Babi Yar (Ukrainian: Бабин Яр, Babyn Yar; Russian: Бабий Яр, Babiy Yar) is a ravine in the Ukrainian capital Kiev and a site of massacres carried out by German forces and local Ukrainian collaborators during their campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II. The first, and best documented, of the massacres took place on 29–30 September 1941, killing approximately 33,771 Jews. The decision to kill all the Jews in Kiev was made by the military governor, Major-General Kurt Eberhard, the Police Commander for Army Group South, SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch. Sonderkommando 4a soldiers, along with the aid of the SD and SS Police Battalions backed by the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police carried out the orders.
The massacre was the largest mass killing under the auspices of the Nazi regime and its collaborators during its campaign against the Soviet Union and has been called "the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust" to that particular date, surpassed only by the 1941 Odessa massacre of more than 50,000 Jews in October 1941 (committed by German and Romanian troops) and by Aktion Erntefest of November 1943 in occupied Poland with 42,000–43,000 victims.
Victims of other massacres at the site included Soviet prisoners of war, communists, Ukrainian nationalists and Roma. It is estimated that between 100,000 and 150,000 people were killed at Babi Yar during the German occupation.
Babi Yar ravine in Kiev
|Also known as||Babyn Yar, Babi Jar|
|Date||29–30 September 1941|
|Incident type||Genocide, mass murder|
|Perpetrators||Friedrich Jeckeln, Otto Rasch, Paul Blobel, Kurt Eberhard and others|
|Organizations||Einsatzgruppen, Ordnungspolizei, Sonderkommando 4a|
|Camp||Syrets concentration camp|
|Memorials||On site and elsewhere|
|Notes||Possibly the largest two-day massacre during the Holocaust. Syrets concentration camp was also located in the area. Massacres occurred at Babi Yar from 29 September 1941 to 6 November 1943, when Soviet forces liberated Kiev.|
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. The word "yar" is Turkic in origin and means "gully" or "ravine". 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.
Axis forces, mainly German, occupied Kiev on 19 September 1941. Between 20 and 28 September, explosives planted by the Soviet NKVD caused extensive damage in the city; and on 24 September an explosion rocked Rear Headquarters Army Group South. Two days later, on 26 September, Maj. Gen. Kurt Eberhard, the military governor, and SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, the SS and Police Leader met at Rear Headquarters Army Group South. There, they made the decision to exterminate the Jews of Kiev, claiming that it was in retaliation for the explosions. Also present were SS-Standartenführer Paul Blobel, commander of Sonderkommando 4a, and his superior, SS-Brigadeführer Dr. Otto Rasch, commander of Einsatzgruppe C. The mass-killing was to be carried out by units under the command of Rasch and Blobel, who were ultimately responsible for a number of atrocities in Soviet Ukraine during the summer and autumn of 1941.
The implementation of the order was entrusted to Sonderkommando 4a, commanded by Blobel, under the general command of Friedrich Jeckeln. 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. Contrary to the myth of the "clean Wehrmacht", the Sixth Army under the command of Field Marshal Walter von Reichenau worked together with the SS and SD to plan and execute the mass-murder of the Jews of Kiev.
On 26 September 1941 the following order was posted:
All Yids[a] of the city of Kiev and its vicinity must appear on Monday, September 29, by 8 o'clock in the morning at the corner of Mel'nikova and Dokterivskaya streets (near the Viis'kove cemetery). Bring documents, money and valuables, and also warm clothing, linen, etc. Any Yids[a] who do not follow this order and are found elsewhere will be shot. Any civilians who enter the dwellings left by Yids[a] and appropriate the things in them will be shot.— Order posted in Kiev in Russian, Ukrainian, and German on or around 26 September 1941.
On 29 and 30 September 1941, the Nazis and their collaborators murdered approximately 33,771 Jewish civilians at Babi Yar. The order to kill the Jews of Kiev was given to Sonderkommando 4a, of Einsatzgruppe C, consisting 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. These units were reinforced by police battalions Nos. 45 and 305, by units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police, and supported by local collaborators.
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.
