What is Babi Yar?

Babi Yar is a ravine in Kyiv, the Ukrainian city now under Russian fire.

During World War 2, a major battle was fought around Kyiv (then Kiev) in August and September 1941 (details here), in which a Soviet army of about 150,000 was encircled and destroyed. By September 22 the city had fallen to the German invaders.

Kurt Eberhard, a German SS officer, was installed as military governor of Kiev and decided to kill all the city’s Jews.

Over the two-day period of Sep. 29-30, they were rounded up — 33,771 in all — taken to the ravine, stripped naked, and shot; their bodies were piled up in the ravine (details here, with historical and present-day photos).

The Nazis continued to use the ravine as an execution site throughout their occupation of the area and eventually murdered ~100,000 people there, including Soviet prisoners, Gypsies, and other non-Jews.

The bodies aren’t there now. When the Germans retreated in 1944 they forced prisoners to exhume and burn them to destroy the evidence of their atrocities. These prisoners, in turn, were killed to eliminate them as witnesses (but a few escaped).

After the war, the Soviets filled the ravine with industrial wastes (see story here). The aerial photo of the site below (yellow lines) shows where it was.

The Soviet Union never allowed Jewish memorials; its monuments only referred to “Soviet citizens.” After the USSR collapsed in 1991 and Ukraine gained independence, Jewish memorials were allowed (a list of monuments and memorials at the site is here).

Babi Yar is a stark reminder of Nazi barbarity. Now, another tyrant is baring his fangs there.

On Tuesday, March 1, 2022, Day 6 of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, missiles hit Kyiv’s main TV tower nearby (photo, left; watch video here), killing 5 people and wounding 5 others (story here; warning– graphic photo of bodies), and damaging a museum building on the Holocaust site.

Read a BBC article about Babi Yar here.

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