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Yad Vashem Studies, Vol. 43:2 (2015)

Dr. David Silberklang

This issue highlights young scholars whose work is at the cutting edge of Holocaust research. Their path-breaking articles feature new sources and methodological approaches for understanding the Holocaust and how it is remembered. Personal writing during and on the Holocaust stands at the center of most of these articles – Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe (Jewish and Ukrainian personal accounts of the Holocaust in western Ukraine and the role of Ukrainians);  Vadim Altskan (surviving Jews of Northern Bukovina pushed over the border into Romania in the first postwar years); Eliyana Adler (how Polish Jews who fled to the USSR define themselves – survivors or not); Monika Rice (two purported Holocaust diaries by Polish Jewish doctors who took two different postwar paths); Daniel Reiser (a new look at the theological thought of Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal); and reviews of new books on Stepan Bandera (Karel Berkhoff on Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe), the Polish underground (Antony Polonsky on Joshua Zimmerman), Holocaust literature (Nathan Cohen on Alan Rosen), and Soviet film (Arkady Zeltser on Jeremy Hicks and Olga Gershenson).  

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Jews in Ukraine and non-Jewish Ukrainians experienced, perceived and have remembered the German occupation of eastern Galicia and Volhynia very differently. Their memories of the Holocaust, and especially of Ukrainian participation in this genocide, suggest two different yet simultaneous pasts in one place. Although Jewish survivors recalled their non-Jewish compatriots as a significant group of perpetrators during all stages of the Holocaust, Ukrainians, with very few exceptions, remembered only Germans killing the Jews.  Comparing diaries of Jewish victims and Ukrainian perpetrators and bystanders written during the Shoah, as well as memoirs composed after it, this article shows how the same events – such as the pogroms in the summer of 1941, conditions in the slave labor camps, and hiding in the attics of the Christians or in the woods – were experienced, perceived and remembered very differently by these two groups. In addition to the comparison of Jewish and non-Jewish accounts of the same events, the article asks if individual memories of Jews and Ukrainians have remained constant during the last seven decades, or if they changed subject to politics of memory or other collective processes.  


The article addresses the critical question of the mass “repatriation/evacuation” of Jews from Northern Bukovina to Romania in 1945-1946, as well as political and social circumstances surrounding this event. By analyzing previously unavailable archival materials, including recently declassified records of the national security services and archives of the former Communist Party of Ukraine, the article examines the life of the Jewish population in Northern Bukovina and its capital city, Czernowitz, in the aftermath of World War II. The author argues that the expulsion of the Bukovinian Jews from the Soviet Union was part-and-parcel of the postwar Soviet policy aimed at the ethnic transformation of the Soviet borderlands. The implementation of this policy in Northern Bukovina was eagerly supported by corrupt local Soviet and Party officials, who used the “repatriation,” or “evacuation” of Jews for their own benefit and self-enrichment. Soviet policies, along with the hostile attitude of the local authorities toward the Jewish population, led to the mass exodus of Bukovinian Jewry to Romania. In a tragically ironic twist of events, Bukovinian Jews actually stated a preference for going to Romania, the country that had only recently perpetrated massacres against its Jewish citizens, rather than staying in the Soviet Union, the country that liberated them from the camps and ghettos in Transnistria.


This article uses oral testimonies to examine the scholarly and popularly constructed borders that separate Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors from those Polish Jews who crossed over the physical border between the German and Soviet zones of occupation in late 1939. Paying special attention to the final, broad questions asked in the USC-Shoah Foundation testimonies, it isolates Polish Jewish refugees who speak of themselves as Holocaust survivors, others who do not, and a third group of refugees seemingly unsure of their postwar status. The article argues for reconsidering how testimonies are used by historians, as well as how the borders of survival are defined. 


In this article, the author considers the Holocaust diaries of two Polish-Jewish doctors. These diaries represent two different paths taken by returning Jewish survivors in Poland. Most of these survivors chose a path of exit or withdrawal from their former homeland, whether by hiding, escape, emigration or even, eventually, suicide. At the same time, some remained and focused either on working towards the reestablishment of their own prewar lives, or else on participating in building the new Communist order. Many among this second group constituted what Henryk Shoshkes described as “new Marranos,” concealing their Jewishness in the face of hostile forces. As the two diaries were written by highly educated and culturally literate physicians, they offer an opportunity to explore the ways in which the Jewish intelligentsia negotiated their double identities—Jewish and Polish—and to assess the cost of their attempts to accommodate the anti-Jewish postwar atmosphere and the exclusion of “Jewishness” from Polish public life. The author also considers certain questions regarding the authorship and authenticity of Holocaust diaries in general, distinguishing aspects of “original” Holocaust experiences from those of “fictionalized” stories of survival.


