Babi Yar

Babi Yar

:"See #Other memorials below for the Babi Yar Memorial Park in Denver, Colorado, USA."Babi Yar ( _uk. Бабин яр, "Babyn yar"; _ru. Бабий яр, "Babiy yar") is a ravine in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. In the course of two days, September 29—30, 1941, a special team of German SS troops supported by other German units, local collaborators and Ukrainian police murdered 33,771 Jewish civilians.United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, [ Holocaust Encyclopedia] after taking them to the ravine. [ Kiev and Babi Yar] ] ["A Community of Violence: The SiPo/SD and Its Role in the Nazi Terror System in Generalbezirk Kiew" by Alexander V. Prusin. Holocaust Genocide Studies, Spring 2007; 21: 1 - 30.] The Babi Yar massacre is considered to be "the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust". [ [ From Berlin to Babi Yar. The Nazi War Against the Jews, 1941-1944] by Wendy Morgan Lower, Towson University. "Journal of Religion & Society", Volume 9 (2007). The Kripke Center IS.S.N 1522-5658]

In the months that followed, thousands more were seized and taken to Babi Yar where they were shot. It is estimated that more than 100,000 people, mostly civilians, of whom a significant number were Jews, [ Babi Yar. Extracts from the Article by Shmuel Spector, Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Israel Gutman, editor in Chief, Yad Vashem, Sifriat Hapoalim, MacMillan Publishing Company, 1990] ] were murdered by the Nazis there during World War II.Israel Gutman, editor-in-chief, "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust", [ Babi Yar] , New York: Macmillan, 1990. 4 volumes. ISBN 0-02-896090-4.] ]

In today's Kiev, Babi Yar is located at the juncture of Kurenivka, Lukianivka and Syrets raions, between Frunze, Melnykov and Olena Teliha streets and St. Cyril's Monastery.

Historical background

The Babi Yar ravine was first mentioned in historical accounts in 1401, in connection with its sale by "baba" (an old woman), the "cantiniere", to the Dominican Monastery.Anatoliy Kudrytsky, editor-in-chiev, "Vulytsi Kyeva" (The Streets of Kiev)", Ukrainska Entsyklopediya (1995), ISBN 5885000700] In the course of several centuries the site had been used for various purposes including military camps and at least two cemeteries, among them an Orthodox Christian cemetery and a Jewish Cemetery. The latter was officially closed in 1937.

Nazi occupation

After the 45-day battle for the city of Kiev, Nazi forces entered the city on September 19, 1941. The occupation of Kiev lasted until November 6, 1943.

The massacres of September 29-30, 1941

On September 28, leaflets in Russian, Ukrainian and German languages were posted in Kiev. The Russian announcement read:quotation
All Jews [The [ Russian version of this document] uses an ethnic slur.] of the city of Kiev and its environs must appear on Monday, September 29, 1941, by 8:00 AM on the corner of Melnіkov and Dokterivsky streets (near the cemetery). You are to take your documents, money, valuables, warm clothes, linen etc. Whoever of the Jews does not fulfill this order and is found in another place, shall be shot. Any citizen who enters the apartments that have been left and takes ownership of items will be shot ("From the Russian translation"). [The Ukrainian version of this document is somewhat different from the Russian one:

It is ordered that all Jews living in the city of Kiev and its environs are to report on Monday, September 29, 1941, by 8:00 AM to the corner of Melnyk (sic) and Dokterivsky Streets (near the cemetery). They are to take with them documents, money, underwear, etc. All who do not heed these instruction will be shot. Anyone entering apartments evacuated by Jews and stealing property from those apartments will be shot.

More than thirty thousand Kievan Jews gathered by the cemetery, expecting to be loaded onto trains for deportation. The commander of the Einsatzkommando reported two days later:

Because of 'our special talent of organisation', 'the Jews still believed to the very last moment before being murdered that indeed all that was happening was that they were being resettled.Martin Gilbert (1985): "The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War", Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0030624169 p.202]

The crowd was large enough that most of the men, women, and children could not have known what was happening until it was too late: by the time they heard the gunfire, there was no chance to escape. According to the testimony of truck driver Hofer:

