Many of the interviewees mentioned certain restrictions concerning education and job opportunities or travel abroad as well as a permanent mistrust by Soviet officials.
L’Église catholique et l’Allemagne nazie
There was general mistrust towards the people who had stayed in occupied territory. We were like traitors.
It was more subliminal. But people felt that they were not full-fledged members of the collective. At my work place — I was a book keeper —, I always sensed that the attitude towards me was different from the attitude towards the evacuees. A woman who had worked in a briquette factory under German rule recalled her stressful experiences after the war:. When our troops arrived, we were terrorized because we had stayed in occupied territory. We were despised because we had lived under German occupation.
Later, when I went to the social security office, I was told that I had worked for the Germans. I am suffering terribly from this. Yes, I am even scared to remember these things. It was horrible. We were despised. Were we criminals in any way?
Nevertheless, these millions of Soviet citizens who had lived in occupied territory avoided to speak openly about their war experiences for decades. The families often were the only place where these things could be addressed. Many interviews give evidence that memories were passed on in the families from generation to generation. These stories were not to be told outside of the narrow private family circle, as one interviewee reported:.
My grandmother always raised us to keep silent about the things which were spoken about at home. That is what she taught us. She was a very smart woman. For the first time, Stalinist crimes could be researched and discussed.
Several interviewees thus mentioned that they had only recently learned about them, and they incorporated this new knowledge in their accounts. Furthermore it might be of importance that the interview project coincided with the German Forced Labour Compensation Programmme during the years As a result, former forced labourers were for the first time acknowledged as victims of National Socialism in their homeland societies.
Numerous memoirs in prose or verse by former Ostarbeiter were published and theatre plays on the topic performed in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. At the same time, it must be noted that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many elderly people in Ukraine suffered from poverty and very hard economic conditions. Telling about the past often proceeds from an individual need for identity building.
Again, the interview practice shows that in the countries of the former Soviet Union the situation seems to be special. Interviewees often recalled events that were not mentioned in Soviet historiography and official Soviet memory culture at all.
More often than not, there exist no archival documents on these facts. Some accounts are in keeping with the new post-Soviet Ukrainian historiography, which after the collapse of the Soviet Union initiated a comprehensive revision of Soviet historiography, especially with regard to Stalinist crimes.
However, the accounts sometimes come onto aspects of the history of the occupation that are still tabooed in Ukrainian historiography, as for example the question of collaboration. In these cases the interviews represent an impressive counter-narrative to the official version. This narrative has partly been passed on by family memory to the next generation. Memories which conflict with official memory are often confined to the privacy of family.
But they still show the inner limits of totalitarian regimes. As Aleida Assmann has noted quite judiciously, positivistic historiography reaches its limits where archival resources are lacking, and here oral testimonies can help overcome these boundaries. According to the official Soviet version, the city was captured on 26 October after several days of serious street battles, in which more than 50, German soldiers were captured, killed or injured.
Contrary to that, several former citizens of Stalino reported in their interviews that the city was captured by the Germans on 20 October and almost without a fight. This version is confirmed by German documents. They had been sentenced to prison under the Stalinist labour discipline law. All these prisoners were shot by the NKVD during retreat. Other interviewees reported about the planned destruction of the coal mines:.
They came to blow up the mine. A command of sappers arrived and they blasted away at the mine. At that time people ran to the mine, everybody came to the mine. What shall we live on? You will leave and what shall we live on? Shall we starve? But then there was an encirclement. All the people were dispersed, the mine was blown up and two days later the Germans arrived.
The burning of the grain was perceived by many interviewees as a symbol of the fact that the population was virtually left to its own devices and exposed to hunger and starvation. The Soviet side on its part had always emphasized the large-scale destruction wreaked by the Germans during their retreat from Donbass two years later. We will also analyze how respondents depicted the Germans and local collaborators.
I remember every single day. My God, what a horrible time it was! Many interviewees remembered the first names of Germans they came into contact with. Others could still recall German songs which they learned from the occupiers, and sometimes started to sing them during the interview. According to the sociologist Karl Mannheim, the experiences of human beings between the age of 12 and 25 remain constitutional for the whole process of personality shaping.
