In September 1941, Nazis murdered almost 34,000 Jews at the Babi Yar ravine near Kiev, Ukraine.
It was the biggest single act of mass murder of its time and one of the most infamous war crimes of the Second World War.
Now, as the presidents of Germany, Ukraine and Israel meet in Kiev for a ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the massacre, a team of researchers is ready to identify the 2,000 men responsible for what has been described as a "holocaust of bullets”.
An initial release of 159 names – along with photos and biographical details – is set to be released this week.
The aim, say investigators at the Babi Yar Holocaust Memorial Centre, is not to bring the killers to justice. For one thing, they say, most if not all of the men involved would be over 100 years old – assuming they were still alive at all.
The order for the killings was given by Generalmajor Kurt Eberhard, the Police Commander for Army Group South, SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, and the Einsatzgruppe C Commander Otto Rasch.
Sonderkommando 4a and the 45th Battalion of the German Order Police conducted the shootings while elements of the 303rd Battalion of the German Order Police guarded the outer perimeter of the execution site
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Patrick Desbois, one of the centre’s war crimes investigators, says all of the Germans and their allies involved are complicit. "Some were shooters, others extracted the Jews from their homes, others took their belongings, or served sandwiches and tea to the shooters,” he said.
“All of them are guilty".
M. Desbois, whose own grandfather was deported to a Nazi prison camp, adds that some of the troops involved in the massacre had complained about the catering arrangements: "There was a complaint from the shooters that there was not enough vodka in the tea,” he told The Telegraph.
“And the chief said, ‘No, not a lot of vodka, because today it's a long [period] of shooting.’ And the shooters were very upset about that”.
He added that his detailed research into the massacre had taken 20 years.
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