Babi Yar

One of the largest and by far the most well-known and widely reported mass execution of an Einsatzgruppe was the one performed at Babi Yar between 29 and 30 September 1941. The 29th German army corps captured Kiev after 45 days of fighting on September 19, 1941. When Kiev was occupied by the Germans, an estimated 130,000 Jews were in the hands of the nazis. A few days after the occupation, several explosions occurred in central Kiev that killed several German officers. At first the Germans thought it was about sabotage but it turned out that it was the Soviet security service NKVD who lingered in the city and carried out the explosions. In the investigations of the explosions, the Germans found information that further blasts were planned. In connection with the explosions, Kiev’s military commander, Major General Friedrich George Eberhardt, the district’s Supreme SS and police chief (Höher SS- und Polizeiführer) met SS-Gruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, the commander of Einsatzgruppe C, Brigadeführer Otto Rasch, as well as the commander of Sonderkommando 4a Standartenführer Paul Blobel. At this meeting, it was decided that all of Kiev’s Jews would be murdered to prevent further sabotage. The sabotages thus gave the Nazis a reason to murder the jews because the sabotages fell within the framework of anti-German activities. Kiev’s Jews had nevertheless, regardless of the sabotages, hardly survived. The task fell on Paul Blobel’s Sonderkommando 4a, which consisted of staff from the Waffen-SS, SD, SIPO (Sicherheitspolizei), a platoon from the 9th police battalion, a, staff from 45 and 305 police battalions belonging to the South Police and local volunteer Ukrainian police forces. The Nazis chose the gorge at Babi Yar about ten kilometers northwest of central Kiev.

On September 26, 1941, posters were put up around Kiev where the Jews were ordered to go to special places on the morning of September 29 to be evacuated to labor camps. They were asked to bring valuables and warm clothes. Those who disobeyed the order were threatened with shooting. The actual advertising and publication of the order was carried out in cooperation with departments of the German army which then indirectly made the army complicit in the action. At the assembly point, the Jews were guarded by the SS, SD and Ukrainian police units. The latter carried the Jews away in groups of 100 to a Jewish cemetery at Babi Yar. The area around Babi Yar had been cordoned off in three rebar areas with barbed wire. The outermost barrier area was guarded by Ukrainian police units, the middle of ukrainian and german police units while the inner barrier area was guarded by German police units. At the execution area, the Jews were allowed to undress and collect their valuables and possessions before they were led to the ravine where they were shot in groups of about ten. In order for the burial of the people who were murdered to go as quickly as possible, the Nazis blew up the ravine edge, whose earth masses then released ended up over the people. During these two days, the execution patrols replaced each other and alcohol became a way for the killers to relieve the mental strain. The killing of Kiev’s Jewish population lasted until October 3. After Babi Yar, the Nazis did not need to establish a ghetto in Kiev because the city’s Jews were murdered. Heydrich reported that 33,771 Jews were executed on September 29 and 30, 1941. How many people were murdered and buried at Babi Yar is difficult to estimate, but lowly it is probably at least 50,000. In the summer of 1943, Paul Blobel and his Sonderkommando returned in 1005 to Babi Yar to cremate the corpses. For this task, Blobel requisitioned prisoners from the nearby Syrets camp.

Current status: Monument (2019).

Location: 50°28'17" N, 30°26' 56" E

Get there: Metro to Dorogozhychi Station.

My comment:

Of all the massacres carried out by the Einsatzgruppen, the one at Babi Yar is the most famous.  In it f.d. The Soviet Union was Babi Yar more talked about than the extermination camps in Poland. Babi Yar became a symbol in the Soviet Union of the german barbarity against the soviet population (the jews were seen as soviet citizens and not as jewish soviet citizens). In 1961, Soviet poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko published a poem called Babi Yar. In 1966, the author Aleksander Kusnetzov (1929 – 1979) published the book, Babi Yar: A documentation in the form of a novel. The book was censored by the Soviet authorities, which also gave it a more correct political character. Both the book and the poem became widely known in the Soviet Union and contributed strongly to Babi Yar receiving an attention that other massacres in the Soviet Union and extermination camps outside the Soviet Union did not receive.

The first monument at Babi Yar was erected in 1976 and was a period Soviet colossus. It provoked reactions and was controversial because it left out the Jews as a group and only mentioned the victims as Soviet citizens. All in line with the then communist regime, which did not want to mention the victims by its real name. Only after the fall of communism were other monuments established that specifically mention the victims as a group. The Soviet monument remains the main monument and the most famous and still stands in its original form. Although it has now been joined by other smaller monuments.

The main monument is also not placed in the right place for reasons I do not know. The correct location is about 300 – 400 meters east of the monument. There is a monument in the form of a menorah (jewish candlestick). In the forest behind the monument, you can still see traces of the ravine where the executions took place. Closer than this, it is probably not possible to come to the center of events in what has become the mass shootings equivalent to the gas chambers in Auschwitz.

Follow up in books: Arad, Yitzhak: Holocaust in the Soviet union (2009).