“If I find a Ukrainian who is worthy of sitting at the same table with me, I must have him shot,” declared Nazi commissar Erich Koch. To the Nazi leaders, the Ukrainians were Untermenschen—subhumans. But the rich land was deemed prime territory for Lebensraum expansion. Once the Germans rid the country of Jews, Roma, and Bolsheviks, the Ukrainians would be used to harvest the land for the master race.
Karel Berkhoff provides a searing portrait of life in the Third Reich’s largest colony. Under the Nazis, a blend of German nationalism, anti-Semitism, and racist notions about the Slavs produced a reign of terror and genocide. But it is impossible to understand fully Ukraine’s response to this assault without addressing the impact of decades of repressive Soviet rule. Berkhoff shows how a pervasive Soviet mentality worked against solidarity, which helps explain why the vast majority of the population did not resist the Germans. He also challenges standard views of wartime eastern Europe by treating in a more nuanced way issues of collaboration and local anti-Semitism.
Berkhoff offers a multifaceted discussion that includes the brutal nature of the Nazi administration; the genocide of the Jews and Roma; the deliberate starving of Kiev; mass deportations within and beyond Ukraine; the role of ethnic Germans; religion and national culture; partisans and the German response; and the desperate struggle to stay alive. Harvest of Despair is a gripping depiction of ordinary people trying to survive extraordinary events.
This is an amazing book, a real milestone in the literature. Everyone interested in the history of Ukraine, the Soviet Union, World War II, and the Holocaust will surely want to read it. The description of the purposeful starving of Kiev is especially poignant. By the end, the reader is left with a sense of the hopelessness and terror of the Nazi occupation of Ukraine. Karel Berkhoff has told this very important story--central to the history of World War II--as no one else has. I recommend Harvest of Despair with enthusiasm.
A pioneering study of the German occupation of Soviet Ukraine...Before Berkhoff, no historian had confronted, with such seriousness and such an impressive range of archival sources, the alternation of Soviet and Nazi rule in Ukraine...He reveals the horrifying extent of human adaptability, and the appalling variety of human suffering. This human element, perhaps, is [this book's] most timely offering. In today's Europe, as the 1930s and 40s are re-evaluated, and narratives of victimhood gain importance, it is useful to know where European totalitarianism was at its blackest.
Berkhoff's book is an extraordinary piece of research that contributes much to an understanding of modern Ukraine.
It is less a history of the occupation that Karel C. Berkhoff presents in his important and accessibly written book than the story of the experience of the seventeen million inhabitants of the German Reichskommissariat Ukraine from 1941 to 1944...Berkhoff has written the best book on the subject so far and contributes greatly to the research on Ukraine during the German occupation.
Berkhoff has presented the most detailed analysis of an Eastern European population under Nazi rule to date. By integrating previously unused German security service reports from Ukrainian archives with an imposing collection of Ukrainian source material, both archival and in the form of memoirs, the author has produced an important book that would benefit both upper-division students and specialists alike. While he makes a strong contribution to the historiography concerning German goals and policies in the occupied Soviet Union, his focus on the people at the sharp end of these policies constitutes his outstanding achievement. Instead of merely describing the bureaucratic nature of Nazi occupation, Berkhoff has allowed the victims to speak. They have painted a vivid picture of the terror at the heart of Nazi rule.
Assessments of the Second World War in Ukraine are mostly fragmentary and dominated by accounts of attempted cooperation with the Nazi Regime or collaboration in the murder of the Jews. Few writers have questioned the official Soviet stance, which regarded those left behind to the mercies of the occupiers as traitors. Rarely has this view been more effectively challenged than in Karel C. Berkhoff's history of daily life in the Reichskommisariat Ukraine...Berkhoff departs from the usual examination of politics and collaboration...This Dutch author's command of Ukrainian, Polish, German, and English secondary materials is also impressive. The book is to be commended not least for its ability to shed light on the burgeoning historiographical debate about European societies under Nazi and Soviet rule. Military historians as well as East Central European and Russian specialists will find this work of immense value in assessing the wartime experience in Ukraine and its historical legacy.
This is a gripping depiction of the Nazi occupation of the Ukraine during the height of World War II...This is an important work on a complex subject and deserves to be read by most readers interested in Eastern Europe.
Based on the skillful integration of materials from German, Russian, Ukrainian, and American archives, from the vast memoir literature, and from secondary works on the Holocaust and on the war in many languages, this monograph is a triumph of dispassionate scholarship. As a territorial (not national) history of Reichskommissariat Ukraine, it provides a highly subtle portrait of the multiple, often conflicting, perceptions during the 'fog of war' and occupation, when the multinational native population acted on its unspoken assumptions, fears, and confusions in an environment of total political powerlessness and moral paralysis...Berkhoff's work is the most comprehensive history of the German occupation of Ukraine and a major contribution to the study of the war on the Eastern front...Everyone interested in the history of twentieth century Ukraine, the Soviet Union, World War Two, or the Holocaust should read this book.
Berkhoff offers a vivid account of what life was like for the local population in Nazi-occupied Ukraine. Other books that might embark on presenting a more perpetrator-centered view of the German occupation regime and its lethal economic and extermination policies in Ukraine will have to meet the high standards set by this impressive piece of victim-centered historical analysis.
This is a grim work, delving deeply into the horrors of the Nazi regime, as imposed on the Reichskomissariot Ukraine from 1941 through 1944...The work is rich in detail on popular reactions to the harsh regime, ranging from collaboration to resistance, and the surprising range of political, social, cultural, social, and religious developments. A good work for anyone interested in the war in the East, the Holocaust, or the nature of the Nazi regime.
- 480 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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