Babi Yar: Wikis


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Babi Yar
Also known as Ukrainian: Бабин Яр; Russian: Бабий Яр
Location Babyn Yar, a ravine near Kyiv, Ukraine
Date 29 and 30 September 1941 and on later dates
Incident type Mass shootings, imprisonment without trial
Perpetrators Friedrich Jeckeln, Otto Rasch, Paul Blobel and others
Organizations Einsatzgruppen, Ordnungspolizei, Ukrainian Auxiliary Police, Sonderkommando 4a
Camp Syrets concentration camp
Victims 33,771 Ukrainian Jews in initial two-day massacre, between 40-90,000 Ukrainians, Jews, Gypsies, and Soviet prisoners of war on later dates
Memorials On site and elsewhere
Notes Possibly the largest two-day massacre during The Holocaust. Syrets concentration camp was also located in the area.

Babi Yar (Ukrainian: Бабин Яр) is a ravine outside the Ukrainian capital Kiev and a site of the most notorious massacre of Jews in the Soviet Union, where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation on September 29–30, 1941. The decision to kill all the Jews in Kiev was made by the military governor, Major-General Friedrich Eberhardt, the Police Commander for Army Group South, SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch. It was carried out by combined forces of SS, SD and SiPo.


Historical background

The Babi Yar (Babyn 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.[1] 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.

Massacres of 29-30 September 1941

Public announcement of September 28, 1941 in Russian, Ukrainian and German.

Nazi forces, mainly German, occupied Kiev on 19 September 1941. The decision to exterminate the Jews of Kiev was made on September 26, in retaliation for guerrilla attacks against German troops, by the military governor, Maj. Gen. Friedrich Georg Eberhardt and SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, the SS and Police Leader at Rear Headquarters Army Group South. Einsatzgruppe C carried out the Babi Yar massacre and a number of other mass atrocities in Ukraine during the summer and fall of 1941. Its commander SS-Brigadefuhrer Dr. Otto Rasch and the officer commanding Sonderkommando 4a, SS-Standartenfuhrer Paul Blobel were at the September 26 meeting as well.

On 29 and 30 September 1941, a special team of German SS troops supported by other German units, local collaborators murdered 33,771 Jewish civilians after taking them to the ravine.[2][3][4][5]

The massacre to come would be the largest single mass killing for which the Nazi regime and its collaborators were responsible during its campaign against the Soviet Union[6] and is considered to be "the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust".[7]

The implementation of the order was entrusted to Sonderkommando 4a, commanded by Blobel, under the general command of Friedrich Jeckeln.[8] 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. Police Battalion 45, commanded by Major Besser, conducted the massacre, supported by members of a Waffen-SS battalion. Units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police were used to round up and direct the Jews to the location.[9]

Afterwards, an official Nazi report described the means by which the people were induced to come to the killing site:

The difficulties resulting from such a large scale action -- in particular concerning the seizure -- were overcome in Kiev by requesting the Jewish population through wall posters to move. Although only a participation of approximately 5,000 to 6,000 Jews had been expected at first, more than 30,000 Jews arrived who, until the very moment of their execution, still believed in their resettlement, thanks to an extremely clever organization.[10]

On Monday the Jews of Kiev gathered by the cemetery, expecting to be loaded onto trains. 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 machine-gun fire, there was no chance to escape. All were driven down a corridor of soldiers, in groups of ten, and then shot. A truck driver described the scene:

Kikes of the city of Kiev and vicinity! On Monday, September 29, you are to appear by 08:00 a.m. with your possessions, money, documents, valuables, and warm clothing at Dorogozhitskaya Street, next to the Jewish cemetery. Failure to appear is punishable by death.

—Order posted in Kiev in Russian and Ukrainian, on or around September 26, 1941.[11]

[O]ne after the other, they had to remove their luggage, then their coats, shoes, and overgarments and also underwear … Once undressed, they were led into the ravine which was about 150 meters long and 30 meters wide and a good 15 meters deep … When they reached the bottom of the ravine they were seized by members of the Schutzpolizei and made to lie down on top of Jews who had already been shot … The corpses were literally in layers. A police marksman came along and shot each Jew in the neck with a submachine gun … I saw these marksmen stand on layers of corpses and shoot one after the other … The marksman would walk across the bodies of the executed Jews to the next Jew, who had meanwhile lain down, and shoot him.[11]

More than thirty thousand Kiev Jews gathered at the corner of the two streets and were escorted to 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."[12] According to the testimony of a truck driver named Hofer, victims were ordered to undress and beaten if they resisted:

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 give up 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[13]

All were driven in groups of ten down a corridor of SS soldiers, and then shot at the edge of the Babi Yar gorge. 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. In the evening, the Germans undermined the wall of the ravine and buried the people under the thick layers of earth.[12] According to the Einsatzgruppe's Operational Situation Report, 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.[14] The money, valuables, underwear, and clothing of the murdered victims were turned over to the local ethnic Germans and to the Nazi administration of the city.[15]


One of the most often-cited parts of Anatoly Kuznetsov's documentary novel Babi Yar is the testimony of Dina Pronicheva, an actress of the Kiev Puppet Theatre. 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 had to avoid the flashlights of the Nazis finishing off the remaining victims still alive, wounded and gasping in the grave. She was one of the very few survivors of the massacre and later related her horrifying story to Kuznetsov.[16]

Further executions

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 Ukrainians, mostly civilians, of whom a significant number were Jews, were murdered by the Nazis there during World War II.[2][9] A concentration camp was also built in the area.

