The Shoah in Ukraine: His­to­ry, Tes­ti­mo­ny, Memorialization

Ray Bran­don and Wendy Low­er, eds.
  • Review
By – January 13, 2012

In June 1941, the Sovi­et Ukraine was home to about 2.5 mil­lion Jews. After the June 22, 1941 inva­sion of the Sovi­et Union, Nazi Ger­mans and their hench­men mur­dered an esti­mat­ed 1.6 mil­lion Jews in Ukraine, most­ly by shoot­ing unarmed women, men, chil­dren, the elder­ly, the hand­i­capped, and the sick. Some 345,000 Ukrain­ian Jews, espe­cial­ly from East­ern Gali­cia, were shipped to Poland and gassed, main­ly at Belzec, as well as at Sobibór and Auschwitz. 

Para­dox­i­cal­ly, the Shoah in Ukraine has only recent­ly begun to be stud­ied in sig­nif­i­cant depth. The ten chap­ters of the book under review exam­ine how the Jews were mur­dered in Ukraine and by whom, includ­ing local eth­nic Ukraini­ans and Ger­mans, as well as the Ger­man and Roman­ian invaders.

Deserv­ing spe­cial note are Tim­o­thy Snyder’s chap­ter on Vol­hyn­ian Jew­ry for its ele­gant and dili­gent use of both gen­er­al and Jew­ish sources; and Karel C. Berk­hoff s sen­si­tive analy­sis of the var­i­ous tes­ti­monies of Dina Proniche­va, who sur­vived the night­mar­ish Babi Yar mas­sacre. Omer Bar-Tov con­cludes the book with an overview of how the Jew­ish facets of East­ern Galicia’s his­to­ry are sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly ignored and erased by Ukraini­ans in whose his­tor­i­cal con­scious­ness there is no room for how Jews lived and were mur­dered in a region that was a cen­ter of Jew­ish cul­ture and reli­gion. Bib­li­og­ra­phy, index, maps, pho­tographs, tables.

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.

Discussion Questions