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September 29, 1978 - Image 20

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1978-09-29

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

20 Friday, September 29, 1918

Babbi Yar

BORENSTEIN'S

TALEISM

Machzorim .. .

(Copyright 1978, JTA, Inc.)

After 37 years, there is
still no mention at Babi Yar
marking the infamous
ravine outside of Kiev as the
site of Nazi Germany's mas-
sacre of 100,000 Soviet
Jews.
Though the Soviet
authorities have erected a
memorial after years of pub-
lic debate both within and
outside the USSR, the 50-
foot-high monument con-
sists of 11 bronzed figures
including a- Communist
guerilla fighter, a Red
Army soldier and a sailor
shielding an old woman. In-
scribed on a plaque are the.
words, "Here in 1941-1943
the German Fascist Invad-
ers executed over 100,000
citizens of Kiev and pris-
oners of war."
There is no mention of the
Jews and as a Jew I am out-
raged.
Their deaths have been
ignored by the Kremlin,
which continues to deny
that Jews were the particu-
lar prey of a totalitarian re-
gime. An all too familiar
scenario in Soviet-Jewish
history.

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At Babi Yar a newly erected memorial makes no
mention of the Jews massacred by a 150-man SS ex-
termination team. The plaque on the new monument
reads, "Here in 1941-1943 the German facist invaders
executed over 100,000 citizens of Kiev and prisoners of
war."

An eyewitness later re-
ported the grim finale of the
procession of Jews march-
ing out of Kiev to the desol-
ate ravine in the Rumbull
forest.
"They were ordered to de-
posit on the ground in a neat
pile all the belongings they
had brought with them and
then, in tight columns of
100 each, were marched to
the-ravine . . . One could see
well, how at the ravine's
edge the columns were
stopped, how ,everyone was
stripped naked, their
clothes piled in orderly
bundles. Then they were
put in a row at the ends of
the ravine and shot in the
neck; children were thrown
alive into the ravine." The
machine guns stopped only
long enough for soldiers to
shovel sand over each layer
of the dead and dying.
Thereafter, the - site was
routinely used as an exter-
mination point of Jews and
other Soviet nationalities.
By 1943 it is estimated that
more than 100,000 Jews
died at the hands of the
Nazis.

At the end of the '40s
during Stalin's bloody
purge against the Soviet
Jews and their culture,
when the best represen-
tatives of Soviet Jewry
were imprisoned and kil-
led; when the word Jew
disappeared from the
everyday vocabulary of
the Soviet people, and the
concept of the Jewish
people too was doomed to
disappear, Babi Yar wa's
turned into a city dump
for refuge and sewage.

In 1951 it was decided to
raze everything to the
ground and establish a
sports - complex with a
stadium and a swimming
pool. Perhaps it was only a
gruesome coincidence that
10 years earlier, after the
dead had scarcely been hid-
den by a-thin layer of earth,
the SS too wished to play
football on the bones of the
Jews.
For more than three de-
cades, all efforts to build a
memorial to the Jewish vic-
tims have hinged on the

Kremlin's unwillingness to
acknowledge their death
On March 13,. 1961, the
ravine took revenge upon
those that ignored its tragic
hold.
The soil, loosened by a
spring flood; came down
upon the lower part of the
city. The desecrated re-
mains of the Jews, which
had been hastily burned by
retreating Nazis, the ashes,
charred bones and skulls,
suddenly came to the sur-
face and froze on the im-
mobile sand and clay river.

That same year Soviet
poet Yevgeny Yev-
tushenko immortalized
the symbol of Jewish
martyrdom in his poem
"Babi Yar," while com-
poser Shostakovich used
Babi Yar as a theme for
his 13th Symphoriy. Both
were rebuked by the
Kremlin, but the interna-
tional cause celebre
could not be stopped by
the government.

In ensuing years Soviet
Jews attempting to com-
memorate the anniversary
date have been jailed by
local police. Today, the site
according ' to Soviet
ideologists is as-much a
symbol of "bourgeois Jewish
nationalism," as it is for us a
symbol of Jewish martyr-
dom. The erection of the
stone edifice which the gov-
ernment had hoped would
end all controversy is as
much a symbol of anti-
Semitism as the ravine it-
self.
There is still no peace at
Babi Yar.
After 37 years the dead
remain unnamed and
rather than answering Yev-
tushenko's plea for
memorialization, today's
monument underscores the
fact that the Soviet go-v-
ernment continues to oblit-
erate any source of Jewish
identity, to make the Jews
cultural amnesiacs. As Yev-
tushenko wrote, "Here all
things scream silently and
baring my head slowly I feel
myself turning gray. And I
myself am one massive
soundless scream above the
100,000 buried here."

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