The Syretsky camp was a sub-camp of KZ Sachsenhausen
. It was situated at the
north-western edge of Kiev
, in the place called Syrets,
today a suburb of the city. It was the location of the former summer camps of the
garrison, by the slope of the Babiy Yar ravine.
The Syretsky concentration camp was created in spring of 1942
. It served to
intern POWs, partisans, and Jews who had survived the mass actions of
September - October 1941
. Before the camp was established, there was a concentration camp
on Kerosinnaja Street (now Sholudenko Street)
Until June 1942
inmates lived in the open air. The camp was guarded by
Ukrainian policemen and German SS men. The commandant was SS-Sturmbannführer
Paul von Radomski
More than 3,000 inmates were interned in the camp at any given time.
, a private in the 23rd SS police battalion, testified:
|View through the Fence
"... the whole Syretsky concentration camp was surrounded by a high
barbed wire fence, through which ran wires carrying high-voltage electrical
current. Inside this big, so-called labour zone there was a small living
zone. Prisoners in the camp lived in dug-outs and wooden barracks...
Guards were stationed around the camp. At night they patrolled
around the camp zone, which was almost entirely illuminated by electic light.
There were two guard posts near the living zone.
Former inmate David Budnik
and his assistant Reder created a barbaric regime designed to
destroy people in every possible way. The operation was supervised by the interpreter
Rein, a Volksdeutscher
who always walked around with his dog; Kommandant Anton,
who was Czech by nationality, and the so-called Sotniks and brigadiers.
Former inmate Yakov Kaper
"Near the entrance to the camp they built a Wachstube. At the camp corners
there were high watchtowers, manned by policemen with machine-guns.
Inside the camp there was a fenced-in women's camp, then a road, then our
dug-outs in two rows, also fenced in. The first dug-out on the right side,
near the entrance to zone no. 2, was for the Jews. Gallows were specially installed
near our dug-out... On the very day that we arrived, one man
who tried to escape was hanged on these gallows. There followed a long row of
dug-outs, which also had names – “Soviet”, “Partisan”, “Communist”. On the left
- in dug-outs with odd numbers starting with 1 - were the most significant authorities;
- Anton, Rostislav, Boyarsky and several other
Sotniks. Then came the brigade-leaders' dug-out, followed by others...
The last dug-out was sanitary, for the sick.
According to former inmates, at first there were 16 dug-outs, later 32.
In the summer of 1942
shipyard workers were arrested and brought to the Syretsky
camp. One of them, S. Soya
, survived and testified about their treatment:
"I lived in that camp for 15 months... there were 8 of us... none of the others
survived apart from a joiner, I don't remember his surname, because he escaped.
On the third day after our arrival from the Gestapo, one man from our company of water-transport workers
died because of a severe beating he had suffered at their hands, and two other men died for the same reason
after a week. The rest died in the camp from hunger... In the concentration camp we were used for hard
labour, but they fed us very poorly, so that the daily mortality was 10 -15 people.
“… They beat us, tortured us, ordered us to lie down, then to stand up, then to squat. We were
robbed of our clothes and shoes, if they were considered worth taking and left with only our underwear ...
Yellow stars were not worn here because all the Jews were known and identified. We later learned that in
every Jew's identity card there was a permanent notation. There was only one road out here for us... to
… Almost every day new prisoners arrived. They were examined, lined up and transferred over to
Anton and his assistants. Their clothes, if considered nice
enough, were exchanged for food and drinks. Then, the half-naked prisoners were drilled and beaten,
as we had been given on our first day.
Those who had no profession suffered most because tortures were
considered worst at the general works. For example, if trees needed to be cut down, one of the prisoners had to climb
the tree and fasten himself to the trunk. Then the tree was cut down. If the prisoner was still breathing
after the fall, they beat him to death. Many people died every day and were replaced by
new prisoners who soon met a similar fate.
During roll-call, the camp overseer conveyed to the authorities anything that needed to be reported.
The smallest error was punished by a beating. The prisoner would get as many blows or lashes as he could stand.
would often come to the camp in his
car with his enormous German shepherd Rex
by his side. Behind them sat the interpreter, a Volksdeutscher named
Rein. Word of his arrival would travel across the
camp very quickly. Everybody trembled. The policemen stood at attention, hoping he would not find
fault with anything. The first to report to him was the Rottenführer on duty, then
Anton. They escorted him around the camp,
Radomsky in the lead with his dog. Sometimes this tour lasted until dinner.
But if he had not liked how we sang or how we marched to dinner, he would make us march and sing instead of
Usually, we sang ‘Oh, you, Galya’, or ‘Nightingale, nightingale, you birdie’ or some other song like that.
