The articles published in Volume 51:1 cover an array of topics: resistance and aid activities; questioning the role of Ukrainian nationalists, particularly Stepan Bandera, in the persecution of the Jews of Ukraine during the war; and the development of personal and collective memory of the Holocaust in Romania.
The first article in this volume is by Dariusz Libionka, “The Polish Underground State and the Financing of Aid for the Jews: An Attempt at a New Approach.” This meticulous examination of the financial aspects of providing and distributing aid to Polish Jews under Nazi occupation sheds light on the question of Polish–Jewish relations during the war.
The second article, by Tom Navon, “News from Auschwitz: The International Underground’s Secret Reports and the Jewish Holocaust,” calls our attention to a body of archival documents that traces a part of the process by which a series of messages smuggled out of Auschwitz, in 1944, were composed, edited, and disseminated. Navon explores the extent to which four of the reports’ authors’ Jewish backgrounds influenced the manner in which the reports represented the camp’s twin functions as a place of incarceration for political prisoners and as a site for the murder of European Jewry.
Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe’s article, “Bandera, Genocide, and Justice: Was Stepan Bandera Responsible for Crimes Committed by the OUN and the UPA?,” is a timely addition to research on the Holocaust in Ukraine. Over the last few years, this question has become increasingly politicized, and, as Rossoliński-Liebe cautions, should not be politically “instrumentalized by politicians, journalists and academics.”
The last article, by Ștefan Cristian Ionescu and Dana Mihăilescu, “Politics of Holocaust Memory in Communist and Post-Communist Romania: On Survivor Matei Gall’s Multiple Life Stories,” is another examination of the political instrumentalization of Holocaust memory. In their article, the authors trace Matei Gall’s writings under Communism and after its fall in order to decipher if and how his understanding of his years of persecution changed over time and what role it played in the construction of his personal memory and identity as a survivor.
The book reviews in this issue cover a wide range of new areas of scholarship. The authors are Brian Horowitz, Helene Sinnreich, Lisa Peschel, John-Paul Himka, David Weinberg, and Christine Schmidt.
Dariusz Libionka, The Polish Underground State and the Financing of Help for the Jews: An Attempt at a New Approach
This article analyzes the financial aspect of aid provided for the Jews by the civilian structures of the Polish underground state (the Office of the Government Delegate) responsible to the Polish Government-in-Exile in London. Those structures used their own budgets to finance the Council for Aid to the Jews, and at the same time disbursed funds transferred to the Polish Government-in-Exile by international Jewish organizations. Meant for the Bund and the Jewish National Committee, that money was transferred through the agency of Jewish representatives on the National Council, namely Ignacy Schwarzbart, Szmul Zygielbojm, and Emanuel Szerer. In the first part of the article, the author recreates the history of remittances sent to Poland, focusing on the problems that occurred while trying to cash them in Warsaw (the impossibility of withdrawing the money, repeated delays, the compulsory conversion of tens of thousands of dollars into zloty and consequent losses, and the ambiguities in the financial documentation). The second part is a discussion of the difficulties connected with the financing of the Council for Aid to the Jews until the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising on August 1, 1944. The third part deals with the allocation for the Council in the final months of the German occupation and the history of the exorbitant sums of money sent to Poland at that time. The conclusion provides financial data on the campaign to aid the Jews before and after the Warsaw Uprising, as well as general breakdowns of the sums of money allocated for aid to the Jews by international Jewish organizations and from the Polish underground state’s budget.
Tom Navon, News from Auschwitz: The International Underground’s Secret Reports and the Jewish Holocaust
Between February and October 1944, thirteen “Periodical Reports” on Auschwitz were composed based on information that was gathered and smuggled out of the camp by the international underground of prisoners. Aimed to inform the world of the crimes being perpetrated in Auschwitz, the reports deal with various groups of victims, among them left-wing political prisoners, Polish prisoners, Soviet POWs, and the Jewish victims of “the Final Solution.” This article examines the attitude of the authors of the reports to the extermination of Jews, ranging between particularist and universalist interpretations. As the reports were a collective composition, the intricate agendas represented within them are differentiated by identification of the authors and analysis of the process of writing and editing. Even though most of the authors were Communists of Jewish descent who had turned their backs on their Jewish origins, the reports did not refrain from distinguishing the Jews among the victims of Auschwitz.
Grzegorz Rossoliński-Liebe, Bandera, Genocide, and Justice: Was Stepan Bandera Responsible for Crimes Committed by the OUN and the UPA?
Stepan Bandera’s responsibility for crimes committed by the members of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN), partisans of the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), and also nationalists dedicated to him who fought in other formations has been discussed in academic debates and instrumentalized in political discourses. While some authors claim that Bandera was fully responsible for all kinds of crimes committed by the OUN and UPA, others argue that he cannot be held responsible for these crimes because he was not directly involved in their execution or he was not in Ukraine when they took place. The article examines various crimes and massacres committed on Bandera’s order or by those devoted to him, and explains to what extent and in which sense Bandera was responsible for them.
