Historiography

If and when scholars and others refer to the Holocaust in Ukraine as a distinct topic (and thus do not treat this genocide as an event in “Russia” or the entire German- and Romanian-occupied Soviet Union), they mostly refer to events in Reichskommissariat Ukraine and the zone of military administration. For this there is a good reason: the method of the mass murder of the Jews of eastern Galicia resembled the Holocaust in central Poland more than the Holocaust in the Soviet Union according to its pre-1939 borders. Meanwhile, the persecution and murder in Transnistria and Subcarpathian Rus were and still are generally considered part of Romanian and Hungarian history. Whatever the merits of these divisions, it must also be noted that in all these regions but Crimea, ethnic Ukrainians, whether they spoke Russian or Ukrainian, were the majority population.

Until Ukraine became independent in 1991, Philip Friedman (1901–1960) and Shmuel Spector (1924-2006), survivors of the Holocaust in Galicia and Volhynia, respectively, were the only historians who devoted significant attention to the Holocaust in Ukraine. Friedman was one of the founders of Holocaust Studies as a whole (see Stauber, Foundations). Less than two decades after the horrific events he had personally experienced, Friedman published an article on Ukrainian-Jewish relation during the Nazi occupation that has been cited often. (Friedman, Relations). His history of the Holocaust in Lviv also became well known (Friedman, Zagłada). Shmuel Spector published the first regional history of the Holocaust in Ukraine in his study of Volhynia (Spector, Sho’at Yehude Vohlin).

The slow development of the historiography was due to various reasons, such as the centrality of the death camps of Auschwitz-Birkenau and (to a lesser extent) Treblinka in memory and research; the Soviet regime’s decision to bar access to archives and its unwillingness to acknowledge the killings as a crime specifically inflicted on Jews; and the multitude of languages in the relevant primary sources (which include Ukrainian, Russian, Polish, German, Romanian, Hungarian, Yiddish, and Hebrew). Only in the 1990s did new major studies of the Holocaust in Ukraine begin appearing in print. For instance, monographs in German deal with Galicia (Pohl, Judenverfolgung), Einsatzgruppe D (Angrick, Besatzungspolitik) and the town of Berdychiv (Christ, Die Dynamik des Tötens); while books in English deal with the Zhytomyr region (Lower, Nazi Empire-Building) and the auxiliary police (Dean, Collaboration). A first collection of essays in English specifically about the Holocaust in Ukraine appeared in 2008 (Brandon / Lower, Shoah). Among other contributions, it includes an expanded and translated version of a survey by Dieter Pohl of the Holocaust in Reichskommissariat Ukraine and the military zone (Pohl, The Murder of Ukraine’s Jews).

The subject also increasingly appears in studies dealing with the broader topics of World War II and/or Ukraine in general. Examples include a monograph on Lviv during and between the two World Wars (Mick, Kriegserfahrungen) and a survey of life and death in Reichskommissariat Ukraine (Berkhoff, Harvest of Despair). Naturally Ukraine is also covered in studies dealing with the entirety of the German-occupied Soviet territories (e.g. Arad, Holocaust in the Soviet Union; Altman, Kholokost na territorii SSSR).

Meanwhile, there are still very few monographs on the Holocaust written in Ukrainian or Russian. Much of the growth of Holocaust studies in Ukraine has depended on the financial support from international organizations and Western countries such as France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United States, for as of 2014, no government of independent Ukraine has genuinely supported Holocaust Studies. Moreover, interest in Ukrainian academia and society remains remarkably small (See Podol’s’kyi, A Reluctant Look Back; Fainberg, Memory; Himka, Reception). The reasons are complex, as is also suggested by the equally minimal political and academic support for the study of Stalinist crimes. The result has been a seeming paradox: as late as 2014, the country that lost 1.5 million Jews in the Holocaust is not a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (see http://www.holocaustremembrance.com/ ).

The best known senior historians of the Holocaust who are based in Ukraine and actively publish research findings include Faïna Vinokurova in Vinnytsia and Alexander (Aleksandr) Kruglov in Kharkiv. An important journal, with articles and source publications in Ukrainian and Russian, is Holokost i suchasnist (Holocaust and Modernity), published by the Kiev-based Ukrainian Center for Holocaust Studies, a non-governmental organization founded in 2002. (Available online at http://www.holocaust.kiev.ua/index.html) The city of Dnipropetrovsk has the Tkuma Ukrainian Insitute for Holocaust Studies. The number of seriously interested junior researchers has been growing more recently.