After that, the entire camp was lined up in sections and they would start to investigate what had happened
during the day or night before and who was to blame. Then they would hand out punishments according
to the seriousness of the incident.
A special table was placed in the centre of the grounds for whipping people. The prisoner who was to
be punished was ordered to take off his trousers and to lie face down on the table. His neck and feet
were then fixed to boards so that he could not move. The strongest men were chosen from the ranks
and ordered to administer as many blows as were prescribed. They would beat the other prisoner so hard
that his flesh flew around. Those who did not hit hard enough were then themselves tied to the
table and beaten by others. Many times the victim could not get up after the beating and
Radomsky would shoot him on the spot.
The Czech Anton Prokupek
(a former steam-locomotive driver) was head of the
men's section, and was often called a "commandant" by inmates.
The first women appeared in the camp in September of 1942
. They lived in a wooden barrack.
"They peeled potatoes, cooked, served meals, sewed, mended clothes, cleaned the area,
and made a type of shoe from cord. In theory these were for the prisoners, but none of us ever received a pair.
Among them were juveniles, young Jewish girls whose parents had
been shot. They were given the hardest labour. They loaded carts with stones and bricks
and then they were harnessed to the carts in place of horses. They were urged on with sticks
and lashes. It was unbearable to watch how both the criminals and the fascists taunted them
simply because they were Jewish. To make them easily identifiable all of their hair was cut off.
The male inmates’ work consisted of rooting out stumps, preparing firewood, building and repairing
barracks, creation of charcoal from wood, the dismantling of nearby houses, etc. Inmates were taunted,
tortured, and murdered. Sotnik I. Morozov
testified about the crimes of other Sotniks:
"In July /August 1942, they were cutting trees
on the camp territory.
(Viktor) Konrad and Kuripko forced
Jews to climb up trees. The sawn tree was pulled with a rope, and fell, together with the inmate, who then lay on
the ground, mutilated.
According to testimonies, Sotnik Konrad
was hanging inmates on the
gallows himself. After work he also forced Jews to dance together in a circle with other inmates
on their shoulders, and to sing Jewish songs.
described the camp regime in detail:
"Roused at 4 o'clock in the morning: 4:30 - breakfast, 5 o'clock -
marching to work in formations. At 12 noon - dinner: one hour later - return to
work until 9 o'clock in the evening. In the morning they were given a cup
of so-called coffee (boiled water with a taste of some herb). For dinner
a litre of some "soup" - just water without salt, with several grains of
millet. 200 grams of bread made from millet flour was provided for an entire day.
There was no supper. Inmates ate rats, dogs, cats, different herbs. They
were swelling from hunger. People in this condition were taken to the so-called
'hospital' - a dug-out, where there was no medical help, and people just
died, or were shot by the German camp commandant, Radomski.
In 1942, Radomski was shooting sick inmates almost
daily. He entered the hospital dug-out, ordered the sick to be taken out, and here,
near the dug-out, he was shooting them.
Bodies of the shot were buried in pits on the camp territory or were taken to nearby
There were several escape attempts. Thus, according to policeman
, at the end of July 1943
POWs escaped and were not caught. After each escape reprisals followed. According to
, in July 1943
, when an inmate
escaped from another "hundred", 25 inmates from that "hundred" were shot.
There were means of communication with the outside world. Policemen were
bribed with food, and for this they allowed the inmates to stay for 5 - 10
minutes with the visitors. Sometimes Radomski
visiting women and shot them. When some civilians tried to supply the inmates with food,
the latter might be shot by guards.
, several hundred inmates of the camp were forced to exhume and
burn tens of thousands of bodies at nearby Babiy Yar
“On 18 August 1943, a group of SS officers arrived at the camp.
They chose a group of about one hundred men capable of physical work. We were lined up
and ordered to remove any of our clothes that were still usable. We already knew what that meant and
tried to damage our clothes and shoes with a knife rather than be left naked.
We were led to Babiy Yar. Every fifth man was brought before
a stocky individual who, we later learned, had been an iron smith. The feet of the chosen prisoners
were cuffed into primitive
clamps, similar to those on a chain in a well, which allowed us to work but not run away. Then we were
led into a barracks where there were more prisoners. It was about 100 or 150 metres from the camp.
The rest of the prisoners, those who had not been chained, were loaded into vans and taken to Germany
for transfer to other concentration camps. Along the periphery of Babiy Yar
they installed screens to camouflage the area and the whole region was declared restricted. They
were also planting trees to hide the area from planes flying overhead.
