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Ukraine commemorates Remembrance Day of the Babyn Yar victims

Ukraine commemorates Remembrance Day of the Babyn Yar victims

Every year on September 29 Ukraine commemorates those brutally killed by the Nazis in Kyiv’s Babyn Yar during the Second World War. 81 years ago, over 33,000 Ukrainian Jews were killed by the Nazis over a short period of two days in Babyn Yar, on the outskirts of Ukraine’s capital. 

Tens of thousands of Jews, Ukrainians, Roma, the mentally ill and others were killed in Babyn Yar in the months that followed up until 1943 when the Nazis retreated from Kyiv.  The estimated number of victims murdered at Babyn Yar is around 100,000, making it Europe’s largest mass grave.

Here we’d like to present you with a few significant facts and archive photos documenting the Nazi atrocities in Babyn Yar. 

Two days before the fateful September 29, 1941, the Nazis, who had just occupied Kyiv, started to spread leaflets in which they ordered all the Jews of the city to take all of their belongings and gather at a specific time in one place on the outskirts of Kyiv. The leaflets also noted that whoever did not comply with the order would be shot.

There was no anticipation of being led to execution as the Nazis began circulating rumours that people were being gathered for resettlement. “There were unusually many people on the streets, everyone was in a hurry. People said goodbye to their neighbors, promised to write letters, entrusted them with apartments, belongings, and keys,” wrote writer and witness of those events, Anatoliy Kuznetsov. People did not know they would soon fall victim to a brutal massacre. 

1941, Kyiv. Soviet prisoners of war bury the corpses of the killed Jews in Babyn Yar while being surveilled by Nazi occupation forces.

1941, Kyiv. A German soldier rifting through the belongings of the Jews killed in Babyn Yar.

1941, Kyiv. The belongings of the killed Jews in the Babyn Yar ravine.

1941, Kyiv. Bodies of people killed by Nazi occupation forces lie on the Taras Shevchenko Boulevard in occupied Kyiv.

The Nazis carried out mass executions in Babyn Yar until 1943. They killed not only Jews, but also Roma, communists, Ukrainian nationalists and the mentally ill. The estimated number of victims murdered at Babyn Yar is around 100,000, making it Europe’s largest mass grave.

When Nazis were retreating from Kyiv in 1943, they tried to cover up their crimes by burning the bodies in huge pyres. When the Soviets came to power, they tried to wipe out the memory of a huge massacre as well. 

Just as the Soviet authorities tried to destroy the memory of the mass shootings in Babyn Yar, so today Russia is trying to destroy Ukrainian history and heritage. In March 2022, Babyn Yar bore witness to atrocities once again when a Russian missile targeting a nearby TV tower landed close to the historical site.

Having launched a full-scale war against Ukraine on February 24th, Russia brought horrors to Europe that had not been seen since the Second World War. In Ukrainian cities freed from Russian occupation, Ukrainian authorities routinely discover mass graves, torture chambers, and signs of torture on those killed and survivors alike. Russia has been committing war crimes on the territory of Ukraine for over seven months and it must be stopped by joint efforts of the whole world. 

Text: Oksana Dumska

Design: Nadiia Firman

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