Developments in Romania have also impacted the state of research. In 2002, Romanian President Ion Iliescu and other Romanian government officials claimed there had been no Holocaust in Romania and that it was wrong to dismiss entirely the wartime leader Ion Antonescu (1882–1946). After an international outcry and lobbying, the country made a rapid turnabout: Iliescu requested an independent, international inquiry. In 2004, an International Commission on the Holocaust in Romania, chaired by Elie Wiesel, released its final report (available at 
http://www.ushmm.org/research/scholarly-presentations/symposia/holocaust-in-romania/romania-facing-its-past). It devoted much attention to the heretofore neglected history of the Holocaust in Transnistria. Soon, a national institute for the study of the Holocaust was founded. (See http://www.inshr-ew.ro/en/ )

The most innovative work on the pogroms of 1941 and the role of Ukrainian nationalists in them has been and continues to be written outside Ukraine. (See, for instance, Carynnyk, Foes of Our Rebirth; Himka, The Lviv Pogrom of 1941; Kopstein/Wittenberg, Intimate Violence; Lower, Pogroms; Mick, Incompatible Experiences; Struve, Deutsche Herrschaft). Among the Ukrainian public, Himka’s research has resonated the most, as evidenced by a large number of comments posted on a Ukrainian website that published a translation of his work (Himka, The Lviv Pogrom of 1941).

The German mass shootings, increasingly called “The Holocaust by Bullets,” have attracted less attention. There is a study of the massacre in Rivne (Burds, Holocaust in Rovno), but tellingly, there exists no scholarly, archive-based monograph in any language on the Babi Yar massacre.

Work on the auxiliary police now is progressing both in publications in English and Ukrainian, whereby the former tend to focus on the Holocaust the most (Finder/Prusin, Collaboration in Eastern Galicia; Solonari, Hating Soviets; Dereiko, Mistsevi formuvannia; Rich, Armed Ukrainians). Studies of mayors and other auxiliary administrators remain rare (Radchenko, Accomplices to Extermination)

Research on the stance of religious leaders is generally limited to discussion of Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky (see, e.g., Himka, Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky).

Scholarly research on the Holocaust of the Subcarpathian Jews was for a long time nearly non-existent, certainly in Western languages (Dinur, Sho’at; Braham, Destruction; Segal, Beyond Holocaust Studies; Segal, Days of Ruin). This is all the more remarkable as the Jews on the only Nazi German photographs of the selection at Auschwitz-Birkenau for the gas chamber, reproduced in the Auschwitz Album, had been deported from Subcarpathia (http://www.yadvashem.org/yv/en/exhibitions/album_auschwitz/index.asp ).

Solid information about the Holocaust in Chernivtsi, Odessa, and other places in Bukovina, Bessarabia, and Transnistria under Romanian control between 1941 and 1944 which are now located in independent Ukraine, can be found in single-author surveys of the Holocaust in Romania (Ancel, History; Ioanid, Holocaust; Solonari, Nation). Relevant materials also appear in edited volumes (e.g. Hausleitner / Wetzel, Rumänien; Benz / Mihok, Holocaust). Recent studies of the early pogrom-like mass murders in northern Bukovina and northern Bessarabia move away from earlier, intentionalist interpretations (Geissbühler, Blutiger Juli; Geissbühler, 'He Spoke Yiddish'; Solonari, Patterns of Violence; compare Ancel, History, 217–232). Scholars based in Romania, Moldova, and Ukraine are also contributing (e.g., Traşcă, Ocuparea oraşului Odessa; Dumitru, Attitude; Dumitru, Attitudes; Surovtsev, Creation and Functioning of Chernivtsi Ghetto).

It has been noted that one of the least remembered aspects of the Holocaust in Ukraine are the ghettos, even though the local non-Jews watched and traded with the Jews imprisoned there. The reasons are that most ghettos did not last long and that they were dismantled or used for other purposes. Martin Dean of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum has edited a volume on the Nazi-ruled ghettos that is an indispensable resource for students of the Holocaust in Ukraine. (Dean, Ghettos) The Romanian-ruled camps and ghettos are also increasingly studied (Deletant, Ghetto Experiences in Golta).

Other themes that have received scholarly attention are anti-Semitic propaganda (e.g., Shchupak, Natsysts’ka antysemit’ka propahanda; Instytut politychnykh i etnonatsional’nykh doslidzhen’] and remembrance and oblivion of the Holocaust in Ukraine, both within and beyond its borders. An early example is an essay by Richard Sheldon on Babi Yar (Sheldon, Transformations).

Besides the on-line catalogs and findings aids of the USHMM, another key resource for tracing published research is the annual bibliography prepared by the National Historical Library of Ukraine. Online since 1999, it features the section “XII. Ukraïna v period Druhoï svitovoï viiny (1939–1945),” and there “Ukraïna v roky natsysts’koï okupatsiï.” (See Natsional’na istorychna biblioteka Ukraïny: Istoriia Ukraïny: Bibliohrafichnyi pokazhchyk, http://www.nibu.kiev.ua/index.php?option=com_content&task=blogcategory&id=32&Itemid=1616/)

Also highly useful is the Bibliographic Guide to books and articles on the History of Soviet Jews during the Holocaust, prepared by Yad Vashem’s International Institute for Holocaust Research and available online at http://db.yadvashem.org/bibliography/search.html?language=en.

Karel Berkhoff

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