80 years on: The true faces of the Babyn Yar Murders are being revealed

Бабин Яр

    Between 29-30 September, 1941, the Nazis murdered 33,771 Jewish Ukrainians in the Babyn Yar Ravine on the outskirts of Kyiv.

–       Perpetrators have never been convicted – despite extensive testimonies gathered after the War, now revealed by the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center.

–       Having already uncovered new information about the victims and the Massacre, the Memorial Center has begun compiling evidence and testimonies shedding light on the perpetrators of the crimes, being released to mark the 80th anniversary of Babyn Yar.

–       The first 159 names of Nazi Soldiers who murdered Jews in Babyn Yar released by BYHMC

Kyiv, Ukraine, 6 October, 2021 – Against the background of the official commemorations marking the 80th anniversary of the Babyn Yar Massacre, with the participation of the Presidents of the Ukraine, Germany, and Israel, the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center has released the first installment of its ongoing research into those who carried out the murder of Ukrainian Jews on September 29 and 30, 1941.

 While the commanding officers of the Nazi units who carried out the massacre was a matter of historical record, the new information uncovered by the BYHMC, details the biographies and testimonies of commanders and rank and file soldiers who murdered Jewish men, women, and children, young and old, in the Babyn Yar forest.

Despite confessions, evidence and testimonies being submitted as late as the 1960s by some of the Nazi soldiers who carried out the murders, only a few of those involved ever faced justice for their heinous crimes.

 In all, more than 33,771 Jewish victims were shot at the Babyn Yar ravine by the Nazis during just two days, 29 and 30 September 1941. Tens of thousands of Ukrainians, Roma, mentally ill and others were shot thereafter at Babyn Yar throughout the Nazi occupation of Kyiv. The estimated number of victims murdered at Babyn Yar is around 100,000, making it Europe’s largest mass grave.

An academic task group of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center set up to identify the personnel that participated in the shooting of Jews in the Babyn Yar, estimate that hundreds of German soldiers, policemen and SS-personnel were complicit in the Babyn Yar massacre. To mark the 80th anniversary of the massacre, the Center has today released the findings of their research into the first 159 Nazis who participated in the massacre, from over the whole Germany and other countries under Nazi control, and they were between 20 and 60 years old. They were educated and uneducated, they included engineers and teachers, drivers and sales people. Some were married and some were not. The vast majority of them returned to live a normal life after the war. They testified at trial and were found not guilty, except for very few commanders, not the soldiers who carried out the horrific massacre.

Father Patrick Desbois, Head of the BYHMC Academic Council stressed that of the initial 159 names revealed, “Some were shooters, others extracted the Jews from their homes, others took their belongings and their luggage. Others armed the weapons while others were serving sandwiches, tea and Vodkas to the shooters. All of them are guilty. In a mass crime anyone who was involved in any way, directly or indirectly, must be consider guilty”.

Fr. Desbois explained the German murder protocol: a shooting shift lasted from morning until five in the evening, in which thousands upon thousands were shot, and from there the soldiers were taken to parties where they were served alcohol and women. He noted that one of the killers described in his testimony revealed in the study, how the unit was taken after the massacre to a spa town, to “recover” before returning to the front.

Desbois added that BYHMC research is a signal for today: “if you are taking any part in genocide or mass crime today against humanity, you will be held accountable”. 

“Few of these men were bothered by justice after WWII,” explained Andrej Umansky, Deputy Head of the BYHMC Academic Council. “From the SS, only Paul Blobel, Kuno Callsen, August Häfner, Adolf Janssen and Christian Schulte were sentenced of jail time for Babyn Yar. Engelbert Kreuzner was the only police men sentenced for his participation. No other SS member, policeman or Wehrmacht soldier was ever sentenced for his role in Babi Yar, although many admitted in post war depositions their involvement. All these men lived a calm and normal life after the war.”

Here are samples of the evidence BYHMC uncovered today, 80 years after the Babyn Yar massacre.

