Babyn Yar is a ravine in the northwest section of Kyiv. During the German occupation of Kyiv, from 1941 to 1943, some 150 000 people were murdered there by the German authorities. Most of those killed at Babyn Yar were Jews. Victims also included Soviet POWs, partisans, Ukrainian nationalists, and gypsies. Soon after the occupation of Kyiv, the area was turned into a killing ground. On September 29-30, 1941 over 30 000 Jews were killed at Babyn Yar.

Before retreating from Kyiv, the Germans tried to cover up the evidence of their crimes at Babyn Yar; they dug up the mass graves there and burned the corpses. After the end of the war, Babyn Yar took on political significance. As official Soviet anti-Semitism increased, Soviet propaganda purposely avoided mentioning that Jews were executed at Babyn Yar, speaking only of the murder of Soviet citizens.