Cover: Harvest of Despair: Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule, from Harvard University PressCover: Harvest of Despair in PAPERBACK

Harvest of Despair

Life and Death in Ukraine under Nazi Rule

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$35.00 • £30.95 • €31.95

ISBN 9780674027183

Publication Date: 03/15/2008


480 pages

6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

21 halftones, 1 map, 2 tables

Belknap Press


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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.—Timothy Snyder, Times Literary Supplement

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&helli; Berkhoff has written the best book on the subject so far and contributes greatly to the research on Ukraine during the German occupation.—Christian Gerlach, American Historical Review

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.—Jeff Rutherford, H-Net Reviews

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.Jewish Book World

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.—Matthew R. Schwonek, Journal of Military History

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.—Isabel Heinemann, Journal of Modern History

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.—George O. Liber, Russian Review

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.—A. A. Nofi, Strategy Page

Berkhoff’s book is an extraordinary piece of research that contributes much to an understanding of modern Ukraine.—Myron B. Kuropas, Ukrainian Weekly

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.—Norman M. Naimark, author of Fires of Hatred

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