Babi Yar gained worldwide fame as a place of mass executions of the population, mostly Jews, and Soviet prisoners carried out by German troops in 1941. In total, according to information from various sources, from 33 thousand to 100 thousand people were shot.
Babi Yar is located in the northwestern part of Kyiv, between the Lukyanovka and Syrets quarters.
- It was first mentioned under its current name in 1401, when the owner of the tavern (Ukrainian «woman»), located here, sold these lands to a Dominican monastery. In the 15th-18th centuries, the names «Shalena Baba» and «Bisova Baba» also came across.
- In 1869, the Syrets military camp was founded near Babi Yar. In 1895, the Divisional Church was founded on the territory of the camp, which was destroyed after the revolution. On the site of this church was later the entrance to the Syrets concentration camp.
- In 1870, the territory in the south of Babi Yar was used for the construction of the Lukyanovka cemetery, which was closed in 1962. Currently, the cemetery is a protected area.
- In 1891-1894, the New Jewish Cemetery was founded near Babi Yar. It was closed in 1937 and finally destroyed during World War II. Only a small fragment of the cemetery has survived, the remaining burials were later transferred to the Berkovets cemetery.
During the Great Patriotic War, the invaders who captured Kyiv on September 19, 1941, used Babi Yar to carry out mass executions. The first execution took place on September 27, 1941 — 752 patients of the psychiatric hospital named after M. Ivan Pavlov, located next to the ravine
On September 24, on Khreshchatyk, the NKVD blew up two houses where representatives of the occupation administration settled down. Explosions and fires were arranged in the following days, about 940 large buildings were destroyed. The Nazis regarded this as a pretext for the liquidation of the Jewish population. At the end of September 1941, the Sonderkommando captured nine leading rabbis of Kyiv and ordered them to address the population: «After sanitation, all Jews and their children, as an elite nation, will be transported to safe places …» On September 27-28, the Nazi authorities ordered that On September 29, the Jewish population of the city arrived at the designated collection point with documents and valuables by 8 o’clock in the morning. For disobedience to the order — execution. More than 2,000 ads were pasted around the city. At the same time, misinformation about the census and resettlement of Jews was spread through janitors and building managers. Most of the Jews who remained in the city — women, children and the elderly (the adult male population was drafted into the army) arrived at the appointed time. Representatives of some other national minorities were also gathered
A checkpoint was created at the end of the street, everything that happened behind it was invisible from the outside. 30-40 people were taken there one by one, where their belongings were taken away and they were forced to undress. After that, the police with the help of sticks drove people to the edge of a ravine 20-25 meters deep. On the opposite edge was a machine gunner. The shots were deliberately muffled by the music and the noise of the aircraft circling over the ravine. After the moat was filled with 2-3 layers of corpses, they were covered with earth from above.
Since they did not have time to shoot all the arrivals in one day, the premises of military garages were used as a temporary detention facility. For two days on September 29-30, 1941, Sonderkommando 4a under the command of Standartenführer Paul Blobel, with the participation of units of the Wehrmacht (6th Army) and the Kievsky kuren of the Ukrainian auxiliary police under the command of Peter Zakhvalynsky (Zakhvalynsky himself had nothing to do with these executions, since he arrived in Kyiv only in October 1941; in 1943 he was killed by the Germans) shot 33,771 people in this ravine — almost the entire Jewish population of Kyiv. Further executions of Jews took place on October 1, 2, 8 and 11, 1941, during which time about 17,000 Jews were shot.
Mass executions continued until the very departure of the Germans from Kyiv. On January 10, 1942, 100 sailors of the Dnieper detachment of the Pinsk military flotilla were shot. In 1941-1943, 621 members of the OUN were shot in Babi Yar, among them the Ukrainian poetess Elena Teliga and her husband, who had the opportunity to escape, but he preferred to stay with his wife and friends according to the editors of the Ukrainian Word. In addition, Babi Yar served as the place of execution of five gypsy camps. In total, from 70,000 to 200,000 people were shot at Babi Yar in 1941-1943. Jewish prisoners ordered by the Germans to burn bodies in 1943 claimed 70,000-120,000.
In addition, on the site of the military camp of the Red Army units, the Syrets concentration camp was opened, which contained communists, Komsomol members, underground workers, prisoners of war and others. On February 18, 1943, three players of the Dynamo football team, participants in the Death Match, were shot in it: Trusevich, Kuzmenko and Klimenko.
