Nazi forces, mainly German, occupied Kiev on 19 September 1941. The decision to exterminate the Jews of Kiev was made on September 26, in retaliation for guerrilla attacks against German troops, by the military governor, Maj. Gen. Friedrich Georg Eberhardt and SS-Obergruppenführer Friedrich Jeckeln, the SS and Police Leader at Rear Headquarters Army Group South. Einsatzgruppe C carried out the Babi Yar massacre and a number of other mass atrocities in Ukraine during the summer and fall of 1941. Its commander SS-Brigadefuhrer Dr. Otto Rasch and the officer commanding Sonderkommando 4a, SS-Standartenfuhrer Paul Blobel were at the September 26 meeting as well.
On 29 and 30 September 1941, a special team of German SS troops supported by other German units, local collaborators murdered 33,771 Jewish civilians after taking them to the ravine.
The massacre to come would be the largest single mass killing for which the Nazi regime and its collaborators were responsible during its campaign against the Soviet Union and is considered to be "the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust".
The implementation of the order was entrusted to Sonderkommando 4a, commanded by Blobel, under the general command of Friedrich Jeckeln. This unit consisted of SD and Sipo, the third company of the Special Duties Waffen-SS battalion, and a platoon of the 9th Police Battalion. Police Battalion 45, commanded by Major Besser, conducted the massacre, supported by members of a Waffen-SS battalion. Units of the Ukrainian auxiliary police were used to round up and direct the Jews to the location.