In Kiev, the Nazis murdered approximately 100,000 people in a ravine named Babi Yar. The killing began with a large group on September 29-30, 1941, but continued for months.
The German Takeover
After the Nazis attacked the Soviet Union on June 22, 1941, they pushed east. By September 19, they had reached Kiev. It was a confusing time for the inhabitants of Kiev. Though a large portion of the population had family either in the Red Army or had evacuated into the interior of the Soviet Union, many inhabitants welcomed the German Army's takeover of Kiev. Many believed the Germans would free them from Stalin's oppressive regime. In only days, they would see the true face of the invaders.
Looting began immediately. Then the Germans moved into Kiev's downtown on Kreshchatik Street. On September 24 - five days after the Germans entered Kiev - a bomb exploded around four o'clock in the afternoon at the German headquarters. The Germans were shocked. Then they cordoned off the area and gathered people in the vicinity as suspects. Then another building on Kreshchatik exploded. The Germans - and those they had assembled - fled for safety.
For days, bombs exploded in buildings in the Kreshchatik that had been occupied by Germans. Many Germans and civilians were killed and injured.
After the war, it was determined that a group of NKVD members were left behind by the Soviets to offer some resistance against the conquering Germans. But during the war, the Germans decided it was the work of Jews, and retaliated for the bombings against the Jewish population of Kiev.
By the time the bombings finally stopped on September 28, the Germans already had a plan for retaliation. On this day, the Germans posted a notice all over town 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.1
Most people in town, including the Jews, thought this notice meant deportation. They were wrong.
Reporting for Deportation
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 seat on the train.2
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.
Most waited hours in this crowd - only slowly moving toward what they thought was a train.
The Front of the Line
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.3
The Germans were counting out only a few people at a time and then letting them move farther on. Machine-gun fire could be heard nearby. For those that realized what was happening and wanted to leave, it was too late. There was a barricade staffed by Germans who were checking identification papers of those wanting out. If the person was Jewish, they were forced to remain.
In Small Groups
Taken from the front of the line in groups of ten, they were led to a corridor, about four or five feet wide, formed by rows of soldiers on each side.4 The soldiers were holding sticks and would hit the Jews as they went by.
There was no question of being able to dodge or get away. Brutal blows, immediately drawing blood, descended on their heads, backs and shoulders from left and right. The soldiers kept shouting: "Schnell, schnell!" laughing happily, as if they were watching a circus act; they even found ways of delivering harder blows in the more vulnerable places, the ribs, the stomach and the groin.5
Screaming and crying, the Jews exited the corridor of soldiers onto an area overgrown with grass.6 Here they were ordered to undress.
Those who hesitated had their clothes ripped off them by force, and were kicked and struck with knuckledusters or clubs by the Germans, who seemed to be drunk with fury in a sort of sadistic rage.7
Babi Yar is the name of a ravine in the northwestern section of Kiev. A. Anatoli described the ravine as "enormous, you might even say majestic: deep and wide, like a mountain gorge. If you stood on one side of it and shouted you would scarcely be heard on the other."8
It was here that the Nazis shot the Jews.
In small groups of ten, the Jews were taken along the edge of the ravine. One of the very few survivors remembers she "looked down and her head swam, she seemed to be so high up. Beneath her was a sea of bodies covered in blood."9