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Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in the Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial Hardcover – 18 Sep 2015

4 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Product details

  • 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)

Product Description

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

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Format: Hardcover
Greg Dawson, author of "Judgement Before Nuremberg", takes a look at the early days of the Holocaust at both macro and micro levels. The micro one is the story of Dawson's mother, a survivor of the death march from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov to the killing fields at Drobitsky Yar, where 15,000 Jewish men, women, and children, were murdered by German troops and their Ukrainian helpers. His mother and her sister both somehow survived - his mother when her father bribed a German guard to let young Zhanna Arshanskaya slip away from the marchers and his aunt, who has never told her story of how she escaped the killing pit. Both girls were musical prodigies who were lucky to be helped to live as Christians and spent the war years playing music for German soldiers. Greg Dawson wrote of his mother and her miraculous survival and eventual journey to the United States where she married a Christian and raised two sons, while continuing her musical career in his previous book, "Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy's Story of Survival, 1941-1946".

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.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x9d6175f4) out of 5 stars 12 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cd8318c) out of 5 stars Good look at the Holocaust in Ukraine... 8 April 2012
By Jill Meyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Greg Dawson, author of "Judgement Before Nuremberg", takes a look at the early days of the Holocaust at both macro and micro levels. The micro one is the story of Dawson's mother, a survivor of the death march from the Ukrainian city of Kharkov to the killing fields at Drobitsky Yar, where 15,000 Jewish men, women, and children, were murdered by German troops and their Ukrainian helpers. His mother and her sister both somehow survived - his mother when her father bribed a German guard to let young Zhanna Arshanskaya slip away from the marchers and his aunt, who has never told her story of how she escaped the killing pit. Both girls were musical prodigies who were lucky to be helped to live as Christians and spent the war years playing music for German soldiers. Greg Dawson wrote of his mother and her miraculous survival and eventual journey to the United States where she married a Christian and raised two sons, while continuing her musical career in his previous book, "Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy's Story of Survival, 1941-1946".

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.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d5e47bc) out of 5 stars "I had come to liberate the ghost of Ukraine." 20 Mar. 2012
By E. Bukowsky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Greg Dawson, in his foreword to "Judgment before Nuremberg," states that "this is not a book I ever expected to write." He was inspired to do so because of his family's suffering. In January, 1942, the Nazis marched sixteen thousand Jews to Drobitsky Yar outside Kharkov, Ukraine, and subsequently shot them to death. Greg Dawson's mother and aunt were the only two to make it out alive. Dawson described the odyssey of these courageous women in his first book, "Hiding in the Spotlight."

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."
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9d544bc4) out of 5 stars Interesting if somewhat unstructured book about the Holocaust in Ukraine 14 May 2012
By Brandon Wilkening - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book and would recommend it to anyone interested in the Holocaust in general and more specifically the Holocaust in the former Soviet Union. But I do think the title of the book is somewhat misleading. It implies that this is a book-length treatment of the mostly forgotten Nazi war crimes trial in Kharkov. In fact, looking at the two parts of the book's subtitle - the Holocaust in Ukraine AND the war crimes trial in Kharkov - the book is mostly about the former. The actual trial itself is given fairly short shrift here, mainly recounted in the book's final several chapters. And for me personally, those chapters were the weakest - larded down with extensive quotes from previous works and lacking Dawson's voice, which was so powerful and insightful in the earlier chapters. So, while I think Dawson does a service in bringing this trial to our attention (especially since the Kharkov trial had an impact on the subsequent Nuremberg trial), the actual Kharkov trial is a springboard for Dawson to talk about other Holocaust-related themes that interest him, and this is where the book is at its most powerful.

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.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cd83528) out of 5 stars An Imporant, Forgetten Story Well-Told 26 Mar. 2012
By paperback writer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Even those with a fairly good working knowledge of the Holocaust often forget where it began, and where the first trial took place. This is a personal story of discovering the glaring gaps in most people's understanding of the Ukraine portion of the Holocaust and the reasons for this. At the same time, we get a detailed glimpse into the barbarity and unprecedented cruelty of the crimes, and the Soviet's excellent approach to justice, however inadequate. I came away with a sense of having learned and felt much about an important historial event that is still lagging in public awareness and knowledge. Hard-hitting and well-written.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9cd836b4) out of 5 stars An Important Piece of Holocaust History 4 Dec. 2012
By S. Mair - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Greg Dawson said in the Prologue that this book had to be written. He was absolutely right. I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about the Holocaust, and was aware of Babi Yar and the killing fields, but discovered that I really knew very little of the Jewish Holocaust in Ukraine. Often I found myself reading late into the night, wondering what I'd find next. The research is extremely thorough, but its presentation not didactic. Every time something seemed not quite right to me, Dawson would explain within the next few pages. One small example: early in the book the author referred to the country as "The Ukraine." I was surprised since it is now called Ukraine. He explained the changes in the name, and used the correct reference relative to the era about which he was writing. This may sound picky, but I want confidence in a history book, and I feel comfortable saying I trust every word that was written. Also, I was astonished to learn that the country had war tribunals before the end of the war and the famous Nuremberg trials. I'm not sure my review gives this book the justice it deserves, but it is important reading to anyone interested in the full scope of the Nazi's destruction of The Ukraine, and its Jewish population.

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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