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Yakov Kaper

Babi Yar - His life in Kiev under the Nazi Occupation

Yakov Kaper

His Account of Life in Kiev

48 Melnikova - Syrets Camp – Babi Yar

Selected Extracts from the Thorny Road

 

...Continued from part

 

Part 4 – Babi Yar Ravine

Kikes of the city of Kiev and vicinity! On Monday, September 29, you are to appear by 08:00 a.m. with your possessions, money, documents, valuables, and warm clothing at Dorogozhitskaya Street, next to the Jewish cemetery. Failure to appear is punishable by death.

Order posted in Kiev in Russian and Ukrainian, on or around September 26, 1941

Before we were sent to Babi Yar we noticed that opposite the exit from the Syrets camp a high fence had appeared. We did not understand what it was covering. As soon as we approached the camp gates we were ordered to take our footwear off. We thought it was our last stop. Here policemen and the Germans were not like those in the camp, they were even worse monsters with awful bandit eyes, but it was all the same for us, we didn’t bother them.

At last the command was given and we went out. We were escorted by two soldiers with automatic guns on both sides even though we did not have far to go. Along the road we found ourselves near an earthen rampart and in the distance I noticed a house or a hut. At the entrance there was a skull with crossbones, but it was not a drawing like on electrical boxes but a real human skull and bones.

It became clear that there was no way back from here. We were led further and we found ourselves in a ravine and inside there was smooth ground. I didn’t understand how they came there in cars but it was evident that this was a road and that some gaswagens had been there.

We were ordered to sit down on the ground, we heard a lot of noise and cries over the precipice. We did not know what was going on, at last a young officer, who I think was one of the bigger bosses appeared. He was yelling louder than anybody else and ordered groups of people in fives to come forward.

So, one of those German bandits went, took five of us and we were led behind the fence that was made of twigs and sticks. We didn’t know what was going on behind that fence. The one thing that calmed us down a little was that no shootings were heard there, which meant that they would not shoot us immediately. If they killed us in a gaswagen, they would have killed us all at the same time.

Soon the same fascist came again and took five more people: I was sitting and did not know what to think. I must say, I didn’t think about much at all since there was, seemingly no options other than death, so whatever would be would be.

At last my turn came, I was led away. As soon as I found myself behind the camouflaged rampart I saw the panorama that I would remember till the last day of my life. The corpses were accurately laid out – later I learned that the furnaces had been prepared to burn the corpses. I cried out, “That’s enough I don’t want to live any longer, shoot me now.”

At that moment the biggest boss, a German ran up to me, later I learned that his name was Topaide, he struck me so hard in the face that he rattled my lower jaw. I could neither cry nor talk. One of the Germans pulled me towards another one who was sitting on a small stool. There were chains and a rail lying there, he put the clamps on my ankles then the chain. He inserted rivets and hammered then on the rail.

I started guessing where we had ended up and what we would be doing, he ordered me to sit there where other chained prisoners were already sitting. My mouth bled and I couldn’t feel my teeth nor move my tongue. I tried to fix my jaw with my hands.

Jews who did not arrive on 29 September at the designated place, as ordered, and were shot

We all were sitting and waiting until all of us were chained and then dinner was announced. All those working stopped their work and came to the place where we were sitting. When all of them were lined up, Topaide ordered the guards to check the chains on the prisoner’s ankles. They were checked three times a day.

Everybody in the line was checked and then we were ordered to get food. There stood thermoses with soup, each prisoner came up and got a slice of bread and a scoop of soup. I couldn’t eat anything. Philip Vilkes came up to me and I gave him my portion. He exclaimed that this is the end and there was no hope anymore.

When dinner was over each went to his work. The newcomers were also assigned to work: I together with ten other prisoners joined the team that was called the outgoing team, though there was no going out there. There where we had seen the camouflaged fence was also a ravine, but it was almost on the road, when the war began people dug an anti-tank trench and in it were the corpses of military men and commanders mainly.

On one side, a furnace was being erected, first they brought stones taken from the Jewish cemetery, the tombstones bore the dates of those buried in the cemetery. Long railway rails were put on those stones, then iron fences also removed from the cemetery and then some logs with a little room in between to let air through when they started burning.

Topaide headed the work of those making the furnaces, he ran from one place to another without a minute’s rest: he quickly gave orders and went on running. The main work was in Babi Yar but he also ran over to us in the anti-tank trench. When everything was ready we were ordered to pull the corpses out and put them on the furnaces. For this special tools were prepared, there was a handle in the form a ring and a rod 50-60 centimetres long with a hook sharpened end.

 

Read more here: http://www.holocaustresearchproject.org/survivor/kaperbabiyar.html

 

The Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team

www.HolocaustResearchProject.org

 

Copyright Carmelo Lisciotto H.E.A.R.T 2010

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