Ștefan Cristian Ionescu and Dana Mihăilescu, Politics of Holocaust Memory in Communist and Post-Communist Romania: On Survivor Matei Gall’s Multiple Life Stories
One of the most interesting cases of political instrumentalization, selectiveness, and distortion of historical memory under the Romanian Communist regime was the case of the public remembrance of the Fascist/Nazi era and its atrocities in conjunction with the over-emphasis on the Communist resistance to it. The authors examine these aspects by means of Jewish Communist Matei Gall’s autobiographic narratives focusing on World War II violence over a forty-year time span. These include Masacrul, published as a novel in 1956, in Communist Romania, based on two articles that initially appeared in the Communist party’s newspaper România liberă in September 1944; and Eclipsa, published as a memoir in post-Communist Romania in 1997. The authors also consider two interviews Gall gave in 2009, and what they added to his previous life narratives as well as how generally his narratives, spanning from the immediate postwar context to the 2000s, contribute to Communist and post-Communist mnemonic frameworks of the Holocaust in Romania.
Brian Horowitz, Neither the Shoah nor a Village Riot: To Which Events Should We Compare the Pogroms of Ukraine (1917-1921)?
Review of Jeffrey Veidlinger, In the Midst of Civilized Europe: The Pogroms of 1918–1921 and the Onset of the Holocaust
In his review article, Prof. Brian Horowitz examines several claims that the book In the Midst of Civilized Europe: The Pogroms of 1918-1921 and the Onset of the Holocaust promulgates. What actually happened during the pogroms in Ukraine in 1917-1920? Who was responsible? How did Jews react on the spot? Were the pogroms a prelude to the Holocaust? Prof. Horowitz also tries to connect the book to a chain of literature about pogroms in Ukraine and asks: how is this book different from others on the same subject?
Review of Joanna Sliwa, Jewish Childhood in Kraków: A Microhistory of the Holocaust
This review examines the important and much-needed contribution of Dr. Joanna Sliwa in her new book, Jewish Childhood in Kraków: A Microhistory of the Holocaust, to three under-researched areas in the field of Holocaust Studies: examinations of Jewish children’s vulnerability during the Holocaust; the daily suffering of the victims during the Holocaust; and Jews in wartime Kraków.
Lisa Peschel, History Through the Eyes of the Survivors: The “Privileged” Danish Jewish Prisoners of Theresienstadt
Review of Silvia Goldbaum Tarabini Fracapane, The Jews of Denmark in the Holocaust: Life and Death in Theresienstadt Ghetto
Fracapane has produced the first study of the 472 Danish Jews who were not rescued in October 1943, but were captured and deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto. Fracapane draws upon meticulous archival research and a sensitive analysis of testimonies by 146 individuals—more than one-third of those who survived the ghetto—to shed new light on little-known or poorly-understood historical events and surprising features of this group and their subjective experience. Fracapane makes a substantial contribution not only to our historical knowledge, but, through her exemplary approach, to analysis of testimony as historical evidence.
Review of Wendy Lower, The Ravine: A Family, a Photograph, a Holocaust Massacre Revealed
This review article of Wendy Lower’s The Ravine discusses a number of issues relevant to the history of the Holocaust, such as contemporary photographs from the period, the problem of relying too heavily on German sources, the role of the family in understanding both the perpetrators and the victims, and the fate of Holocaust murderers in postwar Germany and the Soviet Union. The Ravine is a book that can be read by the general public as well as experts. A particular virtue of the book is that Lower takes the reader through all the procedures she followed in order to investigate where and when a particular execution took place, who the killers and victims were, and who took the photograph that provided the impulse to undertake this study. Lower arrives at a realistic result: we can uncover some things, but other aspects continue to elude us.
Review of Laura Hobson Faure, A Jewish Marshall Plan: The American Jewish Presence in Post-Holocaust France
A new book by Laura Hobson-Faure, an American-born scholar living in France, examines the role of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee in the revival of the French Jewish community after World War II. It is the author’s contention that the aid effort, which was described at the time as a “Jewish Marshal Plan,” signaled a renewed involvement by the Jews of the United States in European and world Jewish affairs. Though overlapping in part with previous studies, the work offers new insights, especially concerning the development of social-service programs and institutions.
Review of Lawrence Langer, The Afterdeath of the Holocaust
Lawrence Langer’s most recent work, a collection of essays titled The Afterdeath of the Holocaust, explores important issues related to Holocaust evasion, which Langer traces through redemptive treatments in museums and memorials, Holocaust education programs, and artistic representations and memoirs. His essays explore the damaging legacy of disturbing trends that avoid the “killing reality” at the core of the Holocaust. This review examines Langer’s essay collection and reflects on its relationship to current scholarship on agency and representation.