The paradox at the center of Amar's study is, in fact, the elephant that stands triumphantly in the main square of countless East European cities: that the combined efforts of the German occupiers of World War II and the Soviets who came in their wake accomplished what local nationalists had dreamed of since the late 19th century--ethnic homogeneity. This was obviously not the goal of either great power: the Germans sought to transform these lands into an Aryan "living space," while Soviet power claimed for five decades to have made them into a socialist utopia, where old-hat ideas about race, nation, and religion no longer mattered. It was also not the goal of those other nationalists who lost out, such as the Poles of what became Western Ukraine, nor of those who could not claim a territorial nationalism in the region, such as the Jews. But when the proverbial iron curtain rose in the early 1990s, what emerged on the stage were ethnically homogeneous states of a kind that had never existed before in Eastern Europe, courtesy of Nazi genocide and Soviet population policies.
Amar traces this process in one of the most interesting sites of transformation; interesting, one might say, especially before that transformation occurred, ghastly while it was taking place, and almost inconceivably drab and dull afterwards. The city of Lviv, the capital of what had been Habsburg Austria's Eastern Galicia and the Second Republics Eastern Lesser Poland, has gradually picked itself up from the debris of communist rule in the last two decades, proudly displaying both its Central European legacy and strident Ukrainian nationalism. But this new phase of its existence is not the topic of Amar's book, which traces the history of the city from its prewar days, through the first Soviet annexation of 1939-41, the German occupation of 1941-44, the remaking of Lviv as a Ukrainian city with the return of the Red Army, and finally its peculiar Soviet modernization--which reinvented it both as an industrial hub and as a cultural wasteland, infected with the common flu of intellectual compromise, political complicity, and acute historical amnesia.
Based on extensive archival sources and a wide-ranging bibliography, Amar's book joins several other works on the fate of Eastern Europe's interethnic cities, such as Holly Case's study of Cluj-Kolozsvar-Klausenburg in World War II, Felix Ackermann's work on the nationalization and Sovietization of Grodno, Gregor Thum's book on the transformation of Breslau into Wroclaw, Emily Greble's study of Sarajevo under German rule, Theodore Weeks's history of Vilnius, my own forthcoming analysis of local genocide in Buczacz, and others. (1) The book also makes an important contribution to the growing literature on the manner in which the successive violence of the first Soviet occupation, Germany's genocidal war, and the brutal return of the Soviets, combined with local nationalist agendas and prejudices, fed each other in producing an extraordinary degree of violence, mass murder, property transfer, and population displacement. (2)
The Paradox of Ukrainian Lviv is, for the most part, not a study of individuals but an analysis of policies and institutions. Although its title suggests that its focus is Lviv's Ukrainian aspect, almost half of it is dedicated to all that preceded the postwar effort to Sovietize it and the somewhat unforeseen consequence of creating a Ukrainian city. It is in this second part of the book that Amar reconstructs how a city emptied of most of its inhabitants--murdered Jews and ethnically cleansed or expelled Poles--was taken over by "locals," mostly Ukrainians from the surrounding countryside, and by "easterners," many of whom were Ukrainians from pre-1939 Soviet Ukraine.
It was the latter, argues Amar, who initially played a major role in Sovietizing the city by introducing Soviet modes of organization and setting Lviv on a course of Soviet modernization and industrialization. Yet paradoxically, he contends, Lviv ended up becoming more Ukrainian than it had ever been before and the least Soviet of all major Ukrainian cities, despite but also precisely because of the loss of its Polish and Jewish inhabitants. Simultaneously, even as it became a Ukrainian industrial hub, Lviv lost much of its former urban character, as its Sovietization entailed shedding such "Western" attributes as cafes and restaurants, fashionable stores and entertainment centers. This "de-urbanization" was not only the result of ideological dictates and policies; it had just as much to do with the fact that the people who moved into the decimated city had no urban culture and little opportunity to develop one. It took half a century for Lviv to re-remember its past as an attractive and lively urban environment. Yet this reawakening brought back other memories as well, many of which, such as the manner of its transformation, remain shrouded in obfuscation and denial.
Amar makes a convincing case for his argument that in Lviv (and by extension in much of the rest of Western Ukraine) Sovietization and Ukrainianization went hand in hand in the postwar decades of Soviet rule. He describes in much detail how "locals" and "easterners" eventually worked together to create an initially hopeful environment that eventually slipped into corruption and deception, a promisingly modern industrial base that increasingly lagged behind the industrialized West, and an agricultural economy that was less productive than the inefficient farms and estates of the prewar years. Indeed, Amar's judicious reconstruction of this process somewhat downplays the extent to which this entire enterprise was utterly self-defeating, laboriously Sovietizing the region without generating any affinity for communism and allowing for the emergence of a Ukrainian identity devoid of anything but a smattering of knowledge about the complexities of the regions past. What was accomplished, it appears, was a semblance of progress and support masking stagnation and indifference. At the end of those decades Lviv, let alone the smaller towns of the region, was certainly Ukrainian, but was just as surely poor, derelict, and disillusioned. It was also deeply ignorant about its past.
