Unearthing the Holocaust on the Russian Front.
Father Patrick Desbois, In Broad Daylight: The Secret Procedures behind the Holocaust by Bullets. 281 pp. New York: Arcade Publishing, 2018. ISBN-13 978-1628728576. $25.99.
The Nazi penchant for violence never fails to outstrip our collective imagination. Even now, with all we have unearthed and learned, the burden of such knowledge is unfathomable. The details challenge the limits of nightmarish horror: gas chambers; mobile gas vans; open air massacres engulfing millions of innocent Jews, Poles, Roma, and homosexuals, to mention four of the most prominent categories of victims. Yet among educated people who have some idea of the scale of the Holocaust there has long been an unbalanced understanding of how the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews evolved to engulf Jewish communities throughout Europe. The fate of Anne Frank, a teenage girl who together with members of her family tried to hide in an attic apartment in Amsterdam, has come to symbolize the fate of the Jews: targeted for persecution, they were chased down, herded into cattle cars from cities and towns in Western and Central Europe, then shipped to killing centers in Poland, where they were murdered on an industrial scale in places like Auschwitz, Treblinka, Chelmno, Sobibor, Majdanek, and Belzec. Anne Frank and Auschwitz--if you can recognize these names and what they represent, then you can claim at least some idea of what happened.
But what about German-occupied Soviet territory? Did the Nazis send their victims to Poland as well? How many Soviet Jews were captured and killed? For decades, the Holocaust on the Eastern Front was an opaque dimension to the catastrophe: Soviet archives were closed to Western and even Soviet students of history; Cold War attitudes inhibited recognition of the role of the Red Army in defeating the Wehrmacht, the full-scale suffering of the Soviet people, and the specific fate of Soviet Jews. It hardly mattered that the murder of 33,771 Jews at Babi Yar (by the killers' own count!) outside Kiev in September 1941--three months and a week after the German invasion of Soviet territory on June 22--was widely recognized because of the poem by Evgenii Evtushenko and the symphony by Dmitrii Shostakovich. It is necessary to understand that the open-air massacre at Babi Yar was one of thousands of such atrocities and that, in fact, the mass murder of the Jews began with the German invasion of Soviet territory. Many students of history regard the Wannsee Conference on 20 January 1942, when the Nazi party leaders informed the High Command of their plans to annihilate the Jews of Europe, as an initial step toward the mass killing. But by that time, the Einsatzgruppen (mobile shooting units), which followed the Wehrmacht into occupied Soviet territory, along with numerous other German police units and local collaborators, succeeded in killing nearly a million Jews. Over such an immense area, under the conditions of active warfare--the Soviet regime was the only government in a German-occupied country in Europe that continued to resist--the Germans decided it was not practicable to send the victims to the killers; it made more sense in their demented minds to send the killers to the victims, where, like locusts descending on a wheat field, the killers could assemble and murder the Jews wherever they found them.
There is little in the personal background of Father Patrick Desbois to suggest the direction that life has taken him. Born in 1955, raised among farmers and shopkeepers in central France, he initially pursued mathematics at Dijon University before a personal revelation led him away from atheism. He taught mathematics at a high school in Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) and volunteered for Mother Teresa in Calcutta before returning to France to enter a seminary; for several years, he was a parish priest. But a family memory always haunted him: his beloved Grandfather Claudius had been deported by the Nazis to the Rava-Ruska Camp in Ukraine alongside thousands of other French workers, while cousins had been dispatched to Mauthausen and Dachau because of their connection to the Resistance. Father Desbois came to learn that 15,000 Jews had been shot outside Rava-Ruska, and so "the Holocaust was part of [his] life. The unspeakable crime to which [his] grandfather had been a helpless witness--the murder of men, women, and children simply because they were Jews." (1) He began to study Hebrew--first in France, then in Jerusalem--and attended seminars at Yad Vashem (the official Israeli institute to study and commemorate the Holocaust), all before working with French cardinals in their relations with the Jewish community. It was not until 2002 that he made his first trip to Ukraine in search of mass graves. Since that time, he has founded Yahad-in-Unum, which is dedicated to locating the mass graves of Jewish victims in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.
