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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good look at the Holocaust in Ukraine..., 8 April 2012
Jill Meyer (United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in the Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial (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.
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Judgment Before Nuremberg: The Holocaust in the Ukraine and the First Nazi War Crimes Trial
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