Historical background Edit The Babi Yar Babyn Yar ravine was first mentioned in historical accounts in , in connection with its sale by "baba" an old woman who was also the cantiniere, to the Dominican Monastery. In the course of several centuries the site had been used for various purposes including military camps and at least two cemeteries, among them an Orthodox Christian cemetery and a Jewish cemetery. The latter was officially closed in Between 20 and 28 September, explosives planted by the Soviet secret police caused extensive damage in the city; and on 24 September an explosion rocked Rear Headquarters Army Group South.

Author:Taurg Bagar
Language:English (Spanish)
Published (Last):10 August 2005
PDF File Size:6.3 Mb
ePub File Size:14.43 Mb
Price:Free* [*Free Regsitration Required]

Aerial view of Babi Yar. Photo taken by German air force. Within a week of occupying Kiev in their eastward invasion of the Soviet Union, the German occupation regime ordered the Jews of the city to report to the railway station, near the Babi Yar ravine, from where they expected to be deported. Instead, they were herded into the ravine, beaten about the head to disorient them, then stripped naked, and lined up in batches on a specially-excavated ledge in the ravine, where they were executed by machine-gun fire.

As the bodies of the dead fell from the ledge into the ravine below, the next batch was brought out. Over the course of a few days, about 70, people were murdered in this way.

Dina Pronicheva jumped into the pit of dead bodies just as the machine-gun fire started and succeeded in playing dead when, at the end of the day, soldiers walked over the pile of bodies finishing off the few that were still moving or groaning.

She gives her account of the vague but deep sense of unease among the Jews lining up for deportation that something dreadful was happening, and despite that, of her own strange psychological inability to face the truth, even though there was no train, the queue kept moving up, and everyone could hear the periodic bursts of machine-gun fire.

It is truly harrowing. Dina Pronicheva. Babi Yar had been his childhood playground. Too young to be caught up in the dragnets recruiting for forced labour in Germany, yet old enough to learn how to survive and find sources of food amid mass starvation, he slipped through the cracks of the occupation.

The art of anonymity he learned early and well. His parents separated in , and Kuznetsov senior was no longer living in Ukraine at the time of the occupation. The other members of his family were his maternal grandparents. His grandfather was a Ukrainian peasant who hated the Soviet regime and who welcomed the German occupation. The book is mostly the story of those family members left to live under the German occupation. Kiev was at the time a very cosmopolitan city.

My mother was Ukrainian, my father Russian. So I was half Ukrainian and half Russian, which meant I was my own enemy. The more I thought about it the worse it seemed. He tells later of meeting up with a childhood friend of Finnish ancestry, during a period of starvation among Kiev residents, when his family was reduced to gathering horse chestnuts, scavenging in the fields after harvests for any potatoes left in the ground, and making pancakes out of potato peelings.

Invited into her home, he is amazed to see a fresh loaf of bread and jam on the table. It said that Volksdeutsche were to report to a certain shop, and bring their shopping bags. But the Finns are an Aryan people, Volksdeutsche. Gypsies were hunted down; like the Jews, it appeared they did not know what was happening to them until the last minute.

All the patients at a large psychiatric hospital were gassed in mobile gas chambers — windowless vans which had the exhaust fumes directed into the back of the van. People who broke the curfew or any other of the proclamations of German martial law, including a ban on keeping pigeons, former Soviet officials, and many others falsely denounced as such by informers, were arrested and executed.

The sound of machine-gun fire in Babi Yar now went on almost unnoticed. Soviet prisoners of war The German army continued to advance towards Leningrad and Moscow, and with each advance brought vast numbers of Russian prisoners of war. One of the largest prisoner of war camps was at Darnitsa, a working-class suburb just across the Dneipr River. The German army enclosed a vast area here to hold prisoners from the five Soviet armies, half a million soldiers, which had been surrounded and routed in the fall Kiev.

Sixty thousand prisoners were herded into Darnitsa camp on the first day; thousands more arrived each day. Within the camp there was a special enclosure for officers, political instructors, seriously wounded soldiers, and Jews. There were fields nearby with unharvested beetroots and potatoes which could have been used to feed the prisoners, but it appeared the decision had been taken to starve them. Each prisoner was given one ladle of beetroot water a day, except for those in the inner enclosure, who were given nothing.

They scratched over the ground and ate whatever grass they could; by the fifth and sixth day they were chewing on their belts and boots, by the twelfth day almost all in the inner enclosure were dead. Vasili managed to survive in the outer enclosure by hanging around the German kitchen rubbish bins and scavenging onion and potato peelings.

The prisoners died at the rate of thousands each day. Vasili was assigned to bury the dead outside the wire; he took the opportunity to escape.

Equally brutal was the treatment of thousands of workers shipped off to work in German factories. Few of these ever returned. Many were killed in Allied bombing raids on the factories.

The young Kuznetsov found ways to ward off starvation — selling matches in the market, collecting chestnuts and selling them, trading the last family possessions for food. For a time he worked for a man who bought up old horses near starvation and slaughtered them to make sausages.

Another sausage-maker was hung when it was discovered he was making his sausages from human beings which he lured to their deaths with promises of food.

Another sausage-maker, who had a pig farm near the cemetery, was discovered to be feeding his pigs on human bodies which he dug up the night after they were buried. These were not the only stories of depravity and degradation in times of starvation. Soviet POWs forced to remove evidence of the crime After two years of Nazi occupation, the tide turned against the German invaders after the German defeat at Stalingrad. Once again the war front neared Kiev, and now the German army was in retreat.

The German command returned to Babi Yar to remove the evidence of their crimes. Prisoners of war were ordered to dig up what remained of the bodies. Sixty gigantic pyres were built and the remains of thousands of human beings incinerated on each, along with many newly executed, including most of the prisoners carrying out the task. Towards the end, one group of prisoners, anticipating their fate, organised a breakout.

