Babi Yar is a ravine near Kiev, capital of the Ukraine, which was part of the
former USSR. On September 29-30, 1941, over 33,000 Jews were
murdered there by SS Einzatsgruppe C, German Schutzpolizei and members of the
Ukrainian police. Subsequently, more Jews, Roma, mental patients, Ukrainian
nationalists, and Russian soldiers were murdered there. Perhaps 100,000 to
200,000 were killed in all. The Soviet government knew about the massacre
as early as 1941, but found it convenient to ignore it and suppress the memory
of Babi Yar until the 1960s, when Anatoli Kuznetzov was permitted to write a
censored historical account, and the poet Yevgeyni Yevtushenko wrote the poem,
Babi Yar. In 1976, the Soviet government belatedly erected a monument to the
victims. However, this monument only mentioned that Soviet citizens. In 1991,
the Ukrainian government allowed monuments that mentioned that Jews were killed.
The massacre of Babi Yar is documented by photographs, the report of the SS
Einzatsgruppe, witnesses and sworn testimony at the Nurenberg trials.
Nonetheless there are publications and Web pages such as judicial-inc.biz/Babi_Yar.htm
which insist that the massacre story was fabricated by Jews and Bolsheviks.
Detailed History of the Babi Yar Massacre
Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the USSR, began on June 22, 1941.
Owing to the criminal unpreparedness of the Soviet forces, as well as eager
cooperation of many Ukrainian nationalists promised independence by the Nazis,
Wehrmacht forces advanced quickly in the first months of 1941, reaching Kiev on
September 19. With them travelled several SS Einsatzgruppen (Special task
forces) who were charged with the murder of Jews,
Soviet Commissars and others who were "Bolshevized" were also to be murdered
under the written Kommissarbefehl
("Commissar order") of June 6, 1941. The Kommissarbefehl was
exceptional, because it was one of the rare times that Hitler was willing to
sign a order that called for criminal behavior. Most of the Holocaust-related
orders were relayed as "Fuhrer Befehl" by Himmler and other deputies. By
definition, Nazis considered that all Jews were "Bolshevized."
Therefore, the fate of the Jews
was sealed, even without more explicit orders.
As the Wehrmacht advanced, the SS Einsatzgruppen advanced with them, entering
each city and murdering Jews and
communist officials with the eager help of local collaborators, including
Lithuanian, Latvian and Ukrainian SS and police units, as well as Poles as in
the case of the Jedwabne Pogrom.
As the SS Einzatsgruppen and their police auxiliaries only numbered a few
thousand troops, it is obvious that they could never have accomplished the
murder of 1.2 million people without the willing assistance of others - both
Wehrmacht personnel and local anti-Semites. In each locale, groups of Jews were
taken to a place outside the city and shot or gassed in special trucks.
murder at Babi Yar was in no way a spontaneous response to partisan attacks and
should not be understood as such. It was strikingly similar to massacres that
had occurred elsewhere in the Ukraine and the Baltic. The uniqueness of Babi Yar
lies only in the exceptional number of people murdered in a brief time -- it was
the largest single massacre of its kind -- and in
the unwillingness of the Soviet government to admit that Jews
or other special groups had been targeted, or even to admit that the massacre
had taken place for such a long time.
When the Germans entered Kiev, about 100,000 Jews of the city's population of
160,000 Jews had fled. The remaining 60,000 were often those who were too
ill or too old to travel.
During the first days of Nazi occupation, buildings occupied by the Nazis
blew up, owing to the work of NKVD commandos who had been left behind for this
purpose. The Nazi command decided to use the sabotage as a pretext to carry out
their liquidations of Jews.
Friedrich Georg Eberhardt and SS-Obergruppenfuhrer Friedrich Jeckeln, the SS and
Police Leader at Rear Headquarters Army Group South were put in charge. Einsatzgruppe C carried out
the Babi Yar massacre and a number of other mass murders of Jews and others 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.