When the Red Army began to push the Wehrmacht out of Soviet territory in the summer of 1943, the renowned Soviet-Jewish journalists Ilya Ehrenburg (II 'ia Erenburg) and Vasilii Grossman organized two dozen Jewish and non-Jewish writers and journalists to follow Soviet troops into formerly occupied towns and cities in order to interview survivors and gather documents. Using their immense prestige--Ehrenburg and Grossman were the most widely read and influential journalists in the Soviet press throughout the war--they pursued the project with the Kremlin's support, dispatching colleagues into parts of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, the Baltic region, and as far south as Crimea and the Caucasus. By 1945, however, the regime grew impatient with talk of Jewish suffering. Unable to overcome Soviet censorship, The Black Book was not published for the first time until 1980, when Yad Vashem brought out editions in Russian and English. Now Father Desbois has taken up the baton. His work, which he has described in two volumes--The Holocaust by Bullets and In Broad Daylight--is a long-overdue investigation of how the Nazis carried out thousands of open-air massacres.
The victims cannot speak for themselves, and there are few remaining survivors. But Father Desbois and his team, driving through the back roads of Ukraine and Belarus, where they could see how little one region after another has recovered from the war and the Soviet experience, have found several thousand elderly men and women who as children watched their neighbors and friends being taken through streets and nearby fields to be gunned down. Near the Russian town of Temirgoevskaia, about 900 miles south of Moscow, the Nazis used a line of carts to bring the Jews to the massacre site. Desbois spoke with a Russian man who, as a boy along with 30 other village children, "climbed on with the Jews, for fun." The driver played along until the cart grew too close to the massacre site when he had to shoo the non-Jewish children away. As Desbois writes, "It's terrible to realize that this line of carts, full of Jews, was perceived by the children of the village as a mobile carnival ride" (110-11). But the macabre memory underscores how the roundups were carried out in plain sight. "So many peasants have told us, in tears, how they saw their classmates, whom they can still name, arrested, transported, then shot before their eyes because they were Jews" (112). In Berezhany, Ukraine, they found a man who had watched the killing "risk-free from home" with binoculars, something Desbois believes happened quite frequently (118). Villagers also recalled how the Nazis placed wooden planks over the pits, with the intention of helping to distribute the corpses more evenly and therefore more efficiently "so there wouldn't be bumps," as their victims collapsed lifeless into the pile below (119). In the Ukrainian town of Osipovka, near Zhitomir, the researchers are told "how the Jews had to dance before they were shot" (127). In Mokrovo in the Brest region of Belarus, the Jews were made to dance on a bridge in front of the villagers, turning them into "mechanical dolls" (129). Sometimes the Nazis used whips to force the Jews to dance, as if it was not enough to kill them; they had to be humiliated first. In the Ukrainian village Novozlatopol' they learned about a musician who was forced to play a tambourine, while other villagers had to bang pots within sight of the massacre to muffle the screams and the sound of continuous shooting.
In the village of Egorlyskaia, near Rostov in central Russia, Desbois found Lydia, an old woman selling multicolored socks in an open market. She recalled how, as a young girl, she was forced to watch the massacre. "Their farm was part of a neighborhood of fifteen dwellings, near the valley that would become the valley of extermination.... Every morning of the genocide, at dawn, the German police forced them out of their houses to make them watch" (158-59).
