On this day: the Babi Yar massacre

September 28 1941: The Nazis murder thousands in the Ukraine

By Jennifer Lipman, September 29, 2010

At an event to mark the 65th anniversary of the massacre, a speaker said that at Babi Yar the seeds of the Holocaust were sown.

The German army entered Kiev on September 19. At the time, the Jewish population of the city numbered 160,000; by the time the Germans invaded many had already fled.

Over just a few days, 33,000 Jews were killed by the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi’s mobile killing squads. Men, women and children were taken from the ghetto to a ravine near the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, forced to strip and then systematically executed by machine gun. Bodies were buried, alive or dead, under dirt and mud.

The horrors of Babi Yar did not end there. The Nazis continued to use the site as a killing field for three more years, bringing groups of Jews and non-Jews there to be shot. Overall, an estimated 100,000 people were murdered at the site.

Kiev was liberated by Russian forces on November 6, 1943. For many years after, with the Ukraine under the control of the Soviet Union, there was no mention of the Jewish victims of Babi Yar. On the 33rd anniversary in 1974, Soviet troops even forcibly prevented about 800 Jews from reciting Kaddish at the site.

In 1991 the first official commemoration of the massacre took place. Now, a large stone menorah stands at Babi Yar, a quiet tribute to the many who lost their lives in one of the largest mass-killings of the Holocaust.

What the JC said: The site of Babi Yar is austerely impressive. Snow-covered trees ring a hollow about the size of a football ground…A feel of death still lingers palpably….In a century which has supped its full of horror in the trenches of the Somme, in Stalin’s Gulag, in Auschwitz and Hiroshima and Vietnam and Cambodia, Babi Yar stands out as one of the terrible crimes against humanity.

See more from the JC archives here

Last updated: 9:15am, September 29 2010