Babi Yar

In a quiet park near the Dorohozhychi metro station in Kiev lies a ravine named Babi Yar.  In places the ditch is filled in by streets, apartment buildings and and spoil from construction of the nearby underground subway.  In 1941 this ravine was well outside the city limits of Kiev and there was no urban development.  The ravine ran for miles.  Along the park paths today mothers walk their babies in strollers and lovers sit on benches holding hands.  But during the period between 1941 – 1943 as many as 150,000 Jews, Soviet POWs, communists, and gypsies were brought to the site and massacred by Nazis.   The most egregious event occurred September 29-30, 1941 when 33,771 Jews were killed.  The killings during those late September days is considered to be the single largest massacre event of the Holocaust.  Unlike other memorials dedicated to Holocaust victims across this part of Central and Eastern Europe, there is little to mark what happened here. The Soviet Union showed little interest in remembering the atrocities.  Finally in 1976 the Soviet Union erected a memorial to the Soviet citizens shot here.  The largest percentage of  people killed by far at Babi Yar were Jews.  Estimates are that about 100,000 of the 150,000 killed here were Jewish.  After the USSR fell apart in 1991, the Ukrainian government allowed the establishment of separate memorials to commemorate Jewish victims.

As the Soviet armies were driving back the Nazis in 1943 and approaching Kiev, the Germans tried to cover up the crimes by using slave labor to dig up bodies and burn them.  They didn’t find all the bodies and even today bones occasionally turn up during construction in the area.

The ravine at Babi Yar. Actually this is just one segment of the extensive ravine that runs through the region. This area is directly behind the Menorah-shaped monument shown above, which was erected in 1991
Soviet memorial to the citizens and POWs who were murdered at Babi Yar. Erected in 1976.
Another view of the Soviet memorial
Monument to the children killed at Babi Yar

While hundreds of Nazis, from Adolf Hitler on down, share responsibility for the Holocaust it was a certain SS Colonel named Paul Blobel who commanded the unit that carried out the massacre at Babi Yar.  He also oversaw the attempt to hide the atrocity.  He was captured, tried by the Nuremberg Military Tribunal in 1947, and hung in Landsberg Prison in 1951.  The Tribunal determined that he was personally responsible for 59,018 killings.  Kongo visited Courtroom 600 and the Nuremberg Hall of Justice where these trials took place in September.

Paul Blobel, former commanding officer of sond...
Paul Blobel, former commanding officer of sonderkommando 4a of ‘einsatzgruppe C’ (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4 thoughts on “Babi Yar

  1. I am so glad you posted this. I have photos from Dachau and Struthoff (the latter was a French Concentration Camp in Alsace that housed only members of the Resistance including some Americans.) Seeing these places personally has a lasting impact.

    1. You’re so right, Cindy. It was difficult to talk above a whisper here. I felt a weight in the air, like when you visit the Vietnam memorial. Afterward, when you board the metro and see people just going about their daily lives you wonder what it was that drove people to do this to each other. Very sad.