The Holo­caust in the Sovi­et Union

Yitzhak Arad; Ora Cum­mings, trans.
  • Review
By – August 25, 2011
Part of Yad Vashem’s Com­pre­hen­sive His­to­ry of the Holo­caust,” this book is like­ly to become the stan­dard work on the theme of the Holo­caust in the vast stretch­es of East­ern Europe that were part of the Sovi­et Union dur­ing the Sec­ond World War. Yitzhak Arad is a pro­lif­ic his­to­ri­an who was also an eye­wit­ness, as a boy in occu­pied north­east­ern Poland who escaped from a ghet­to and joined the Jew­ish par­ti­sans. A mas­ter of the vast lit­er­a­ture in numer­ous lan­guages on the Holo­caust in East­ern Europe, Arad also makes effec­tive use of orig­i­nal doc­u­ments that became acces­si­ble only after the fall of the Sovi­et Union. This book is care­ful­ly craft­ed to place the anni­hi­la­tion of mil­lions of Jews into the con­texts of Russ­ian and Sovi­et his­to­ry. The Sec­ond World War start­ed with Rus­sia and Ger­many effec­tive­ly as allies and then turned into the titan­ic strug­gle that result­ed in the ulti­mate Ger­man defeat, but at a cost of per­haps twen­ty mil­lion Sovi­et dead, includ­ing mil­lions of sol­diers but even more mil­lions of civil­ians. This book lays out the sys­tem­at­ic devel­op­ment of the Nazi Ger­man cam­paign to elim­i­nate the Jews through iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, plun­der, ghet­tos, mobile mass mur­der units, as well as death camps. Arad also care­ful­ly exam­ines the atti­tudes and behav­ior of the local non-Jew­ish pop­u­la­tions, espe­cial­ly in the Baltic republics, Belarus, and Ukraine. The final sec­tion of the book describes Jew­ish efforts at sur­vival and armed resis­tance. This is a fun­da­men­tal book on the Holo­caust that should be read and pon­dered. The Holo­caust in the Sovi­et Union is the 2009 Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award win­ner in Writ­ing Based on Archival Mate­r­i­al. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, end­notes, illus­tra­tions, index.
Robert Moses Shapiro teach­es mod­ern Jew­ish his­to­ry, Holo­caust stud­ies, and Yid­dish lan­guage and lit­er­a­ture at Brook­lyn Col­lege of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. His most recent book is The War­saw Ghet­to Oyneg Shabes-Ringel­blum Archive: Cat­a­log and Guide (Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press in asso­ci­a­tion with the U.S. Holo­caust Memo­r­i­al Library and the Jew­ish His­tor­i­cal Insti­tute in War­saw, 2009). He is cur­rent­ly engaged in trans­lat­ing Pol­ish and Yid­dish diaries from the Łódź ghet­to and the Yid­dish Son­derkom­man­do doc­u­ments found buried in the ash pits at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

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