Therefore, members of a historical generation share a common identity with regard to convictions, attitudes, worldviews, social values and cultural patterns of interpretation.
Moreover, it must be taken into account that for decades, most of the interviewees had had no opportunity to process their wartime experiences or to talk openly and publicly about them. This, too, might possibly explain the generally significant importance of that time period for the interviewees and their strong wish to talk about it. For the former stigmatized groups such as forced labourers, telling about their past fulfilled functions of social acknowledgement as victims of National Socialism, as one former Ostarbeiter recalled:.
Now we are acknowledged by everybody. This year, our raion celebrated its 85th anniversary. We were invited to the celebration.
I addressed the audience, spoke about Germany. With tears in my eyes, I expressed thanks for being accepted into society. Before that, it was as if we were not part of it. Several former Ostarbeiter recalled that they experienced jealousy and resentment from their neighbours, especially from those who lived under German occupation and did not receive any compensation. The payment programmes thus created new social tensions and competition among the war generation.
Many elderly people are still convinced that most Ostarbeiter went to Germany voluntarily. When we analyzed the interviews, we sometimes noted huge differences in content and form between the narratives.
For instance, the narratives of former members of resistance movements, who already in Soviet times could at least partly talk about their war experiences publicly, often seemed to follow a certain pattern. We got the impression that these interviewees had repeated their narratives many times, for example in forms of ritualized public accounts for school only ride here or inside their former resistance circle.
In contrast with the stories of other groups of the war generation, theirs were to a great extent part of the official Soviet memory culture. Frequent repetition had given these memories a more stable form and structure. Even in post-Soviet times, the partisans and resistance fighters still perpetuate their old Soviet memory narratives, which seemingly form a strong part of their identity.
Compared to this, the narratives of other interviewees, non-resisters, appeared to be much more open, fragmentary and fragile and did not follow these patterns. In some cases, those witnesses had the possibility to formulate a coherent narrative of their life experiences for the first time. Surprisingly, in both cases the accounts were sometimes accompanied by emotional outbreaks. We had no rights or laws. The Germans were the masters and absolute rulers.
And we were slaves, real slaves. In several respects, the experience of work was crucial in building the identity — and loyalty — of the population before, during and after the German occupation. Under German rule, about 90, Soviet coal miners and 20, Soviet prisoners of war worked under the supervision of 1, German mining specialists in the Donbass coal mines.
Apart from that, more thanOstarbeiter were deported to Germany. Experiences at the workplace were quite different. Working together, local workers and German supervisors sometimes even formed friendly relations, as a former coal miner recalled:.
Our Germans were coal miners. These Germans, who worked together with us miners, did no harm to anybody. Because they understood us and even told us that they were workers just like we were. Other interviewees remembered the brutality of German supervisors and their contemptuous treatment of the workers, as for example a woman who worked in the coal mines as a year old girl and was publicly beaten by a German supervisor for leaving work lfg regime de bens permission.
This is due to the fact that the execution of Soviet prisoners of war took place in the Donbass on a much larger scale and during a longer time period and was quite visible to the local population. According to reports of the Extraordinary Commission, aroundSoviet prisoners of war died in German camps in the Donbass. The number of Jewish victims in the Donbass was considerably smaller and accounted for approximately 18, according to estimates.
The prisoners of war died from hunger and in the open air […] At that time, seeing this, people understood who the Germans were and how they behaved.
Here they showed their real essence. Officially it was not allowed to help the prisoners of war […] but the people threw whatever they could behind the barbed-wire fence. They iris caries indicator them away from the fence, beat and humiliated them. It seems to us, however, that the narratives may have fulfilled another purpose, that of helping postwar society compensate for subconscious feelings of guilt.
In this respect, the Soviet prisoner of war motive bears several parallels with the widespread German accounts about the sandwiches that the German population allegedly gave to the deported Ostarbeiter.
Nevertheless, some locals helped Jews by hiding them in their homes. Some openly hated them [the Jews], others remained silent.
