Just before midnight on the 22nd June 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa - his attack, along an 1800 mile front, on the Soviet Union. With over three and a half million German and allied troops, it was the largest invasion force the world had ever seen.
It was nine months before the Nazis’ deportation of Jews to Auschwitz would get underway. But for the Jews in the Soviet Union, not least Ukraine, the Holocaust was about to begin. In the following three years Ukraine suffered some of the most horrific acts of genocide perpetrated during the Second World War. At one site alone – Babyn Yar, on the outskirts of Kyiv – almost 34,000 Jews were shot by the Nazis over one weekend in September 1941. One month earlier 23,600 Jews were massacred at the Ukrainian town of Kamianets- Podilskyi. These atrocities in Ukraine were among the Nazis’ first acts of mass murder, in pursuit of the Final Solution. They also led to little-known war crimes trials in the Soviet Union, including in the Ukrainian cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv. Captured on rarely seen Soviet propaganda film, these trials began while the war still raged – and two years before the more widely known Nuremberg war crimes trials.
With first-hand testimony from survivors of the Holocaust in Ukraine, compelling archive and contributions from leading historians from Ukraine, Germany the US and the UK - including Wendy Lower, Omer Bartov, Dieter Pohl and Alex J Kay - this is the story of a terrible and bloody chapter in Ukraine’s history. A history that continues to cast a long shadow over the country today. It is the story of the beginning of the Holocaust.