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

One day prior to September 29, 1941, at every street corner of Kiev, a notice was posted (at left).  According to Shmuel Spector, they say there were 160,000 Jews living in Kiev when the city fell to the invading troop of Nazis on September 19, 1941.  Among them, about 100,000 Jews managed to evacuate the city before the invading troops controlled the city.  That means when the public notice (inserted at the left) was posted, there remained about 60,000 Jews in the city. The half of the Jews who were the unfortunate ones showed up at the corner of Melnikovsky and Dokhturov on the following morning and were forced to walk a few miles until they arrived at the foot of the Babi Yar ravine. 

"The next morning, masses of Jews reported at the appointed spot. They were directed to proceed along Melnik Street toward the Jewish cemetery and into an area comprising the cemetery itself and a part of the Babi Yar ravine. The area was cordoned off by a barbed-wire fence and guarded by Sonderkommando police and Waffen-SS men, as well as by Ukrainian policemen. As the Jews approached the ravine, they were forced to hand over all the valuables in their possession, to take off all their clothes, and to advance toward the ravine edge, in groups of ten. When they reached the edge, they were gunned down by automatic fire. The shooting was done by several squads of SD and Sipo personnel, police, and Waffen-SS men of the Sonderkommando unit, the squads relieving one another every few hours. When the day ended, the bodies were covered with a thin layer of soil. According to official reports of the Einsatzgruppe, in two days of shooting (September 29 and 30), 33,771 Jews were murdered."

- "Encyclopedia of the Holocaust"

By Shuel Spector


Babi Yar, a ravine situated in the north western part of Kiev is known to be a sight of the Holocaust, where 33, 771 Jews were systematically murdered by members of Sonderkomando 4a of Einsatzgruppen C on September 29-30, 1941.

"Encyclopedia of the Holocaust" by Shmuel Spector can be viewed at www.zchor.org/BABIYAR.HTM

One of the well publicized web-sites "Photographs of The Massacre at Babi Yar" has published a series of photos below:



The official monument above was built as the first recognition by the Soviet government in 1976.  The huge avand-garde sculpture is a work by M. Lysenko and others.

There are three plates placed at the  bottom of the bronze written in three languages; in Russian, Ukrainian and Yiddish

The Russian plate reads:


That means in English as follows:



The "Menorah" monument above was built at the scene of mass execution on the 50th anniversary by architectures Y. Paskevichy,  A. Levych and others in 1991.

No monument stands over Babi Yar

A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.

I am afraid.

Today, I am as old

As the entire Jewish race itself.




The first stanza of "Babi Yar"

By Yevgeni Yevushenko

Translated by Benjamin Okopnik



Dmitry Shostakovich composed Symphony 13 by adapting above poetry.  Yevushenko and Shostakovich contributed for publicizing the holocaust.



The latest monument built in 2001 was for the 60th anniversary.  The inscription is written in Hebrew, English and Russian.  The English reads as follows:











SEPTEMBER 30, 2001


In 2001, another small monument dedicated to the children who perished in Yar was set up in the park by the Dorohozhichy Metro station.  Sculptor: V. Medvedev


When I was planning this trip three years ago, one of the hardest decisions I had to make  regarded visiting Babi Yar. I was not sure if our plans should include the site of one of the biggest execution sites in Holocaust history. I had to take this issue into consideration, and decide if our trip was to be one of sightseeing or was it to be a pilgrimage. Our focus was to find information about our ancestors and any leads on our genealogical roots. However, I wondered if the visit to Babi Yar fit our purpose. I also knew that this excursion would not be a comfortable one at all.  It would have been quite easy to simply omit visiting the site by justifying that no-one from our family was victimized by this incident - that we know of. 

And yet, it may give me an even harder impact on my conscience later if I were to completely ignore Babi Yar.  I knew our visit to the sight would contribute only remembrance for the 33,771 Jewish victims. But it would ease my guilt, just to carry a flower to the place and spend some time for silent prayer.  

Since discussion about the holocaust is generally avoided, I had no idea how much knowledge Heidi had of Babi Yar.  And I needed her help to decide if we should visit the site  or not during our trip.

I knew of a few web-sites which had very graphic photos of the executions but also, very clear documentation on the happenings of those days in September 1941. I did not want to upset my wife with this issue unless it is very necessary.