This article reexamines the Zionist teachings of Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal as they evolved in view of the Holocaust in Slovakia and Hungary. This reexamination uses both new documents published here for the first time, and conventional research parameters that distinguish between Religious Zionist thinking and that of the branch of Agudas Yisroel that favored the settlement of Eretz Israel, foremost the Gerrer Rebbe, Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Alter. The investigation of Rabbi Teichtal’s perspectives via these paramaters rules out the possibility, broached by several researchers, that his thinking was close to that of Agudas Yisroel, and demonstrates that it was, in fact, proximate to the messianic teachings of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Hacohen Kook. A hitherto unknown letter proves that the Agudas Yisroel leadership in Budapest shunned and excluded Rabbi Teichtal from all posts of influence because of his views. The Holocaust gave Rabbi Teichtal an incentive to revisit his personal opinions and develop a doctrine that views favorably the project of Jewish immigration to Eretz Israel and the attempt to establish a Jewish entity there, one that would administer the country’s life autonomously and strive to normalize the Jewish national condition.



Review of Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, Stepan Bandera: The Life and Afterlife of a Ukrainian Nationalist. Fascism, Genocide, and Cult  


Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe’s book on Stepan Bandera is the first comprehensive scholarly monograph about the controversial leader of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (Bandera faction), and the way he has been celebrated by writers, historians, ideologues, film directors, politicians and political activists ever since the mid-1930s. Critical publications by historians based outside Ukraine, the book finds, have had almost no impact on the post-Soviet Bandera cult. Noted flaws of the book include an important error in a translation from the Ukrainian and the omission of a government-sponsored investigation by Kiev-based historians. Altogether, however, the reviewer recommends the book as comprehensive and filled with a number of fascinating facts.

Review of Joshua Zimmerman, The Polish Underground and the Jews, 1939-1945


With an estimated membership of 350,000 in June 1944—around three-quarters of the resistance fighters in Poland—the Home Army (Armia Krajowa—AK) was the largest resistance movement in German-occupied Europe. Its record has been hotly disputed. Some Polish historians viewed it as the quintessence of the highest patriotic values, a band of unsullied fighters who fought bravely but vainly for the independence of their country and attempted when they could to assist their Jewish fellow-citizens. More self-critical Poles and some Jewish historians have contested this evaluation. They stress AK commanders’ hostility to Jews, particularly General Tadeusz Bor-Komorowski, and argue that he initiated a policy of excluding Jews from the forces under his command. They also point to the murders of Jews carried out by the AK, which they claim in some cases had the approval of its leadership. Joshua Zimmerman’s fair and dispassionate study attempts to evaluate these widely different positions and reach a conclusion on the actual behavior of the AK. 

Review of Alan Rosen, ed., Literature of the Holocaust 


Research on belles lettres that relate to the Holocaust and Holocaust historiography are regarded as two separate disciplines that share less than they have in common. The collection of articles edited by Alan Rosen reviews a series of literatures and literary genres in several languages in different countries in terms of their attitudes toward the Holocaust. The purpose of the book is to connect and conjoin the two disciplines and it successfully demonstrates that the separation of history and literature in the context of the Holocaust is artificial and detrimental to the quality of research.

Review of Jeremy Hicks, First Films of the Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and the Genocide of the Jews, 1938-1946; Olga Gershenson, The Phantom Holocaust: Soviet Cinema and Jewish Catastrophe


The books by Jeremy Hicks and Olga Gershenson address the subject of the Holocaust as reflected in Soviet documentary and feature films produced during World War II and afterward. They enable us to understand the artistic means by which certain creative intellectuals attempted to present the Holocaust to the viewer while overcoming rigid Soviet ideological restrictions. The authors also reveal that the topic of the Holocaust in Soviet cinematography became a milestone in the interaction between screenwriters and producers and the Soviet authorities. The authors’ analyses, particularly of the war years, are undertaken in comparison with contemporary films in the West. Finally, the authors demonstrate the extent to which focusing on Holocaust events beyond the Soviet borders fundamentally extended their abilities to deal with the topic itself.