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Title: Reckoning with Occupation. Soviet Power, Local Communities, and the Ghosts of Wartime Behavior in Post-1944 Belorussia
Authors: Exeler, Franziska
Advisors: Kotkin, Stephen
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: German Occupation of Belorussia
Post-World War II
Societies in the Aftermath of Extreme Violence
Soviet Union
World War II
Subjects: History
European history
Russian history
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation examines the impact of World War II and German occupation on individual lives, social communities, and the Soviet state in Belorussia. A seemingly remote and marginal space, this Soviet republic and European borderland in fact encapsulated the extremes of twentieth century European history. In 1939, Belorussia doubled its territory after the Soviet annexation of Eastern Poland and was then occupied by the Germans from 1941 to 1944. What happened here during and after World War II did not only transform Belarusian, Jewish, and Polish history, but also shaped European and Soviet history. One of the main sites of the Holocaust, the republic was also at the center of Soviet partisan warfare against the Germans, a fight that closely resembled a civil war due to the involvement of locals on both sides. After the Soviets returned in 1944, the choices that people had made during the war, and the choices that they had been forced to make, haunted Belorussia. Drawing on archival sources collected in Belarus, Russia, Israel, Poland, Germany, and the United States as well as memoirs and oral history interviews, I analyze the different ways in which state officials and private individuals investigated, addressed, and evaluated the issue of someone else's wartime behavior, a process that I call `reckoning with occupation'. While spheres existed for people to engage with the war's aftermath in a highly personal fashion, individual and institutional efforts at reckoning with occupation repeatedly intersected, willingly or unwillingly. Above all, these efforts revealed just how fractured, divided, or destroyed social communities were. However, reckoning with occupation also made visible a substantial confluence of interests between state and private actors, one that became manifest in the postwar prosecution of those deemed German accomplices and in the ubiquitous property conflicts. It also sustained the official Soviet war narrative, according to which all inhabitants of Belorussia had stood united behind the partisans - despite the fact that this narrative ran counter to many people's actual wartime experiences. The overlap between state and individuals that `reckoning with occupation' thus produced worked to the advantage of the Soviet regime, stabilizing and legitimizing it.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

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