Internationalism, Patriotism and Disillusion

Soviet Jewish Veterans Remember World War II and the Holocaust
  • Zvi Gitelman
Chapter

Abstract

Soviet historiography ignored the Jewish role in World War II, for reasons shall explore. Yet the topic is very important to Soviet and post-Soviet Jews (as well as to others), in part precisely because it was ignored by the Soviets. This is manifested in the number of articles and books published on the subject in the former Soviet Union (FSU) and the Soviet Jewish diaspora, few of them by professional historians.1 One way of supplementing amateur historiography and filling in gaps in our knowledge is by taking oral testimonies from participants in the war. This has been done successfully by some popular historians in the United States.2 Oral history has serious limitations, of course. It should probably not be used to establish facts, especially at a distance of more than fifty years and in regard to events fraught with great meanings and emotions. Oral history allows for embellishment, cover-ups, falsifications and distortions. However, it can be most useful in establishing perceptions, that is, not so much what happened — though that should not be dismissed — but what people think happened, or think now happened then.3

Keywords

Europe Defend Editing Dispatch Boris 

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See, inter alia, V. Levin and D. Meltser, Chernaia kniga s krasnymi stranitsami (Baltimore, 1996);Google Scholar
  2. Gershon Shapiro, Evrei — geroi sovetskogo soiuza (Tel Aviv, 1982);Google Scholar
  3. Aron Abramovich, V reshaiushchei voine: uchastie i rol’ evreev SSR v voine protiv natsizma, vol.1 (Tel Aviv: n.p., 1982) and vol.2 (Tel Aviv: n.p., 1992); Odna na vsekh pobeda (Samara: Sam Ven, 1995);Google Scholar
  4. ed. David Fudim, Nam dorogi eti pozabyt’ nel’zi (3 vols.) (Jerusalem, 1995);Google Scholar
  5. Fedor Davidovich Sverdlov, Evrei: Generaly vooruzhennykh sil SSSR: kratkie biografii (Moscow, 1993), Hebrew edition Generalim yehudim batsava hasovieti b ’milkhemet haolam hashniya (Tel Aviv: Misrad Habitakhon, Maarachot, 1996);Google Scholar
  6. Leonid Smilovitskii, ‘Minsk Ghetto: An Issue of Jewish Resistance,’ Shvut 1–2 (17–18), (1995), and the works cited therein.Google Scholar
  7. 2.
    See, for example, Stephen Ambrose, Citizen Soldiers (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1997) and his D-Day (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1994).Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    Mark Kupovetsky, ‘Estimation of Jewish Losses in the USSR during World War II’, Jews in Eastern Europe 2/24 (Summer 1994): 34.Google Scholar
  9. 5.
    The estimate made by S. Krakowski, ‘The Fate of the Jewish POWs of the Soviet and Polish Armies’, in A. Cohen, Y. Cochavi and Y. Gelber (eds.), The Shoah and the War (New York, 1992), pp.229–30.Google Scholar
  10. 6.
    Mordechai Altshuler, Soviet Jewry since the Second World War (New York: Greenwood Press, 1987) asserts that ‘estimates of the number of Jewish Holocaust victims in the Soviet Union fluctuate between 2.5 million and 3.3 million’ (p.4). A later assessment is Yitzhak Arad, ‘The Holocaust of Soviet Jewry in the Occupied Territories of the Soviet Union’, Yad Vashem Studies 21 (Jerusalem: Yad Vashem, 1991): 47. According to Arad, ‘Out of a total of 2,750,000–2,900,000 Jews… under German rule in the occupied territories of the Soviet Union… very few had survived…. To the victims of Soviet Jewry in World War II we should add between 120,000 and 180,000 Jews who fell… while serving in the Soviet Army, as well as about 80,000–85,000 shot in POW camps. Together with other Soviet citizens, tens of thousands of Soviet Jews died due to hard living conditions, shellings and bombings….’Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    For details see Zvi Gitelman, Bitter Legacy: Confronting the Holocaust in the Soviet Union (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1997), ch. 2.Google Scholar
  12. 13.
    Yu.Yu. Kondufor et al., Istoriia Ukrainskoi SSR (Kiev: Naukova dumka, 1982).Google Scholar
  13. 14.
    L.N. Lentzmann et al., Estonskii narod v velikoi otechestvennoi voine Sovetskogo Soiuza 1941–1945 (Tallin: Eesti Raamat, 1973), p.437.Google Scholar
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    Yu. Ya. Orlov, Krakh nemetsko-fashistskoi propagandy v period voiny protiv SSR (Moscow: Moscow State University, 1985), pp.61, 95.Google Scholar
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    V.I. Vinogradov, Istoriia SSR v dokumentakh i illustratsiiakh (Moscow: Prosveshcheniia, 1981).Google Scholar
  16. 17.
    Great Soviet Encyclopedia (Moscow, 1970. English transi., New York: Macmillan, 1975) vol.9, p.293. There is no ‘Holocaust’ entry in the encyclopedia. On the way Holocaust materials were censored, see A. Blium, ‘Otnoshenie Sovetskoi tsenzury (1940–1946) k probleme kholokosta’, Vestnik Evreiskogo universiteta v Moskve, 2/9 (1995): 156–67.Google Scholar
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    For example, F. Kral’s Prestuplenie protiv Evropy (1963) and SS v deistvii (1961).Google Scholar
  18. 24.
    Mordechai Altshuler, ‘A Note on Jews in the Red Army on the Eve of the Second World War’, Jews and Jewish Topics in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe 2/18 (Summer 1992): 37.Google Scholar
  19. 26.
    See Solomon Schwarz, Jews in the Soviet Union (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1951), part II.Google Scholar
  20. 27.
    Mordechai Altshuler, ‘Antisemitism in Ukraine toward the End of the Second World War,’ Jews in Eastern Europe 3/22 (Winter 1993): 43.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2001

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zvi Gitelman

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