I watched what happened when the Jews - men, women, and children - arrived. The Ukrainians led them past a number of different places where one after the other they had to remove their luggage, then their coats, shoes and over-garments and also underwear. They also had to leave their valuables in a designated place. There was a special pile for each article of clothing. It all happened very quickly and anyone who hesitated was kicked or pushed by the Ukrainians to keep them moving. [ [ Statement of Truck-Driver Hofer describing the murder of Jews at Babi Yar] cited in Berenbaum, Michael: "Witness to the Holocaust." New York: Harper-Collins. 1997. pp. 138-139]

All were driven down a corridor of soldiers, in groups of ten, and then shot. Anatoly Kuznetsov described the massacre:

There was no question of being able to dodge or get away. Brutal blows, immediately drawing blood, descended on their heads, backs and shoulders from left and right. The soldiers kept shouting: "Schnell, schnell!" as if they were watching a circus act; they even found ways of delivering harder blows in the more vulnerable places, the ribs, the stomach and the groin.

Victims were then ordered to undress, beaten if they resisted, and then shot at the edge of the Babi Yar gorge. According to the Einsatzgruppen Operational Situation Report [ [ Operational Situation Report No. 101] (] , 33,771 Jews from Kiev and its suburbs were systematically shot dead by machine-gun fire at Babi Yar on September 29 and September 30, 1941.

In the evening, the Germans undermined the wall of the ravine and buried the people under the thick layers of earth.


The implementation of the decision to kill all the Jews of Kiev was entrusted to Sonderkommando 4a. This unit consisted of SD and Sipo, the third company of the Special Duties Waffen-SS battalion, and a platoon of the 9th police battalion. The unit was reinforced by police battalions 45 and 305 and by units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police.

The commander of Sonderkommando 4a of Einsatzgruppe C, which carried out the Babi Yar massacre and a number of other mass atrocities in Ukraine during the summer and fall of 1941, was SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel. [ [ 1941: Mass Murder] The Holocaust Chronicle. p. 270] A unit of Einsatzgruppe C, Police Battalion 45 commanded by Major Besser, carried out the massacre, supported by members of a Waffen-SS battalion. Units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police, under the general command of Friedrich Jeckeln were used to round up and direct the Jews to the location. ["The implementation to kill Kievan Jews was entrusted to Sonderkommando 4a. This unit consisted of SD (Sicherheitsdienst; Security Service) and Sicherheitspolizei (Security Police; Sipo) men; the third company of the Special Duties Waffen-SS battalion; and a platoon of the No. 9 police battalion. The unit was reinforced by police battalions Nos. 45 and 305 and aided by units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police." ( [ Extracts from the Article by Shmuel Spector] , Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Israel Gutman, editor in Chief, Yad Vashem, Sifriat Hapoalim, MacMillan Publishing Company,1990)] ["The Ukrainians led them past a number of different places where one after the other they had to remove their luggage, then their coats, shoes and overgarments and also underwear. They also had to leave their valuables in a designated place. There was a special pile for each article of clothing. It all happened very quickly and anyone who hesitated was kicked or pushed by the Ukrainians to keep them moving." ( [ Statement of Truck-Driver Hofer describing the murder of Jews at Babi Yar] )]


One of the most often-cited parts of Kuznetsov's documentary novel is the testimony of Dina Pronichev, an actress of Kiev Puppet Theater. She was one of those ordered to march to the ravine, forced to undress, and then shot. Jumping before being shot and falling on other bodies, she played dead in a pile of corpses. She held perfectly still while the Nazis continued to shoot the wounded or gasping victims. Although the SS had covered the mass grave with earth, she eventually managed to climb through the soil and escape. Since it was dark, she avoided the flashlights of the Nazis finishing off the remaining people alive, wounded, gasping, in the grave. She was one of the very few survivors of the massacre; she later related her horrifying story to Kuznetsov. [ [ The story of Dina Pronicheva] (PBS)] [Martin Gilbert (1985): "The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War". Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0030624169 pp.204-205]

Further executions

Mass executions in the ravine continued. Roma people were also rounded up and murdered at Babi Yar. Patients of the Ivan Pavlov Psychiatric Hospital were gassed and then dumped into the ravine. Thousands of other civilians were killed at Babi Yar. [ [ Babi Yar (Page 2)] by Jennifer Rosenberg (]