The massacre was implemented primarily by Sonderkommando 4a, commanded by Blobel,
under the general command of Friedrich Jeckeln. The personnel consisted of
SD and SiPo (SicherheitsPolizei - Security Police), the third company of the Special Duties Waffen-SS battalion, a
platoon of the 9th Police Battalion, Schutzpolizei (German "Protection Police")
Battalions 45 and 305 and units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police. Though
Schutzpolizei Battalion 45, commanded by Major Besser, conducted the massacre
with the support of the SS, supported by a Waffen-SS battalion, the
division of labor was not neat. Units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police rounded
up and direct the Jews to the location, but the Ukrainians also participated in
the massacre itself, and in burial of corpses.
On September 28, notices in Russian, Ukrainian and German were posted
in Kiev. The Russian version of the announcements read:
The report also mentions murder of communists and Jews in other communities.
Significantly, there is no mention in the report of any sabotage attacks that
triggered these actions. The massacres were evidently part of standing orders
that were not related to acts of sabotage that may have been used to vindicate
them, and there was no need to explain the reasons for the massacres to SS
In subsequent months, the Nazis murdered Roma people
at Babi Yar, as well as additional Jews. Thousands of additional Jews were
arrested, taken to Babi Yar, and shot. Some Ukrainians helped Jews go into
hiding, but a significant number informed on them to the Germans.
After the war, the officer in charge of the SiPo and SD (Siecherheitsdienst -
Security Service) bureau testified that his Kiev office got letters 'by the
bushel' from the Ukrainian population informing on Jews, so that the office
lacked manpower to deal with them all.
The Nazis also executed a few dozen Ukrainian priests, the former mayor of
Kiev and Ukrainian artists and writers, as well as Russians. Notably, they
murdered about 621 Ukrainian fascist collaborators of the OUN (Organization of
Ukrainian Nationalists). The OUN, which consisted of more moderate (OUN-M) and
more virulent OUN-B (the partisans of Stephan Bandera and the soldiers of the Nachtigall organized by the Nazis) had originally collaborated with the Nazis in
undermining Polish and Russian authority and in murdering Jews and stealing
their property. However, the Nazis eventually turned against them because the
were unwilling to make good on Nazi promises of independence for the Ukraine.
POW Clean up of Babi Yar
Near Babi Yar, the Nazis created a prisoner of war or concentration camp -
Syretsk. By the summer of 1943, it was evident that the Red Army would overwhelm
the Wehrmacht as the Nazi eastern front collapsed under the Soviet assault. SS-Standartenfuhrer
Paul Blobel came back to Kiev.In coordination with SS-Gruppenfuhrer Dr. Max
Thomas, the officer commanding the SD and Sipo in the Ukraine, Blobel undertook
to eradicate the evidence of the crime at Babi Yar.
Blobel formed two special groups, Unit 1005-A was made up of eight to ten SD
men and thirty German policemen, and was under the command of SS-Obersturmbannfuhrer
Baumann. From mid-August the unit supervised the exhumation of corpses in Babi
Yar and cremating them. The corpses were disentangled with a special tool, and
327 inmates of Syretsk were given the job of cremating them.
The prisoners were housed in a bunker carved out of the ravine wall; it had
an iron gate that was locked during the night and was watched by a guard with a
machine gun. They had chains bolted to their legs, and those who fell ill or
lagged behind were shot on the spot. The mass graves were opened up by
bulldozers, and it was the prisoners' job to drag the corpses to cremation
pyres, which consisted of wooden logs doused in gasoline on a base of railroad
ties. The bones that did not respond to incineration were crushed, for which
purpose the Nazis brought in tombstones from the Jewish cemetery. The ashes were
sifted to retrieve any gold or silver they might have contained. Cremation began
on August 18 and went on for six weeks, ending on September 19, 1943.
On the morning of September 29, the prisoners learned that they were about to
be put to death. They began a revolt that may have been planned in advance..
