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Friday, September 29, 2006 

Sixty five Years Ago Today -September 29, 1941- The Tragedy of Kiev's Jews

On September 28, the German military authority posted a notice all over the City of Kiev that read:
All Jews living in the city of Kiev and its vicinity are to report by 8 o'clock on the morning of Monday, September 29th, 1941, at the corner of Melnikovsky and Dokhturov Streets (near the cemetery). They are to take with them documents, money, valuables, as well as warm clothes, underwear, etc.
Any Jew not carrying out this instruction and who is found elsewhere will be shot. Any civilian entering flats evacuated by Jews and stealing property will be shot.

Most people in Kiev, including the Jews, thought the notice meant deportation. Others assumed the Nazis were shipping them to a ghetto. Some even arrived early for a good seat on the train. They were wrong. A systematic plan for mass execution on an industrial scale had been devised and would commence on the 29th.

On the morning of September 29, tens of thousands of Jews arrived at the appointed location. Some arrived extra early in order to ensure themselves a ‘good’ seat on the train. A large crowd formed. Each person held onto their family members and belongings. Children were crying. They couldn't see what was happening up ahead. The crowd stretched for blocks and overflowed in the cemetery. A large number of troops were deployed to contain the crowd. Most waited hours in this crowd - only slowly moving toward what they thought would lead them to trucks or trains.

Soon after people passed through the gate into the Jewish cemetery, they reached the front of the mass of people. Here, they were to leave their baggage. Some in the crowd wondered how they would be reunited with their possessions; some believed it would be sent in a luggage van.

The Jews were herded through a barbed wire corridor lined with soldiers onto an area overgrown with grass. Babi Yar is the name of a ravine in the northwestern section of Kiev. The ravine is described as an enormous area, deep and wide, like a mountain gorge. It was here that the Nazis shot the Jews.

In small groups the Jews were taken along the edge of the ravine. Once the Jews were lined up, the Nazis used a machine-gun to shoot them. When shot, they fell into the ravine. Then the next group was brought along the edge and shot. Nazi records indicated that this was an inefficient method of ‘disposal’. From this mass killing more ‘efficient’ methods were developed in the camps in Poland.

According to the Einsatzgruppe Operational Situation Report No. 101-33-771, Jews were killed all day long at Babi Yar on September 29 until it was too dark to ‘work’ any longer. On the morning of the 30th, the killing continued again all throughout the day and into the night. When it was concluded, the Nazis machine-gunned down at least 33,771 over 48 hours. In the ensuing months, the number of people killed at Babi Yar grew to more than 100,000.

This is what happens when the most extreme right wing political madness grips a nation. This is what happens when the self righteous consider other people to be less than human. This is what happens when a group of people are so vilified, that their existence is of no value to the rulers and fellow citizens of a nation.

Babi Yar


Map of Babi Yar

Thank you for posting your account of the horror that occurred in Kiev, sixty years ago--yet another hideous example of man's inhumanity to man played out over and over during the Holocaust. I had never heard of Babi Yar or the systematic, atrocious murder of tens of thousands of innocent people there.
The world should know of and must never forget the slaughter, the treachery, and the cold deliberation with which the Nazis went about their vile "work." Free people everywhere should mourn the murders of those innocents, and they should take from it the understanding that, as Lord Acton wrote, in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton, 1887, “Absolute power corrupts, absolutely.”
As you well wrote, “This is what happens when the self righteous consider other people to be less than human. This is what happens when a group of people are so vilified, that their existence is of no value to the rulers and fellow citizens of a nation.” I must add that this is also what happens when one group blindly follows a megalomaniacal dictator, surrendering even their most basic morality, and later hiding behind claims that they were “just following orders,” and this is also what happens when another group, innocently unsuspecting of their captors’ capacity for the unthinkable, passively accepts the authority of a totalitarian, fascist regime—not, as you wrote, “the most extreme right wing political madness,” though I believe that extremism of any sort is a dangerous thing. As I understand it, the right wing, or conservative viewpoint espouses limited government and consequently, limited governmental powers, while the left wing, or liberal viewpoint pushes for ever bigger government with ever greater control over citizens—rather than government existing to serve people, citizens exist to serve the government—a dangerous ideology, indeed.
May God have mercy on the souls of those murdered at Babi Yar, and on the souls of the killers, too, and may we ever remember the cost of acquiescence, and may we join the cry, “Never again!”
Thank you,
Karoll Smith

Thank you for your kind comments.

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