The Jews who had been ordered to assemble by the Cemetery in Kiev on the morning of the 29th September 1941 were marched out of town. With a mixture of deception and threats the Einsatzgruppen were able to marshal over 30,000 men, women and children to the killing grounds in the ravine of Babi Yar just outside the city. The death squads were now experienced in the business of mass murder and had perfected a process that dealt with large numbers of people remarkably quickly.
No matter how organised the process was, it was by no means a quick death for many of the victims, as the evidence from some of the very few survivors makes clear. Dina Pronicheva was one of those who survived to give evidence in one of the post war tribunals:
It was dark already…They lined us up on a ledge which was so small that we couldn’t get much of a footing on it. They began shooting us. I shut my eyes, clenched my fists, tensed all my muscles and took a plunge down before the bullets hit me. It seemed I was flying forever. But I landed safely on the bodies.
After a while, when the shooting stopped, I heard the Germans climbing into the ravine. They started finishing off all those who were not dead yet, those who were moaning, hiccuping, tossing, writhing in agony. They ran their flashlights over the bodies and finished off all who moved.
I was lying so still without stirring, terrified of giving myself away. I felt I was done for. I decided to keep quiet. They started covering the corpses over with earth. They must have put quite a lot over me because I felt I was beginning to suffocate. But I was afraid to move. I was gasping for breath. I knew I would suffocate. Then I decided it was better to be shot than buried alive.
I stirred but I didn’t know that it was quite dark already. Using my left arm I managed to move a little way up. Then I took a deep breath, summoned up my waning strength and crawled out from under the cover of earth. It was dark. But all the same it was dangerous to crawl because of the searching beams of flashlight and they continued shooting at those who moaned. They might hit me. So I had to be careful.
I was lucky enough to crawl up one of the high walls of the ravine, and straining every nerve and muscle, got out of it.
For other testimonies see the Holocaust Research Project.