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Babi Yar

by Anatoly Kuznetsov

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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4411144,877 (4.2)17
Babi Yar is a ravine outside the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and a site of massacres carried out by German forces and by local Ukrainian collaborators during their campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II. The first and best documented of the massacres took place 29–30 September 1941, killing 33,771 Jews. This book records the author's experience under the Nazis in the Ukraine. Anatoli was 12 years old in 1941 when the Germans occupied Kiev. Beginning with seventy thousand Jews, they proceeded to murder hundreds of thousands of the city's population in the ravine of Babi Yar, and deported thousands more to Germany for slave labor. Anatoli survived two incredible years of slaughter, terror, and starvation. As the Soivet Army approached from the East, the Nazis began their frantic and methodical attempt to erase the evidence of their crimes at Babi Yar. Anatoli first published the book Babi Yar about these atrocities in the Soviet Union in 1966, however the book was censored by the Soviets so the sense of the book was distorted and many original passages deleted. Anatoli escaped to the West in 1969, smuggling out of Russia films of his uncensored manuscripts. This book is uncensored version of Babi Yar. It shows far more than anti-German sentiments, the oppression and persecution he so movingly documents is as much Soviet as Nazi. -- Publisher description… (more)
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» See also 17 mentions

English (9)  Danish (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (11)
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
I first read Babi Yar as a teenager, maybe for school? I always hate to say that I "enjoyed" a book about something as horrific as the Holocaust, but I did enjoy reading the book back then. I recently got a box of books about the Holocaust & have been slowly going through them, separating the ones I wanted to read or reread from the rest. I decided to reread Babi Yar. It's a very honest & blunt look at the horror of the event. I don't remember it being so slow-going when I read it the first time, but as an adult I did notice the pace seemed slow. This is not a bad thing, however, as I think the pace gives you more time to digest & think about what is going on. It is of course one of those classic Holocaust books that every amateur historian needs to read at least once. ( )
  anastaciaknits | Oct 29, 2016 |
Babi Yar is a ravine near the city of Kiev where the Nazis massacred thousands of Jews during World War II, primarily shooting them as they stood naked on the edge of the ravine. The author was a 12 year old boy living in Kiev, and this book describes his experiences surviving under the Nazi occupation of Kiev. As he narrates, he frequently reminds the reader that everything he is saying is true.

The author did not directly witness the atrocities at Babi Yar, although he and other residents of Kiev heard the constant sound of gunfire, day after day. He does, however, include what he says are close to verbatim accounts by some of those who narrowly escaped death at Babi Yar. The author himself, although not a Jew, frequently had to dodge deportation to Germany to work in the factories, and daily faced starvation.

I had long heard of this book, and expected a lot more from it than I got, perhaps because there have been so many more personal accounts of surviving the Holocaust that were published after Babi Yar. Babi Yar was important at the time it was published, because it was one of the first, if not the first, open admission by the Soviets that these events occurred. This book, along with Yevtushenko's moving poem opened the dialogue in the Soviet Union, and the world on the massacre. ( )
  arubabookwoman | Mar 15, 2016 |
This book is brilliant -- by far a top-tier Holocaust book and World War II book in general. The author was a boy of twelve when the Nazi occupation of Kiev began, and began recording his experiences then; these jottings were part of the basis for this book, which is both a memoir and a documentary nonfiction.

Although the story centers around the September 1941 mass murder of some 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar, a ravine outside Kiev, that's not all this story is. Kuznetsov's writing encompasses far more than that, and you really get a feel of what life must be like in a war-ravaged city. His description of the destruction of the Kreshchatik (the oldest and most beautiful section of Kiev) made me think of how New York City must have been like after 9-11 -- except the Kreshchatik bombings were a lot worse. In his list of "the number of times I should have been shot," Kuznetsov shows that all the inhabitants of Kiev (not just the Jews or soldiers or political activists or partisans, but EVERYONE) had to risk their lives every day, and how many lost their lives simply by being there. He includes printings of actual primary source documents such as memos, reports, handbills etc., from this time period as well as his own writings.

