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34,000 Jews massacred by Einsatzgruppen at Babi Yar outside Kiev, 1941

On This Day in Jewish History: September 29-30, 1941

On September 19 the Nazi Army took Kiev and the SS prepared to kill all of the Jews in the area. After the Nazis took over there were two explosions which destroyed the German headquarters. The Germans blamed this on the Jews and used it as a reason to immediately kill the remaining Jews. Almost 100,000 Jews fled Kiev as the Germans were approaching leaving behind mostly women, children, the elderly and the weak. As previously discussed at length on this page, the Holocaust was not an isolated event. There were many factors that led to it and shaped it. One must properly analyze these contextual factors to fully understand the scale and horrors of the Shoah. Another aspect we have discussed at length is how the Holocaust did not start in the gas chambers and death / labor camps, rather it ended there. The initial terror came at the hands of the Nazis and collaborating locals in the Nazi invasion of Russia (Operation Barbarossa, 6.21.41). As part of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi mission was not only to reach Moscow, but to make all conquered regions "Judenfrei" - "Free of Jews". To do so, the Einsatzgruppen (Mobile Death Squads) were set up to specifically massacre entire regions of "undesireables" i.e. innocent Jewish men, women, and children, Roma, and Soviet POWs using guns, bullets, and mass death pits.

Most of the time, the pits had to be dug by the Jews themselves, then undress, and prepare to be shot. As bodies and bodies would pile up, many witnessed their own family and friends murdered in front of their eyes.

After over the course of 1941-1942, many such massacres occurred - killing about 2 million people. At least 1.5 million murdered in this span were Jewish. The individual shooting of the victims "took a toll" on the Nazi soldiers' psyche while the Nazi leadership felt this method to be "too slow and costly". Thus leading to the Wannsee Conference in January of 1942 at which point the Final Solution was confirmed whereby Jews would be shipped to camps to be systematically killed in a more "effective manner".

On this day the SS troops marched over 34,000 Jews to the Babi Yar ravine right outside of Kiev and massacred them. They killed men, women, and children. It was the third largest mass killing in one location by German forces. There were only 29 survivors of the massacre. The same ravine was used over the next two years as a mass grave for other Jews and Soviet officials. It is estimated that around 100,000 people were killed at Babi Yar.

At the end of the war, when the Soviet Army was closing in on the Germans near Kiev, the Nazis tried to get rid of the evidence of Babi Yar by returning to the site and burning the bodies. But they were not successful in burning the bodies and together with the other evidence which remained and the eyewitness accounts we are all aware of the atrocities which occurred there. In January 1946, there was a trial against 15 members of the German Police for crimes which were committed at Babi Yar.




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