Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine

Omer Bartov is a scholar of the Holocaust, best known for his book Hitler's Army, which illustrates how complicit "regular" German troops were in the extermination of the Jews, Russian civilians and POWs.

In Erased: Vanishing Traces of Jewish Galicia in Present-Day Ukraine, Bartov goes out into the field, to find the disappearing vestiges of Jewish life in Eastern Europe.

Of course, what he finds are sad remnants. Synagogues barely standing, or used for other purposes; shops where Yiddish signs are still visible beneath faded paint. Houses with the imprint of long gone mezuzot. And worse: mass graves poorly tended, or not tended at all, cemeteries desecrated or abandoned. All in all, a lost world, whose faint imprint is quickly fading.

Bartov seeks to prove again and again how modern Ukrainians, and their government, have failed to reckon with the destruction of their Jews. In the tumultuous years since the fall of the Soviet Union, Ukrainian nationalism has reached new heights, and many of the heroes of that nationalism were anti-Semites, often collaborating with the Nazi occupiers for their extinction.

It is a brutal and polluted legacy, according to Bartov, and it is expressed in the neglect of Ukraine's Jewish legacy. And it will only get worse.

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