 GRAFHORST, Bernhard Born in 1913. He studied at a folk and administrative school and worked as a municipal employee. He joined the NSDAP and the SS from in 1933 and served in the SS “Adolf Hitler”, later joined SS cadet school and after graduation 1938 he was assigned to the 3rd SS standard “Thuringia” of the SS “Dead Head” formation for the position of commander and later (1938) promoted to SS Untersturmführer. In 1941, with the rank of SS Obersturmführer, he headed the 3rd company of the 1st battalion of the 14th SS Infantry Regiment. At the end of July 1941, with its own company, was attached to the operational group C. Separate platoons of the company were distributed among the teams of the group and took part in “Jewish actions” as part of them. The first such action carried out by the company was the execution of 402 Jews in Zhytomyr on August 7, 1941.

On September 29-30, 1941, the company participated in the extermination of the Kyiv Jews, forming one of the firing squads from its composition.

Former SS Obersturmführer August Hefner of the SD 4a Sonderkommando, who, on Blobel’s orders, controlled the executions for both days, at a court hearing in Darmstadt on November 7, 1967, described the participation of SS troops in the execution:

 “The SS troops had a section of approximately 30 meters in length. Grafhorst told me that the Jews should lie down close to each other. About 4-6 Jews lay down next to each other. So, they lay down until the entire bottom was filled. Then the same thing started again. Others had to lie on the already dead Jews. Within two days, 6-7 layers could have formed. At first, the SS troops carried out the execution with two firing squads. The whole action was called “a shot in the back of the head” action. In fact, it is not the case. The way the soldiers of the SS troops were shot did not fall under the “shot in the back of the head”. I watched all this for some time and staggered up the plateau. What else could I do if Grafhorst was there? …The next morning it was the same again. I had to go again. 12-15 people came from the SS troops. Only one firing squad fired from them. There was the same shift in the middle of the day. Grafhorst was gone in the middle of the day. I heard that he went to Berlin that day to try to recall his company”.

 Former SS reservist in Sonderkommando 4a, Heinrich Heyer, after the war, during interrogation recalled that at the end of September 1941, “a whole company of young SS soldiers” arrived at the team:

 “I believe that at this time there was a mass execution of the Jews in Kyiv. Otherwise, these people would not be needed. That these SS soldiers were assigned to shoot the Jews, I know from the fact that at night they raved and shouted something like “Nakolino or Nagolino!” [“On your knees!”] What this expression meant, I cannot say. I have not witnessed the delirium of these people; comrades told me about it. This SS company was here for a maximum of 8 days and then departed from Kyiv, where, I cannot say”.

Viktor Trill was born on November 22, 1905, in the Czech Republic. He was an electrician and later became a commercial truck driver. In 1939, his hometown was occupied by the Wehrmacht. Soon afterwards he was invited for an interview with the Gestapo and started working for them. In 1941, at the start of the Barbarossa campaign, he was assigned to Sonderkommando 4a (Sk 4a), commanded by Paul Blobel, which was a subunit of Einsatzgruppe C that operated in Ukraine. After arriving in Kyiv he was instructed to participate on the second day of Babyn Yar and was ordered to shoot dozens of Jews in the bottom of the ravine and was given a rest for a time before continuing this grisly work. Viktor Trill was among those tried for participation in the Babyn Yar mass shooting and other atrocities at Darmstadt in 1967-1968, but he was acquitted as in his case no “base motive” could be proven for his participation in the killings.

The testimony of Victor Trill:

…”When we moved into Kyiv, at that time I was part of the main Kommando, I had to take part in the big shooting of Jews. We were three drivers who drove to Kiew. Next morning, very early, us members of the Kommando were loaded into a truck and driven to an area outside Kiew. The drive may have lasted half an hour. At the point where we stopped, I noticed massive piles of clothing. After we got out, first we were issued with alcohol. It was grog or rum. I then saw a gigantic ditch [Graben, henceforth = ravine] that looked like a dried out river bed. In it were lying several layers of corpses. The execution began first by a few members of our Kommando going down into the ravine. At the same time about 20 Jews were brought along from a connecting path. Other Security Police members sat next to the ravine and were engaged in filling the machine pistol magazines with munition. The Jews had to lay down on the corpses and were then shot in the back of the neck. More Jews were continually brought to be shot. The shooters came out of the ravine and then another group of Security Police men, including myself had to go down. I myself then had to work as a shooter for about 10 minutes and in this time I personally shot about 30-50 Jews. I recall that men and women of various ages were shot. Whether children were among them, I don’t recall now. It is possible that mothers were among them carrying their children in their arms. Most of the Jews were naked. I think that the shooting on this day went on until about 3:00 PM, then we were driven back to our quarters and received lunch. During the shooting on this day I had to act as a shooter five or six times, each time for ten minutes. It is possible that on this day I shot between around 150 and 250 Jews. The whole shooting went off without incident. The Jews were resigned to their fate like lambs.

