Martin C. Dean

Dec 11, 2023

Investigating Babyn Yar

Shadows from the Valley of Death

Lexington Books 2023

purchase at bookshop.org

Investigating Babyn Yar: Shadows from the Valley of Death (Lexington Books, 2023) pieces together the story of the destruction of Kyiv's Jews using history's shattered fragments. Martin Dean traces their journey out of the city, using discarded clothing and distinctive terrain as a trail of breadcrumbs to identify the killing site in the ravine. Shadowy figures in photographs and escape stories from the mass grave reveal the suffering of many that is documented by the survival of just a few. Using aerial photographs, ground photographs, and extensive eye-witness testimony, the author locates specific incidents in the topography to explain what happened on September 29-30, 1941. 

Interwoven into the main narrative, this book examines the massacre's broader context. Respective chapters describe efforts by Jews to flee the city, the escalation of Nazi mass shootings, and the plunder of Jewish property. During its occupation of Kyiv, the Gestapo established a network of prison camps and deployed a special unit to exhume and burn the corpses at Babyn Yar, covering up the crime before their hasty retreat. Postwar, the ravine was scarred by a terrible mudslide in 1961. Then Soviet redevelopment and memorial plans sought to erase both the topography and the Jewish identity of this symbolic site of Holocaust memory.

Martin C. Dean is historical consultant based in Washington DC, who works for the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center, the University of Cologne, and other organizations as researcher and lecturer.

Caleb Zakarin is the Assistant Editor of the New Books Network.

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