It was a great pleasure to present this lecture at the University of Connecticut, hosted by my good friend Avi Patt. In the Q&A, I referred to the excellent work of Zvi Gitelman, who analyzed anti-Semitism in the Red Army using the testimonies of hundreds of Jewish Red Army soldiers. It was of course a nice surprise when I found out at the end of the lecture that Zvi was also in the online audience!
Martin Dean gave a speech on:
The Nazi confiscation of Jewish cultural property and Jewish cultural resistance
at the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum on September 1, 2021.
Before and during World War II, the Nazis engaged in an organized program of looting of Jewish cultural objects, often using forced Jewish labor to catalog the stolen items. Dr. Martin Dean examined the Nazi policy of cultural plunder, including its aims and methods, and shows how many Jews sought to defy the Germans’ genocidal intentions through imaginative forms of cultural resistance.
This program was presented in conjunction with the Museum’s current special exhibition, The Book Smugglers, which explores the courageous acts of the “Paper Brigade” in the Vilna Ghetto, whose members risked their own lives to preserve their Jewish heritage.
Dr. Dean examined the complex history of the Babyn Yar ravine, where more than 33,000 Jewish men, women, and children were shot by units of the German SS and Police in late September 1941. By following the evidence from the photographs, witness testimonies, and aerial images, Dr. Dean has pieced together the route taken by the Jews into the ravine and identified the site of the mass shootings. With the aid of a 3-D model, a virtual reconstruction of the terrain has been achieved, visualizing the path on which the Jews took their last steps into the Valley of Death.
The Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center is planning a permanent memorial complex close to the site that will open in 2026. Dr. Dean’s research is part of a broader effort by the BYHMC to establish the truth about what happened at Babyn Yar and inform the public.
Thanks to Paul Radensky for his kind invitation. The panel on Eastern European War Crimes Trials included strong presentations by my colleagues Prof. Gabriel Finder and Prof. Benjamin Frommer on Polish and Czech war crimes trials respectively.
• Sometimes there seems to be no way out – until you find the key?
I am currently solvied a historical puzzle, where most of the pieces were missing. To succeed, sometimes you simply need to get a new perspective. It might come from a visit to the archives to find new documentation, but it may also arise from discussions with colleagues, or from simply rearranging the pieces that you have mentally and looking at the evidence in a new way.
This was my experience in Kyiv on July 10th-11th 2019, when I just happened to be sitting in the right place at the right time. As the presentations unfolded, I gained valuable insights and could use my unique line of sight to solve the problem logically in my head. It helps of course when other valued colleagues come to similar conclusions using completely different methods. By triangulating you know immediately when the piece fits and everything falls into place.
The inaugural meeting of the Babyn Yar Holocaust Memorial Center’s Research Committee, July 10-11, 2019, BYHMC offices, Kyiv. Thanks to Karel Berkhoff, Yana Barinova, Andrej Umansky, Alexander Kruglov, Ihor Doroshenko, Stefan Mashkevich, Gelinada Grinchenko, Oleksandr Pasternak, Mykhailo, Kalnytsky, Waclaw G-M, and all who helped to make the discussions so valuable.
For more information about my research and publication:
Indiana University, PA, April 2019
The Dangers of Hate
Survivors and Scholars Speak Out
I drove up to Indiana University Pennsylvania in April to participate in a panel discussion on “The Dangers of Hate” with other scholars and Holocaust survivors. Among them were Judah Samet, a child survivor of Bergen-Belsen, who also survived the recent Tree of Life shooting in Pittsburgh; Solange Lebovitz, who was a hidden child in France; Moshe Baran, a survivor of a ghetto and a labor camp in Belarus, who escaped to join the partisans; and Dr. Peter Black, the former senior historian at the US Office of Special Investigations within the Department of Justice. In my presentation I examined the question of who became Nazi killers during the Holocaust, looking especially at young perpetrators, aged 18-21.
The event was very well attended, with an audience of around 400. Joe Schwartz of the Tree of Life Synagogue and Waleed Farag on behalf of Muslims in Pittsburgh sent a strong message of interfaith solidarity in the face of the recent violent attacks in Pittsburgh and New Zealand.