- Hardcover: 336 pages
- Publisher: Pegasus; 1st Edition edition (18 Sept. 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1605982903
- ISBN-13: 978-1605982908
- Product Dimensions: 15 x 3.6 x 21.8 cm
- Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars See all reviews (1 customer review)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,273,598 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in the Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial Hardcover – 18 Sep 2015
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Judgment Before Nuremberg The story of the forgotten Kharkov Trials, which sought justice for the thousands of Jews killed in the Ukraine two years prior to the infamous Nuremberg Trails. Full description
Top Customer Reviews
But Dawson tells the story on the macro level of the Holocaust and how it really began in Ukraine. He writes that 1,000,000 Jews were killed by mobile death squads before the death camps were opened up in Poland and other eastern countries. And these death squads used guns and gas vans to kill these victims as well as other means, like boarding up Jews in cellars and letting them starve to death or suffocate, and driving Jewish townspeople into local synagogs and then setting the buildings on fire. Dawson gives, of course, the usual cast of characters - Hitler, Goebbles, Himmler, Heydrich, and Eichmann - as well as one other Nazi, intimately involved in the killings of the Jews of Kharkov, one Paul Blobel.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
But Dawson tells the story on the macro level of the Holocaust and how it really began in Ukraine. He writes that 1,000,000 Jews were killed by mobile death squads before the death camps were opened up in Poland and other eastern countries. And these death squads used guns and gas vans to kill these victims as well as other means, like boarding up Jews in cellars and letting them starve to death or suffocate, and driving Jewish townspeople into local synagogs and then setting the buildings on fire. Dawson gives, of course, the usual cast of characters - Hitler, Goebbles, Himmler, Heydrich, and Eichmann - as well as one other Nazi, intimately involved in the killings of the Jews of Kharkov, one Paul Blobel. Blobel, a neer-do-well, who found himself heading the killing at Babi Yar, by his work in Einsatzgruppe C. He was then given the task, as the Germans were retreating from the Soviet Union back through Ukraine, of literally disposing of the bodies of those previously murdered by his troops. Greg Dawson tours the Ukraine in his research, returning to the city of Kharkov and visits the pits at Drobitsky Yar where his grandparents and greatgrandparents were murdered in mid-December, 1941.
The second part of the book is a telling of the trial by Soviet troops in the Kharkov of three captured German soldiers and one Russian collaborator in December, 1943. This trial, held almost two full years before those trials at Nuremberg, ended with the hanging of the Germans and the Russian. Held in the miraculously intact Opera House in Kharkov, those defendants were tried for "crimes against humanity". Curiously, those murdered by the Germans were not identified as Jews - even though most of the victims were Jews - but as "Soviet citizens". It was only way after the war, when those murdered began to be identified as Jews.
Greg Dawson does a good job at telling the story of the Holocaust and its beginnings in Ukraine. His writing is slightly disjointed and I wish he had included maps of the area in his book. He did, however, include three sets of photographs of WW2 Kharkov and present-day Kharkov. This is a good book for any reader interested in the Holocaust.
Dawson is indignant that so few people are acquainted with the shocking statistics: "At least 750,000 Jews--mostly Ukrainian--were [shot to death] before the gas chambers at Auschwitz-Birkenau began operation." Others were killed in mobile gas wagons that the Nazis designed to eliminate their prey more efficiently. The Nazis systematically robbed their victims and also destroyed many schools, cultural institutions, houses of worship, and even hospitals. The title of this book refers to the first war crimes trial--not in Germany, but in Kharkov, Ukraine, in December, 1943.
The author has done a great deal of research, and includes thought-provoking observations from such celebrated historians as Raul Hilberg, Deborah Lipstadt, and Hannah Arendt. Dawson not only enlightens us about the horrors of the Ukrainian Holocaust, but he also points out that crucial information has been suppressed for years. Long before six million perished, influential journalists and politicians knew that the Nazis were systematically executing Jews in Europe. Few tried to intervene in any meaningful way.
Although this is a powerful and informative work of non-fiction, Dawson occasionally goes off topic before backtracking and refocusing on his central theme. Nevertheless, readers will be moved by Dawson's pilgrimage to the Ukraine to immerse himself in the history of Kharkov during the Second World War. We share his outrage at the systematic cover-up of Nazi atrocities. Greg Dawson would like us to educate ourselves and others about the vicious and insidious nature of anti-Semitism. We must remember that even cultured and educated people are capable of cold-blooded murder. As Edmund Burke so eloquently stated, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."
In the first part of the book, Dawson recounts the process through which he became interested in the Holocaust. As he recounts in his other book, which I haven't read yet but hope to, his mother and aunt survived the extermination of the Jews of Kharkov, hence his interest in Ukraine. Dawson tells how he didn't even learn about his mother's history until he was an adult. This discovery about his mother's past prompted him to visit Ukraine, and learn more about the Holocaust there, which occurred well before the gas chambers were built and in which the vast majority of victims were killed by bullets. Throughout the first part of the book, there are stand-alone chapters on a variety of themes, including an interesting critique of Tarantino's "Inglorious Bastards" and an analysis of Martin Luther's antisemitism. The chapters are untitled and the book is somewhat unstructured, but Dawson is a good writer and he brings a blend of personal connection to the topics he addresses.
One of the recurrent themes throughout the book is the general public's ignorance regarding the Holocaust in this part of the world. One excellent example he gives of this is an NBC News story that came out following the release of Patrick Desbois's book, "The Holocaust by Bullets." The book was remarkable for gathering testimony from witnesses to Nazi shootings throughout Ukraine and for locating mass graves, but the general facts that the Nazis shot hundreds of thousands of Jews in Ukraine was hardly new. But the NBC News story treated the book as if it had unearthed a previously unknown episode of the Holocaust. Dawson also reveals the overall ignorance of the Holocaust in Ukraine that he encounters when giving talks during book tours. If I had one complaint about this part of the book, it is that Dawson seems to focus too specifically on the uniqueness of the Holocaust in Ukraine per se. For example, he recounts how he would often give quizzes to audiences prior to his talks, in which one of the questions he asked was, "In what country did the first mass executions of Jews occur?" The answer he is looking for is "Ukraine" and he finds it remarkable how few people get it right. Now, I agree with him completely about the overall lack of public knowledge regarding the Holocaust, and particularly the Holocaust on the Eastern Front. But there are many reasons why people might not answer "Ukraine" in response to that question, one of which is that I don't think it is unambiguously true that that is where Jews were first killed en masse. Latvia, Lithuania, and Belarus were invaded by the Nazis at the same time as Ukraine was invaded, and Jews in those places immediately felt the Nazis' wrath. For that matter, Poland was invaded two years earlier, and although it wouldn't be until later that they were systematically exectued, there WERE certainly some mass killings of Jews there in the early period of the Nazi occupation.
But Dawson is absolutely correct about his larger point of Americans' ignorance regarding Nazi policies in occupied Soviet territory, and he does a service in this book and in his lectures by bringing attention to the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union. So, I would certainly recommend Dawson's book. He is not a historian or academic, so he doesn't uncover new material here. But he does write with a fresh, authentic voice, and his own family's connection to the Holocaust in Ukraine is a remarkable one.
I also had the pleasure of reading Dawson's first book, "Hiding in the Spotlight," about his mother and aunt's escape while performing for the Nazis throughout the war. I highly recommend both books.
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