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On Evacuation:  Leni Yahil, The Holocaust: The Fate of European Jewry, Oxford, New York, 1990

When The Holocaust first appeared in Israel in 1987, it was hailed as the finest, most authoritative history of Hitler's war on the Jews ever published.  Representing twenty years of research and reflection, Leni Yahil's book won the Shazar Prize, one of Israel's highest awards for historical work. (from the dust jacket)


On the topic of the evacuation of Ukrainian Jews eastward prior to occupation by German forces, I have found three statements in Yahil, connected with the cities of Kyiv (formerly Kiev), Dnepropetrovsk, and Rovno, in that order.

Before the German occupation, 175,000 Jews had lived in the city [of Kyiv]; thus the [Babyn Yar] victims accounted for only part of the Jewish community, which had comprised both local residents and refugees.  A large percentage of these Jews had made their escape before the Germans arrived.  Most of the victims were the old, the sick, and women and children who had been left behind.

The Soviet evacuation of the Ukraine was more organized and workers, including Jews, were evacuated with their factories.  Thus, for example, a report from Einsatzgruppe D, dated November 19, 1941, states that of the 100,000 Jews in Dnepropetrovsk, 70,000 fled before the Germans arrived; of those remaining, 1,000 were shot on the spot.  (p. 257)

In affirming that a large percentage of Kyiv Jews had made their escape, and that most of the victims were the old and the sick, the above statement accords with Pysachenko's eyewitness account.  In stating that women and children had been left behind, however, Yahil's statement departs from Pysachenko's.  Pysachenko's testimony was that Jews were evacuated along with their families, so that it was primarily the old and the sick Jews that were left behind.

The Volhynia District was annexed to the Ukrainian District, and Generalkommissar Erich Koch chose the capital, Rovno, as his headquarters.  The greater part of the town's mixed population were Ukrainians; the remainder were Russians, Jews, Czechs, and Poles.  In 1939 the number of Jews was estimated at 28,000.  ...

When war broke out between Germany and Russia, Rovno was bombed at once (June 22, 1941); a week later the Germans entered the town.  The Russians had only a few days to organize their retreat, but they succeeded in this short time in mobilizing most of the youth of army age including a large number of Jews but only a small number of other Jews joined the Russians.  The great majority of the Jewish population families with children, old and sick people had neither opportunity nor desire to escape.  (pp. 264-265)

With respect to Yahil's Rovno statement above, we may notice that Rovno lies toward the west and was thus occupied early by the Germans, so that evacuation had less time to be implemented.  Something not mentioned by other sources is that in addition to evacuating those with particular skills, the Soviets also mobilized young males, as these were obviously needed to fill the ranks of the Soviet armed forces, and if left behind might end up being conscripted into the German forces.  Thus, in addition to skilled Jews being needed by the Soviets for their war effort, young males whether skilled or not would have been wanted merely to fill the ranks of the soldiers.  In a place like Kyiv where citizens had a full 89 days between the beginning of the invasion 0n June 22, 1941 and the occupation of Kyiv on September 19, 1941, it is difficult to imagine how any Jews other than those that were old and infirm could have been left behind.



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