If it was long believed that the Nazis tried to carry out these massacres away from the local population, Father Desbois has made clear how much the Nazis relied on the local population for support and how little they tried to conceal what they were doing. "The Germans could be so mobile thanks to an immobile local population that was always there to do their dirty work," he writes (29). In the "small town of Ozerany, not far from the city of Kovel in northwest Ukraine," his team interviewed an old man named Ivan, who, as a 14-year-old boy, "had a hand in everything--from the construction of the ghetto where the Jews of his village were confined to the decontamination of their common grave in the aftermath of the murder" (25). "Requisitioned" by the Nazis, local residents helped construct or seal off ghettos, drive Jews to the massacre sites, and collect, sort, and sometimes mend their clothes. They served as "fillers," forced to fill in the graves following the massacres (187). In the Ukrainian town of Ternivka, Dubois met Petrivna, who, with two other young Ukrainian friends, served as "pressers," ordered to jump into the pit and walk on the bodies, "to press the bodies down with their bare feet, as if the bodies were grapes on harvest day in wine country." (2) In Romanivka in Eastern Ukraine, they prepared "an open air kitchen for an improvised banquet" (138).
Hannah herself, a young, black-haired girl of ten, became a waitress for the day, serving at a murderers' banquet. Curiously, the way the table was set remained a vivid memory for her. She recalled the nails that had been hammered into the trees so firmly that the shooters could hang their guns on them while they ate. They alternated, two by two, between the banquet table and the common grave. The Jews waited, naked, stripped of their belongings. The meal was washed down with alcohol brought by the Germans in their trucks. While the Germans ate, the Jews agonized.... Between the table and the common grave, there was no barbed wire, no door, not even a partition, not even a thicket. (In Broad Daylight, 138-39)
In Broad Daylight continues the reporting Father Desbois began with The Holocaust by Bullets. He and his team began their work in Ukraine, then later expanded their efforts into Belarus. In his books he shares what his team discovered as they interviewed surviving witnesses, who may also have collaborated willingly or under compulsion as their Jewish neighbors were being shot. Such collaboration by ordinary people--separate from the numerous shooting units made up of Latvian, Lithuanian, and Ukrainian militiamen, among others, who actively engaged in outright mass murder--was always a sensitive subject for Soviet officials. Under the direction of Ehrenburg and Grossman, the Black Book project uncovered numerous incidents of collaboration by the civilian population, which they fully intended to include in the volume. But as the war came to an end, with Nazi Germany defeated, Stalin saw less need to recognize Jewish suffering. In February 1945, an official Black Book review commission concluded that "too much is recounted in the sketches about the vile activity of traitors among the Ukrainians, Lithuanians, et al." (3) Hoping to see even a heavily censored volume appear, the editors agreed to remove a good deal of material, a step that enraged both Ehrenburg and Grossman. Desbois has no such impediment, making his work an unsparing exposure of civilian collaboration.
Father Desbois and his team have also collected forensic evidence. Carefully examining the grounds around the mass graves, they discovered hundreds of cartridges--first in the town of Khativ in Western Ukraine, during one of their initial visits, and then at site after site as they traveled over tens of thousands of miles. His colleague would walk "around with a metal detector, making large circles of about a 300-meter radius around what we knew must have been the place of execution. Then these circles decreased until he reached the place where the shooter had stood." (4) At Khativ that day, they found 600 German cartridges. As the cartridges emerged, Desbois found himself "filled with revulsion and discomfort: A bullet, a Jew. A Jew, a cartridge.' ... The proof of genocide was so flagrant and so real. There was no longer a distance or a barrier between me and the reality." (5)
Desbois and his team prepared themselves for these difficult trips. They pored over material in Western archives, drawing from testimonies assembled at Nuremberg or from the extensive investigations by Soviet commissions and prosecutors who carefully documented the material and human damage inflicted by the Germans; today we have access to the testimonies of over 25,000 witnesses who were interviewed by Soviet investigators as territories were liberated. Desbois and his team often found themselves confirming what they had read in the archives by speaking with residents who had witnessed the events themselves.
