The Death of Communities – World War II and the Holocaust in Zhytomyr

Employees (IfZ):   Tobias Wals

The aim of this research is to better understand the impact of the German occupation and the Holocaust on the social tissue of Zhytomyr. Prewar Zhytomyr had around 95 000 inhabitants, half of them Ukrainians, about a third Jewish. On September 19, 1941, Sonderkommando 4a incited a pogrom, after which SS men drove 3154 Jews out of the city and murdered them. In the course of the war thousands more would be shot, hanged or beaten to death. The Jews that survived or returned from evacuation in most cases gave up their language and culture to turn into Russophone Soviet citizens.

This project revolves around the experiences of Zhytomyr’s inhabitants and the social processes between them. How did people adapt to the omnipresent violence, what survival strategies did they develop? How did the presence of a Stalag with thousands of POWs in the direct vicinity of the city affect the lives its residents? How did war and occupation change the way people identified themselves?

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