The Holocaust in Ukraine Essay Example


The Jewish holocaust in World War II is widely known to have occurred at extermination camps, most of which were located in Poland. However, to a lesser-known extent, several mass exterminations took place earlier during the war in Ukraine. The Nazi’s efforts to “erase” the Jewish population(ix) seemed effective then and unfortunately lives into the present day. The names of the Jewish victims, the villages they lived in, and the locations of the burial sites they were murdered in(viii) remain difficult to trace today. Even the record of how many died at each extermination was destroyed with the person assigned to count them(115). Testimonials about each mass murder in Ukraine from ‘witnesses’ can provide an essential history of the Jewish victims. Each witness’s individual experience of these mass murders is vital in revealing different aspects of the holocausts in Ukraine such as how many mass exterminations there were, how they occurred, and where the victims’ execution and burial sites were. 

The Holocaust By Bullets documents the journey of Father Patrick Desbois and his journey through many cities in Ukraine where he learns about the mass exterminations that happened at each one through individual witness accounts. The witnesses can be categorized by what they experienced and what understanding of the eastern holocausts was gained as a result of that. Some may have only watched and carried the victims’ last words. Others relive their experiences and guilt of being requisitioned and forced to aid in the exterminations. Some witnesses may recount when they tried to help. However, regardless of the category, the experience of witnessing and surviving is quintessential justice for the victims who cannot verify their own tragic stories today. The dehumanizing events can instead now be exposed by those who were there first hand and thwarts the anti-semitic denial of Jewish genocide(55) that transpired in Ukraine during early world war II.

One type of witness is those who observed but were not directly a part of the executions(74). Some may have indirectly witnessed the executions by hearing about it or watching a German soldier taking a Jewish family from their home (74). However, a majority witnessed the executions themselves (75), the conditions in which they existed before, and how they were murdered(74). Witnesses like Marfa Lichnitski (140) specifically saw the victims being taken from their homes and provided a picture of which villages were stripped of their Jewish populace. Witnesses Olena S. Virikhta (58), Anna Dychkant(122), and Yaroslav Galan(75) even remember their names and exact last words. Olena is a witness who contributed to establishing proof that mass extermination had occurred at the village of Khativ(58) where she lived. Locations of the mass burial sites, and how the executions were carried out there were also uncovered from this trip(58). Witnesses from Borove also revealed the gravesite of the last Jews of Rawa Ruska (35). They also obtained primary sources from the witnesses that completed conclusions made by the Soviet commission about the events that happened there(36). Other recounts revealed that many Jews did not die after the initial bullet, but would suffocate from the sand being thrown on them as they were buried alive, causing the pit itself to “breath” for several days after(65). Many witnesses were children at this time, one of whom was forced to dig in a pit full of dead and injured bodies(65). Witnesses like Olga Bitouk and a group of other children watched and heard the murders and burial from afar(147), and Maria Kedrovska(197) witnessed the death of her entire community and family being thrown into wells when she was a child(199).  

Some witnesses were requisitioned (75) to temporarily and unwillingly serve the occupying Nazi army. These individual experiences are vital in understanding how the Nazis used other non-targeted civilians in their executions, what specific German units were present(106), the daily activities at an extermination site(98), and the people who were requisitioned did(74). Witnesses who were requisitioned provided a unique and important understanding of what it was like to be a victim and a perpetrator(95). For example, one witness revealed how the Germans threw grenades in the pit where many Jewish people were not dead yet and had to retrieve the resulting dismembered body part(s)(36). Some of the requisitioned were also forced to cover the ground with chalk to dry up the rivers of blood (36), extract gold dental from the mouths of the victims(66), bring hemp and sunflowers to burn corpses with as teenagers(67) and transport corpses to be burned(75). Such accounts also provided insight on the Germans’ “legal framework” where they were required to assassinate the Jews, but the method was up to preference and even to the extent of dehumanization and sadism(67). Also, witnesses Alexandra (87) and Hannah Senikova(88) revealed lesser-known aspects of the exterminations such as; handling of stolen goods from the Jews(87), the role of women being sexually exploited(167), and the cavalier attitudes of the soldiers in which they would eat meat(90), drink(88), and eat mints(95) while murdering massive amounts of innocent people at the same time. Most of the witnesses interviewed also revealed that there was a mechanical routine process in murdering the Jews. Many witnesses similarly stated that Jews were brought to the site by truck, the pit(s) would be dug by the Jews(40), they would be undressed(69) and stripped of their valuables, then shot near or in the pit and buried, dead or injured. 

The witnesses in short should be regarded as a “living protest” for being able to live through these horrific events and are finally able to speak about them in a way that generates what genocide looked like in Ukraine during early WW2, acknowledging not only their pain but also raising awareness of the barbaric executions of the innocent Jewish victims(124), as well as paving a path in preventing genocides(124) by accepting those innocent beings were murdered in cold blood. Despite the extensive efforts in destroying evidence and corpses(155) and anti-Semitic efforts such as Operation 1005 in denying the existence of the Jewish and genocide(155), the witness’ experiences serves as a justice for preserving the memory that the Germans tried so hard to erase and bringing upon exponential amounts of information of the holocaust by bullets, all of which would not have been discovered by Father Desbois had it not been for his grandfather who witnessed it(213).

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