Edgar Lind was born on November 25, 1915, in southwestern Ukraine near Odessa. He was an ethnic German. Edgar worked as a teacher. In April 1941, Edgar Lind was called up to the Red Army. He was captured by the Germans at the start of July 1941 and after about two weeks, a member of the German Security Service (SD) came to interrogate him. As Edgar could speak perfect German, he was recruited to join the SD. Initially he wore civilian clothes, but soon he received the same uniform as the SD-men, but without any rank emblems. He then served with Sonderkommando 4a, advancing to Kyiv and then Kharkiv, working as a Russian translator. At Babyn Yar his tasks involved instructing the Jewish victims (in Russian) to take off their outer clothes and proceed to the pits. From where he was standing, he could hear shots but could not see the place of the mass shooting (see statement extract below).

Statement of Edgar Lind on January 20, 1964:

“I know that in Kyiv a very large shooting operation took place in which many thousands of Jews (women and children) were shot. All of the Jews were herded to an area outside the city, where they had to hand over their luggage and valuables at a specific point and in my view also their outer clothing at the same time. I stood at this place and saw how the luggage and clothing was piled up in heaps. In addition, I had to tell them to take off their outer clothing and then go on to the ravine. I could hear shooting but could not see into the ravine.”

Georg Leuchtmann was born on September 30, 1915. In 1939, he joined the police. At the start of the Russian campaign, his unit, now known as Police Battalion 303, advanced into Ukraine and he arrived to Kyiv. At Babyn Yar, Leuchtmann was assigned to cordon duty along the route leading to the shooting site. He was instructed to prevent any Jews from turning back or escaping. Initially he thought the Jews were being resettled, but after a time he could hear shots. On questioning during his statement on October 13, 1966, Leuchtmann added:

“Shortly before I was relieved, I walked in the direction of the shooting site. I came within about 80 meters of it and stood on the edge of the ravine. In the ravine I saw a mass of people. I don’t know who was shooting. The dead were lying in rows next to each other. I think I recall that they were still clothed…” 

About the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center

The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre is a non-governmental charity whose purpose is to preserve and cultivate the memory of the Holocaust and the Babyn Yar tragedy in Ukraine, by turning the Babyn Yar area into a place of remembrance. In September 2020, Ukraine’s government, under the auspices of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, signed a memorandum of understanding and cooperation with BYHMC. The Memorial Center is currently being built in order to immortalize the stories of the 2.5 million Jews of Eastern Europe, including 1.5 million in Ukraine alone, murdered and buried in mass graves near their homes during the Holocaust.

 The Center’s mission is to honour the memory of the victims of the tragedy, and to contribute to the humanization of society through preserving and studying the history of the Holocaust. Over the past year, several memorials have been erected at the site of the Holocaust-era massacre as part of the establishment of an innovative and expansive museum complex across the whole of the Babyn Yar area. The Center is being guided by public figures and leaders from around the world, chiefly Natan Sharansky, the chairman of the board of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center.

