Following the German invasion of the USSR on June 22, 1941, murderous violence against local Jews broke out in many localities of the territories it had occupied in the wake of the 1939 Soviet-German Non-Aggression Pact. In particular, organizers demanded revenge for the recent Stalinist repressions and deportations. Participants claimed that the “Jewish Soviet state,” the “Jewish NKVD,” or local Jews had been responsible for those crimes. Even now, the legend of prewar Jewish responsibility figures in the dubious “double genocide” thesis animating nationalistic historiographies in Eastern Europe and its international diasporas. The following study counters that mythology, addressing the story of actual Jews in the NKVD at the end of the 1930s. It draws on the archives of the Ukrainian security services, especially records that document Stalin’s effort to divert blame for the recent Great Terror onto senior and mid-level officials. Stalin’s green light to criticize the bosses gave other NKVD officers the opportunity to address many issues, including that of antisemitism among NKVD cadres. These sources suggest that antisemitism was in fact a potent force within the NKVD in Ukraine and elsewhere.
This study raises the problem of the degree of influence of Sovietization on the climate of inter-ethnic relations in the annexed territories of Eastern Poland on the eve and in the first months of the Holocaust. The article focuses on two aspects of Sovietization – first, the Soviet economic policy and the transformation of trade in the Western regions of the BSSR in 1939-1941; second, the change in the social status of local merchants, especially Jewish merchants. In this publication, the author comes to the conclusion that the Soviet economic transformations in the annexed Polish territories were contradictory. Due to the lack of Soviet trade infrastructure, supply channels, and retail personnel, the new administration resorted to the experience of "former" merchants, among whom were a large number of Polish Jews. As a result of this policy, many "former" merchants managed to get a job in state-owned trade institutions, which was considered very prestigious in the unfavorable economic situation. Under the circumstances, the impressive number of Jews among the employees of the state trade organization contributed to the increase in inter-ethnic tensions. On the other hand, in 1939-1941, most of the "former" traders actually continued their activities on the black market. The wide representation of local Jews in the illegal economy contributed to the fact that the struggle of the official authorities against speculators often looked like a struggle against some Jews. Thus, the acute economic crisis in the annexed Polish regions, as well as the inconsistent Soviet socio-economic policy in these lands, caused an escalation of inter-ethnic tensions and an increase in anti-Semitic sentiment. The socio-economic situation that developed in 1939-1941 under the influence of Soviet policy was one of the factors that provoked a surge of anti-Jewish violence in the summer of 1941.
Drawing on the concept of the concentration camp, this examination of the history of the Syrets camp near Kiev traces the principle stages of Nazi terror, exploitation, and extermination in the occupied capital of the Ukraine. The author locates Syrets in the context of the evolving camp system of the Third Reich.