Most intriguingly: Babi Yar was initially published in Russia during the 1960s. I'm surprised it was published at all, as it was very critical of the Soviet regime. In any case the Soviet censors redacted large parts of it. When Kuznetsov defected to England, he took the original manuscript with him on microfilm, and added parts to it before publishing it in full in the West. The original Soviet text is in regular type, the parts the Soviet censors cut out are in boldface, and the parts Kuznetsov added after his arrival in England are in brackets. It's interesting to see what was taken out and what was allowed -- they made some surprising choices.

I really cannot recommend this book highly enough, for Holocaust scholars and World War II scholars alike. ( )
1 vote meggyweg | Feb 17, 2010 |
Babi Yar was included on so many Top 100 lists that I was intrigued, and I can't say I was disappointed in the book, but it wasn't the gripping expose I'd expected. The free-flowing structure makes for an easy read, with anecdotal vignettes loosely fitted together, like pages of an autobiography scattered about in a war-torn field (and not necessarily put back together in the "proper" order.) It is an idealistic anti-fascist testimony that documents the massacre of Ukrainian Jews and so many others--some arbitrary bystanders--the Nazis found to be "undesirable." Its compelling account of the sheer circumstances of how some live and many do not survive a war is captivating, and I believe I will remember this book for quite some time. I've spent countless hours examining the horrid images on the U.S. Holocaust Museum website, and Babi Yar gives voice to the helplessness and fatalism that must have been pervasive for all of those tragic victims of the war. ( )
1 vote sross008 | Dec 22, 2009 |
This is a frighteningly detailed account of the Nazi massacre of Jews in the ravine of Babi Yar at Kiev during World War II. It leaves nothing to the imagination. ( )
  PeterClack | Nov 22, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 9 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Anatoly Kuznetsovprimary authorall editionscalculated
Nowak, IrinaTranslatormain authorsome editionsconfirmed
Floyd, DavidTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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This book contains nothing but the truth.
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That there is in this world neither brains, nor goodness, nor good sense, but only brute force. Bloodshed. Starvation. Death. That there was not the slightest hope not even a glimmer of hope, of justice being done. It would never happen. No one would ever do it. The world was just one big Babi Yar. And there two great forces had come up against each other and were striking against each other like hammer and anvil, and the wretched people were in between, with no way out; each individual wanted only to live and not be maltreated, to have something to eat, and yet they howled and screamed and in their fear they were grabbing at each other's throats, while I, little blob of watery jelly, was sitting in the midst of this dark world. Why? What for? Who had done it all? There was nothing, after all, to hope for! Winter. Night.
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Babi Yar is a ravine outside the Ukrainian capital of Kiev and a site of massacres carried out by German forces and by local Ukrainian collaborators during their campaign against the Soviet Union in World War II. The first and best documented of the massacres took place 29–30 September 1941, killing 33,771 Jews. This book records the author's experience under the Nazis in the Ukraine. Anatoli was 12 years old in 1941 when the Germans occupied Kiev. Beginning with seventy thousand Jews, they proceeded to murder hundreds of thousands of the city's population in the ravine of Babi Yar, and deported thousands more to Germany for slave labor. Anatoli survived two incredible years of slaughter, terror, and starvation. As the Soivet Army approached from the East, the Nazis began their frantic and methodical attempt to erase the evidence of their crimes at Babi Yar. Anatoli first published the book Babi Yar about these atrocities in the Soviet Union in 1966, however the book was censored by the Soviets so the sense of the book was distorted and many original passages deleted. Anatoli escaped to the West in 1969, smuggling out of Russia films of his uncensored manuscripts. This book is uncensored version of Babi Yar. It shows far more than anti-German sentiments, the oppression and persecution he so movingly documents is as much Soviet as Nazi. -- Publisher description

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