Babi Yar

Babi Yar

Babi Yar. Digging their own graves. Photo from:,_Sowjetunion,_Storow,_Juden_vor_Exekution.jpg

Babi Yar. Digging their own graves. Photo from:,_Sowjetunion,_Storow,_Juden_vor_Exekution.jpg

Also known as Babyn Yar and Kirillovski Yar. In Russian and Ukrainian, the word Babyn / Babi originates from baba, old woman; Yar means ravine.

Babi Yar is a ravine in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and a site of massacres carried out by the Nazis and their collaborators during WWII. The most notorious and the best documented of them took place on September 29–30, 1941, when 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation.

Only twenty-nine people are known to have survived by crawling through corpses to get out. At the time, that was the largest single mass killing for which the Nazi regime was responsible during the campaign against the Soviet Union and during the Holocaust, in general. It was surpassed by the Majdanek massacre in November 1943 with 42,000–43,000 victims, and the Odessa massacre in October 1941 carried out by Romanian troops that claimed over 50,000 lives.

After the main massacre, the Nazi converted the Babi Yar site to a concentration camp where they transported victims from other parts of Ukraine for extermination. The camp took the name of the nearby neighborhood Syrets. Nazis used Babi Yar in place of a ghetto. An estimated number of victims of all the massacres in Babi Yar is between 100,000 and 150,000 people.

In his novel Babi Yar Anatoly Kuznetsov noted that the order of the Nazi commander that all the Kiev Jews must gather at Babi Yar was not only posted on the walls but also delivered by radio anchors familiar to all Kievites from before the war. Whether the broadcasters were collaborators or were forced to continue working, is unknown.

Mass executions at Babi Yar continued until the German forces departed from Kiev in November of 1943. In order to conceal their atrocities, the Nazis exhumed and burned most of the bodies and scattered the ashes.

The inquiry of the Extraordinary State Commission of the Soviet Union confirmed in December 1943 that the massacre was aimed at the Kiev Jewish population. Two months later, the language of the resolution was modified to characterize the event as the massacre of Soviet civilians.

After the war, commemoration of the massacres was forbidden. The Soviet Union refused to recognize Babi Yar as a Holocaust site. People who came to the site on the anniversary of the massacre were arrested or otherwise persecuted.

During the Khrushchev’s Thaw, Babi Yar became a place of pilgrimage. In 1961, poet Yevtushenko published his poem Babi Yar that begins with No monument stands over Babi Yar.

A plaque finally appeared in 1966. It stated that a monument would be erected in memory of the victims of the Nazi, no Jews mentioned. On the anniversary of the first massacre, a state-authorized meeting was then held every year next to the plaque: a high-placed Jew delivered an anti-Zionist speech.

In July 1976, a fifty-foot-tall bronze sculpture was erected, the official memorial to Soviet citizens shot at Babi Yar.

Kiev. An official memorial to Soviet citizens shot at Babi Yar erected in 1976. Year 2007-2011.

It says: “Here, in 1941-1943, the German Fascist invaders executed over 100,000 citizens of Kiev and prisoners of war.” Again, no mention of Jewish victims – the half-truth of Stalin and Dr. Goebbels.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, a number of memorials have been erected on the site.

Kiev. Babi Yar monument to the Jews (about 100,000) massacred here in 1941. Dedicated on Sept. 29, 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the mass murder. Year 2007-2011.

Menorah-shaped monument to the Jews massacred at Babi Yar opened on Sept. 29, 1991, 50 years after the first mass killing of Jews there; a wooden cross in memory of 621 Ukrainian nationalists murdered by the Germans in 1942; an Oak Cross, marking the place where two Ukrainian Orthodox Christian priests were shot in 1941; a monument to children killed at Babi Yar.

A Magen David-shaped stone, marking the site for a planned Jewish community center was installed in 2001. A monument to the victims of the Kurenevka Tragedy

Babi Yar memorial to the victims of the 1961 Kurenevka Tragedy. Erected in 2006. (Photo from

was open in the Babi Yar in 2006, on the forty-fifth anniversary of the event.

The Babi Yar massacre is commemorated in, among others, the novel Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel by Anatoly Kuznetsov (1966-censored; 1970-complete); poems Babi Yar by Mykola Bazhan (1941), Ilya Ehrenburg (1946), and Yevgeny Yevtushenko (1961); Symphony No. 13 (Op. 113, subtitled Babi Yar) by Dmitri Shostakovich (1962); a documentary Babiy Yar directed by Jeff Kanew (2003).

As of 2011, the Kiev city sightseeing tours did not include Babi Yar in their itineraries. One had to specifically ask to be taken there.

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