Among those murdered were 621 members of Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Ukrainian poet and activist Olena Teliha and her husband, renowned bandurist Mykhailo Teliha, were murdered there on February 21 1942. [ [ Life is not to be sold for a few pieces of silver] , The life of Olena Teliha by Ludmyla Yurchenko (Kyiv)]

Number of people murdered

Estimates of the total number of dead at Babi Yar during the Nazi occupation vary. The Soviet estimation stated that there were approximately 100,000 corpses lying in Babi Yar. In 1946, the Soviet prosecutor L. N. Smirnov cited this number during the Nuremberg Trials, using materials of the Extraordinary State Commission set out by the Soviets to investigate Nazi crimes after the liberation of Kiev in 1943. [Materials of the Nuremberg Trial in Russian: Нюрнбергский процесс, т. III. M., 1958. с. 220-221. Quoting from ru icon [ Бабий Яр - сентябрь 1941] Иосиф Кременецкий. (Babi Yar - September 1941 by Iosif Kremenetsky. (] [ru icon [ ИЗ СООБЩЕНИЯ ЧРЕЗВЫЧАЙНОЙ ГОСУДАРСТВЕННОЙ КОМИССИИ О РАЗРУШЕНИЯХ И ЗВЕРСТВАХ, СОВЕРШЕННЫХ НЕМЕЦКО-ФАШИСТСКИМИ ЗАХВАТЧИКАМИ В ГОРОДЕ КИЕВЕ.] НЮРНБЕРГСКИЙ ПРОЦЕСС. Документ СССР-9]

According to testimonies of workers forced to burn the bodies, the numbers range from 70,000 to 120,000.

yrets concentration camp

In the course of the occupation, the Syrets concentration camp was set up in Babi Yar. There, interned communists, Soviet POWs, and captured Soviet Partisans were murdered. On February 18 1943 three Dynamo Kyiv football players, who took part in the Match of Death with the German Luftwaffe team were also murdered in the camp. It is estimated that 25,000 people died in the camp.

Cover-up attempts and inmate revolt

Before the Nazis retreated from Kiev, they attempted to cover up their atrocities. Paul Blobel, who was in control of the mass murders in Babi Yar two years earlier, supervised the Sonderaktion 1005 eliminating its traces. For his war crimes he was sentenced to death by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal in the Einsatzgruppen Trial and was hanged in June 1951.

For six weeks from August to September 1943, more than 300 chained prisoners were forced to exhume and burn the corpses (using headstones put up by locals as bricks with which to build ovens) and scatter the ashes on farmland in the vicinity (to this day many Ukranians will not eat cabbage grown on those local farms.). During the exhumations, a group of prisoners secretly armed themselves with tools and scraps of metal they managed to find and conceal. They picked the locks with keys they found on victims' bodies. Martin Gilbert quotes historian Reuben Ainsztein:

... in those half-naked men who reeked of putrefying flesh, whose bodies were eaten by scabies and covered with a layer of mud and soot, and of whose physical strength so little remained, there survived a spirit that defied everything that the Nazis' New Order had done or could do to them. In the men whom the SS men saw only as walking corpses, there matured a determination that at least one of them must survive to tell the world about what happened in Babi Yar. [Martin Gilbert: "The Holocaust" (quoting from [ Babi Yar]]

On the night of September 29, 1943, as the camp was being dismantled, an inmate revolt broke out. The prisoners overpowered the guards using their bare hands, hammers and screw drivers. Fifteen people managed to escape. Among them was Vladimir Davіdov, who later served as a witness at the Nuremberg Trials. [Martin Gilbert: "The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War" p.613] [ [ 1943 September 30, Sonderkommando Babi Yar Revolt] ] Among other escapees were Fyodor Zavertanny, Jacob Kaper, Filip Vilkis, Leonid Kharash, I. Brodskiy, Leonid Kadomskiy, David Budnik, Fyodor Yershov, Jakov Steiuk, Semyon Berland, Vladimir Kotlyar. Once Nazi control was re-established in the camp, the remaining 311 inmates were murdered.

After liberation

When the Red Army took control of the city on November 6, 1943, the Syrets Concentration Camp was converted into a Soviet internment camp for German POWs and operated until 1946. The camp was subsequently demolished and in the 1950s and 1960s urban development began in the area, which included an apartment complex and a park. The construction of a dam nearby also saw the ravine filled with industrial pulp. The dam collapsed in 1961, leading to the mudslide with numerous fatalities.


