June 22, 1941, Kyiv on fire: the occupation сhronicles

Author : Inna Mazura

Source : 112 Ukraine

How Ukrainian capital suffered and survived during the war. Babyn Yar, starvation and shootings of people - the true story of Kyiv occupation.
16:26, 22 June 2016

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The defense of Kyiv in 1941 is known as a large-scale battle between the Red Army and the Wehrmacht during World War II. Long before these sad events, the residents of Kyiv have realized that the city would be occupied. But most of people have stayed in Kyiv and prepared for a quick fight.

After German troops occupied the territory of Smolensk, Hitler decided to attack Kyiv, to conquer all the Ukrainian lands. He wanted to occupy Ukraine because of its rich coal deposits. Hitler believed that it would provide German troops with warmth and food, so that they could continue to fight against the Soviet Union.

The defense of Kyiv in 1941 has become a very difficult period for the Red Army and the citizens. Despite the unequal forces, the soldiers stood to the last breath in order to stop the German troops. Most of the units of the Red Army have lost contact with the higher command, as well as with neighboring units. Many of them were surrounded and could not escape from it. Most of the soldiers died or fell into captivity.

The first battles demonstrated a noticeable lack of weapons and ammunition. More than 200,000 residents of Kyiv went to fight on the front voluntarily.
The main Hitler's objective was occupation of the territory of Donbas and Crimea. First, these developed agricultural and industrial areas provided the army and the rear with resources. Secondly, taking Ukrainian lands would ensure the smooth advance of the German army to Moscow.

July 11, German troops tried to break into Kyiv, but steady defense and counterattacks of the Red Army did not let to occupy the city instantly. Then the enemy decided to bypass Kyiv on both sides, and fighting resumed on July 30.

August 7th Airborne Brigade held a counterattack. This helped to stabilize the situation, but only for a short time. The Soviet command decided to form new divisions, and this has help to avoid a catastrophic situation.

By August 10, the enemy managed to break through to the south-western suburb, but here they suffered a setback: the heroic resistance of 37th Army forced the German troops to stop again. July-September 1941 was a very difficult period because the enemy continued to attack and destroy the Red Army.

Red Army troops persistently and courageously resisted, but Hitler decided to turn south his troops, which headed to the Moscow area. Some German troops broke through to Dnipro from the south. However, in late August, the enemy troops crossed the river (north of Kyiv) and in the area Chernihiv they joined with their units, which attacked from the north.

Despite the fact that there was a threat of being trapped, Stalin decided to continue the defense of the capital.

September 9, German troops entered Kyiv and surrounded it. Despite the fact that the soldiers were almost broken, they still made some desperate attempts to break through.
Defense of Kyiv in 1941 was a surprise for the German troops. Fighting in the city foiled Hitler's blitzkrieg and the immediate capture of the capital. Also it prevented Nazi’s advance towards the capital, which helped Soviet troops to prepare for defending Moscow. The defeat of the Red Army led to the fact that the road to eastern Ukraine, Donbas, and Azov Sea was opened to the German troops.

Historian Anatoly Tchaikovsky assures that the losses of Kyiv, especially the armed forces, would be much lower if the decision to retreat troops was made in time. According to him, the commanders wanted to show the strength of the army, which did not leave the important area. "This political decision caused the defeat of the Soviet army in Kyiv," sums up the expert.

According to Dmytro Malakov, an eyewitness of the events of September 19, 1941, Kyiv was left to its fate. People were left without electricity, water, and food.

"With the beginning of the war, 200 thousand Kyivers went to the front, 325,000 were evacuated. 400 thousand inhabitants remained in the city without fuel or grain. Water supply was switched off, as well as electricity," says Dmytro Malakov. All it was accompanied by violent punitive measures of the Nazi authorities against ordinary people. During five days they registered the residents. So they got an opportunity to identify communists and NKVD employees, who later were shot dead.

Ukrainian intelligentsia and patriots have assumed all the obligations to protect citizens and fight against the occupational regime. The dual power was established: German Commissariat and civilian authorities, established with the support of the urban intelligentsia. Thus were created unofficial orphanages where children without parents got a chance to survive. In 1942, the invaders began to organize mass roundups. Of 400,000 residents who remained in Kyiv, about 100 thousand people were tortured in Babyn Yar.

The shops were working only for the Germans; local population survived only because of the marketplaces.

People did not have money and just exchanged some other goods for food. But this natural exchange was unequal.

As for the light, people in Kyiv initially used kerosene lamps, kerosene, but when they have run out of the kerosene, they were forced to go to bed just after the sunset. From 6 pm to 5 am the curfew has been in force. Those who dared to disobey were shot without talking.

During the occupation, there was a big problem with the transport; only a tram was working. All the buses were taken for the army, and trolleybuses did not operate without electricity. The vast majority of people walked on foot, even for the long distances. In general, the residents tried not to show up in the streets without necessity; they were afraid of the raids.

Despite all this, the life continued. Opera, theatre, Ukrainian Choir, Bandurist choir, musical comedy, variety shows, Puppet Theater, Conservatory, two choreographic and musical schools operated in Kyiv. The zoo and botanical garden were also opened for the visitors. In 1943, there were two art shows, which exhibited the works of 216 artists. Germans were almost the only buyers.

Related: The Holocaust is Ukrainian issue

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