Har­vest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine Under Nazi Rule

Karel C. Berkhoff
  • Review
By – September 28, 2012
This is a grip­ping depic­tion of the Nazi occu­pa­tion of the Ukraine dur­ing the height of World War II. The book cov­ers all aspects of Nazi per­se­cu­tion, in 12 the­mat­ic chap­ters. A sep­a­rate chap­ter is ded­i­cat­ed to the exter­mi­na­tion of Jews and Gyp­sies in the Ukraine. To an extent, Berkhoff’s focus pro­vides an inter­est­ing com­par­a­tive per­spec­tive. At the same time, how­ev­er, the com­par­a­tive focus waters down the impact of some of his data, specif­i­cal­ly by seem­ing to equate the mur­der of the Jews — a pre­med­i­tat­ed act of geno­cide — with the famine in the Ukrain­ian cities under Nazi occu­pa­tion, which result­ed from Nazi exploita­tion poli­cies but was not pre­med­i­tat­ed. With such com­par­isons, Berk­hoff lays him­self open to (unfair) charges of rel­a­tiviz­ing the Holo­caust. I do also believe that Berk­hoff under­es­ti­mates the sig­nif­i­cance of Ukrain­ian col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Nazi regime, but he is cor­rect in plac­ing much of the blame for what hap­pened in Nazi – occu­pied Ukraine to the per­va­sive impact of Sovi­et mis­gov­er­nance repres­sion. On bal­ance, there­fore, this is an impor­tant work on a com­plex sub­ject and deserves to be read by most read­ers inter­est­ed in East­ern Europe. Bib­lio., illus.; index; notes.
Abra­ham J. Edel­heit is an asso­ciate pro­fes­sor of his­to­ry at Kings­bor­ough Com­mu­ni­ty Col­lege (CUNY) and the author, co-author, or edi­tor of eleven books on the Holo­caust, Zion­ism, Jew­ish and Euro­pean his­to­ry, and Mil­i­tary affairs. His most recent pub­li­ca­tion appeared in Armor mag­a­zine, the offi­cial jour­nal of the US Army Armor and Cav­al­ry Command.

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