It is not only from the pages of Vechirnii Kyiv [The Evening Kyiv] that I have
discovered that there exists in New York, USA the newspaper Novoye Russkoye Slovo [New
Russian Word] which frequently pours filth over Ukrainians, accusing them of being the
greatest haters of Jews. As evidence it cites the unsubstantiated collaboration of
Ukrainians with the Nazis in the killing of Jews during World War II, especially at
Babyn Yar. Allegedly 300 thousand Jews were shot there. I would like to recount a few
facts about the events of those times, of which I happened to be an involuntary
witness. Perhaps these facts will help Jewish emigrants from Ukraine, most
particularly former Kyivans, O. Burakovsky and V. Korotych to recognize the truth and
to renounce the unsubstantiated implication of Ukrainians in imaginary crimes.
To begin, before the war there simply were not that many Jews in Kyiv. Yes, Kyiv is a large
city . Having been made the capital of Ukraine in 1934, Kyiv expanded
rapidly. As the number of institutions and industries grew, so did the population. By
1959 the city's population reached 1 million 104 thousand, and by 1965 1 million 332
thousand. (These statistics are taken from the Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia). But
before the war, the population of Kyiv was considerably smaller. Unfortunately, I
can't cite exact figures because the results of the 1939 census were not published, nor
are they to be found in the Ukrainian Soviet Encyclopedia. I estimate that it was
800,000 to 900,000. The percentage of Jews was significant — approximately 15-20 per
cent — so that in Kyiv there couldn't have been more than 160-180 thousand Jews.
The Germans entered an evacuated Kyiv on September 19, 1941 — that is, 3 months (89 days) after the outbreak of the War. What went on in Kyiv during
those three months? Besides the mobilization and the preparation of the city to resist
the Germans, the city was being evacuated, a fact typically overlooked by people like
Burakovsky and Korotych. This evacuation clarifies a number of issues. The evacuation
was conducted by means of specially-assigned vouchers. These vouchers were given out
at work to managers, engineering and technical personnel, skilled workers, and office
workers — not only for themselves but also for their families. These people, then, were
evacuated together with the factories and institutions themselves. Jews and their
families were evacuated to the East together with all the others. Moreover, Jews were
given preference in receiving evacuation vouchers because rumors were circulating
throughout the city that the Germans were exterminating Jews. The Jews, therefore,
made every effort to procure these privileged vouchers.
In addition to the official evacuation there was also an unofficial one. People
with money were able to buy the evacuation vouchers without having been selected
officially, and so could move East at their own expense. As a matter of fact, being
selected for evacuation produced the side effect of deferring one's mobilization. In
any case, by the 19th of September, Kyiv contained few Jews. This was the conclusion
of the Kyivans who were left behind. This was my conclusion as well, because at
Factory No. 300 where I worked, not a single Jew remained — they had all fled. The
chief engineer of the factory Y. M. Liubarsky, of Jewish nationality, ordered me to
oversee meticulously the removal of the electrical equipment — and what could not be
removed, to destroy. He left Kyiv early in order to be on hand to receive somewhere in
Zelenodolsk the equipment as it arrived and to supervise the resettlement of the
workers who had been evacuated from Kyiv.
I was in possession of an exemption which freed me from mobilization during the
period of evacuation of the electrical equipment of factory No. 300, and had an
embarkation ticket covering myself and my family, and was in fact preparing to evacuate
upon the completion of my assignment. Unfortunately, the troop train in which I was
supposed to depart on September 15 never left the station — the rail line to the East
had been cut by the Germans.
And so I couldn't go anywhere and ended up in Hitlerite-occupied Kyiv. Remnants
of the Jewish population, it turned out, also remained in Kyiv. Soon afterwards, the
Germans posted on the streets of Kyiv announcements, written in German, Russian, and
Ukrainian. I don't recall the exact wording, but the gist is conveyed in the words
quoted by I. Erenberg in his novel The Storm: "Jews of Kyiv and vicinity. On Monday,
September 29, at seven a.m. you are to appear with belongings, documents, and warm
clothing on Dorohozhytsk street, beside the Jewish cemetery. The penalty for failing
to appear — death."
Presumably the Germans were aware of the evacuation and therefore knew that few Jews
remained in the city, and for this reason the German military command planned to deal
with the Jews within a single day. And so on the 29th of September began the
heart-rending movement of Jews to Dorohozhytsk street.
But the Germans had miscalculated, for the arrival of Jews lasted not one day,
but three whole days. For three days the Jews streamed towards the assembly point.