According to the testimony of a truck driver named Hofer, victims were ordered to undress and were beaten if they resisted:
I watched what happened when the Jews—men, women and children—arrived. The Ukrainians[b] 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 [sic][b] to keep them moving.— Michael Berenbaum: "Statement of Truck-Driver Hofer describing the murder of Jews at Babi Yar"
The crowd was large enough that most of the victims 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.
Once undressed, they were led into the ravine which was about 150 metres long and 30 metres wide and a good 15 metres 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.
In the evening, the Germans undermined the wall of the ravine and buried the people under the thick layers of earth. 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 29 September and 30 September 1941. The money, valuables, underwear, and clothing of the murdered were turned over to the local ethnic Germans and to the Nazi administration of the city. Wounded victims were buried alive in the ravine along with the rest of the bodies.
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, and a survivor. She was one of those ordered to march to the ravine, to be forced to undress and then be 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 torches 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. At least 29 survivors are known.
In 2006, Yad Vashem and other Jewish organisations started a project to identify and name the Babi Yar victims, but so far only 10% have been identified. Yad Vashem has recorded the names of around 3,000 Jews killed at Babi Yar, as well as those of some 7,000 Jews from Kiev who were killed during the Holocaust.
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 residents of Kiev of all ethnic groups, mostly civilians, were murdered by the Nazis there during World War II. A concentration camp was also built in the area.
Mass executions at Babi Yar continued until the Nazis evacuated the city of Kiev. On 10 January 1942 about 100 captured Soviet sailors were executed there after being forced to disinter and cremate the bodies of previous victims. In addition, Babi Yar became a place of execution of residents of five Gypsy camps. Patients of the Ivan Pavlov Psychiatric Hospital were gassed and then dumped into the ravine. Thousands of other Ukrainians were killed at Babi Yar. Among those murdered were 621 members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). Ukrainian poet and activist Olena Teliha and her husband, and renowned bandurist Mykhailo Teliha, were murdered there on 21 February 1942. Also killed in 1941 was Ukrainian activist writer Ivan Rohach, his sister, and his staff.
Upon the Soviet liberation of Kiev in 1943, Soviet officials led Western journalists to the site of the massacres and allowed them to interview survivors. Among them were Bill Lawrence of The New York Times and Bill Downs of CBS. Downs described in a report to Newsweek what he had been told by one of the survivors, Efim Vilkis:
However, even more incredible was the actions taken by the Nazis between August 19 and September 28 last. Vilkis said that in the middle of August the SS mobilized a party of 100 Russian war prisoners, who were taken to the ravines. On August 19 these men were ordered to disinter all the bodies in the ravine. The Germans meanwhile took a party to a nearby Jewish cemetery whence marble headstones were brought to Babii Yar [sic] to form the foundation of a huge funeral pyre. Atop the stones were piled a layer of wood and then a layer of bodies, and so on until the pyre was as high as a two-story house. Vilkis said that approximately 1,500 bodies were burned in each operation of the furnace and each funeral pyre took two nights and one day to burn completely. The cremation went on for 40 days, and then the prisoners, who by this time included 341 men, were ordered to build another furnace. Since this was the last furnace and there were no more bodies, the prisoners decided it was for them. They made a break but only a dozen out of more than 200 survived the bullets of the Nazi machine guns.
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. According to testimonies of workers forced to burn the bodies, the numbers range from 70,000 to 120,000.
In the two years that followed, Ukrainians, Russians, Gypsies and people of all nationalities were murdered in Babi Yar. The belief that Babi 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.
In the course of the German occupation, the Syrets concentration camp was set up in Babi Yar. Interned communists, Soviet prisoners of war (POWs), and captured resistance members were murdered there, among others. On 18 February 1943, three Dynamo Kyiv football players (Trusevich, Klimenko, and Putistin) who took part in the Match of Death with the German Luftwaffe team were also murdered in the camp.
