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The Unknown Black Book: The Holocaust in the German-Occupied Soviet Territories Hardcover – 4 Feb 2008

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"And in the sky, the moon wept / Looking on with pity / Bathing passers-by / With loving radiance. / Here they crammed us in / Like herring into a barrel / Barely, barely did we find shelter / We sat in one corner. / Night fell, outlining / Golden stars /And covered with darkness / Human suffering." from a poem by Lev Rozhetsky, Odessa schoolboy, August 1944

About the Author

Joshua Rubenstein is Northeast Regional Director of Amnesty International USA. He is author of Tangled Loyalties: The Life and Times of Ilya Ehrenburg, and editor (with Vladimir Naumov) of Stalin's Secret Pogrom: The Postwar Inquisition of the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee. Ilya Altman is Director of the Center for Holocaust Research and Education in Moscow and Editor-in-Chief of Encyclopedia of the Holocaust in the USSR (in Russian). --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 16 reviews
63 of 69 people found the following review helpful
Weeping in Babylon 6 Feb. 2008
By Kerry Walters - Published on
Format: Hardcover
It's a rare reader who'll be able to get through The Unknown Black Book without having to walk away from it several times. The tragedies it documents are just too horrible to bear except in small doses. Both text and photographs stun the imagination and freeze the heart.

The UBB is a narrative history of Nazi atrocities against the Jews in the German-occupied Soviet territories (Ukraine, Belorussia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, The Crimea, and Russia) during WWII. It contains 93 documents, almost half of which are written by eyewitnesses. The rest are compilations of various eyewitness accounts by the editors, a couple of Soviet Jewish journalists, Ilya Ehrenburg and Vasily Grossman, who began collecting material as early as 1942. The eyewitness accounts include diaries, letters, and testimonies of those Russian Jews who managed to survive the wholescale exterminations carried out by the Eastern Front Einsatzgruppen (one of which was commanded by a direct descendant of the composer Franz Schubert).

What can one possibly say that makes sense of the horrors described by the survivors? Tsodik Yakovlevich Bleyman, the sole survivor of the shtetl of Utyan, tells of being driven into the forest with dozens of men and women, who were then sprayed with machine gun fire by Lithuanian fascist collaborators (p. 310). Yevgenia Shendels tells of her father, a physician, being gunned down in the streets of Kursk because he resisted the Nazi murder of medical patients (p. 401). Tatyana Taranova, a student, remembers that one Jew was ill and in seclusion when an Einsatzgruppe exterminated everyone in his village. When he was told of their fate, he was simply unable to believe the fantastic tale. "He decided to ask the German commandant for help because he did not believe that they had shot the Jews. The commandant smiled and called over a soldier with a submachine gun, and the naive Jew was shot right there" (p. 209). Tales such as these defy comprehension. but they need to be told and heeded.

The UBB's own fate is almost as sad as the stories it documents. In 1942, just a few months after the German invasion of the USSR, the Jewish Anti-Fascist Committee was formed to document German atrocities, publicize them throughout the world, and garner aid for the Soviet war effort. A parallel Jewish committee in the U.S., chaired by Albert Einstein, promised to publish an English version of the book when it was completed. The American "Black Book" was eventually released. But the Stalinist regime eventually decided that the Russian version was too "Zionist." In addition, the government was upset that the Russian version documented numerous cases of Russian collaboration with the Nazis, thereby revealing the extent of anti-semitism in the Soviet state. So the publication of the Russian Black Book was squelched, even though the manuscript was complete, and in 1952 Stalin executed some 13 "Zionist" Jews who had collaborated on the project.

The book surpressed by Stalin, the "Unknown" Black book, is finally available thanks to the efforts of the editors of this edition.
51 of 55 people found the following review helpful
History that Needs to be Told 24 Jan. 2008
By BK - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The Unknown Black Book begins to fill in a long overdue gap in our understanding of the Holocaust. While most Americans associate the Holocaust with the fate of Anne Frank in Holland, or the death camps in Poland, this book reminds us that nearly half of the Jewish victims were living in Soviet territory when the Germans invaded in June 1941. Perhaps people have heard of Babi Yar, a ravine outside of Kiev where the Nazis, with the help of Ukrainians, killed more than 33,000 Jews in two days of continuous shooting in September 1941. But this book confirms that there were hundreds, probably thousands of such massacres, big and small, throughout Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Baltic States. This is a grim history, as grim as it gets. But it needs to be told.

I also want to commend the fine introduction by Joshua Rubenstein which places this aspect of the Holocaust within the general history of the Final Solution. The author also explores what happened to the perpetrators at Nuremberg. There was actually a trial at Nuremberg for the SS commanders of the shooting units who carried out the killings in German-Occupied Soviet territory. Even though 14 were sentenced to death, only four were actually executed and the rest were released by the Americans after only a few years.
37 of 41 people found the following review helpful
Compelling 25 Jan. 2008
By DSA - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I just finished reading The Unknown Black Book. It was emotionally exhausting. I have read many books about the Holocaust and seen my share of movies, both documentary films and features. This book, with its emphasis on how ordinary people treated their Jewish neighbors once the Germans invaded, was particularly compelling. No wonder the Kremlin refused to allow the Soviet journalist Ilya Ehrenburg to publish this material at the time. In the future, when I hear the phrase "the Germans and their allies," I will not only think about the governments that colluded in mass murder. I will also have to consider the otherwise ordinary citizens-in Ukraine, Belorussia, and the Baltic Region-who actively participated in genocide.
25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant part of history 29 Jan. 2008
By Seth J. Frantzman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In this amazing and original history we learn, finally, the first person accounts of the Nazi genocide perpetrated in Belarus, Ukraine and the Soviet Union by the Nazis during the Second World War. This part of the Holocaust has been only touched on elsewhereOrdinary Men: Reserve Police Battalion 101 and the Final Solution in Poland. Despite the fact that Holocaust Museums such as Yad Vashem have documented the Nazi road of terror and death in the Ukraine, few histories have examined this from the point of view of the people involved.

This book bridges this gap, taking the reader deep into the land that was once flowing with Jewish Shtetle life. Soviet eye-witnesses such as Vasily Grossman, one of Russia's most celebrated journalists, show us the eyewitness accounts of Nazi atrocities and reminds us that almost half of the victims of the Holocaust were murdered here.

An amazing story that turns the heart and will shock the reader and one that fills in this gap of history.

Seth J. Frantzman
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Well into the book 16 April 2009
By D. lawrence - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Informative, fascinating, sad, the veneer of civilization is thin. Thugs are among us all, and but for the opportuninty...
This book can be repetitive but that's in line with its mission and source. If one does not need to be convinced how and where and to whom this happened, a myriad of witnesses is not necessary but I found it interesting nonetheless. This book is not for the squeamish or the warm-fuzzy types. I always cringe whenever I hear anyone bash the Jews today including using Israel as the excuse. It's not complicated. A Jew hater is a Jew hater. Dress it intellectually how you will. Human nature does not change. We must be ever vigilant.
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