Mass executions at Babi Yar continued up until the German forces departed from Kyiv (Kiev). For example, on January, 10th, 1942 about 100 sailors from a military flotilla were executed there. In addition, Babi Yar became a place of execution of residents of five Gypsy camps. According to various estimates, during 1941—1943 between 70,000 and 200 000 Roma people were 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 Ukrainians were killed at Babi Yar.[17] Among those murdered were 621 members of the 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.[18]

Syrets concentration camp

In the course of the occupation, the Syrets concentration camp was set up in Babi Yar. Interned communists, Soviet POWs, and captured Soviet Partisans were murdered there. 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 about 25,000 Ukrainians died in the Syrets camp.

Concealment of the crimes

Paul Blobel. Nuremberg Military Tribunal, March, 1948.

Before the Nazis retreated from Kiev, they attempted to conceal their atrocities. Paul Blobel, who was in control of the mass murders in Babi Yar two years earlier, supervised the Sonderaktion 1005 in eliminating its traces. For six weeks from August to September 1943, more than 300 chained prisoners were forced to exhume and burn the corpses (using local headstones as bricks to build ovens) and scattered the ashes on farmland in the vicinity (to this day many Ukrainians will not eat cabbage grown on those farms).

Numbers murdered

Estimates of the total number killed at Babi Yar during the Nazi occupation vary. In 1946, Soviet prosecutor L. N. Smirnov at the Nuremberg Trials claimed there were approximately 100,000 corpses lying in Babi Yar, using materials of the Extraordinary State Commission set out by the Soviets to investigate Nazi crimes after the liberation of Kiev in 1943.[9][19][20][21] According to testimonies of workers forced to burn the bodies, the numbers range from 70,000 to 120,000.

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

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.[22]

For his war crimes Paul Blobel was sentenced to death by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal in the Einsatzgruppen Trial. He was hanged in June 1951.


After the war, commemoration efforts encountered serious difficulty because of the policy of the Soviet Union. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number of memorials have been erected on the site and elsewhere. The events also formed a part of literature. Babi Yar is now within a suburb of Kiev. Babi Yar is located at the juncture of today's Kurenivka, Lukianivka and Syrets neighborhoods, between Frunze, Melnykov and Olena Teliha streets and St. Cyril's Monastery.

In fiction

See also


  1. ^ Anatoliy Kudrytsky, editor-in-chiev, "Vulytsi Kyeva" (The Streets of Kiev), Ukrainska Entsyklopediya (1995), ISBN 5885000700
  2. ^ a b United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "Kiev and Babi Yar," Holocaust Encyclopedia.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ Staff. The Holocaust Chronicle: Massacre at Babi Yar, The Holocaust Chronicle web site, Access 17 December 2007
  5. ^ Victoria Khiterer (2004). "Babi Yar: The tragedy of Kiev's Jews" (PDF). Brandeis Graduate Journal 2: 1–16. Retrieved 2008-01-20.  
  6. ^ Wolfram Wette (2006). The Wehrmacht: History, Myth, Reality. Harvard University Press. p. 112.  
  7. ^ 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
  8. ^ 1941: Mass Murder The Holocaust Chronicle. p. 270
  9. ^ a b c Shmuel Spector, "Babi Yar," Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Israel Gutman, editor in chief, Yad Vashem, Sifriat Hapoalim, New York: Macmillan, 1990. 4 volumes. ISBN 0-02-896090-4. An excerpt of the article is available at Ada Holtzman, "Babi Yar: Killing Ravine of Kiev Jewry – WWII", We Remember! Shalom!.
  10. ^ Nuremberg Military Tribunal, Einsatzgruppen trial, Judgment, at page 426, quoting exhibit NO-3157.
  11. ^ a b Berenbaum, Michael. The World Must Know, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, this edition 2006, pp. 97–98.
  12. ^ a b Martin Gilbert (1985): The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During the Second World War, Holt, Rinehart and Winston. ISBN 0030624169: 202.
  13. ^ 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
  14. ^ Operational Situation Report No. 101 (
  15. ^ Nuremberg Military Tribunal, Einsatzgruppen trial, Judgment, at page 430.
  16. ^ "A Survivor of the Babi Yar Massacre," Heritage: Civilization and the Jews (PBS). Gilbert (1985): 204-205.
  17. ^ Babi Yar (Page 2) by Jennifer Rosenberg (
  18. ^ Ludmyla Yurchenko, "Life is not to be sold for a few pieces of silver: The life of Olena Teliha", Ukrainian Youth Association.
  19. ^ Materials of the Nuremberg Trial in Russian: Нюрнбергский процесс, т. III. M., 1958. с. 220-221.
  20. ^ Iosif Kremenetsky, "Babi Yar - September 1941" (Russian)
  21. ^ Из Сообщения Чрезвычайной Государственной Комиссии о Разрушениях и зверствах, Совершенных Немецко - Фашистскими Захватчиками в Городе Киеве. Нюрнбергский Процесс. Документ СССР-9. (Russian)
  22. ^ Yury Shapoval, "The Defection of Anatoly Kuznetsov", День, January 18, 2005.


External links

Coordinates: 50°28′17″N 30°26′56″E / 50.47139°N 30.44889°E / 50.47139; 30.44889

Simple English

Babi Yar Ukrainian: Бабин яр is a ravine near Kiev in Ukraine.

On 28 September 1941, members of Einsatzgruppe C (mobile killing unit C), and other SS and German police units and Ukrainian auxiliaries, murdered more than half of the Jewish population of Kiev at Babi Yar, which is northwest of the city.

This was one of the largest mass murders at one place during World War II.

The Einsatzgruppe wrote to headquarters that 33,771 Jews were massacred in two days.


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