Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine

Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine

Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine

Nazi Empire-Building and the Holocaust in Ukraine


On 16 July 1941, Adolf Hitler convened top Nazi leaders at his headquarters in East Prussia to dictate how they would rule the newly occupied eastern territories. Ukraine, the "jewel" in the Nazi empire, would become a German colony administered by Heinrich Himmler's SS and police, Hermann Gaering's economic plunderers, and a host of other satraps. Focusing on the Zhytomyr region and weaving together official German wartime records, diaries, memoirs, and personal interviews, Wendy Lower provides the most complete assessment available of German colonization and the Holocaust in Ukraine.

Midlevel "managers," Lower demonstrates, played major roles in mass murder, and locals willingly participated in violence and theft. Lower puts names and faces to local perpetrators, bystanders, beneficiaries, as well as resisters. She argues that Nazi actions in the region evolved from imperial arrogance and ambition; hatred of Jews, Slavs, and Communists; careerism and pragmatism; greed and fear. In her analysis of the murderous implementation of Nazi "race" and population policy in Zhytomyr, Lower shifts scholarly attention from Germany itself to the eastern outposts of the Reich, where the regime truly revealed its core beliefs, aims, and practices.


People arriving from Kiev say that the Germans have placed a
cordon of troops around the huge grave in Babi Yar where the
bodies of 50,000 Jews slaughtered in Kiev at the end of Septem
ber 1941 are buried. They are feverishly digging up corpses and
burning them. Are they so mad as to hope thus to hide their
evil traces that have been branded forever by the tears and the
blood of Ukraine, branded so that it will burn brightly on the
darkest night?

—Vasilii Grossman, Red Star, October 1943

With moral outrage, Soviet wartime correspondent Vasilii Grossman scorned the Germans' hasty attempt to destroy the physical evidence of their horrific crimes. the atrocities were too enormous to be concealed and, for this Jewish writer, too personally searing to be forgotten. Grossman (who lost his own mother to the Holocaust in Berdychiv, Ukraine) struggled to document and publicize the distinct history of the Jews during World War II, despite Soviet censorship and banning of his work. Drawing from newly available archival collections from the former Soviet Union and the pioneering work of Grossman as well as Holocaust scholars Shmuel Spector, Philip Friedman, and Raul Hilberg, this book examines the history of the Shoah in Ukraine within the context of Nazi occupation aims and practices in the East, and specifically the devastation that occurred in the Zhytomyr region, where Grossman came of age. the study seeks to deepen our understanding of how individuals empowered by government and private agencies come to accept and then perpetrate campaigns of destruction and mass murder, and often do so in the name of progress.

During World War II, the most powerful military forces ever amassed clashed over Ukrainian territory while Nazi occupiers initiated their criminal schemes against the population. Nearly 4.1 million civilians in Ukraine died under Nazi rule. the Germans and their collaborators murdered at least 1.2 million Jews. of the 2.8 million laborers forcibly deported from the former Soviet territories to Hitler's Germany, an estimated 2.3 million were from Ukraine. More than 700 cities and towns and about 28,000 villages were completely or partially destroyed. the figures alone, however, do not describe, let alone ex-

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