Well, firstly not everybody knew about it [the execution of Jews]. But others mourned because they were human beings. It was rather varied. As a result, the dark side of that period is excluded from the national narrative, and so is the rescue of numerous Jews by their courageous Ukrainian neighbours.
In this respect, Ukrainian public memory culture seems, at least to some extent, to perpetuate old Soviet remembrance policies which suppressed the Jewish memory of the Holocaust. Even though racism, cruelty and a feeling of superiority were common characterizations of the Germans in many interviews, we also heard many stories about German soldiers who provided locals with food, showed them photographs of their children or gave Christmas presents to them.
When the army units moved further on, farewell photographs were taken and local women cried. Others remembered cultural experiences with German cinema — Soviet people often perceived the German entertainment films as immoral. Thus, one Jewish respondent mentioned that positive expectations of the Germans prevented some Jewish families from evacuating.
He recalled:. I have talked to them. They are a quite cultured and hard-working people. We will stay here. That cannot be true. The Germans are orderly, respectable people. While official Soviet propaganda and historiography propagated a rather dehumanized picture of the enemy, individual memories recall various human relationships between occupiers and the occupied population, including hatred, friendship and sometimes even love.
Thus, an interviewee who experienced the war as an eight-year-old boy recalled:. The best thing in the time of occupation was when this curious, unexpected friendship with this German driver developed, and he gave me a pocket knife as present.
These everyday relationships between occupiers and occupied as well as their mutual perceptions need to be studied much more carefully. Botox therapy hair to one respondent, even the inside of a German tank was clean and tidy. At the same time, several interviewees were shocked by the cruelty of German officers who punished child thieves by chopping off their hands, 50 which they explained with the German aversion against theft.
They were very accurate. They took care of their external appearance. Even though I was still young, I noticed that. Even if it was wartime and they were in a foreign country, they took great care in their appearance.
They allegedly had a strong weakness for the local women. This — on the whole more positive — perception can presumably be explained by their lower level of indoctrination as well as the fact that they, as a rule, did not take part in punitive measures against the population. Thus the interviewees made statements like the following:. The Germans were better than our policemen — those bootlickers that tortured us. They were worse than the Germans.
They were Germans after all, the others were ours. All the repulsion, all the repulsive behaviour came from the side of the local inhabitants, from those who wanted to serve the Germans.
For them, denouncing somebody was a heroic deed. For example, they took away the bread people had traded for goods in villages several walk days away. Here, many interviewees supposed that the local collaborators had different motives for their actions, from hatred toward the Soviet authorities that was often based on the repressions suffered in the s to a fight for bare survival.
A few interviewees added that even among the collaborators, there were some who tried to act for the good of the population. Thus, some who had behaved in a particularly gruesome way towards the population stayed at large, whereas others were sentenced to long periods in camps.
Locally, this sort of information quickly spread among neighbours by word of mouth. The participation of local witnesses in the trials may have played a role as well. While there has been at least a limited local exchange about collaboration among the people here, the topic — until the recent past — has been for the most part excluded from the official media coverage and remembrance culture regarding World War II. Several interviewees referred to new Ukrainian publications about the Stalinist crimes of the s and mentioned that they only recently learned about them.
Here the influence of post-Soviet media publications on individual memory narratives becomes visible. The people were waiting for the Germans because they wanted a change. Here, shootings and repressions took place before the war, in and In some respects, the Germans even appeared in a more positive light than the Stalinist regime.
Cardon-Hamet Claudine, Mille otages pour Auschwitz. Charoux Clément dir. Photographies des camps de concentration et d'extermination nazis, Fabréguet Michel, Mauthausen. Camp de concentration national-socialiste en Autriche rattachéeÉditions Honoré Champion, Paris, Le système des camps de concentration allemands, Éditions du Seuil, Paris, Kuon Peter, L' É criture des revenants.
Lectures de témoignages de la déportation politique, Éditions Kimé, Paris, Lalieu Olivier, La Zone grise. L'histoire en souffrance, Éditions Complexe, Bruxelles, Von Wrochem Olivier Hg. Date s Monday, May 12, Contact s Caroline Langlois courriel : revue [dot] en [dot] jeu [at] gmail [dot] com.