  159 varified names:Gustav Abeska, 28, born in Giebau.
Horst Adrian, 31, born in Gotha.
Oswald Altendorf, 33, born in Stettin.
Otto Augusten, 35, born in Ratschedorf.
Gustav Atzpodien, 34, born in Fischhausen.
Wilhelm Baier, 37, born in Triebschitz.
Franz Barth, 34, born in Paredl.
Bernhard Bartnik, 29.
Julius Bauer, 31, born in Nürnberg.
Franz Behmel, 28, born in Wilsdorf.
Peter Behrens, 39, born in Wilster. Werner Bellmann, 25, born in Dresden.
Alois Beranek, 28, born in Luditz.
Hermann Berentsen, 27.
Martin Besser, 49, born in Voigtsdorf.
Georg Biedermann, 35, born in Berlin.
Paul Blobel, 47, born in Potsdam.
Ernst Borde, 37, born in Schüttenitz.
Artur Boss, 33, born in Petersthal.
Walter Bostelmann, 28, born in Hamburg.
Walter Bötel, 33, born in Kellinghusen.
Johann Breun, 30, born in Galgenhof.
Wilhelm Brunner, 37, born in Schönwald.
Erich Burdeska, 27, born in Rotthausen.
Kuno Callsen, 29, born in Wilster.
Ernst Consée, 37, born in Munich.
Hugo Czastka, 39, Auern.
Herbert Degenhardt, 32, born in Tabarz.
Hans Diwock, 37, born in Bilin.
Hermann Dunker, 28, born in Hamburg.
Kurt Eberhard, 67, born in Rottweil.
Rudolf Eisel, 34, born in Düderode.
Johann Ernst, 31, born in Minden.
Karl Eschler, 38, born in Tetschen.
Wilhelm Fahrenkrog, 35, born in Wasbug.
Wilhelm Fischedick, 28, born in Rhade.
Fritz Forberg, born in 36, Brand-Erbisdorf.
Heinrich Funck, 33, born in Bremen.
Max Galle, 28, born in Haida.
Edmund Gärtner, 39, born in Gablonz.
Erich Goslar, 26.
Bernhard Grafhorst, 28, born in Nordwalde.
Walter Grossmann, 28, born in Reichenberg.
Egon Grübl, 28, born in Flöhau.
Franz Halle, 33, born in Dessau.
Heinrich Hannibal, 51, born in Söllingen.
Kurt Hans, 30, born in Barmen.
August Häfner, 29, born in Mellingen (CH).
Georg Hahn, 45, born in Berlin.
Erich Hartmann, 30, born in Schafbrücke.
Otto Hauptmann, 29, born in Welns-Schloss.
Erich Heidborn, 32, born in Berlin.
Erich Heitmann, 32, born in Hamburg.
Heinz Hellenbroich, 35, born in Düsseldorf.
Karl Hennicke, 31, born in Erfurt.
Willi Herrmann, 30, born in Landsberg.
Kurt Hickfang, 33, born in Heygendorf.
Rupert Hirsch, 38, born in Unterreichenau.
Walter Hofmann, 36, born in Frankfurt am Main.
Wilhelm Holy, 36, born in Brüx.
Georg Hosbach, 20, born in Hamburg.
Fritz Höfer, 30, born in Schöneberg.
Heinrich Huhn, 37, born in Hannover.
Anton Hübner, 33, born in Reichenberg.
Hans Hüttl, 36, born in Königsberg.
Adolf Janssen, 25, born in Höhr-Grenzhausen.
Adolf Jehle, 50, born in Gaggenau.
Friedrich Jeckeln, 46, born in Hornberg.
Edgar Jentschke, 27, born in Neu-Ullersdorf.
Wilhelm Kaiser, 34.
Albert Kemeter, 30, born in Regensburg.
Richard Kerl, 35, born in Schoningen.
Josef Klimt, born in 28, Drus.
Kurt Knigge, 43, born in Braunschweig.
Johann Koller, 30, Wachenzell.
Alois Köldorfer, 36, Wien.
Herbert Krämer, 31, Berlin.
Engelbert Kreuzer, 26, Würzburg.
Hans-Walter Krieger, 31, Berlin.
Hinrich Krohn, 29, Pinneberg.
Peter Kröger, 29, Riga.
Walter Krumme, 34, Minden.
Hermann Lass, 32, Wismar.