Shortly after midnight, under cover of darkness and the fog that enveloped the
ravine, they began a revolt. Twenty-five prisoners broke out. Fifteen succeeded
in making their escape. The Germans shot the remainder - over 300 prisoners -
when they regained control of the camp.
Soviet cover up of Babi Yar
Beginning in late 1943, the Soviet government attempted to cover up the fact
that the massacres at Babi Yar targeted mainly Jews.
The draft report of the Extraordinary State Commission (Чрезвычайная
Государственная Комиссия), dated December 25, 1943 was officially censored:
Original: (December 25, 1943)
"The Hitlerite bandits committed mass murder of the Jewish population.
They announced that on September 29, 1941, all the Jews were required to
arrive at the corner of Melnikov and Dokterev streets and bring their
documents, money and valuables. The butchers marched them to Babi Yar, took
away their belongings, then shot them."
Revised (February 1944):
"The Hitlerite bandits brought thousands of citizens to the corner of
Melnikov and Dokterev streets. The butchers marched them to Babi Yar, took
away their belongings, then shot them."
Given the strenuous Soviet attempts to cover up the massacre of Jews until
the late 1960s, claims of Holocaust "revisionists" that the massacre was a
Jewish Bolshevik fabrication are absurd.
Documentation of Babi Yar
It is important to emphasize that there is extensive documentation of the
Babi Yar massacre, including confessions, photographs, copies of orders and
testimony of survivors. Therefore, attempts to conceal the massacre or to deny
it are not matters of legitimate historical debate or academic research, but
rather vicious anti-Semitic propaganda.
Some of the testimony and evidence reproduced on the Web:
Witness and Survivor accounts of Babi Yar
Photos of Babi Yar
Soldiers of Einsatzgruppe C look through the possessions of Jews massacred at Babi
Yar, a ravine near Kiev. Soviet Union, September 29-Sept 30, 1941.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Soviet POWs forced to clean up Babi Yar (Holocaust
A Survivor of Babi Yar
A Ukrainian Jewish actress, Dina Pronicheva, escaped by "playing dead" and
then crawling out of the ravine, She told her story to Anatoli Kuznetsov in 1941
and testified at the Nurenberg trials in 1946. A very few others also managed to
survive the massacre.
Yevgeni Yevtushenko and Babi Yar
Even while Nikita Krushchev was pretending to "reform" the "excesses" of
Stalinism, the Soviet authorities were still intent on carrying out anti-Semitic
policies. It was decided to fill in the site of Babi Yar and make a public park
with no memorial there. This aroused the conscience of Soviet intellectuals,
most notably Yevgeni Yevtushenko. Yevtushenko write a poem, Babi Yar, that he
recited for the first time in a public meeting of about 1,500 people on
September 16, 1961. Such public readings of poetry were very common in USSR, and
Yevtushenko had a dramatic and effective presentation style that conveys
emotional content in a way that could not be duplicated by the printed word.
Inspired by Yevtushenko's poem, Dmitry Shostakovich wrote Symphony #13, Babi
Yar. The poem and the symphony infuriated the Soviet communist establishment,
which was in the midst of a racist campaign against "Zionism."
The poem was bitterly denounced in the Moscow journal
Literature and Life
by the writer Dimitri Starikov
who described it as an attack on "Lenin's policy of nationalities by means of
... acts of provocation". Starikov described
as a "monstrous" insult to the Soviet
people and warned Yevtushenko against falling deeper into a "foul swampy
Alexei Markov, questioned Yevtushenko's patriotism insisting the
poet had defiled "Russian crew cut lads" who had died in battle against the
In 1963, the journal Sovetskaya Belorussia demanded that
Babi Yar be
rewritten because "it seeks to artificially revive the so-called Jewish problem
and to start a discussion born in the old class society but which has already
been solved and has died a natural death".
On March 8, 1963 Krushchev himself condemned Yevtushenko
for "not displaying political wisdom and
showing ignorance of historical facts". Khrushchev also complained that the poem
was orientated as a national martyrdom whereas Communists must approach
situations from a class viewpoint.
