MEMORY AND DOCUMENTS ON THE RESCUE OF JEWS IN UKRAINE DURING THE HOLOCAUST: BETWEEN MYTHS AND FACTS

  • Igor Shchupak

Abstract

The article focuses on one of the unexplored and mythologized aspects of Holocaust history – the problem of the rescue of Jews during the Second World War. Despite the wide array of sources, which in fact generates numerous false generalizations about the stories of the rescue of Jews from extermination by the Nazis, as based on the memoirs of those who survived the Holocaust – historians face the complexity of the interpretation and validity of these materials. The specifics of using narratives necessitate especially thorough scientific analysis and the comparison of data acquired with other sources of information. 

In fact, researchers did not begin to explore the issue of the rescue of Jews in Ukraine during the Holocaust until the post-Soviet period. A lack of vital human memory in this connection has caused significant discrepancies and disagreements between information that could be obtained immediately after the Second World War and data acquired 20, 50, and more than 70 years later. However, the memoirs of eyewitnesses, rescuers and those rescued, and interviews in the form of video or audio recordings are supplemented in this article by many documentary sources housed in various archival institutions in Ukraine.

The present article analyzes some of the existing myths about the rescue of Jews by the non-Jewish population during the Holocaust, in particular myths about the anti-Semitic sentiments of Ukrainians, the unselfishness of rescuers, etc. In examining and refuting the myth of anti-Semitic sentiments of Ukrainians, first of all in western Ukraine, the regional aspect of rescue is сonsidered, defined by the distribution of the Ukrainian Righteous among the Nations by regions of the country. Based on quantitative data, the special status of the Vinnytsia region is substantiated and identified as a distinct region. It should be noted that for purposes of comparison, this article only utilizes data on rescuers officially recognized by Yad Vashem, meaning they were given the designation “The Righteous Among the Nations”. However, the article also contains stories of other rescue attempts, usually unsuccessful, based on the materials of the court cases of the German invaders against the locals, cases most commonly preserved in the archives.

Exploring examples of the rescue of Jews in the occupied territory of Ukraine, conclusions are drawn regarding the main motives of individuals who risked not only their own lives but the lives of their relatives (the latter more often). The article presents examples of the rescue of Jews by members of ethnically-mixed married couples, their relatives, as well as persons who had romantic sentiments for or friendships with Jews. Stories of rescue of the Jewish population by religious communities are also highlighted.

Keywords: Holocaust, Righteous among the Nations, rescue, Jews rescued, rescuers of Jews, witnesses of events, myth, Oral history.

Published
2019-12-15
Section
SECTION 3. SAVING JEWS FROM THE HOLOCAUST