They were, for the most part, old people, with sidelocks, wearing yarmulkes [skullcaps]
and long coats [of the sort worn by Jews in Central and Eastern Europe]. They walked
spread apart, singly, and also in small groups, carrying their meager belongings or
pushing them in baby carriages. No one patrolled them. No one hurried them on. No
one accompanied them. They walked down the streets towards the assembly point
specified in the announcements. The other Kyivans who had remained in the city looked
at them and sadly shook their heads. Some of them spoke contemptuously of the young,
healthy Jews who had been evacuated, taking with them all valuable property, and
leaving behind these old, infirm parents, grandfathers and grandmothers to take care of
their empty apartments. Finding themselves in such difficult circumstances (in the
city there was neither electricity, nor bread, nor water), these old people, not seeing
any other way out of their predicament (and, perhaps no other way existed) obediently
walked towards the assembly point, and to whatever fate had in store for them there....
Among them happened to be also some younger families. These were people who had
found themselves unable to evacuate. They were few in number.
How many gathered at the assembly point, I don't know, but during these three days the number was not great, considering that it was primarily the old
and the infirm who, on their own, had gathered to walk into the unknown.
I suppose that the Germans were unable to collect much gold and valuables from
them, and were not prepared to take care of these old people. Probably the Germans
didn't take them anywhere, but killed them on the spot, as described by I. Erenberg who
gathered his information shortly after the events.
Did the "Ukrainian police" help the Germans execute Jews, as Korotych assures us?
No! He can read to the contrary in I. Erenburg's novel The Storm, and I would like to
add that at that time there were no "Ukrainian Police" in Kyiv. Members of the future
"Ukrainian Police" were at that time still soldiers in the Red Army who were breaking
through toward the East before they were captured and imprisoned behind barbed wire.
Moreover, the Germans didn't need help, but rather used their own special
commandos, which on the order of the Commandant's office and with the help of the
military police of Kyiv, in order "not to feed the parasites," were shooting people
near Babyn Yar. There were no mass graves, as such, in that Yar [ravine]. After the
liberation of Kyiv from the German occupation it was said that the bodies of the shot
victims in the ditches were thinly covered with earth by means of explosions. And
these special German commandos, for whom the execution of old Jews was just one
episode, later carried out round-ups, kidnaped hostages, hunted down all whom they
regarded as dangerous, delivered them to the Gestapo, tortured them, then shot them at
Among those shot were members of the underground and partisans who fell into German
hands, hostages swept up in the streets of Kyiv in retaliation for setting fire to the
Duma building on Duma Square (today Independence Square) and for explosions and fires
on Khreshchatyk Street.
At Babyn Yar were shot sailors of the Dnipro fleet and other prisoners of war. There,
evidently, they killed Ukrainian nationalists on the editorial staff of the
newspaper "Ukrains'ke Slovo" [Ukrainian Word], as well as its editor-in-chief, Ivan Rohach.
There they also shot [the Ukrainian poetess] Olena Teliha. Some believe that she is
buried under one of the pillars of the Syrets television tower. Such was the tragedy
of Babyn Yar: tens, or even hundreds, of thousands of people were shot there, mostly
Ukrainians. The percentage of Jews shot at Babyn Yar, in comparison with the victims
of other nationalities, is highly insignificant.
This conclusion is supported also by the fact that after the liberation of Kyiv
from the German occupiers, the Jewish evacuees began to return, at first singly, and
later in an avalanche. And in such an avalanche that it forced the first secretary of
the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine, head of the Radnarkom of
Ukraine, N. Khrushchev to issue an order temporarily halting the return to Kyiv of the
evacuees who had not been explicitly recalled, because in a city devastated and burned
down by war there was no place to house them, and those who had stayed behind offered
for the time being enough hands to rebuild the city.
But the appearance in Kyiv of [the Jew] L. Kaganovich as the first secretary of
the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Ukraine replacing N. Khrushchev,
accelerated the return of the evacuated Jews, even those without any explicit recall
So now the Jews with whom Kyivans had lived and worked before the War returned
safely to Kyiv. The percentage of the population that was Jewish not only reached the
pre-war level, but also increased as a result of Ukrainian losses under the German
occupation to all kinds of shootings, famine, and deportation to Germany for slave
P.S. During recent years in Kyiv, the percentage of the population that is Jewish has decreased on account of the emigration of Jews to the West, especially to the US and Israel. Therefore Burakovsky and Korotych have ample opportunity to find out directly from those who came to America from Kyiv, by asking them by what miracle it was that their parents with their families managed to avoid the fate of being herded to Babyn Yar, and there allegedly being shot by the "Ukrainian police"?