Babi Yar by A. Anatoli (Kuznetsov)
If you were only ever going to read one WWII book told by civilians living in occupied territory, this is the book to read. It’s a war story, a survivor story, a story of genocide, horror, hardship and devastation.
Babi Yar is a true story. A. Anatoli (Kuznetsov) was 12 years old when Germany invaded Kiev in 1941. He documented everything he saw, heard, and endured during the 2 years of German occupation. A few years later, as an adult back under Soviet rule, he wrote the book and had it published. But it wasn’t until 1969 when he escaped Russia with his original manuscript that he had the full uncensored story published in the United States.
Babi Yar was a ravine on the outskirts of Kiev. The Germans turned it into a grave site for hundreds of thousands of people of Jewish descent, gypsies, and any civilian that rubbed them the wrong way; innocent people, the elderly and the ill, and the women and children. A concentration camp; a death camp; a massive grave. Anatoli never entered the barbed wire gates of the death camp but listened to daily gunshots, smelled the rancid odor of burning flesh, and even talked to the guards on at least one occasion. Every day of those 2 years of German occupation was a challenge of survival for Anatoli. Weakened to the point of near starvation, he somehow summoned the energy and courage to search for food for himself and his mother, while avoiding the clutches of the German soldiers. And all the while he kept a journal documenting stories of those who avoided Babi Yar and several survivors who escaped from inside Babi Yar. Anatoli had the mature foresight to put his experiences in writing and the moral commitment to make sure the world learned the truth.
This is an incredible book. The reader can envision war’s horrible consequences from the eyes of many different people. And if you ever wondered how people could have just stood by and watched the holocaust happen, this book brings to light how it all happened.
It is a tragedy that there is no memorial for those who perished in Babi Yar. The Soviet communist party did not think it was worthy of any special recognition. “In fact, with the spread of government-inspired anti-Semitism between 1948 and 1953 the question of erecting a monument was dropped.” For decades after the war ended the Soviet government declared there were no concentration camps in the USSR. The Germans had called Babi Yar a “building site.” Today the sight is covered with houses and a huge television centre (studio). No evidence of the crimes committed remains. “The ashes were blown away and the bones buried deep under the earth.” This book serves as the memorial.
Rated 5 Stars.
All contents © 2014 Lois Weisberg. All rights reserved.