In total, at least 25,000 people died in the Syrets concentration camp. Retreating from Kyiv and trying to hide the traces of their atrocities, the Nazis in August-September 1943 managed to partially destroy the camp, dug up and burned many corpses on open «furnaces», the bones were ground on machines specially brought from Germany, the ashes were scattered all over Babi Yar. On the night of September 29, 1943, in Babi Yar, there was an uprising at the ovens of 329 death row prisoners, of which only 18 people were saved, the remaining 311 died heroically. The surviving prisoners later became witnesses to the Germans’ attempt to hide the fact of the massacres. After Kyiv was saved by the Red Army on November 6, 1943, the Syrets concentration camp was a camp for German prisoners until 1946. After that, the camp was demolished, and in its place, in the late 1950s, the Syrets residential area was founded and a park named after. Fortieth Anniversary of October (now it is called Syretsky Park)
The energy at this place was terrible, accidents constantly occurred. In 1950, the city authorities decided to flood Babi Yar with liquid waste from nearby brick factories. The ravine was blocked with an earthen rampart to prevent flooding of residential areas. The features of the shaft and the drainage capacity did not meet even the minimum safety standards. On the morning of Monday, March 13, 1961, due to heavy snowmelt, the shaft could not resist the pressure of water, and as a result, a mudflow up to 14 meters high poured into Kurenevka. An area of more than 30 hectares was flooded with slurry, more than 30 buildings were destroyed, the tram depot named after. Krasin.
Monument to the victims of the Kurenevskaya tragedy, opened in March 2006
Information about the disaster was subjected to strict censorship, its scale was greatly underestimated. Many of the victims were specially buried in different cemeteries in Kyiv with other dates and causes of death, and some of the bodies were never found under the huge thickness of the pulp. According to the official report of the commission to investigate the causes of the tragedy, the accident killed 145 people. But modern researchers of the Kurenevskaya disaster claim that in fact the number of victims was about 1.5 thousand people. This episode in the history of Babi Yar is called the Kurenevskaya tragedy.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko, who visited the scene of the tragedy, wrote his famous poem «Babi Yar», which became the basis of Shostakovich’s 13th symphony. Only in the 1960s did the Soviet press publish the first mention of mass executions at Babi Yar. In 1966, the Yunost magazine published an abridged version of Anatoly Kuznetsov’s documentary novel Babi Yar, but the novel was never released as a separate publication. After Kuznetsov’s escape abroad, copies of the magazine with the chapters of the novel were confiscated from all libraries. The novel was completely published in Russia after the collapse of the Union
After the disaster, work to fill the ravine continued. Instead of an earthen dam, a concrete dam was erected, a new drainage system was laid, and more stringent security measures were taken. Part of the pulp spilled onto Kurenevka was transported by dump trucks back to fill the pit. Later, through the filled spurs of the Yar, a road was laid from Syrets to Kurenevka (part of the current Elena Teliha Street) and a park was arranged
In 1965, a closed competition was announced for the best monument to the victims of Babi Yar. The authorities did not like the submitted projects, and the competition was closed, and in October 1966 a granite obelisk was installed in the square in the southern part of the ravine, where only 10 years later a monument was erected. The opening of the monument was met with harsh criticism outside the USSR, because not a word was said about the Jews
In the early 1970s, buildings of the television center were built on the site of the New Jewish Cemetery.
On March 30, 2000, the Dorohozhychi metro station was opened in the northern part of Babi Yar
March 24, 2001 the building of the old cinema them. Yuri Gagarin, who was on the site of the Divisional Church, was transferred to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in order to create the Syrets memorial (it included the Cathedral of the Blessed Virgin, a museum, a monument and a film lecture hall)
In addition to the monuments mentioned above, Babi Yar also houses:
The Menorah is a memorial to executed Jews in the form of a menorah. Established on September 29, 1991, on the 50th anniversary of the first mass execution of Jews. From the former office of the Jewish cemetery to the monument, the Road of Sorrow was laid.
Monument to the executed children. Opened on September 30, 2001 opposite the exit from the Dorohozhychi metro station
Cross in memory of the executed Orthodox priests. Installed in 2000 on the site where on November 6, 1941, Archimandrite Alexander and Archpriest Pavel were shot, calling on the population to fight the Nazis
Cross in memory of 621 executed members of the OUN, established on February 21, 1992, on the 50th anniversary of the execution of Elena Teliha and her associates.
On July 15, 2009, the cross was broken by vandals, and the commemorative marble plaque was broken
And a number of other monuments:
- Stella in memory of the Ostarbeiters, installed in 2005.
- Monument to the mentally ill who were shot on September 27, 1941.
- Cross in memory of German prisoners of war.
- A monument by an unknown author, representing three crosses welded from iron pipes, with an inscription on one of them «And people were killed in this place in 1941, God rest their souls.»
For a long time there has been a discussion about creating a monument to the Gypsies shot here.