Anton Lauer, 38, born in Neunkirchen.
Ernst Lehnhardt, 37, born in Aussig.
Georg Leuchtmann, 25, born in Toschendorf.
Martin Lieber, 36, born in Grunau.
Eduard Lifka, 27, born in Schaar.
Edgar Lind, 25, born in Katharinenthal (RU).
Herbert Loos, 38, born in Dresden.
Otto Loos, 28, born in Katharinaberg.
Franz Lorenz, 29, born in Parschnitz.
Johannes Lüschen, 29, born in Wardenburg.
Herbert Mai, 31, born in Görlitz.
Wilhelm Mast, 37, born in Hannover.
Franz Marx, 29, born in Karlsdorf.
Rudolf Massl, 28, born in Puschwitz.
Paul Matysik, 35, born in Bochum.
Ludwig Maurer, 27, born in Nürnberg.
Otto Meyer, 27, born in Harburg.
Hermann Möllmann, 27, born in Altschermbeck.
Alfred Müller, 43.
Heinrich Müller, 30, born in Philipsdorf.
Josef Nitsch, 32, born in Brüx.
Emil Nosswitz, 36, born in Gablonz.
Felix Obermeier, 30, born in Wurmannsquick.
Hans von Obstfelder, 55, born in Steinbach-Hallenberg.
Ewald Patrovsky, 28, born in Swojetin.
Anton Paul, 40, born in Eulau.
Heinrich Peukert, 28, born in Bremerhaven.
Georg Pfarrkircher, 39 born in Augsburg.
Walter Ploch, 31, born in Berlin.
Franz Pokorny, 34, born in Kaunowa.
Albin Powa, 28, born in Luschitz.
Lienhard Puchta, 30, born in Harburg.
Friedrich Puschmann, 31, born in Althabendorf.
Wilhelm Püschl, 33, born in Brüx.
Alfred von Puttkammer, 59, born in Jagow.
Waldemar von Radetzky, 31, born in Moscow (RU).
Otto Rasch, 49, born in Friedrichsruh.
Walter von Reichenau, 56, born in Karlsruhe.
Friedrich Riedel, 31, born in Hannover.
Otto Riedel, 27, born in Gotschdorf.
Alexander Riesle, 33, born in Hannover.
Franz Roscher, 28, born in Schmiedeberg.
Rene Rosenbauer, 52, born in Nürnberg.
Rudolf Rouvel, 31, born in Berlin.
Josef Rödig, 28, born in Stiedra.
Otto Schachtschneider, 27, born in Hamburg.
Kurt Schädel, 32, born in Glauchow.
Friedrich Schön, 32, born in Petlarnbrand.
Johannes Scheibmayr, 26, born in Karlsruhe.
Robert Schindler, 27, born in Kunzendorf.
Heribert Schlag, 37, born in Klotzsche.
Otto Schlüter, 31, born in Hamburg.
Josef Schmidt, 34, born in Buchau.
Otto Schmidt, 52, born in Birklar.
Heinrich Schneider, 37, born in Bergesgrün.
Rudolf Schöler, 33, born in Chemnitz.
Wenzel Schöttner, 41, born in Altsattel.
Adolf Schubert, 28, born in Herbitz.
Christian Schulte, 29, born in Kiel.
Gustav Senze, 36, born in Reichnberg.
Max Steinhäuser, 52, born in Gehren.
Ernst Steinke, 27, born in Neumünster.
Josef Suchanek, 32, born in Witkowitz.
Franz Trautzl, 37, born in Dux.
Viktor Trill, 36, born in Brünn.
August Ullrich, 46, born in Kiel.
Franz Unseld, 27, born in Laupheim.
Heinz Vogel, 20, born in Siegmar-Stelzendorf.
Franz Waller, 36, born in Bischofteinitz.
Ferdinand Walsch, 39, born in Stangendorf.
Karl Wander, 40.
Kurt Werner, 28, born in Hildesheim.
Arnold Wiechert, 24.
Victor Woithon, 31, born in Berlin.
Paul Wörzberger, 33, born in Benshausen.
Hans Zentgraf, 30, born in Berlin.
Friedrich Zickwolff, 48, born in Bayreuth.
Richard Zinke, 37, born in Dux.

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