“..All around ..submerged sounds ..groaning ..choking ..sobbing of ..people not dead yet.” Dina Mironova Pronicheva.
All passages used here are from Babi Yar – A Jewish Catastrophe and they formed part of those presentations to Students, Tutors, Educator’s and School Groups who shared an interest in the work I was doing. As each book has been Published I have written a draft presentation for those I will then speak to as to why I write. Contrary to what many see, as the need to write, mine is of that effort which is affixed to a more important element in my work, Remembering those I care to write about.
“..If ..statistic of atrocity at Babi-Yar is as true as it is accurate ..and Dina Mironova Pronicheva was ..only survivor ..fact that ..statistic at
Babi-Yar was not 33,772 must be considered.” Patrick Dempsey.
Back in 2005, when Babi Yar came out, I did what I had done previously and written what it was I wished to state to all those who were prepared to listen. That drafting was so constantly tweaked, as I wished there to be differences for each and every presentation, delivering words which were constantly overlapping of course, but finding subtlety’s to deliver individual presentations to each and every audience. I started writing on The Holocaust some 5 or 6 years previously and could so easily have written Babi Yar prior to this. But I could not forgoe the need to ensure what those Survivor’s I had been talking to were lamenting, us allowing for them to be forgotten.
“..soldiers came ..firing bullets ..into any which appeared to be still living.” Dina Mironova Pronicheva.
The tragic fact, and it is a truth direct from those Survivor’s who supplied me with the essential title to my first Book, that it was indeed the grave loss of those whose Memory was crucial to our search that required securing and a continued emphasis. That guarantee to secure their memory, while their own memory was continually fading, rang all too true every time I was informed that a Survivor had passed on. So I was in a constant race against time, a rush for that comprehension of the bestial atrocity that still eluded us, and as we were still coming to terms with its detail.
“..I use ..word hate very advisedly ..to counter ..feeling of horror that wrenches at my own understanding of ..lost meaning of humanity. Truly
..when I read passages as Dina Mironova Pronicheva describes ..can I know that humanity was lost.” Patrick Dempsey.
Therefore, I could not arrive at the gates of Babi Yar without acknowledging the immensity of loss that the 6,000,000 Murdered Jews of Europe presents to us all. These many Jewish People, who are The Holocaust, are now being contained in a term being continuously diluted of them and for whom must never become lost within the vagaries of that fading memory. This Book then would provide me with a need to express, for the terror of an atrocity contained within the horror of an atrocity, a passage which fully secured for posterity a glimpse of what 33,771 Murdered Jewish losses presents.
“..after ..massacre of ..Jews ..Germans combed apartments ..houses. If they found children of ..Jewish mother they killed them.” Dina Mironova Pronicheva.
Nor could I realise, that I would not reach the outskirts of this particular atrocity, which is Babi Yar, without expanding on the vile force, der Einsatzgruppe, that would become established to ensure 1,250,000 Jews of Europe would be Murdered, and amongst these, the 33,771 Jews of Kiev. Here then in Babi Yar, these Jew of Kieve would be Murdered in that x2 day orgy of destruction, September 29th. till September 30th. 1941. It became essential then to ensure, that as much first hand evidence as could be found would deliver a more rounded and truthful detail as my search demanded. Dina Pronicheva formed an immense part of that demand.
“..Dina Mironova Pronicheva is reputed to be amongst ..only Survivors of ..two day atrocity to meet ..Jews of Kiev in Babi-Yar. And while we look to ..example and expression of such heroics that she exemplifies ..we are also witness to ..cowardly action against ..Jews of Kiev that was enacted.” Patrick Dempsey.
I mention here Dina Pronicheva quite deliberately for it was her testimony which gave her the evidence as having survived, and this is a reminder of that draft I had written some 14 years ago which is lost in a Computer which blew up and a back up LapTop which I had not the sense to back that up also. I have rewritten many drafts of those presentations and still never conclude what is in essence the missing piece from the overall requirement. Forever missing will be the 6,000,000 Jewish souls whose vibrant and essential being has been torn from our own humanity.
“..scraping ..sand off ..scarcely daring to breathe ..used what strength ..left. ..got ..out from under ..earth.” Dina Mironova Pronicheva.
Sometimes, I do feel I tarnish the memory I wish to preserve by the mere mention of those whose perptration has delivered the very need to describe the atrocity. But such is the name of Paul Blobel, an SS Standartenfuhrer who was Kommander of Sk4a which delivered the full spectrum of this atrocity to us. But his name cannot be removed from identifying with what remains after he sought to destroy the very existence of these Jewish People. Here at Babi Yar, what still stands as the single most, individually encountered atrocity conceived against the Jews in The Holocaust, is to tarnish our History in perpetuity.
“..Blobel does not stand tall alongside ..likes of People like Dina Mironova Pronicheva ..or next to ..33,771 Jews of Kiev ..most of whom are as yet unnamed.” Patrick Dempsey.
