Cover image for Harvest of despair : life and death in Ukraine under Nazi rule
Harvest of despair : life and death in Ukraine under Nazi rule
Berkhoff, Karel C. (Karel Cornelis), 1965-
Publication Information:
Cambridge, Mass. : Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, [2004]

Physical Description:
xiii, 463 pages : illustrations, map ; 24 cm

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DK508.833 .B47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
DK508.833 .B47 2004 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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If I find a Ukrainian who is worthy of sitting at the same table with me, I must have him shot, declared Nazi commissar Erich Koch. To the Nazi leaders, the Ukrainians were Untermenschen - subhumans. But the rich land was deemed prime territory for Lebensraum expansion. Once the Germans rid the country of Jews, Roma, and Bolsheviks, the Ukrainians would be used to harvest the land for the master race. Karel Berkhoff provides a searing portrait of life in the Third Reich's largest colony. Under the Nazis, a blend of German nationalism, anti-Semitism, and racist notions about the Slavs produced a reign of terror and genocide. But it is impossible to understand fully Ukraine's response to this assault without addressing the impact of decades of repressive Soviet rule. Berkhoff shows how a pervasive Soviet mentality worked against solidarity, which helps explain why the vast majority of the population did not resist the Germans. more nuanced way issues of collaboration and local anti-Semitism. Berkhoff offers a multifaceted discussion that includes the brutal nature of the Nazi administration; the genocide of the Jews and Roma; the deliberate starving of Kiev; mass deportations within and beyond Ukraine; the role of ethnic Germans; religion and national culture; partisans and the German response; and the desperate struggle to stay alive. Harvest of Despair is a gripping depiction of ordinary people trying to survive extraordinary events.

Author Notes

Karel C. Berkhoff is Associate Professor, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, an organization of the University of Amsterdam and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Reminiscent of Merle Fainsod's Smolensk under Soviet Rule (1958) in its painstaking documentation of ordinary life under a totalitarian regime, Berkhoff's sober, shocking history chronicles the brief, genocidal existence of the Nazi colony of Ukraine during the years 1941-44. It remains an uncomfortable historical fact that many people in the Ukraine welcomed the German invaders. Unable to imagine a fate worse than the one inflicted through famine and Stalin's purges, provided one wasn't murdered immediately for being aew, a Roma, or a prisoner of war, the average person just tried to get by. The thrust of Berkhoff's patient research is to demonstrate that this proved an increasingly precarious proposition as the Nazis' true policies became evident to everyone who saw a person hanged, a village burned, or a relative vanish into forced labor. Yet the response to draconian violence was not general resistance, which Berkhoff argues is a postwar myth. Most people tried simply to survive by making accommodations with Nazi rule. Tough reading from a factual standpoint, Berkhoff's original historiography is a must for larger collections. --Gilbert Taylor Copyright 2004 Booklist

Library Journal Review

Berkhoff (Ctr. for Holocaust & Genocide Studies, Univ. of Amsterdam) has produced a remarkable chronicle of murderous brutality carried out between 1941 and 1943 in the Reichskomissariat of the Ukraine. Because of the author's meticulous use of exhaustive sources, some not previously available, he has credibly addressed such controversial matters as the role of the Ukrainian Resistance Army, the extent of Ukrainian national consciousness, and local involvement in the Holocaust. Berkhoff finds that while a few Ukrainians attempted to save Jews, the "vast majority just stood by and watched," and some blamed Jews for Ukrainian sufferings under "Bolshevism." Almost casually, the author notes that, unlike Anne Frank's protectors in the Netherlands, Ukrainians who were found protecting Jews faced certain death. Moreover, Ukrainians, who were "indifferent to ethnicity, much less nationalism," had no active interest in an independent state and generally did not experience significant changes in "mental attitude" under the Nazis. Nevertheless, Nazi arrogance, massacres, and violent deportations embittered Ukrainians, who had hoped for better treatment. Berkhoff estimates that about a million died as a direct result of Nazi policies. His book offers outstanding scholarship hitherto unequaled in detail. Recommended for all academic libraries and larger public libraries.-Zachary T. Irwin, Sch. of Humanities & Social Science, Pennsylvania State Univ., Erie (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In this fascinating book, Dutch historian Berkhoff analyzes Nazi Germany's 1941-44 occupation of Soviet Ukraine from the perspective of the Ukrainians. His groundbreaking account leaves no stone unturned, incorporating archival materials from five countries in at least four languages. While many Ukrainians originally welcomed the Germans as liberators, the Third Reich's harsh policies convinced most of them that life had been better under the Soviets, and by the final months of the occupation, most eagerly anticipated the expulsion of the Germans. Berkhoff provides detailed accounts of some of the many crimes committed against the Ukrainian people, most notably the massacre at Babi Yar during the fall of 1941. He further chronicles the everyday obstacles from food shortages to forced labor that average Ukrainians had to overcome simply to survive. Perhaps most surprising is the evidence regarding how deeply rooted Stalinist institutions had become among the Ukrainian people. Given the criminality of the Nazis during their three-year occupation of Ukraine, one shudders to think of the untold devastation the Germans would have wrought had they won the war. ^BSumming Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates and above. R. W. Lemmons Jacksonville State University

Table of Contents

Figuresp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Introductionp. 1
1 Soviet Ukraine and the German Invasionp. 6
2 The Reichskommissariat Ukrainep. 35
3 The Holocaust of the Jews and Romap. 59
4 Prisoners of Warp. 89
5 Life in the Countrysidep. 114
6 Conditions in the Citiesp. 141
7 Famine in Kievp. 164
8 Popular Culturep. 187
9 Ethnic Identity and Political Loyaltiesp. 205
10 Religion and Popular Pietyp. 232
11 Deportations and Forced Migrationsp. 253
12 Toward the End of Nazi Rulep. 275
Conclusionp. 305
Appendix Tablesp. 317
Abbreviationsp. 319
Notesp. 321
Sourcesp. 439
Acknowledgmentsp. 445
Indexp. 447