How did Soviet Jews respond to the Holocaust and the devastating transformations that accompanied persecution? How was the Holocaust experienced, survived, and remembered by Jewish youth living in Soviet territory? Anika Walke
, Assistant Professor of History at Washington University in St. Louis, examines these important questions in Pioneers and Partisans: An Oral History of Nazi Genocide in Belorussia
(Oxford University Press, 2015).
Walke’s research is based largely on post-war oral histories and memoirs, and her sources include a number of interviews that she conducted herself. Walke examines the experiences of Jewish youth in a variety of contexts, including prewar daily life, ghetto persecution and survival, as well as participation in Soviet partisan units. In doing so, she reveals the complex interplay of (and at times, tension between) her subjects’ Jewish and Soviet identities. Walke highlights the enduring impact of 1930s Soviet policies of interethnic equality and solidarity, showing how memories of this period continue to frame survivors’ recollections of persecution and its aftermath decades later. Walke’s well-researched book not only deepens our understanding of genocide in Belorussia, but also speaks to the value of postwar testimony as a crucial resource for scholars of Jewish experiences before and after the violence of the Holocaust.
Anika Walke is Assistant Professor of History at Washington University in St. Louis.
Robin Buller is a PhD Candidate in History at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.