But in spite of their careful and comprehensive research, there is a significant mistake in In Broad Daylight that needs to be recognized. In the "Historical Introduction" to the book, one of Father Desbois's principal advisers, the historian Andrej Umansky, writes, "Despite concerns by the Nazis in charge about the psychological health of the executioners, no alternative method was put in place" (viii). A captured German officer, Lieutenant Erwin Bingel, shared this concern with his interrogators in September 1941, just months after the German invasion in June; he had been "compelled to send twenty per cent of [his] men on leave of absence, since, as a result of their recent experiences, they were quite incapable of performing any duty." (6) A number like this may well have been typical for many units. In spite of Umansky's claim, German commanders felt compelled to reconsider their favored method of mass execution, resulting in the introduction of mobile gas vans or trucks, whose tailpipe vented through the floor into the rear cabin. Depending on the size of the van, the Nazis could asphyxiate up to 60 people at one time by this means. After picking up the victims at a collection point, the van would arrive 15 minutes later at a ditch, its human cargo conveniently dead. Based on recent research, it is now believed that three trucks were used to murder 97,000 Jews in Ukraine between December 1941 and June 1942. By the close of 1944, the Germans employed 15 gas vans in the occupied Soviet territories, killing 350,000 people with this device. (7) At least one Einsatzgruppen commander, Werner Braune, rejected the use of gas vans as a matter of principle. As told to the Nuremberg court, "In my opinion, an execution by shooting is more honorable for both parties than killing by means of a gas van," another vivid example of Nazi morality. (8) (Braune was hanged at Nuremberg on 7 June 1951.)
Another goal of Yahad-in-Unum is to place some kind of memorial at each massacre site they find. This could be as simple as a Star of David made from the branches of a tree. In his poem in 1961, Evtushenko rebuked the Kremlin because there was no memorial stone at Babi Yar, a stark reminder of the regime's long-standing indifference to Jewish suffering. Even in the months immediately after the end of the war, surviving Jews began clamoring for memorials to be erected where their loved ones had perished. Among the appeals, few were more insistent than a letter from Colonel David Dragunskii to Solomon Mikhoels, the chairman of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee in Moscow. On 5 December 1945, Dragunskii, who was twice decorated as Hero of the Soviet Union for his exploits as a tank commander, described his visit to his devastated native region where he learned about the murder of 74 of his family members: "There are murdered victims of fascism in all cities, towns and villages. There are no graves. Often cattle graze in the fields where human bones are scattered.... We must erect fences, monuments, and inscriptions everywhere and show dates." (9) While Father Desbois can arrange makeshift markers, his witness will serve as his most enduring memorial to the victims.
The town of Buczacz (pronounced Buchach, as it also sometimes spelled on Western maps) sits on the border of Poland and Ukraine, an area often referred to as Eastern Galicia. "Buczacz first appears in the chronicles of medieval Poland in 1260 as an estate belonging to the noble Buczcki clan," Omer Bartov tells us near the start of Anatomy of a Genocide (6). Long a part of Poland, whose Jewish population of 450,000 was the largest in the world by the mid-1600s, the town was seized by the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century and absorbed by the Hapsburg Empire in the late 18th; when Emperor Franz Josef granted the Jews emancipation in 1867, they had to relinquish Yiddish as their recognized "language of daily use," and by 1910 most of the Jews of Galicia "registered as speaking Polish" (19). But as Bartov makes clear in a detailed and well-informed cultural and political history of the town in the centuries leading up to 1941, the Jews were often "vulnerable to a conflict in which most of them had no part" (81). Buczacz endured its share of war and sectarian violence well before the arrival of the Wehrmacht in 1941. This was true when the Turks stormed Buczacz, when an uprising of Cossacks and peasants revolted against their Polish overlords, when Russian troops occupied the town during World War I, and when Ukrainian militias captured the town during the Russian Civil War. Bartov provides gruesome reports about one round of atrocities after another. To cite one example, the Jewish Russian soldier Aba Lev kept a diary of his experiences during World War I. Local Jews told him
