Soviet investigation of Nazi crimes in the USSR: documenting the Holocaust

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In the years 1943–1945 a thorough investigation of the crimes committed by the Germans during their occupation of the Soviet areas was conducted within the framework of the Extraordinary State Commission on Reporting and Investigating the Atrocities of the German Fascist Occupants and their Henchmen and the Damages inflicted by them to Citizens, Kolkhozes, Public Organizations, State Enterprises (henceforth ESC, or the Commission). The Commission collected a considerable number of findings demonstrating that the Germans perpetrated atrocities against civilian population and caused tremendous damage to the economy in the occupied areas of the Soviet Union. Numerous findings pertaining to the Holocaust of the Soviet Jews were also gleaned. The Commission represented only the tip of the iceberg in the ramified network of Soviet investigation activities. Many Soviet agencies and individuals got involved in this work. However, only a tiny part of the ESC findings were made public in the Soviet Union. For the most part, they were kept in the Soviet archives, inaccessible to independent scholars. Soviet authorities sanctioned to use these sources very rarely throughout the postwar history, when they transferred to the West some material collected by the ESC in order to support accusations against former Nazis pending in Western courts. As the Commission's files were made accessible after the collapse of the Soviet Union some studies based on the ESC findings emerged. However, the way the Commission functioned and the impact of this process on documenting the Holocaust drew only scarce attention from scholars. The present article seeks to explore the process of the Soviet on-the-spot investigations of German crimes with a focus on the Holocaust. Then, an attempt is made to examine the way the Commission's on-the-spot findings were processed and how this process reflected the genocide of the Soviet Jewish population, most specifically with the respect to the dimensions of the Holocaust. Apart from presenting the general picture, the analysis of the aforementioned process of “data processing” in the ESC zeros in on the district of Kiev.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-602
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Genocide Research
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2003


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