THE ROLE OF JEWISH PROPERTY IN THE DYNAMICS OF THE HOLOCAUST IN VOLYN-PODILLYA GENERAL DISTRICT: THE FOCUS OF THE LOCAL NON-JEWISH POPULATION
The process of the appropriation of Jewish property by non-Jewish population during the Holocaust has aroused a considerable interest in the academic literature. However, academic studies have not properly considered the role of local population in the appropriation of the Holocaust victims’ property in comparison with the Nazi invaders. In fact, the role of many non-Jewish residents can no longer be regarded as mere bystanders, because their actions concerning the appropriation of Jewish property influenced the dynamics of the Holocaust at the local level.
Victims’ property and the mercantile component in general formed a kind of motivational background for civilians’ cooperation with the Nazis when both sides realized the importance of interaction based on pragmatic mercantilism. Mercantile reasons motivated local population and the anti-Semitic component could play only a minor role. The thirst for profit mobilized the worst human instincts. The prospect of seizing Jewish property had a corrupting effect on most of the non-Jewish population, and many supported the occupation in terms of their own economic interests. Despite the fact that people who acquired Jewish property were of different backgrounds, gender, and age, they all had experience of close pre-war social relationships with victims.
The results of this research indicate a much greater role of civilians, local non-Jewish residents in plundering and acquisition of Holocaust victims’ property than it was previously stated in the academic literature.
This research considers the appropriation of Jewish property by locals and neighbours based on the example of Volyn-Podillya General District of Reichkommissariat Ukraine, but the results of the study are also important for general understanding of the Holocaust events in Ukraine and occupied eastern territories during World War II.