Against all odds, a small group of fifteen survived the escape attempt. Their incredible story, too, is told in this book. As the Soviet army approached, the German occupiers emptied the city of all its remaining inhabitants at gunpoint.

They hid in the ruins of their house in the silence and darkness of the emptied city, waiting for the arrival of the liberators. Some German soldiers decided to lodge themselves in the house on the eve of the battles, and discovered the family in hiding; but incredibly, after some tense moments, they took no action.

The relationship of forces was changing, and relations with these already half-defeated German soldiers were quite different, almost friendly. The German invasion of the Soviet Union, and the Soviet counter-attack that drove the German army right back to Berlin and total defeat, was the biggest single military engagement in the whole of the Second World War, and therefore in all of human history.

It was fought by forces equipped with the most modern weaponry, aircraft, and tanks, as well as by irregular partisan bands using obsolete guns and home-made explosives. Upon the outcome of this war the fate of all humanity rested. At the beginning and end of the occupation, the battlefront of this titanic struggle passes over Kiev, and we get a few glimpses of what that fighting was like in the book. But for the most part, Babi Yar is not an account of that military struggle, and its point of view is not that of a combatant.

This is an account of the civilians caught in the cross-fire, struggling to survive under a capricious and violent regime which treated them as enemies, or more commonly as less than human, and was as willing to kill them by starvation as by machine-gun. While the author generally sympathises with the struggle against the German occupiers, he is also critical of the callous disregard for civilian lives displayed by the Soviet forces. Kiev , showing destruction caused by bombs In the first week of the occupation, as the German occupation forces settled into the offices and apartments abandoned by the fleeing Soviet forces, the entire city centre of Ukraine was destroyed by a series of massive bomb blasts prepared by Soviet NKVD agents.

Whatever was not destroyed in the explosion was consumed by the resulting fires. Hundreds of German soldiers were killed, including officers, along with many times that number of Ukrainian civilians. The defenceless civilian population of Kiev was then left to face the German reprisals, the first of which was the anti-Jewish pogrom at Babi Yar.

At several points in the book the narrative is interrupted by a cry of despair and anguish from the author. Even if the reader has a different assessment of the character of that war as the writer of these lines does , it is nonetheless one of the great strengths of the book. And in doing so, I think it provides some insights into the national psychology of Ukraine, a country of great natural wealth, that was coveted, ravaged, and abandoned in turn by both of its larger, more powerful neighbours.

Dina Pronicheva testifies at war crimes trial in Kiev. Genocide is not just mass murder, but also the erasure of the historic memory of a people. After the killings, after the exhumation and incineration of bodies by the Germans as they prepared to abandon the city, came the final act of genocide at Babi Yar: the total obliteration of the ravine itself and the memory of the terrible events that occurred there.

This happened under the Soviet regime , in the decades that followed the defeat of the German occupation. Those who had been repatriated from forced labour in German factories were sent directly to the Gulag labour camps.

The first plan to expunge the memory of Babi Yar involved an attempt to dam the open end of the ravine and flood it with muddy water, in the expectation that over time layers of silt would be laid down over the scene of the crimes and bury them forever. After six years, the dam burst following some heavy rains, flooding the benighted city with sludge and killing hundreds more people.

Excavators and bulldozers eventually achieved what the dam could not. The ravine was filled, the neighbouring Jewish cemetery razed; apartment blocks and a highway were built over it. Meanwhile, Kuznetsov notes, one of his neighbours who had hunted for Jews who were hiding from the Nazis in order to extort from them their valuables, only to then denounce them, and tear the clothes from their backs as they were taken away to Babi Yar, went on living in Kiev with total impunity.

A footnote on editions: Kuznetsov wrote the book in the form of a diary at the time of the events themselves. He kept this manuscript well hidden, and only attempted to publish it in the early sixties in the Soviet Union, after the memory of Babi Yar had been revived by the poem of Yevgeny Yevtushenko.

Kuznetsov later smuggled the complete manuscript out of the country on a trip abroad, evaded his KGB minders and sought asylum in the UK. He added some further explanatory material at this point. The complete, uncensored version was published in the UK in , with the censored parts in bold type and the later additions in square brackets.

It is important that anyone seeking to read the book get hold of this edition, because the censored version is still being offered for sale. Share this:.


Anatoly Kuznetsov

Once his mother discovered and read his notes. She cried and advised him to save them for a book he might write someday. Before becoming a writer, Kuznetsov "studied ballet and acting, tried painting and music, worked as a carpenter, road builder, concrete worker, helped build the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant on the Dniper river, and worked on the Irkutsk and Bratsk hydroelectric power plants in Siberia. Eventually, he began "studying to become a writer" and enrolled at the Moscow Gorky Literary Institute. In , literary magazine Yunost featured his novella entitled Sequel to a Legend. It tells the story of a young man, who came to work in Siberia with a solid youthful belief in something better, in some ultimate good, despite all the hardships and poverty. For a long time my novella gathered dust without any hope of being published, but eventually I forced myself to add some optimistic episodes, which contrasted so sharply with the overall style and were so outrageously cheerful that no reader would take them seriously.


Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel

Aerial view of Babi Yar. Photo taken by German air force. Within a week of occupying Kiev in their eastward invasion of the Soviet Union, the German occupation regime ordered the Jews of the city to report to the railway station, near the Babi Yar ravine, from where they expected to be deported. Instead, they were herded into the ravine, beaten about the head to disorient them, then stripped naked, and lined up in batches on a specially-excavated ledge in the ravine, where they were executed by machine-gun fire.

Related Articles