Babi Yar

This pleasant-looking scene is unfortunately one of the most infamous sites of European history: Babi Yar, where Kiev’s Jewish population was massacred on 29/30 September 1941. The green lawn is where the ravine (yar = ravine) was later filled in, first of all by the Germans. The site is now quite a manicured piece of parkland, which makes me uneasy.  It looks like the place is out in the countryside somewhere, but actually it’s just a bit of parkland between one one block of housing and the next.

It feels like they’re trying to stamp on the famous Evtushenko poem: ‘There are no monuments above Babi Yar./ The steep cliff like a crude gravestone…Above Babi Yar the rustling of wild grasses/The trees look on sternly like judges. Everything shrieks here silently….’  That dates from 1961 of course.

Here’s the official (Soviet-era) memorial:

and an inscription in Russian:

which says:

Here in 1941-43 more than one hundred thousand citizens of Kiev and prisoners of war were shot by the Fascist German invaders.

This is an inscription in Yiddish, with pieces of stone (or glass) left to memorialise the dead:

I can make the last word into Kriegsgefangene (prisoners of war).  Interesting that while the official monument makes no mention of the Jews, there is an inscription in Yiddish.  Especially since the official–indeed any–use of Yiddish had been eliminated by this stage.

Finally, here’s an inscription from a small Jewish memorial:

It starts off with a quotation from Ezekiel (in the Valley of the Bones):

And I will put my breath in you, and you will live.

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