When we look to excesses completed in Auschwitz/Birkenau, Belzec, Chelmno, Majdanek, Sobibor or Treblinka and when based upon the Murders of 16,885 Jewish Men, Women and Their Children on any one given day, we find no comparison with Babi Yar. It was never my intention to seek comparison’s, though within the period allocated to The Holocaust many such comparison’s are indeed consistent, the Jewish People were Murdered here at Babi Yar in the most unpallatable, unique, unprecedented and unparalledled atrocity ever accomplished in all of our History. But I leave you with the words of such majesty, the sheer essence of Jewish Resistance, from a Daughter who was unable to leave the side of her Mother until it almost added her, Dina Mironova Pronicheva, to the Catastrophe that is Baby Yar.
“..I could not leave my mother alone. I embraced her ..burst into tears but was unable to leave her.” Dina Mironova Pronicheva.
The Full Transcript of her evidential Testimony is presented here.
My name is Dina. Dina Mironovna Vasserman. I grew up in a poor Jewish family. I was brought up under the Soviet regime in the spirit of internationalism. Thus, it is not surprising that I fell in love with a Russian guy, Nikolai Pronichev, married him and lived with him in love and happiness. That is how I became Dina Mikhailovna Pronicheva. My passport said I was Russian. We had two children: a boy and a girl. Before the war I worked as an actress at the Kiev Children’s Theater. On the second day of the way my husband joined the Soviet Army, and I was left with two children and my old sick mother.
Hitler’s troops seized Kiev on September 19, 1941, and from the very first day they started plundering and killing Jews. Terrible stories about the treatment of Jews were circulating in the city. We lived in terror. When I saw announcements posted in the streets, ordering “all the Jews of the city of Kiev to gather at Babi Yar” (a place we had no idea about), I felt trouble was coming. I started shivering. I say that nothing good was awaiting us there. That is why I dressed my children, three and five years old, packed their stuff in a small bag and took them to my Russian mother-in-law. Then, following the order, my sick mother and I went along the road to Babi Yar.
“..Jews were walking in hundreds and thousands. Besides me there was an old Jew with a long white beard. He had on a tallis ..and teffilin. He was mumbling. He prayed exactly as my father did when I was a child. A woman was walking ahead of me. She was carrying two children and a third one was walking alongside ..holding her skirt. Sick women and elderly were riding in carts among piled up bags and suitcases. Small children were crying. Old people ..having trouble walking ..sighed and trudged on in their mournful journey. Russian husbands were walking with their Jewish wives. Russian wives were walking with their Jewish husbands. When we approached Babi Yar I heard shooting and inhuman shouting. I started to grasp what was going on but did not say anything to my mother. When we entered through ..gates we were ordered to turn in our papers and valuables and undress. A German came over to my mother and tore a gold ring off her finger.
Only then mother said ..Dinochka ..you are Pronicheva ..you are Russian. You should survive. Rush to your children. You should live for them. But I could not flee. We were surrounded by fascists with submachine guns ..Ukrainian policemen ..and ferocious dogs who were ready to tear a human being to pieces. And then ..I could not leave my mother alone. I embraced her ..burst into tears but was unable to leave her.
Mother pushed me away and yelled ..Hurry! I went to a table at which a fat officer was seated ..showed him my passport and said quietly ..I am Russian. He was contemplating my passport when a policeman came over and barked ..Don’t believe her.. she’s a Kike. We know her. ..German told me to step aside and wait. I saw groups of men ..women ..children ..elderly undress. They were taken to an open pit and shot by soldiers.
Then another group would come. I saw this horror with my own eyes. Even though I was not standing close to ..pit ..I could hear awful shrieks of terrified people ..weak voices of children ..crying ..Mother ..mother. I saw all that and was unable to understand how people could kill others because they are Jewish. And I concluded that ..fascists were not humans ..they were beasts. I saw a young completely naked woman feed her naked baby with ..breast when a policeman came to her ..took ..baby ..and thrust it into ..pit. ..mother rushed after ..child. A fascist shot her dead ..she fell into ..pit. Had someone told me this ..I would not believe it. It is impossible to believe. ..German who had ordered me to wait took me to his superior ..gave him my passport and said ..This woman says she is Russian ..but a policeman says she is Jewish. ..officer studied my passport for a while and then said ..Dina is not a Russian name.
You are Jewish. Take her! ..A policeman told me to undress and pushed me to ..edge of ..pit where another group was waiting for its fate. ..It was getting dark. ..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 ..bullets hit me. ..before ..shooting started ..I driven by terror ..fell into ..pit. It seemed I was flying forever. But I landed safely on ..bodies. fell on dead bodies. At first ..I could not understand anything ..where was I ..How did I get there ..I thought I had gone mad. But when people started falling on me ..I came to my senses and understood everything. I started checking my arms ..legs ..abdomen ..head. It turned out I was not even wounded. I pretended to be dead.
Under me and above me there lay ..killed and wounded. Some of them breathed ..others moaned. Suddenly ..I heard a child cry ..Mommy! It seemed like it was my little daughter. I burst into tears. ..execution went on ..and people kept falling. I was pushing corpses away in fear of being buried alive. But I did this in a way so that ..policemen would not notice. All of a sudden everything was quiet. After I a while ..when ..shooting stopped ..I heard ..Germans with submachine guns were ..climbing into ..ravine ..killing those who had been wounded. 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 ..bodies and finished off all who moved. I was lying so still without stirring ..terrified of giving myself away.
