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1 panorama by andrew jakowleff
Kiev, the capital of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, was captured by the Twenty-ninth Corps and the Sixth German Army on September 19, 1941.
During the attack on the city, the German army killed 350,000 Soviet soldiers and took 600,000 Soviets prisoner. More than 100,000 of the city’s Jewish population of 160,000 fled the city before the German occupation.
During the first days of the German occupation, two major explosions, apparently set off by Soviet military engineers, destroyed the German headquarters and part of the city center.
The Germans used the sabotage as a pretext to murder the remaining Jews of Kiev. At that time, there were about 60,000 Jews in the city. Most of those who remained were mainly women, children, sick and old people who had been unable to flee. There were also those who hated the Soviet regime and still remembered the first German occupation of Kiev in 1918 and hoped it would be more cultural as it was once.
On September 28, notices were posted in the city ordering the Jews to appear the following morning, September 29, at 8:00 a.m. at the corner of Melnik and Dekhtyarev streets; they were being assembled there, so the notice said, for their resettlement in new locations.
The next morning, masses of Jews reported at the appointed spot. They were directed to proceed along Melnik Street toward the Jewish cemetery and into an area comprising the cemetery itself and a part of the Babi Yar (Old Woman’s Ravine).
Babi Yar (Old Woman’s Ravine)
The area was cordoned off by a barbed-wire fence and guarded by Sonderkommando police and Waffen-SS men, a well as by Ukrainian policemen. As the Jews approached the ravine, they were forced to hand over all the valuables in their possession, to take off all their clothes, and to advance toward the ravine edge, in groups of ten.
When they reached the edge, they were gunned down by automatic fire. When the day ended, the bodies were covered with a thin layer of soil. According to official reports of the Einsatzgruppe, in two days of shooting (September 29 and 30, 1941), 33,771 Jews were murdered. Next two years mass killings was continuing.
Babi Yar served as a slaughterhouse for non-Jews as well, such as Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war and even Kyiv’s Dynamo soccer team players who won “Death Match” with “Germany’s Armed Forces All-Stars”. According to the estimate given by the Soviet research commission on Nazi crimes, 100,000 persons were murdered at Babi Yar.
June 25, 2001 Pope John Paul II stood silently before a stark stone sculpture commemorating Jews and others killed by the Nazis at Babi Yar and then quietly recited “De Profundis,” a Latin prayer for the dead.
After the liberation and the end of the war, it took over twenty years (1974) to erect a memorial at Babi Yar. And when it finally happened, no word mentioned that most of the victims were Jews, since the Soviet regime refused to see the Jewish tragedy as such and maintained that Jews were a part of Soviet people and not a separate nation.
Tablets in Russian, Ukrainian and Yiddish state that over 100,000 ‘citizens of Kiev and prisoners of war’ were executed here.
© 2005 Andrew Jakowleff