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BROTHERLANDS TO BLOODLANDS: ETHNIC GERMANS AND JEWS IN SOUTHERN UKRAINE, LATE TSARIST TO POSTWAR
Ethnic Germans and Jews lived alongside one another in Southern Ukraine for over a century prior to the Holocaust. They were as Shimon Redlich observes of Jewish-Gentile relations in his Polish hometown, "together and apart." Both groups started out the twentieth century closer together than they had ever been, and interactions between them were and remained comparatively normalized and less violent than Jews' experiences with the other groups surrounding them on Ukraine's pre-Revolutionary landscape. Yet, by 1941, with the joint Romanian-German occupation of the region, ethnic Germans enthusiastically plundered, exploited, and murdered their Jewish neighbors with little prodding from the Romanian and Nazi occupation regimes. How did over a century of ethnic German-Jewish coexistence devolve into local violence? Which historical processes fueled some ethnic Germans' conversion from neighbors to murderers, and when exactly did this transition begin?
This project examines coexistence, confluence, and conflict between ethnic Germans and their Jewish neighbors in Southern Ukraine from the late Tsarist period through the Holocaust. It builds upon the work of formidable scholars like Jan Gross, Jan Grabowski, Jeffrey Kopstein and Jason Wittenberg, Timothy Snyder, Wendy Lower, Karl Berkhoff, Eric Steinhart, and Doris Bergen, all of which examine the impact of double, sometimes triple or more, occupations on intergroup relationships and/or local collaboration in occupied territories. However, unlike many of these case studies, which root collaborators’ motives in the years immediately predating the war, or in the war itself, this project seeks to understand the impact of decades of occupation and revanchist policies (Austro-German, Soviet, Romanian, Nazi) on the groups’ interactions with and perceptions of one another. Moreover, as opposed to splitting the region into two separate entities, as the Romanian and Nazi regimes did, this project illuminates some of the continuities across the river Buh, as lived and died, by ethnic Germans and Jews in Ukraine prior to and during the Holocaust. This longue durée analysis illuminates the roles sustained violence and occupational policies played in disrupting centuries of interactions between ethnic Germans and Jews. By 1941, the two groups had been violently reconfigured, pulled together, and pushed apart in profoundly consequential ways. The Nazi and Romanian occupiers, equipped with vernaculars of violence and nation erected by the Soviet state and its predecessors, capitalized on ongoing historical processes, quickly incorporating ethnic Germans into their genocidal machine.