From this perspective, the earlier chapters of the book, which describe the period in which the city was, so to speak, prepared for this Soviet experiment at transformation, are of greater interest--and not only because they are filled with a profound sense of tragedy rather than with the drabness of empty Soviet rhetoric. To be sure, within a couple of years after the Soviets' return in 1944, following the massive expulsion of the Poles under the guise of population exchange, the city became putty in the hands of its rulers, to be remade in their image. But the transformation of the very nature of this city was facilitated both by populating it with new inhabitants and by erasing the memory of its past, an erasure so complete that it maintains much of its hold on Lviv even a quarter-century after the collapse of communism. How this was achieved and why it was necessary seems to me to be the question at the heart of this book, one that is not fully addressed.
Here, I would submit, the period of German rule is of cardinal importance. For it was during this time, even as the Germans were massacring the Jews, that two other events were talking place, both related to and independent from German policies. The first was the massive participation of local Ukrainians in the murder of their Jewish neighbors and the expropriation of their property. Some perpetrators were Ukrainian auxiliaries and policemen; others, including peasants and bandits, acted independently of the Germans, engaging in extortion, plunder, and massacre. Local Ukrainian, Polish, and Jewish accounts do not speak of this phenomenon merely as "collaboration" or actions by "bad apples" but as a widespread social phenomenon. The second event, the ethnic cleansing of the Poles, was entirely independent from German policies and did not coincide with German interests; it was implemented by the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA) and became a popular phenomenon, in which peasants and bandits took part on a massive scale. Among other things, these two eruptions of violence mean that the entire region is filled to this day with unmarked mass graves containing thousands of corpses, and that property owned by locals is known to have belonged to and to have been appropriated from those murdered. This was, in fact, the main reason for the locals' dread of the Soviets (including those locals who moved to Lviv after the war and became its urban inhabitants). As witnesses subsequently reported, there was widespread fear that the crimes committed by the locals under German rule would be disclosed (another reason for trying to murder all witnesses) and that the property taken over would be confiscated by the authorities.
Amar describes this period well. He writes, for instance, that "in Lviv, as in many other cities and places, the rapid annihilation of an ethnically targeted large share of its population was the deepest, most visible, and most dramatic change wrought by Lemberg's German occupation, whether immediately--or later--recognized as such or not." Moreover, he notes, "in Lviv, urban genocide began as a public spectacle," whereby "an estimated four thousand to eight thousand Jews were murdered in a pogrom that peaked on July 1," 1941, a pogrom "linking killing Jews in public with national purification " (94-95). Furthermore, Amar notes that "like the initial pogroms, ghettoization was a public event; crowds formed to lay claims on Jewish apartments" (109), so that "as it shifted from pogroms to ghettoization and camps, Lemberg's Holocaust remained urban and public" (114). Eventually, "the German genocide had transformed modern Lemberg into something it had never been: a historic metropole of Jewish culture was now reduced to the nightmare utopia of European antisemitism, a city without Jews" (115). Yet, Amar stresses, although Poles, Ukrainians, and Germans, had different ideas about what their city should like, many of them "did agree that none of it must be Jewish" (116). German-ruled Galicia had about 4,100 Ukrainian policemen, of whom 860 served in Lemberg and 434 in the surrounding area, charged with controlling the "native population" as well as fighting the black market and Bolshevism; but these same policemen also "assisted in the Holocaust by helping guard, terrorize, exploit, and raze ghettos and catch and kill Jews" (126). At the end of March 1942, for instance, "the Ukrainian Police reported handing over 4,805 Jews during three days of an Aktion, continuing to report daily catches' and munitions fired through April" (136). This was not just a matter of local collaborators and opportunists. Quite apart from the nationalist OUN-B (the Banderite arm of the OUN), the Ukrainian Central Committee (UTsK), which worked closely with the Germans, sought the "removal of ... Polish and Jewish elements" (128), and urged Hans Frank "to consider that a very significant part of confiscated Jewish wealth' should go to Ukrainians" (136).
I cite this series of incidents at some length because although Amar devotes many pages to Ukrainian complicity in the transformation of Lviv, the argument in the second part of his book seemingly has little to do with this process of self-cleansing, beside the mere fact that Jewish and then Polish absence became a given in the aftermath of the war. Ultimately, Amar concludes, his "interpretation of what happened in Lviv after 1944 attaches significantly more weight to the party-state's role in shaping identities." As he sees it, "although Soviet authorities initially announced their intention to make it just like the rest of Ukraine, within about a decade after the second conquest of the area in 1944 the Soviet regime implicitly but clearly conceded and even, in effect, promoted a Soviet western Ukrainian identity--Sovietized and Ukrainian, but also somehow apart and different," not least as a "result of Soviet policies after 1939" (322).