Before the Nazis retreated from Kiev ahead of the Soviet offensive of 1944, they were ordered by Wilhelm Koppe to conceal their atrocities in the East. Paul Blobel, who was in control of the mass murders in Babi Yar two years earlier, supervised the Sonderaktion 1005 in eliminating its traces. The Aktion was carried out earlier in all extermination camps. The bodies were exhumed, burned and the ashes scattered over farmland in the vicinity. Several hundred prisoners of war from the Syrets concentration camp were forced to build funeral pyres out of Jewish gravestones and exhume the bodies for cremation.
After the war, specifically Jewish commemoration efforts encountered serious difficulty because of the Soviet Union's policies. 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 located in Kiev at the juncture of today's Kurenivka, Lukianivka and Syrets districts, between Kyrylivska, Melnykov and Olena Teliha streets and St. Cyril's Monastery. After the Orange Revolution, President Viktor Yushchenko of Ukraine hosted a major commemoration of the 65th anniversary in 2006, attended by Presidents Moshe Katsav of Israel, Filip Vujanovic of Montenegro, Stjepan Mesić of Croatia and Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau. Rabbi Lau pointed out that if the world had reacted to the massacre of Babi Yar, perhaps the Holocaust might never have happened. Implying that Hitler was emboldened by this impunity, Lau speculated:
Maybe, say, this Babi Yar was also a test for Hitler. If on 29 September and 30 September 1941 Babi Yar may happen and the world did not react seriously, dramatically, abnormally, maybe this was a good test for him. So a few weeks later in January 1942, near Berlin in Wannsee, a convention can be held with a decision, a final solution to the Jewish problem... Maybe if the very action had been a serious one, a dramatic one, in September 1941 here in Ukraine, the Wannsee Conference would have come to a different end, maybe.
In 2006, a message was also delivered on behalf of Kofi Annan, Secretary-General of the United Nations, by his representative, Resident Coordinator Francis Martin O'Donnell, who added a Hebrew prayer O'seh Shalom, from the Mourners' Kaddish.
Babi Yar was also the site of a large mudslide in the spring of 1961. An earthen dam in the ravine had held loam pulp that had been pumped from the local brick factories for ten years without sufficient drainage. The dam collapsed after heavy rain, inundating the lower-lying Kurenivka neighborhood. The death toll was estimated to be between 1,500 and 2,000 people. According to Kusnetsov, this was part of a sustained and massive effort of the Soviets to obliterate the site, including what remained of the old Jewish burying ground.
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Anatoly Vasilievich Kuznetsov (Russian: Анато́лий Васи́льевич Кузнецо́в; August 18, 1929, Kiev – June 13, 1979, London)
was a Russian-language Soviet writer who described his experiences in German-occupied Kiev during World War II in his internationally acclaimed novel Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel. The book was originally published in a censored form in 1966 in the Russian language.Babi Yar (disambiguation)
Babi Yar is a ravine in Kiev and a site of World War II massacres.
Babi Yar may also refer to:
Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel, a book by Anatoly Kuznetsov
Babiy Yar (film), directed by Jeff Kanew
Babi Yar (poem), by Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Symphony No. 13 (Shostakovich), a symphony based on the poemBabi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center
Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is an educational institution that documents, explains and commemorates the Babi Yar shootings of September 1941 and aims to broaden and sustain the memory of the Holocaust in Eastern Europe, taking into account geopolitical changes during the 20th century. In 2016 the discussion of the Memorial project began. The Memorial Center is planned to be created in Kyiv, Ukraine, by 2023.Babi Yar in poetry
Poems about Babi Yar commemorate the massacres committed by the Nazi Einsatzgruppe during World War II at Babi Yar, in a ravine located within the present-day Ukrainian capital of Kiev. In just one of these atrocities – taking place over September 29–30, 1941 – Jewish men, women and children numbering 33,771 were killed in a single Einsatzgruppe operation.Babi Yar memorials
Babi Yar, a ravine near Kiev, was the scene of possibly the largest shooting massacre during the Holocaust. After the war, commemoration efforts encountered serious difficulty because of the policy of the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a number of memorials have been erected. The events also formed a part of literature.Dina Pronicheva
Dina (Vera) Mironovna Pronicheva (Ukrainian: Діна Миронівна Пронічева, Dina Mironivna Pronicheva; January 7, 1911 in Chernihiv, Ukraine – 1977) was a Soviet Jewish actress at the Kiev Puppet Theatre, and a survivor of the September 29–30, 1941 Babi Yar massacre in Kiev.Initially she tore up her identity card and claimed that she was not Jewish and was only seeing someone off, but the Germans decided to kill her anyway so that she would not be a witness. She was then ordered to march to the ravine, to be forced to undress and then be 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. At least 28 other survivors are known. However, she was the only survivor to testify afterwards at the January 24, 1946 Kiev-based war-crimes trial.