Soviet leadership discouraged placing any emphasis on the Jewish aspect of the Babi Yar tragedy; instead, presenting these events as crimes committed against the Soviet people in general and the inhabitants of Kiev. The first draft report of the Extraordinary State Commission (Чрезвычайная Государственная Комиссия), dated December 25 1943 was officially censored in February 1944 as follows: [ [ Draft report by the Commission for Crimes Committed by the Nazis in Kiev from February 1944] . The page 14 shows changes made by G. F. Aleksandrov, head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union] In his 1961 book "Star in Eclipse: Russian Jewry Revisited", Joseph Schechtman provided an account of the Babi Yar tragedy. In 1966, Anatoli Kuznetsov's "" was published in censored form in the Soviet monthly literary magazine "Yunost". Kuznetsov began writing a memoir of his wartime life when he was 14. Over the years he continued working on it, adding documents and eyewitnesses testimonies. He managed to smuggle 35 mm photographic film containing the uncensored manuscript when he defected and the book was published in the West in 1970.

Several attempts were made to erect a memorial at Babi Yar to commemorate the fate of the Jewish victims. All attempts were overruled. An official memorial to Soviet citizens shot at Babi Yar was erected in 1976. This remembrance is still complicated in the great numbers and many sorts of persons murdered there. []

In 1985, a documentary film [ Babiy Yar: Lessons of History] by Vitaly Korotich was made to mark the tragedy.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 the Ukrainian government allowed a separate memorial specifically identifying the Jewish victims.

The massacre of Jews at Babi Yar has inspired a number of creative ventures. A poem was written by the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko; this in turn was set to music by Dmitri Shostakovich in his Symphony No. 13. An oratorio was composed by the Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych to the text of Dmytro Pavlychko (2006). A number of films and television productions have also marked the tragic events at Babi Yar, and D. M. Thomas's novel "The White Hotel" uses the massacre's anonymity and violence as a counterpoint to the intimate and complex nature of the human psyche.

In a recently published letter to the Israeli journalist, writer, and translator Shlomo Even-Shoshan dated May 17, 1965, Anatoli Kuznetsov commented on the Babi Yar tragedy:

"In the two years that followed, Russians, Ukrainians, Gypsies, and people of all nationalities were murdered in Babyn Yar. The belief that Babyn Yar is an exclusively Jewish grave is wrong. [...] It is an international grave. Nobody will ever determine how many and what nationalities are buried there, because 90% of the corpses were burned, their ashes scattered in ravines and fields." [ The Defection of Anatoly Kuznetsov] by Prof. Yury Shapoval, Ph.D.]

List of monuments built near the Babi Yar

Since 1976, a number of monuments have been built to commemorate the numerous events associated with Babi Yar tragedy, including:

* "Monument to Soviet citizens and POWs shot by Germans at Babi Yar" (opened in July 1976)
* Menorah-shaped monument to the Jews massacred at Babi Yar (opened on Sept. 29, 1991, 50 years after the first mass killing of the Jews at Babi Yar)
* Wooden cross in memory of the 621 Ukrainian nationalists (including Olena Teliha and her husband) murdered by the Germans in 1942 (installed in 1992)
* Oak Cross marking the place where two Ukrainian Orthodox Christian priests were shot on Nov.6, 1941, for anti-German agitation (installed in 2000)
* Monument to children killed at Babi Yar (opened in 2001 near the Dorohozhychi subway station)
* Magen David shaped stone marking the site for a planned Jewish community center (installed in 2001; however, construction of the center was suspended because of disputes over its specific location and scope of activities)
* Monument to Ostarbeiters and concentration camp prisoners (installed in 2005 at the corner of Dorohozhytska and Oranzheriyna St., close to the 1976 monument)
* Monument to victims of the 1961 Kurenivka mudslide in Kiev (installed in 2006, 45 years after the disaster killed hundreds of local residents and workers)
* Three tombs over a steep ravine edge with black metal crosses, installed by an unknown volunteer. One cross has an inscription: "People were killed in 1941 at this place, too. May God rest their souls."(This list is not comprehensive).