"about the great calamity that had befallen Buczacz when our army entered it." ... Lev went on to the town center. "When I entered the synagogue courtyard," he wrote, "I was stunned by the terrifying picture of destruction, vandalism, and cruelty." Once they recognized him as a fellow Jew, the traumatized survivors led him to a neighboring house, where he saw "a boy of ten, his hands broken; next to him lay his mother, her skull smashed and her legs cut off." In the next house was "a dead woman, who had been raped and then beaten so badly that she died the same day in terrible agony." Other houses were filled with "raped Jewish women" as well as "men with smashed heads and gouged eyes." ... Lev was taken to see many other "Jewish houses with dead people who had been strangled, burned, and so on," while on the street he encountered numerous "injured people who had been beaten and raped." (59)
By the 1920s, with Buczacz within the borders of Poland, the Jews found themselves vulnerable yet again to the tensions that simmered between Polish and Ukrainian nationalists. Both groups felt that "the Jews were their enemy's friends," while the Jews, who felt little if any allegiance to the claims of either side, could not assuage the resentments of their neighbors (81). The lure of Palestine, the longing for a homeland of their own, began to attract many Jews, among them the town's most famous son, the future Israeli writer and Nobel laureate Shmuel Yosef Agnon, who was born and raised in Buczacz before leaving for Palestine in 1908 before his 20th birthday. Agnon visited Buczacz for a week in 1930 and later wrote a major novel about his sojourn, A Guest for the Night, which first appeared in installments in British-Mandate Palestine in 1938 and 1939, only months before the outbreak of World War II. It would be too easy to assume that Agnon's nostalgia for his hometown or the devastation that visited Buczacz during World War I at the hands of marauding Russian soldiers can account for the sense of impending doom that suffuses the novel. It is one of the few towns that was memorialized before the German occupation There is no mistaking Agnon's understanding that there was no future for the traditional Jewish way of life of his youth, if there was a future at all.
Omer Bartov, like Agnon, has his own personal connection to Buczacz. His mother's family once lived there, and it was from Buczacz that she and her parents left for Palestine in 1935. The decision to make aliyah saved their lives. His mother's stories about her hometown led Bartov--a history professor at Brown and one of our leading scholars of World War II, the German army, and the Holocaust--to embark on a study of what happened in Buczacz during the war. He decided to learn more about his ancestors: "how they lived and how they died. I traveled across three continents and nine countries. I dug through countless archives" (3-4), he writes. Anatomy of a Genocide is more, much more, than a close, informed account of how the Nazis murdered the Jewish inhabitants of one small town; it is a fully informed history of how Jews tried to sustain a life for themselves while two larger communities in the region, of Poles and Ukrainians, themselves at odds over nationalist and linguistic tensions, could barely tolerate a much smaller and more vulnerable minority that could not and would not ally itself with either. As a Polish teacher told one of her young students, "Jew-boy, you are of no use to me" (95). By the 1930s, the Jews were caught in "an aggressively nationalist and economically backward state" (95). Bartov cites a heartrending appeal by Mendel Reich, a Jewish educator in the town, to Abraham Sommer, the financial secretary of the United Buczaczer Ladies Auxiliary in New York. " "The Jews of Buczacz,'" he wrote, were " 'condemned to wait as if on death row for an execution, without hope for better days to come,' while 'everyone around us, even the air we breathe, is conspiring to find a way to destroy us, to crush our existence, to make the lives of the Jews unbearable."' This was in 1936! A year later, Reich wrote again how " 'the air was full of anti-Semitic sentiments.' The Jews were being accused, first, of having 'sent their God to heaven' and, second, of 'not going themselves to heaven, to Mars, or at least to Madagascar, so long as one is rid of them.' ... 'Anti-Semitism demands the destruction of everything Jewish.'" Under such conditions, Bartov writes, "many people did all they could to leave" (99-100), but Polish restrictions and US reluctance to accept Jewish refugees, along with British opposition to Jewish immigration to Palestine, left many Jews with nowhere to go.
