Friday, August 04, 2006

That's why it is denial, not revisionism. Part V: Deniers and Babiy Yar massacre (3)

John Ball is a well-known Holocaust denier whose specialty is "analysis" of the war-time aerial photos of the Nazi camps. For an introduction to his methodology see the excellent article "See No Evil: John Ball's Blundering Air Photo Analysis". For information about Ball's professional and intellectual credibility see "John Ball: Air Photo Expert?" and "John Ball's $100,000 Challenge: Where is John Ball?".

One of Ball's arguments concerns the Babiy Yar massacre. Here's how it goes:

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In 1941 the babi Yar ravines were a series of dried up stream drainage channels that once drained into the Dnieper River in northwest Kiev in the Ukraine region of the Soviet Union. The upper channels had flat bottoms.

It is alleged that in 1941 on September 28th and 29th, 33,771 Jewish people from Kiev reported as ordered to the end of Melnik Street where the Jewish cemetery meets Babi Yar ravine. There they were marched in small groups to the edge of the ravine and machine gunned by Waffen-SS soldiers.

In 1943 from August 18th to September 19th, 327 workers lived in the ravine while digging up the 33,000 corpses and burning them on railroad ties doused with gasoline.

During the 1970's fill was plowed into the ravine and today there are no photos or other evidence of the crimes other than eye-witness accounts. (Ref.: _Encyclopedia of the Holocaust_, pages 113-115.)

The Kiev archives released this hazy picture in 1990 as the best known photo of the Babi Yar dried up stream channel. The victims allegedly fell in the ravine and were buried after being shot, and then two years later were dug up and burned. It is not known if any roads went down the steep walls to the flat bottom. (Ref.: Wolski, M., _Fact Sheet on the 50th Anniversary of the Babi Yar Massacre, October, 1991_)

SEPTEMBER 26th, 1943: This photo was taken one week after the end of the supposed mass cremations in the ravine. If 33,000 people were exhumed and burned, evidence of vehicle and foot traffic to supply fuel should be evident in the area where the Jewish cemetery meets Babi Yar ravine, however there is no evidence of traffic either on the end of the narrow road that proceeds to the ravine from the end of Melnik Street, or on the grass and shrubbery within or on the sides of the cemetery. [Labelled: Location of alleged shootings and cremations at edge of Jewish cemetery at Babi Yar ravine, Babi Yar ravine, orthodox cemetery, Jewish cemetery, and Melnik Street.] [Ref.: GX 3938 SG, exp. 104 & 105]

SEPTEMBER 26th, 1943: An enlargement reveals no evidence that 325 people were working in the ravine finishing the cremation of 33,000 bodies just one week earlier, for many truckloads of fuel would have had to be brought in, and there are no scars from vehicle traffic either on the grass and shrubs at the side of the Jewish cemetery or in the ravine where the bodies were supposedly burned. [Ref.: GX 3938 SG, exp. 105]


(Or see here.)

Blatant factual mistakes immediately betray Ball's historical ignorance. E.g., it is known that many more than 33,000 people were buried in Babiy Yar (this will be discussed in the next posting in the series). Sonderkommandos did not stop their work on 19th September (see below; this may have been a typo in a source Ball used ("19th" instead of "29th"), but even so, it shows that Ball simply did not research the issue properly). And there is much more evidence for the massacre than simply testimonies.

Photos taken on September 26, 1943 may be examined on USHMM's site.

You can see the area "analyzed" by Ball on his site.

Here's a little exercise: compare the area examined by John Ball with the ravine on the photo. Let me make it easier for you:

OK, so Ball "missed" most of the ravine in his "analysis". For those who know deniers' methods this is not really surprising.

What scholarly sources say that people were being killed exactly in this part of the ravine? None that I know of.

The question of the exact locations of killings is somewhat controversial because during the Kurenyovka tragedy of 1961 Babiy Yar was destroyed and, it seems, the attempts to put the exact places of mass shootings on maps post-date 1961. Until then Babiy Yar, except for a brief war-time and post-war period, had been a political sore spot for Soviet officials, who even tried to gradually destroy it themselves, by dumping pulp in the ravine. And, in fact, this is what led to the tragedy which took many lives in 1961.

It can be said with certainty that people were shot in different parts of Babiy Yar (and it couldn't have been otherwise, considering the number of victims and time constraints). But on none of the plans I have seen Ball's area is claimed to be a site of shootings.

Here are several plans, to consider:

1) The plan from, based on several other maps and sources. Probable places of shootings (according to the site) are denoted by "1".

2) A relatively recent plan from "Kyivprojekt", on which crosses denote the probable places of shootings according to their sources.

Source: Babij Jar: chelovek, vlast', istorija, vol. 1, compiled by T. Yevstafjeva, Vitalij Nakhmanovich; Kiev, Vneshtorgizdat Ukrainy, 2004.

Here is another version of this plan (source), with changes in pre-war relief marked in red. Pre-war relief was compared with 1960 geodesic survey. I.e., this plan denotes possible areas of shootings/burial (this is because the Nazis tried to use explosives to blow up the "walls" of the ravine). It should be noted that by itself lack of changes in outlines doesn't necessarily mean that some places weren't used for executions.

3) 1969 plan with the general area of shootings established with the help of several survivors. Again, the plan was made several years after Babiy Yar has been obliterated, so don't expect absolute accuracy or completeness.

Source: Yevstafjeva, Nakhmanovich, op. cit.

To repeat: on each of the plans the information may not be complete, but none of them consider Ball's area as a place where any killings took place.

'Nuff said, really. Here we have some vile ignoramus, trying to "prove" that killing of tens of thousands did not happen, based on nothing but his own idiocy.

Now, what can we say about relevance of the aerial photos made on September 26, 1943? According to Sonderkommando survivor Vladimir Davydov, on September 25-26, incineration action had been almost finished. (Yevstafjeva, Nakhmanovich, op. cit., p. 148). The last phase of this action consisted of brushing things up - dismantling camouflage, leveling earth, building one last pyre (ibid.). SKs guessed that this pyre was for themselves; and probably they were correct. In any case, Sonderkommandos revolted on September 29, 1943 (exactly two years since the beginning of the massacre) and several of them managed to escape.

So, the photo was taken during the final phase, several days before the escape, and basically, this means that it is not necessary that we should see any plumes of smoke on the photos. We may find something, but then again, we may not. Both outcomes are compatible with proven history.

Are traces of activity associated with mass incineration (scarring/disturbance of earth nearby and inside the ravine) visible on the photo? It's up to the experts to decide, but it seems that to this date these photos haven't been seriously analyzed by any aerial photography experts (Ball doesn't count, sorry).

My admittedly amateurish interpretation is that a large part of the ravine is covered by shadow, so it's entirely possible that we simply can't see some interesting things that were happening at that moment. It's hard for me to tell whether there is any "scarring" from cars, etc., anywhere on the photo, but deniers surely haven't proven that there isn't any, or, if it is indeed not visible on the aerial photo, that it had to be so large-scale as to be visible. They haven't even shown how such scarring/disturbance should look like, according to analogous aerial photos. So, as they say, the ball is in their court.

Previous << Part IV: Deniers and Babiy Yar massacre (2)

Next >> Part VI: Deniers and Babiy Yar massacre (4)

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