Mass Murder in Kiev
German War Time Map of Kiew
On 19 September 1941 the German XXIXth German Army Corps and the 6th Army entered Kiev, after a defence that had lasted forty five days. 875,000 people lived in the city, of whom 20 percent were Jews (175,000). Some factories important for military purposes and their workers, among them approximately 20,000-
Jews had already been persecuted and killed during the first days of the German occupation. However, for reasons still unknown, a ghetto was not established in Kiev. On 24 September 1941, and in the following days, several bombs were detonated in Kiev (Kreshchatik and Prorizna Streets), and destroyed some buildings in the centre of the town, including the army headquarters and the Hotel Continental, where German officers resided.Hundreds of German soldiers and officers were killed. The resulting fire also destroyed some further buildings. These bombs had been placed by a special command of NKVD agents who intentionally remained in Kiev for this purpose. Alfred Jodl Chief of the Operations Staff of the High Command of the Armed Forces testified at his trial in Nuremberg:
Hardly had we occupied the city when one tremendous explosion after another occurred. The major part of the inner city burned down, 50,000 people were made homeless. German soldiers were used to fight the flames, and suffered considerable losses, because further large amounts of explosives detonated during the fire... At first, the local commander in Kiev thought that it was sabotage on the part of the population, but then we found a demolition chart, which had already been prepared a long time ago, listing 50 or 60 objectives in Kiev for destruction. This chart was, in fact, correct, as investigation by engineers at once proved. At least 40 more objectives were ready to be blown up; for the most part, remote control was to set off the explosion by means of radio waves. I myself had the original of this demolition chart in my hands.German troops caught and executed a Jew on Kreshchatik Street, when he cut a water hose that was being used for fighting the fire. That may have been the excuse the Germans needed to accuse the Kiev Jews of being responsible for the explosions.
The German military commander of Kiev Generalmajor Eberhardt, attended a meeting with the Höherer SS-
A large ravine, called Babi Yar was chosen as the killing site. This ravine was located at the edge of Kiev, around 10 km northwest of the centre of the city, beyond the Lukyanovka Jewish cemetery. Today Babi Yar lies within the city precincts. On 26 September 1941 the German 637th propaganda company issued an announcement throughout Kiev published by the printing office of the 6th Army, ordering the Jews to report within the next three days at Lukianovska, Degtiarska, Lagerna, and Melnikova Streets:
The announcement read:
All Jews living in the city of Kiev and its vicinity must come to the corner of Melnikova and Dokhturovska* Street. (* misspelled version of Dokhturova Street / today Degtiarivska Street) (near the cemeteries) by 8 o'clock on the morning of Monday, September 29th 1941.
They are to bring with them documents, money, valuables, as well as warm clothes, underwear etc. Any Jews not carrying out this instruction and who are found elsewhere will be shot. Any civilian entering apartments left by the Jews and stealing property will be shot.
Thousands of Jews followed this order. In addition, to reinforce the propaganda, the Germans spread rumours that the Jews would be resettled to labour camps. Since the assembling point was situated near the goods station Lukianovska (today Lukianivka), most Jews believed the rumours.
Guarded by SS, SD and Ukrainian auxiliaries, the Jews were marched in groups of 100 via the Melnikova Street to the Jewish cemetery located near the ravine called ‘Babi Yar.’ The entire surroundings of the ravine had been fenced in with barbed wire, and were cordoned off by three rows of troops: The outer circle was manned by Ukrainian police, the second with Ukrainian police and Germans, and the inner circle with Germans only.
At the killing site the Jews were ordered to undress, stack their belongings, and were then led in groups of 10 to the edge of the ravine. There they were shot (by automatic guns and machine-
We still don't know what they did to the Jews. There are terrifying rumours coming from the Lukianovska Friedhof. But they are impossible to believe. They say the Jews are being shot... Some people say the Jews are being shot with machine guns, all of them. Others say that 16 train wagons have been prepared and that they will be sent away. Where to? Nobody knows. Only one thing seems clear: all their documents, things, and food are confiscated. Then they are chased into Babi Yar and there... I don't know. I only know one thing: there is something terrible, horrible going on, something inconceivable, which cannot be understood, grasped or explained.