As so often occurred in this part of Eastern Europe, the borders kept changing. With the outbreak of World War II, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union divided Poland in September 1939, according to secret agreements attached to the infamous Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact; Buczacz ended up in Stalin's kingdom, in Western Ukraine. The Ukrainians now had their chance to lord it over the Poles, to take their property, and carry out murderous riots against them, while the Jews, still distant from either the Poles or the Ukrainians, had no choice but to welcome the Red Army. The Poles, especially, regarded the Jews as enthusiastic collaborators with the Bolsheviks, a perceived allegiance that soon made Jews obvious targets. Once Hitler violated the pact by invading Soviet territory, Buczacz and its Jews quickly became fair game. The town lies 100 miles north of Khvativ, in Western Ukraine--where Father Desbois first discovered German cartridges. Half of the town's population was Jewish, about 7,000 people. Once the Red Army retreated, Ukrainian nationalist militias emerged, eager to welcome the Germans, hunt down former Soviet officials, attack local Poles, and target the Jews as well, often engaging in "forcible recruitment of Jewish labor." "The radio technician Moshe Wizinger vividly described the terror of seeing the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag next to the Nazi swastika from the city hall on 5 July: "Orthodox Jews were a favorite target; 'Germans and Ukrainians chased them down through the streets, beat them, shaved their beards, tortured them, burned their religious symbols'" (167). It quickly became clear "to the population that one could do as one pleased with Jews" (162).
Bartov, though, also found evidence of how individual Ukrainians, especially priests, did what they could, objecting to the desecration of a synagogue and helping to preserve Torah scrolls in a monastery. "Even as the community was massacred, many of these scrolls survived" (169). There were also individual Polish and Ukrainian peasants who, at great risk to themselves, opened their modest homes to fleeing Jews, protected them, and made it possible for them to survive. Mikolaj Szczyrba was a farmer living about 80 miles southeast of Buczacz. He and his family gave shelter to nearly three dozen Jews. And the Ukrainian brothers Mykhailo and Ilko Baran saved 15 Jews, hiding them in an improvised bunker; years later, one of the survivors, now living in Israel, sought out their children and arranged for the brothers to be honored by Yad Vashem.
Within weeks, the Germans imposed their own sense of order on Buczacz, compelling the Jews to wear Stars of David on their clothing and forbidding them from walking on the main streets, "all on pain of death." They extorted a million rubles from community leaders, then ordered the establishment of a Judenrat and a Jewish police force. Based on careful research, Bartov shows how "Judenrat members ... served their oppressors exceedingly well, even as they tried, in different ways, to save at least part of their community" (169). The first chairman, Mendel Reich, is remembered as "a good Jew, an intelligent and honest man," but he and the next two chairmen either resigned or fled, unable to withstand the burden of working for the Germans (171). Other leaders--Bartov singles out Baruch Kramer and Dr. Bernhard Seifer--proved to be unscrupulous, helping the Germans to locate Jews who were in hiding, extorting money from well-off Jews in exchange for releasing them from the most difficult labor assignments or giving them preferential entry to a newly established labor camp in Buczacz in the spring of 1943, "considered the last remaining safe haven in the city" (172). Individual Jewish police behaved even worse; "assaults and beatings of their brethren became a normal phenomenon" (176). Assigned to accompany German and Ukrainian units, they herded Jews from their apartments, ransacked their belongings, even acted as guards on roads leading to Buczacz and grabbed Jews who sought to escape. "The urge to live overcame all moral compunctions" (249).
Over the course of several pages, Bartov provides a detailed, unsparing examination of "how decent men in dark times can become useful instruments in the realization of genocide" (174). There is an echo of Hannah Arendt in these words, but he avoids her startling generalizations and overly broad accusations about the consequences of Jewish collaboration. Bartov's account, grounded in documented, factual evidence, remains mindful of the Germans' ability and willingness to carry out their ultimate goal regardless of how individual Judenrat members or Jewish police behaved. There is little comfort in the book.