She later related her horrifying story to writer Anatoly Kuznetsov, who incorporated it into his novel Babi Yar, published in Yunost in 1966.History of the Jews in Kiev
The history of the Jews in Kiev stretches from the 10th century CE to the 21st century, and forms part of the history of the Jews in Ukraine.In Memoriam to the Martyrs of Babi Yar
Symphony No.1 In Memoriam to the Martyrs of Babi Yar was written by the Ukrainian composer of Jewish descent Dmitri Klebanov in 1945. It is a commemoration of the massacre of the Jews in Babi Yar, Ukraine, during the Holocaust. The symphony was based on Jewish traditional tunes. In particular, its finale was a variation of "The Mourner's Kaddish" prayer. The symphony was quickly forbidden (as part of the Soviet regime's effort to stop Jewish commemoration activities) and the composer was stripped of the pisition of Chairman of the Kharkiv chapter of the Union of Soviet Composers. Klebanov was accused of "distortion of historical truth about the Soviet people" (the official Soviet party line was that those perished during the war were all Soviet people, and singling out particular ethnicities was forbidden), "bourgeois formalism" and "cosmopolitanism" and there were even efforts to accuse him of anti-Soviet activities. For the first time the symphony was porformed in 1990, posthumously.List of victims of the Babi Yar massacre
This is a list of victims of the Babi Yar massacre. During September 29—30, 1941, a special team of German SS aided by Ukrainian police killed 33,771 Jews. Subsequent massacres also included Ukrainians and Poles. The Babi Yar massacre is considered to be "the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust". Executions of Jews, Ukrainians, Gypsies and others continued in Babi Yar throughout the period of the Nazi occupation of Kiev, ending with the beginning of the Battle of Kiev (1943), totalling up to 120,000 victims.Lukyanivka (neighborhood)
Lukyanivka (Ukrainian: Лук'янівка) is a historical neighborhood in the northwestern part of the city of Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. It is situated on the right bank of Dnieper, at a short distance from Babi Yar (part of Kurenivka).
The metro station located in the neighborhood is Lukianivska.
The area is also known for the Lukyanivska Prison.
The neighborhood was named after a Podil guildmaster and "began to grow after the great flood of 1845 forced many inhabitants to higher ground"; its population in 1874 was 9,806. In the spring of 1911, the body of Andrei Yushchinsky was found in a cave in Lukyanivka, leading to the Mendel Beilis case.Paul Blobel
Paul Blobel (13 August 1894 – 7 June 1951) was a German SS commander and convicted war criminal. He was the key figure in organising and executing the Babi Yar massacre of 1941. In June 1942, Blobel was put in charge of Sonderaktion 1005, with the task of destroying the evidence of Nazi atrocities in Eastern Europe. After the war, he was convicted at the Einsatzgruppen Trial and executed.Pavel Fuks
Pavel Yakovlevich Fuks (b. October 27, 1971, Kharkiv, USSR) is a Ukrainian businessman, investor, philanthropist and founder of the development company Mos City Group. Fuks has made most of his wealth through business ventures in Russia.Fuks is a member of the Supervisory Board of the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Center (BYHMC).According to the Ukrainian Focus Magazine 2017 Millionaires’ List, Fuks' net worth was US$270 million, making him the 24th richest person in Ukraine.Pinsk Ghetto
The Pińsk Ghetto (Polish: Getto w Pińsku, Belarusian: Пінскае гета) was a Nazi ghetto created by Nazi Germany for the confinement of Jews living in the city of Pińsk, Western Belarus. Pińsk, located in eastern Poland, was occupied by the Red Army in 1939 and incorporated into the Byelorussian SSR. The city was captured by the Wehrmacht in Operation Barbarossa in July 1941; it was incorporated into the German Reichskommissariat Ukraine in autumn of 1941.
