Ukrainian capital city Kiev fell under German control on September 19, 1941. With the city captured, invading armies did not waste much time and started lining up the city’s Jews for execution. The first order to assemble for resettlement was issued on September 28, 1941 and came into the effect the following day. 33,771 Jews were marched to a Babi Yar ravine in northwestern Kiev and executed in a single operation that became known as the Babi Yar Massacre. All 33,771 Jews were executed during a two day shooting spree between September 29th and 30th.
It is estimated that as many as 50,000 Jews lost their lives at Babi Yar, but they were not the only ones taken there for execution. Between 100,000 and 150,000 non Jews, including Gypsies, Soviet POWs and suspected communists were also shot dead at Babi Yar after World War II German Major-General Kurt Eberhard issued orders to retaliate for alleged guerrilla attacks against German troops.
Babi Yar Massacre is considered to be the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust. Most executions were carried out by Sonderkommando (captured Jews forced to execute orders under pain of death) commanded by SS colonel Paul Blobel. After the end of World War II, Paul Blobel was sentenced to death and hanged at Landsberg Prison on June 8, 1951.
When Germans invaded Kiev, many locals thought foreign army came to rescue them from oppressing rule of Joseph Stalin. The Babi Yar Massacre was successful because after Germans issued a command that all Jews are to assemble at the assemble points for resettlement, they could not wait to be taken away and many showed up early to secure their seats on a train. Germans anticipated maybe a couple of thousands Jews who would follow their order right away, but were surprised that tens of thousands turned up on the first day. Carrying their valuables, the Jews were lead towards the Babi Yar ravine where to the last moment they all believed that they were about to board the trucks that would take them away from Kiev. Because of huge crowd, they did not find out that they were about to get executed until it was already too late and they couldn’t escape.
All Jews were forced to strip naked and deposit all their baggage at appointed areas before being taken to the edge of a mass grave where they were executed by either a gunshot to the head, or later by machinegun fire after being lined up. Some were laid on top of already dead bodies and shot in the neck with a sub machine gun. Germans had many people to execute so in order to save burial space, they made them pile up on top of one another to create organized layers of corpses. Mothers got to hang on to their children and were shot together with them.
Below is a video of (improvised) Babi Yar Massacre from a 2003 movie by Jeff Kanew.
And a gallery of Babi Yar Massacre Photos. These are rare WWII black and white photos, with one of them being especially rare – it’s the colored image which are not often seen given the time period. Thanks Phil for photos:
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