It took the Germans several months before they targeted the Jews of Buczacz for mass murder. "The most intense killing was carried out between spring and summer 1942 and summer 1943; however, surviving Jews, whether still employed by the Germans or in hiding, were being hunted down and massacred by the Germans, their collaborators, independent local elements, bandits, and peasants, until the return of the Red Army the following year" (Bartov, 164). As Father Desbois documented in numerous other cities and towns, the Jews were marched through town, then shot in a well-known location, Fedor Hill. The massacres were "a communal event, both cruel and intimate" (Desbois, 5). Neighbors saw the victims walking to their deaths in their underwear. Kurt Kollner was one of the most notorious Nazi murderers in Buczacz. Witnesses remember him shooting patients in the ghetto hospital and women and children who were found as they tried to hide in a barn; in one instance, Kollner "shot the teenagers Emil Kitaj and Hania Adler point-blank in the head as they knelt in front of him and begged for their lives"; incredibly, "he was holding the pistol in one hand and his own five-year-old son in the other" (189). Such monsters inhabited our Earth. Kollner was eventually arrested for his crimes, convicted by a German court in 1962, and sentenced to life imprisonment, one of the few Nazi officers to be held responsible for the killings in Buczacz.
Bartov has worked hard to describe the full, tragic history of his mother's hometown. But there is no escaping the fact that for all the anti-Jewish feeling and violence that preceded World War II, it was the German occupation that unleashed the final and devastating blow. The small Jewish community of Buczacz had survived riots and pogroms; it could not survive outright and indiscriminate mass murder.
Father Patrick Desbois and Omer Bartov join a growing roster of Western and Russian scholars who have made serious contributions to our understanding of what happened to the Jews on the Eastern Front. I am thinking of Yitzhak Arad in Tel Aviv; Il'iaATtman in Moscow; Boris Frezinskii in St. Petersburg; Hilary Earle in Canada; and the Americans Richard Rhodes, Jeffrey Burds, John and Carol Garrard, Maxim Shrayer, and David Shneer, among others, who have built on the efforts of Benjamin Ferencz, the lead prosecutor at the trial of two dozen Einzatsgruppen commanders at Nuremberg, and his Soviet colleagues who called on three survivors to testify about their experiences at Treblinka and in the ghettos of Warsaw and Vilna at the same trial in February 1946. Thanks to them we are all catching up to the heroic initiative of Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasilii Grossman, who were the first to grasp the full magnitude of what the Germans set out to accomplish.
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(1) Father Patrick Desbois, The Holocaust by Bullets: A Priest's Journey to Uncover the Truth behind the Murder of 1.5 Million Jews (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 15.
(2) Ibid., 84.
(3) Shimon Redlich, War, Holocaust, and Stalinism: A Documented History of the Jewish Antifascist Committee in the USSR (Luxembourg: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1995), 355.
(4) Desbois, Holocaust by Bullets, 52.
(5) Ibid., 53.
(6) "The Extermination of Two Ukrainian Jewish Communities: Testimony of a German Army Officer Oberleutnant Erwin Bingle," YadVashem Studies 3 (1959): 308-9.
(7) "Gas Chambers," in The Holocaust Encyclopedia, ed. Walter Laqueur and Judith Tydor Baumel (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2001), 230-31.
(8) Trials of War Criminals before the Nuernberg Military Tribunals under Control Council Law No. 10, 15 vols. (Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1946-49), 4:244, from the affidavit by Dr. Walter Blume, one of the Einsatzgruppen leaders.
(9) See Redlich, War, Holocaust, and Stalinism, 231. By the late 1960s, Dragunskii was notorious for his activity in Soviet anti-Zionist propaganda and became chairman of the Soviet Anti-Zionist Committee in 1983.
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|Title Annotation:||Anatomy of a Genocide: The Life and Death of a Town Called Buczacz, In Broad Daylight: The Secret Procedures Behind the Holocaust by Bullets|
|Article Type:||Book review|
|Date:||Mar 22, 2019|
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