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Babi Yar, a ravine near Kiev, was the scene of possibly the largest shooting massacre during the Holocaust. After the war, commemoration efforts encountered serious difficulty because of the policy of the Soviet Union. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a number of memorials have been erected. The events also formed a part of literature.

Commemoration and Soviet policy

Soviet leadership discouraged placing any emphasis on the Jewish aspect of the Babi Yar tragedy; instead, it presented these atrocities as crimes committed against the Soviet people in general and the inhabitants of Kiev in particular.[1] The first draft report of the Extraordinary State Commission (Чрезвычайная Государственная Комиссия), dated December 25, 1943 was officially censored in February 1944 as follows:[2]

Draft version Published version
"The Hitlerist bandits committed mass murder of the Jewish population. They announced that on September 29, 1941, all the Jews were required to arrive to the corner of Melnikov and Dokterev streets and bring their documents, money and valuables. The butchers marched them to Babi Yar, took away their belongings, then shot them."

"The Hitlerist bandits brought thousands of civilians to the corner of Melnikov and Dokterev streets. The butchers marched them to Babi Yar, took away their belongings, then shot them."

Monuments Erected At Babi Yar

File:Kiev BabiYar Victims Monument 070613.jpg

Monument to Soviet citizens and POWs shot at Babi Yar (1976)

Several attempts were made to erect a memorial at Babi Yar to commemorate the fate of the Jewish victims. All attempts were overruled. An official memorial to Soviet citizens shot at Babi Yar was erected in 1976. This remembrance is still complicated in the great numbers and many sorts of persons murdered there.[3]

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, the Ukrainian government allowed the establishment of a separate memorial specifically identifying the Jewish victims.

The monuments to commemorate the numerous events associated with Babi Yar tragedy include:

  • Monument to Soviet citizens and POWs shot by the Nazi occupiers at Babi Yar (opened in July 1976). N 50.47139, E 30.44889.
  • Menorah-shaped monument to the Jews (about 100,000) massacred at Babi Yar (opened on Sept. 29, 1991, 50 years after the first mass killing of the Jews at Babi Yar). N 50.47572, E 30.45763.
  • Wooden cross in memory of the 621 Ukrainian nationalists (including Olena Teliha and her husband) murdered by the Germans in 1942 (installed in 1992)
  • Oak Cross marking the place where two Ukrainian Orthodox Christian priests were shot on November 6, 1941, for anti-German agitation (installed in 2000)
  • Monument to children killed at Babi Yar (opened in 2001 near the Dorohozhychi subway station). N 50.474201, E 30.449585.
  • Magen David shaped stone marking the site for a planned Jewish community center (installed in 2001. Construction of the center was suspended, however, because of disputes over its specific location and scope of activities)
  • Monument to Ostarbeiters and concentration camp prisoners (installed in 2005 at the corner of Dorohozhytska and Oranzheriyna St., close to the 1976 monument)
  • Monument to victims of the 1961 Kurenivka mudslide in Kiev (installed in 2006, 45 years after the disaster killed hundreds of local residents and workers)
  • Three tombs over a steep ravine edge with black metal crosses, installed by an unknown volunteer. One cross has an inscription: "People were killed in 1941 at this place, too. May God rest their souls."

(This list is not comprehensive.)

There is also a proposal to remember the thousands of Roma (Gypsies) killed at Babi Yar by erecting a monument designed as a Gypsy wagon. However, the plan has yet to gather a sufficient financial and administrative support.[4]

Desecration of the memorial complex (July 2006)

On the night of July 16, 2006, the memorial dedicated to the Jewish victims was vandalized. Several gravestones, the foundation of the commemorative sledge-stone, and several steps leading to the Menorah memorial were damaged.[5] The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine issued a statement condemning the act of vandalism.[6]

Other memorials

The President of the Babi Yar Park Foundation Alan G. Gass stated:

We built a memorial park to the Babi Yar massacre in Denver, Colorado. It was dedicated in 1982, with an inscribed black granite entrance gateway, a "People Place" amphi-theatre, a "Forest that Remembers" with a spring flowing all year in the middle, and a high-walled, narrow black bridge over a ravine, all at three points of a Magen David carved out of the native prairie grasses. It is owned and maintained by the City & County of Denver. The park is used by the recently arrived immigrants from Russia and the former Soviet Union as a place of remembrance during the year and with a special ceremony on 29 September each year.[7]

There is a memorial to the victims of Babi Yar at the Nahalat Yitzhak Cemetery in Giv'atayim. The memorial was erected over bone fragments from Babi Yar that were reinterred at the cemetery. The bones were brought out of Ukraine by three American college students in July 1971. The memorial was dedicated in 1972 by the Prime Minister of Israel, Golda Meir. There is an annual ceremony on Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Day.[7]

Literature and film

In his 1961 book Star in Eclipse: Russian Jewry Revisited, Joseph Schechtman provided an account of the Babi Yar tragedy. In 1966, Anatoly Kuznetsov's Babi Yar: A Document in the Form of a Novel was published in censored form in the Soviet monthly literary magazine Yunost. Kuznetsov began writing a memoir of his wartime life when he was 14. Over the years he continued working on it, adding documents and eyewitness testimony. He managed to smuggle 35 mm photographic film containing the uncensored manuscript when he defected, and the book was published in the West in 1970.

In 1985, a documentary film Babiy Yar: Lessons of History by Vitaly Korotich was made to mark the tragedy.

The massacre of Jews at Babi Yar has inspired a number of creative ventures. A poem was written by the Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko; this in turn was set to music by Dmitri Shostakovich in his Symphony No. 13. An oratorio was composed by the Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych to the text of Dmytro Pavlychko (2006). A number of films and television productions have also marked the tragic events at Babi Yar, and D. M. Thomas's novel The White Hotel uses the massacre's anonymity and violence as a counterpoint to the intimate and complex nature of the human psyche.


  1. Postwar: A History of Europe Since 1945 by Tony Judt, Penguin Books, Reprint edition (September 5, 2006), ISBN 0143037757 (page 182)
  2. "Page 14 of a draft report by the Commission for Crimes Committed by the Nazis in Kiev from February 1944", Beyond the Pale: The History of Jews in Russia. It shows changes made by G. F. Aleksandrov, head of the Propaganda and Agitation Department, Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
  3. Jean-Marie Chauvier, "Ukraine’s past horrors: Babi Yar", Le Monde Diplomatic, August 11, 2007.
  4. Vladimir Platonov, "Babiy Yar: A tragedy about the tragedy, Zerkalo Nedeli No. 39 (156), 1997 (in Russian).
  5. "Babiy Yar Profaned by Vandals",, July 17, 2006. "Unknown Persons Defiled Menorah in Babiy Yar", Interfax, July 19, 2006.
  6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, "Answer of the Press Service of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine to the question of journalists relating to the incident in Babi Yar", July 21, 2006
  7. 7.0 7.1 Shmuel Spector, "Babi Yar", Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, Israel Gutman, editor in chief, Yad Vashem, Sifriat Hapoalim, New York: Macmillan, 1990. 4 volumes. ISBN 0-02-896090-4. An excerpt of the article is available at Ada Holtzman, "Babi Yar: Killing Ravine of Kiev Jewry – WWII", We Remember! Shalom!.

External links

Commemorative Oratorio by Yevhen Stankovych

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