I felt someone was standing above me ..pretended to be dead, no matter how hard it was. I felt I was done for. I decided to keep quiet. They started covering ..corpses over with earth. I closed my eyes to protect them. 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 it became completely dark and quite deadly quiet in literal sense I opened my eyes and, having made sure no one was around and watching me. ..Using my left arm I managed to move a little way up. I dug myself out of sand that was covering me. Then I took a deep breath ..summoned up my waning strength and crawled out from under ..cover of earth. It was dark.
But all ..same it was dangerous to crawl because of ..searching beams of flashlight and they continued shooting at those who moaned. They might hit me. So I had to be careful. ..I saw the ditch filling with thousands of killed. I got scared. Here and there earth was moving ..half alive people were breathing ..I looked at myself and got scared. ..undershirt that was covering my body was all bloody. I tried to get up and could not. ..I said to myself..Dina ..get up ..leave ..run from here ..our children are waiting for you. Suddenly ..I felt something was stirring behind me. First I got scared and decided to wait for a while. I turned quietly and asked ..Who are you. A delicate ..scared child’s voice answered ..Don’t be afraid. It’s me.
My first name is Fina. My last name is Shneiderman. I am 11 years old. Take me with you. I am very afraid of ..dark. I moved closer to ..boy ..embraced him and started crying. ..boy said ..Don’t cry. We both started to move quietly. We reached ..edge of ..pit ..got some rest and continued climbing ..helping each other. We had already reached ..top of ..pit ..stood up to run away when ..suddenly ..I head a shot and understood that they noticed me. a shot was fired. We fell on ..ground instinctively and waited.. For some time we were quiet ..being afraid to speak. Having calmed down ..I moved closer to Fimochka ..touched him and asked in a whisper ..How are you doing ..Fimochka. There was no answer.
In ..dark I could feel his legs and arms. He did not stir. No signs of life. I got up a bit and looked in his face. He was lying with his eyes closed. I tried to open them but understood that ..boy was dead. Probably ..shot we heard had taken his life. I caressed his cold face ..said good bye to him. Without getting up ..I started moving toward ..high hill that surrounded ..pit. ..I was lucky enough to crawl up one of ..high walls of ..ravine ..and straining every nerve and muscle ..got out of it. I got up ..on my feet ..and ran. All was quiet. Having made sure that I was far from ..terrible place called Babi Yar .”
I decided to approach a house that could just about be seen in the dark. Shivering, I came to a window and knocked. In a few minutes a sleepy woman lifted up a curtain and asked:
“..Who is it? What do you want?”
I answered her:
“..I escaped from Babi Yar”
And then I heard her angry voice:
“..Go away. I don’t have anything to do with you.”
I left. I ran, because the day was breaking and I knew that they should not see me there. But there was no place to go, so I approached a second house and knocked. The door opened, and an elderly woman appeared on the porch. When she saw me in the undershirt she crossed herself and recoiled.
“..Who are you? Where have you come from?” she asked.
“..Don’t be afraid ..dear. I am not a devil. I’m human.”
And then I lied for the first time in my life.
“..I’m Ukrainian. I saw my friend to Babi Yar and barely escaped.”
The old lady took my hand and let me in. Then she told me to wash myself, gave me a clean shirt, a blouse, a skirt, and old shoes. I looked at myself and got a shock: a real Ukrainian! My hostess gave me a glass of hot milk with home made bread and told me to get some rest. I ate with gust, went over the old lady, embraced her, kissed her, and burst into tears. My saviour also cried. But having wiped her tears with an apron, she said,
“..Daughter ..I know who you really are. But we are all alike for God. We have one God. Because I have helped you ..my two sons will come back from ..war alive. But my place is not safe for you. Police hounds search here every day. They are looking for Jews. These beasts pay money for Jews. Now ..go get some sleep. I’ll give you some provisions and try to get to our people. May God help you.”
I felt relieved because there were good people on earth who were ready to help others. The old lady made my bed and left. I slept for a while but could not sleep long. The images of the previous day were passing in from of my eyes. I believed I heard shots, shouting, and children crying somewhere. Who knows where my children are? Did my mother-in-law manage to save them? I did not have time to think. I was aware that the old lady could suffer because of me. And I decided to go. I looked in a mirror and was terrified to see my hair grey.
“..This is from last night” I thought.
I put some soot on the face to seem older, wrapped my head in a kerchief, as was done by old Ukrainian women, and said goodbye to my dear hostess and set out for the Daritsa. My friend Natalia, with whom I had played in the theatre, lived there. At first glance Natasha did not recognise me. When she did , she got scared. She told me take off my clothes and get some rest. But I felt something unnatural in her attitude toward me. There was some alienation. Once we had eaten, she said to me:
“..Dina ..I should tell you ..truth. You can’t stay here for a long time. My husband Andrei deserted from ..Red Army. He hates ..Soviet power and ..Jews who invented it. I’m afraid he’ll inform on you. You’d better leave.”
And I left.