By 2 October 1941 all doubts had disappeared:
Everybody is saying now that the Jews are being murdered. No, they have been murdered already. All of them, without exception -
More people than expected were brought to the site. According to a report from Einsatzgruppe C:
Originally we estimated the arrival of only 5,000-
The executioners did not have enough time to finish their job. Therefore they began to put two people together, head by head, so that one bullet would kill two people. The wounded people were killed with shovels. The children were thrown into the Yar alive and buried with them.
Sergey Ivanovich Lutsenko, former guard of the Lukianovska cemetery, testified:
They shot people from morning to night. At night the Germans went to sleep. The rest of the victims were locked in empty garages. This continued for five days. The Nazis brought more and more people, and from there only trucks with people's clothes returned.
The mass murder of Jews in Kiev lasted until 3 October 1941. During the following months the ravine continued to be used as a killing site for Jews, Ukrainian civilians, Soviet POWs and Roma and Sinti. According to Soviet sources 100,000-
According to the ‘Operations Situation Report of Einsatzgruppe C’ of 7 October 1941, the Germans claimed that 33,771 Jews had been shot in Kiev on the 29 and 30 September 1941.
Some Ukrainian inhabitants denounced their Jewish neighbours, others offered hiding places. After the war the Sipo and SD chief stated that his office in Kiev received baskets-
In July 1943 Blobel came back to Kiev. Because of the approaching Red Army he was ordered to remove all traces of mass murder in the East. In the Kiev area his units were assisted by SS-
Sonderkommando 1005 A and 1005 B in the Ukraine
Sonderkommando 1005 Mitte for the Minsk area.
On or near 18 August the Sonderkommando 1005 A started to exhume and burn the corpses. This Sonderkommando consisted of 8 -
Every prisoner was shackled on both legs with a 2 -
Blobel, testified on 18 June 1947:
During my visit in August I myself witnessed the burning of corpses in a mass grave near Kiew. This grave was approximately 55 metres long, 3 m wide and 2.5 m deep. After the cover had been removed, the corpses were covered with inflammable materials and set on fire. About two days passed before the fire had burned down to the bottom of the trench. Afterwards the grave was filled in and all traces thereby virtually obliterated. Because of the advance of the front it was not possible to destroy the mass graves located in the South and East which had resulted from execution by the task groups.
The corpses were cremated on funeral pyres, built on iron rails. Firewood was stacked, then the corpses were placed on this petrol soaked material. When the pyres had burned down, the special command of prisoners had to collect the remaining bones which were pulverized with tombstones from the Jewish cemetery. Finally the ashes were inspected in order to collect any remaining silver and gold (these men were called "Goldsucher" ("Gold diggers").
On 29 September 15 prisoners of the Sonderkommando were able to escape; 312 of their comrades were finally killed by the SS either during or on completion of the work. In October 1944 the remaining troops of Aktion 1005 were ordered to Kärnten (Carinthia / Austria) to fight against Yugoslav partisans, under the name "Einsatzgruppe Iltis", commanded by Blobel
For political reasons an official memorial was not built at the site until 1976. The first memorial did not mention that most victims were Jews. It took a further 15 years before a new memorial (Menorah) was built which today serves as a place for commemorative ceremonies. The most impressive memorial, a symbolic one, is Yevgeny Yevtushenko's poem . This work of art was published in 1961. Dmitri Shostakovich used the poem as part of his 13th Symphony, a powerful piece of music that caused a sensation when premiered in 1962.
G. Reitlinger, The Final Solution, Vallentine Mitchell and Co London 1953
V. Khiterer, Babi Yar – The Tradegy of Kiev’s Jews
Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Macmillan Publishing Company, New York, 1990
Klee, Dressen, "Gott mit uns" -
Wartime Map of Kiew - Yad Vashem
© Holocaust Historical Society 2014