About three weeks before our  trip I sat down with Heidi and updated her with my plan to visit Babi Yar on the first day of arrival at Kiev. She did not object at all.   

 "I am not planning on having fun on this trip," she said.  "We have a responsibility to pay respect to the victims."

I then offered to show her some of the photos available on the web-sites.  It was very difficult for me to watch them again for I had already seen them twice -  once by myself and a second time with Aaron, our son. Both times, I became extremely emotional and could not help weeping.

To defend myself, at this point, I must state that I am not naive in terms of knowing human capabilities to engage in violent acts, for I, myself, experienced the genocide in China during my childhood. Of course its scale was not as big as what the Jews went through.  And yet, I know how the human body feels when it dies. My infant sister starved to death on my back.  I carried my dead sister, still on my back,  for a few days walk to evacuate the city.  I became accustomed to walking through a street piled with hundreds of abandoned corpses as I sold boxes of cigarettes to Russian soldiers.  In fact, I still remember the odor of those dead bodies.  Ironically, I lost my sense of smell around that time; possibly my body had refused to smell that which it should not anymore.

Even having experienced all that I had as a mere child, I could not handle viewing the photographs of Babi Yar.  Heidi did not cry when she reviewed those photos.  But her face turned pale as if she struggled with an intense anger and frustration.  I heard her only say, "Why couldn't they have at least tried to run away!?."

On July 8, 2004, our second day in Kiev, Heidi and I left the Hotel Dnipro, for the Metro station named  Dorohozhichy.  Accompanying us was Vlad, my student acting as our interpreter. According to the information I studied, there should be four monuments built at the site of the Babi Yar ravines.  My initial plan was to start at the corner of Melnikovaya Street and Dokterivska Street (by the old Jewish cemetery) and climb up the hill to the ravine following the course of the "death march" walked by the 33,771 Jewish Soviet citizens on the morning of September 29, 1941.  At the last minute, I was nervous that my old body would not be able to handle the walk - so instead we took the subway.   Dorohozhichy Metro station was situated between two monuments; one commissioned in 1976 by the Soviet government dedicated to the Soviet citizens who died at Babi Yar and another built in 1991 by the Jewish community memorializing the Jewish citizens who were executed.

Once we exited the Metro station we entered the park right behind the most conspicuous looking bronze structure  - the monument built by the Soviets.  Nearby we also found a small brown stone monument recently built by the Jewish Heritage Community commemorating the 60th anniversary.  Heidi and I spent some time clearing the weeds at the foot of the stone which read a quote from Ezekiel 37:14, "I will put my breath into you and you shall live again."

A group of Gypsies approached us while we viewed the the main bronze monument (created by M. Lysenko).  They just simply wanted some "Copeks (money)." Interestingly, there was no mention of the Jewish victims in its inscription - we thought this very odd.  We placed a bouquet and proceeded to the other side of the park to locate the monument dedicated to the Jewish children who were executed. The sculptor V. Medvedev's bronze appeared to welcome all who entered the park and  adequately reminded us of the sadness that once occurred there.  

The hardest sight to visit was the last of the four monuments known as "the Menorah Monument", commissioned by the Jewish Heritage Community and placed at the crest of ravine where the actual mass executions took place. 

In the past, Heidi and I had a rather strange past time of walking through unknown cemeteries -  just to enjoy the quiet and peaceful atmosphere and to imagine the types of lives the buried may have lived.  And typically, we do feel a peace among the graves. But, as we finally arrived at the Menorah Monument, I found myself in the middle of a most uncomfortable feeling.  As the woods rustled with the wind, I could hear thousands of souls screaming -  and my heart ached. I could not breath for a while.  I went into the woods following a lightly worn path that lead me to a long, wide and winding ravine and alone, I sat there for an hour, listening.  Heidi, too, appeared to need to be alone.  Sitting at the crest of the ravine, she wrote her thoughts in her notebook.

It was one of the most unpleasant and emotional experiences I have had in my life.  We left the last bouquet of flowers at the base of the menorah and walked downhill to Melnikovaya Street toward the Jewish cemetery going the opposite direction of the death march.

- Norimi and Heidi




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