In the 5–7 August 1941 massacre, 8,000 Jews were murdered just outside of Pinsk. The subsequent creation of the ghetto was followed – over a year later – by the murder of the imprisoned Jewish population of Pińsk, totalling 26,000 victims: men, women and children. Most killings took place between 29 October and 1 November 1942 by Police Battalion 306 of the German Order Police, and other units. It was the second largest mass shooting operation in a single settlement to that particular date during the Holocaust, after Babi Yar where the death toll exceeded 33,000 Jews. The Babi Yar shootings were surpassed only by the Nazi Aktion Erntefest of 3 November 1943 in the Lublin district with 42,000–43,000 Jews murdered at once over execution pits, dug specifically for this purpose.Romani people in Ukraine
The presence of a Romani minority in Ukraine was first documented in the early 14th century. Romani maintained their social organizations and folkways, shunning non-Romani contacts, education and values, often as a reaction to anti-Romani attitudes and persecution. They adopted the language and faith of the dominant society being Orthodox in most of Ukraine, Catholic in Western Ukraine and Transcarpathia, and Islam in Crimea.
During World War II the Nazis and their allies implemented their policies of the extermination of the Romani people in Ukraine. By July 1943 the Romanian authorities transported 25,000 nomad Romani from Romania to Transnistria, along the Bug river, where half perished because of the brutal treatment. In Ukraine it is estimated that 12,000 were killed by the Nazis in Babi Yar in Kiev. Other World War II massacres took place in Crimea, Podilia, Galicia and Volhynia.Symphony No. 12 (Shostakovich)
Dmitri Shostakovich composed his Symphony No. 12 in D minor, Op. 112, subtitled The Year of 1917, in 1961, dedicating it to the memory of Vladimir Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, as he did for his Symphony No. 2. The symphony was premiered that October by the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra under conductor Yevgeny Mravinsky. This was also the last Shostakovich symphony which Mravinsky premiered; his refusal to give the first performance of the Thirteenth Symphony, Babi Yar, caused a permanent strain in their working relationship.Symphony No. 13 (Shostakovich)
Dmitri Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13 in B-flat minor (Op. 113), often called Babi Yar after the Yevtushenko poem in the first movement, was completed on July 20, 1962, and first performed in Moscow in December of that year. The hour-long work requires a bass soloist, men's chorus, and large orchestra and is laid out in five movements, each a setting of a Yevgeny Yevtushenko poem. This unusual form gives rise to various descriptions: choral symphony, song cycle, giant cantata. The five earthily vernacular poems denounce Soviet life one aspect at a time: brutality, cynicism, deprivation, anxiety, corruption. Kirill Kondrashin conducted the 1962 premiere after Yevgeny Mravinsky had declined the assignment under pressure; Vitaly Gromadsky sang the solo part alongside the combined choruses of the RSFSR State Academy and Gnessin Institute and the Moscow Philharmonic.Syrets concentration camp
Syrets concentration camp (also: Syretskij concentration camp) was a Nazi concentration camp established in 1942 in Kiev's western neighborhood of Syrets (Сирець), part of Kiev since 1799. The toponym was derived from a local small river. Some 327 inmates of the KZ Syrets (among them 100 Jews) were forced to remove all traces of mass murder at Babi Yar.Walther von Reichenau
Walter Karl Ernst August von Reichenau (8 October 1884 – 17 January 1942) was a field marshal in the Wehrmacht of Nazi Germany during World War II. While in command of the 6th Army during Operation Barbarossa in 1941, he issued the notorious Severity Order which encouraged German soldiers to murder Jewish civilians on the Eastern Front. He was in charge of forces which helped to commit the massacre of over 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar as well as other massacres during the Holocaust.
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