27, at UConn’s Dodd Center for Human Rights.
Entitled “Human Rights and the Global Assault on Democracy,” the Dodd Summit will bring together scholars, activists, policymakers, artists, students, and business leaders from across the world to examine the key human rights challenges of our time and generate new ideas to promote social justice and human dignity globally.
According to James Waller, the incoming director of Dodd Human Rights Impact and the inaugural Christopher J. Dodd Chair in Human Rights Practice, the theme of the Dodd Summit could not be timelier.
“The majority of the world’s population live in countries not governed by free and fair democracies,” Waller says, “and many of those who do live in democratic countries find many of their democratic institutions eroding under political and social divisions. The global assault on democracy represents one of the most pressing human rights problems in today’s world.”
The summit, made possible by a gift from Stanley Black & Decker, will include a mix of high-profile lectures and keynotes, practical workshops, and roundtable discussions, serving as a critical venue for sharing insights, building relationships, and inspiring action.
Established more than 25 years ago, The Dodd Center for Human Rights is a world leader advancing human rights within higher education. The Dodd Center houses the Gladstein Family Human Rights Institute, one of the top human rights academic and research programs in the country.
The outreach and engagement arm of human rights at UConn, Dodd Human Rights Impact works to develop and support programs and initiatives that seek to directly impact local and global communities by helping them meet their human rights challenges.
For more information about the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, visit babynyar.org.
For more information about the 2023 Human Rights Summit at The Dodd Center for Human Rights visit summit.humanrights.uconn.edu.