Also, there was a proposal to mark the thousands of Roma (Gypsies) killed at Babi Yar by building a monument designed as a Gypsy wagon. [ [ Vladimir Platonov. "Babi Yar: A tragedy about the tragedy". Zerkalo Nedeli No.39 (156) 1997 (in Russian)] ] However, this plan has not yet gathered a sufficient financial and administrative support.

Other memorials

United States

The President of the [ Babi Yar Park Foundation] Alan G. Gass stated::We built a [ memorial park to the Babi Yar massacre] in Denver, Colorado. It was dedicated in 1982, with an inscribed black granite entrance gateway, a "People Place" amphi-theatre, a "Forest that Remembers" with a spring flowing all year in the middle, and a high-walled, narrow black bridge over a ravine, all at three points of a Magen David carved out of the native prairie grasses. It is owned and maintained by the City & County of Denver. The park is used by the recently arrived immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union as a place of remembrance during the year and with a special ceremony on 29 September each year.


There is a memorial to the victims of Babi Yar at the Nahalat Yitzhak cemetery in Givatayim. There is annual ceremony on Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Day.

Desecration of the memorial complex (July 2006)

On the night of July 16, 2006, the memorial dedicated to the Jewish victims was vandalized. Several gravestones, the foundation of the commemorative sledge-stone, and several steps leading to the Menorah memorial were damaged. [ [ Babiy Yar Profaned by Vandals.] 17.07.2006] [ [ Unknown persons defiled Menorah in Babiy Yar.] Interfax. 19 July 2006] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine issued a statement condemning the act of vandalism. [ [ Answer of the Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to the question of journalists relating to the incident in Babyn Yar] July 21, 2006]

ee also

*History of the Jews in Ukraine
*Operation Barbarossa
*Reichskommissariat Ukraine
*Ukrainian-German collaboration during World War II
*Consequences of German Nazism
*Genocides in history
*List of victims of the Babi Yar massacre



*A. Anatoli (Anatoly Kuznetsov), trans. David Floyd, (1970), "", Jonathan Cape Ltd. ISBN 0-671-45135-9
*"Babi Yar in the mirror of science, or the map of Bermuda Triangle", an article in Zerkalo Nedeli ("the Mirror Weekly"), July 2005, available online [ in Russian] and [ in Ukrainian]
* [ Encyclopedia of Kyiv]

External links

* [ Babi Yar: Mass Murder] (
* [ In-depth study on Babi Yar]
* [ The Massacre at Babi Yar Near Kyiv] (
* [ Babi Yar] (Jewish Virtual Library)
* [ Babi Yar: Killing Ravine of Kiev Jewry – WWII] (
* [ Kiev organization of Jews - ghetto and concentration camp survivors: "Holocaust Memory"]
* [ Babi Yar. The Tragedy of Kiev's Jews] by Victoria Khiterer (Brandeis University)
* [ Babi Yar] (
* [ History. Geography. Memory] by Tatyana Yevstafyeva. August 15, 2002 (a reprint from newspaper "Jewish Observer")

;Documents and testimonials
* [ Copy of the Einsatzgruppen Operational Situation Report No. 101] (
* [ Statement of the Truck Driver Hofer Describing the Murder of Jews at Babi Yar] (

;Literary works
* [ "Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel"] by Anatoly Kuznetsov. "Yunost" literary magazine, 1966
* [ "Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel"] (RTF file) by Anatoly Kuznetsov. Posev, 1973. (Full uncensored edition) ( [ Zipped] )
* [ Poem "Babi Yar" by Yevgeny Yevtushenko in English]

;Monuments, directions and commemorations
* [ Memorial in Babi Yar park, Kyiv] To reach this park, take the metro to the Dorohozhychi station
* [ A monument to be erected to Olena Teliha]
* [ Commemorative Oratorio by Yevhen Stankovych]
* [ "Dress Code for Auschwitz" - Artwork from Babi Yar to Auschwitz]
* [ Plan to build memorial at site of massacre in Ukraine divisive.] by Vladimir Matveyev. NCSJ/Jewish Telegraphic Agency. July 24, 2006
* [ 65th Anniversary Remembrance of the Babi Yar Tragedy] September 27, 2006 (NCSJ)
* [ Declaration] International Forum "Let My People Live!" September 27, 2006 (World Holocaust Forum)
* [ 'From September to May, there were shots almost every day'.] by Amiram Barkat. Haaretz September 29, 2006

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