In September 1943
, the evacuation of the Syretsky camp began to be evacuated.
Hundreds of inmates were loaded into freight trains for slave labour in Germany. Some
prisoners were left in the camp for loading works.
wrote in her
diary on 18 August 1943
"On Wednesday we were again in Syrets. ... Before this we were told that
all inmates of Syretsky camp were to be deported to Poland or Germany. ...
We came to the Russian cemetery, and there, just behind the gate, was a new
white fence along the highway, and a German with a rifle. We wanted to
pass - he stopped us: “Verboten!”
It's been so for several days. Why? He doesn't know. How do we pass to
Syrets? He doesn't know. We turned to the Jewish cemetery. There, behind
the entrance to the Tatar cemetery (or is it the second entrance to the Jewish
cemetery? - I don't know), the same story, posts along the road and then
German guards with dogs. Near the fence a car, and a driver, ours,
Russian. He said that he brought workers to install a 'phone in Syretsky
camp. But he wasn't allowed to drive near the camp; he was placed close the fence. He said
that in the camp it is even stricter now. Can't even try to come close.
And there's no way to around it. The fence is so lenghty that even
Babi Yar cannot be seen.
While we were talking with the driver, some inmates came out through the gates of Jewish cemetery
for dinner. There were about thirty of them. At first we
thought they were boys. The men shrivelled so. They looked like children
or like very old men. Horrible, depressed and emaciated appearance. And in
their group there were nearly as many Germans handling revolvers as there were
inmates. They went in the direction of the camp, and from around the corner a
car appeared. It contained several inmates and even more guards. No
Ukrainian policemen. Only Germans.
26 August 1943:
Today I was told that the Germans "burn" Babi Yar.
Burn the bodies of people
killed there. So that's why we couldn't pass to Syretsky camp! That's why
the white fence and German guards! They're covering up traces of their
monstrous crime. Isn't this a sign that the end is near? The Soviet troops are in
On 29 September 1943
several inmates managed to escape from
Out of more than 300 inmates the following escaped: S. Berlyant, I.
Brodsky, D. Budnik, E. Vilkis, I. Doliner, V. Davydov, G. Iovenko, L.
Kadomsky, Ya. Kaper, V. Kotlyar, V. Kuklya, Ya. Steyuk, Z. Trubakov, L.
. Even before the mass escape
was able to break out
alone. Among the escapees the following people are also sometimes mentioned:
G. Gavrilenko, M. Matveev, N. Panasik
. Many of the escapees
were soon drafted into the Red Army. I. Brodsky, L. Kadomsky
and E. Vilkis
died at the front.
After the escape the Syretsky camp functioned for one further month. It was
liquidated in late October
. The remainder of the inmates were sent to Germany.
Guards were transferred to the city of Rovno
After the territory was recaptured by the Soviets, an extraordinary
commission exhumed some bodies from the pits. The report of the commission
"Located on the camp territory were six pits measuring 10 x 3 x 3 metres, and one ditch,
20 m in diameter and 6 m deep. In them were buried 650 corpses of Soviet
citizens and POWs who were shot or killed by other methods, and which the
Germans did not burn in time. During the process of opening the grave-pits
it was established that normal burial was not practiced; corpses of men
and women were thrown in chaotically and buried. Most corpses in the pits
were naked, and only rarely were corpses clothed in torn underwear, shoes or
pants. An absolute majority of the corpses lack subcutaneous fatty
In 1943 -1949
Syretsky camp was used to house German POWs. In the the
the camp territory became a residential development. During these construction
works more remains were found, among them a member of the
football team "Dinamo". Contrary to a
popular legend, "Dinamo" players were not shot at
. Three players -
N. Trusevich, I. Kuz'menko
and A. Klimenko
on 14 February 1943
Syretsky camp on Radomski
In the the 1990s
two memorials were installed at the site, one to
commemorate "Dinamo" members, and the other for Syretsky camp inmates.
See all Syrets photos on our page
The Babi Yar Album
Syretskij kontsentratsionnyj lager
in: "Babij Jar: chelovek, vlast',
istorija", vol. 1, compiled by T. Yevstafjeva, Vitalij Nakhmanovich; Kiev,
Vneshtorgizdat Ukrainy, 2004; pp. 171-186.
Die Schoah von Babij Jar
, hrsg. von Erhard Roy Wiehn, Konstanz:
Hartung-Gorre, 1991, pp. 317-318.
David Budnik. Under a Lucky Star
Yakov Kaper. Thorny Road
on: Dr Stuart D. Stein’s website
© ARC 2006