So this is the conundrum: In the first part of the book we are presented with massive evidence of the manner in which Ukrainian nationalists actively participated in making their city Ukrainian by assisting in or independently perpetrating the murder and expropriation of Jews and Poles. In the second part of the book we are presented with an analysis of how Soviet policies contributed not only to the Sovietization but also to the Ukrainianization of the city (and Western Ukraine in general), giving it a different character from other cities in Ukraine. Yet Amar does not link the city's new but quite different Soviet-Ukrainian character to the manner in which the basic preconditions for it were created, nor to the fact that prior to that Lwow was indeed a very different Ukrainian city, or rather, was not a Ukrainian city at all. The elements for making the argument that Lviv ended up as it did--different from other Ukrainian cities and closer to Central Europe, on the one hand, yet reluctant to invoke the very past that had made it so different, and certainly its bloody end--are all in the book. Yet somehow, perhaps because of Amar's greater interest in the meanings and workings of Soviet modernization, they are not sufficiently highlighted. As I see it, this is in fact the most intriguing question about Lviv's past and present, one that will possibly haunt its more thoughtful residents for much longer than the quickly fading memory of its more recent drab and dreary Soviet past.
Dept, of History, Box N
Peter Green House
79 Brown St.
Providence, RI 02912 USA
(1) Holly A. Case, "A City between States: The Transylvanian City of Cluj-Kolozsvar-Klausenburg in the Spring of 1942" (PhD diss., Stanford University, 2004); Felix Ackermann, Palimpsest Grodno: Nationalisierung, Nivellierung und Sowzjetisierung einer mitteleuropaischen Stadt 1919-1991 (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2010); Gregor Thum, Uprooted: How Breslau Became Wroclaw during the Century of Expulsions, trans. Tom Lampert and Allison Brown (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2011); Emily Greble, Sarajevo, 1941-1945: Muslims, Christians, and Jews in Hitler's Europe (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011); Theodore R. Weeks, Vilnius between Nations, 1795-2000 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2015); Omer Bartov, Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2017).
(2) Christoph Mick, Lemberg, Lwoiv, L'viv, 1914-1947: Violence and Ethnicity in a Contested City (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2016), is the first experiential history of violence in Lviv in the long stretch from World War I to the aftermath of the Soviet victory; Kai Struve, Deutsche Herrschafr, ukrainischer Nationalismus, antijiidische Gewalt: Der Sommer 1941 in der Westukraine (Berlin: De Gruyter Oldenbourg, 2015), provides the most detailed reconstruction to date of the origins and reality of the wave of pogroms that erupted just before and in the initial phase of the German invasion in June-July 1941; Jan T. Gross, Revolution from Abroad: The Soviet Conquest of Poland's Western Ukraine and Western Belorussia, 2nd exp. ed. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), was the first comprehensive analysis of the impact of the first Soviet occupation, using ample Polish testimonies; Grzegorz Rosso] inski-Liebe, Stepan Bandera: The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist. Fascism, Genocide, and Cult (Stuttgart: Ibidem, 2014), is the most detailed study available on the creation, exploits, and postwar legacy of the radical faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN). For other important contributors to this discussion, see, e.g., Per A. Rudling, "The OUN, the UPA, and the Holocaust: A Study in the Manufacturing of Historical Myths," Carl Beck Papers in Russian and East European Studies, no. 2107 (Pittsburgh: Center for Russian and East European Studies, University of Pittsburgh, 2011): 1-72; John-Paul Himka, "Former Ukrainian Policemen in the Ukrainian National Insurgency: Continuing the Holocaust outside German Service," in Lessons and Legacies XII: New Directions in Holocaust Research and Education, ed. Wendy Lower and Lauren Faulkner (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2017), 141-63; and Marco Carynnyk, "Foes of Our Rebirth: Ukrainian Nationalist Discussions about Jews, 1929-1947," Nationalities Papers 39, 3 (2011): 315-52. For arguments that link popular, mostly Ukrainian, anti-Jewish violence in the summer of 1941 directly to Soviet brutalities, see, e.g., Bogdan Musial, "Konterrevolutiondre Elemente sindzu erschiefen": Die Brutalisierungdes deutsch-sousjetischen Krieges im Sommer 1941 (Berlin: Propylaen, 2000). Such arguments go back to the controversy over the so-called Wehrmacht Exhibition of the mid- to late 1990s, the Historikerstreit of the mid-1980s, and ultimately to the Nazi regimes own propaganda at the time. See, e.g., Omer Bartov, "The Wehrmacht Exhibition Controversy: The Politics of Evidence," in Crimes of War: Guilt and Denial in the Twentieth Century, ed. Bartov, Atina Grossmann, and Mary Nolan (New York: New Press, 2002), 41-60; Forever in the Shadow of Hitler? Original Documents of the Historikerstreit, the Controversy concerning the Singularity of the Holocaust, trans. James Knowlton and Truett Cates (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1993); and Bartov, Hitlers Army: Soldiers, Nazis, and War in the Third Reich (New York: Oxford University Press, 1991). A version of this argument was offered in Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe between Hitler and Stalin (New York: Basic Books, 2010); see my critique in Slavic Review 70, 2 (2011): 424-28.
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|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Jun 22, 2017|
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