The Poem Babi Yar
By Yevgeny Yevtushenko
Over Babii Yar
there are no memorials.
The steep hillside like a rough gravestone.
I am frightened.
Today I am as old as all the Jewish people.
I seem to be a Jew at this moment
Here I plod through ancient Egypt.
I, crucified. I perishing.
Even today I bear the scars of nails.
I think also of Dreyfus. I am he.
The Philistine my judge and my accuser.
Cut off by bars and cornered,
ringed round, spat on, slandered.
Screaming ladies with Brussels lace
stick their parasols into my face.
I am also a boy in Byelostok.
Blood runs, spilling over the floors.
The bar-room rabble-rousers
give off a stench of vodka and onion.
A boot kicks me aside, helpless.
In vain I plead with these pogrom bullies.
While they jeer and shout,
"Beat the Yids. Save Russia!"
the corn chandler beats up my mother.
I seem to be Anne Frank
transparent as an April twig
and am in love, and have no need of words,
My need is that we look at each other.
How little we can see or smell
separated from the leaves, denied the sky.
Yet we can do so much--tenderly
embrace each other in a dark room.
They’re coming. Be not afraid.
The booming sounds of spring:
It is coming this way. Come
then to me.
Quickly, give me your lips.
They're battering down the door.
It's the roar of the ice.
Over Babii Yar
the wild grasses rustle.
The trees look ominous, like judges.
And everything is one silent cry
Baring my head
I feel myself turning gray.
And I am one massive, soundless scream
above the many thousand buried here.
I am each old man shot dead.
I am every child shot dead.
Oh my Russian people, I know you.
Your nature is the "Internationale."
Foul hands rattle your clean name.
I know the goodness of my country.
How horrible that pompous title
the antisemites calmly call themselves,
Society of the Russian People.
No part of me can ever forget it.
When the last antisemite on earth
is buried forever
let the "Internationale" ring out
In me there is no Jewish blood,
but in their callous rage, all antisemites
hate me now as a Jew.
For that reason
I am a true Russian!
Kuznetsov and Babi Yar
Soviet authorities allowed the publication of a highly censored account of the Babi Yar
massacre by Anatoli Kuznetzov in 1966 Kuznetzov later escaped to the
West and and his full documentation was published in 1966.
Synonyms and alternate spellings:
Babiy Yar, Babii Yar
Further Information: Anti-Semitism Holocaust Pogrom
Hebrew/Arabic pronunciation and transliteration conventions:
'H - ('het) a guttural sound
made deep in the throat. To Western ears it may sound like the "ch" in loch. In Arabic there are several letters that
have similar sounds. Examples: 'hanukah, 'hamas, 'haredi. Formerly, this sound was often represented by ch,
especially in German transliterations of Hebrew. Thus, 'hanukah is often rendered as Chanuka for example.
ch - (chaf) a sound like "ch"
in loch or the Russian Kh as in Khruschev or German Ach, made by putting the tongue against
the roof of the mouth. In Hebrew, a chaf can never occur at the beginning of a word. At the beginning of a word, it has a dot in it and is pronounced "Kaf."
u - usually between oo as in spoon
and u as in put.
a- sounded like a in arm
ah- used to represent an a sound made by
the letter hey at the end of a word. It is the same sound as a. Haganah and Hagana are alternative
'a-notation used for Hebrew and Arabic
ayin, a guttural ah sound.
o - close to the French o as in homme.
th - (taf without a dot) - Th was
formerly used to transliterate the Hebrew taf sound for taf without a dot. However in modern Hebrew there
is no detectable difference in standard pronunciation of taf with or without a dot, and therefore Histadruth and
Histadrut, Rehovoth and Rehovot are all acceptable.
q- (quf) - In transliteration of
Hebrew and Arabic, it is best to consistently use the letter q for the quf, to avoid confusion with similar sounding
words that might be spelled with a kaf, which should be transliterated as K. Thus, Hatiqva is preferable to Hatikva for
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