In an interview with The Times of Israel published on January 19, Zelenskiy said he will attend the commemoration even though he isn’t scheduled to speak.
“The most important thing for each country is to honor the memory of its Holocaust victims. It’s very important to go, whether we [leaders] speak or not,” Zelenskiy said.
However, the Ukrainian president said he believes he should speak at the anniversary event.
“I know the Israeli side has a different format; we were not invited to speak. I think I should [speak], but I will go anyway,” Zelenskiy said.
Himself a Jew, Zelenskiy cited Ukrainian statistics that said every fourth Jew who was killed in the Holocaust during World War II was from what is modern-day Ukraine.
“But so many people who died in this tragedy [of the Holocaust] were Ukrainian Jews — starting with Babyn Yar, where 150,000 Ukrainian Jews were executed,” Zelenskiy added.
He said initially he wasn’t sure whether he would attend the events because of the Ukrainian passenger airliner that Iran shot down in Tehran earlier this month. All 11 Ukrainian bodies aboard Flight PS752 were flown to Kyiv on January 19.
An estimated 1.1 million people died at Auschwitz-Birkenau during Nazi Germany’s brutal World War II occupation of Poland.
Most of them were European Jews but the victims of the death camp also included Polish resistance members, Roma, and Soviet prisoners of war.