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  • The Holocaust in the Crimea and the North Caucasus by Kiril Feferman
  • Peter Sattler (bio)
Kiril Feferman: The Holocaust in the Crimea and the North Caucasus. Jerusalem: Yad Vashem Publications, 2016. 540 pages. ISBN: 978-965-308-505-3. $43.50 (hardcover).

Throughout The Holocaust in the Crimea and the North Caucasus, Kiril Feferman discusses the killings in Soviet Crimea and the North Caucasus. He examines the fates of non-Ashkenazi Jewish communities, many of which existed for centuries among other local ethnic groups. Feferman also discusses the factors contributing to individual survival and local reactions. Most important, Feferman continuously highlights the importance of individual agency in executing and circumventing the Holocaust.

Feferman's work covers the entire Nazi occupation, from fall 1941 to spring 1944 in Crimea and from summer 1942 to winter 1943 in the North Caucasus. These regions are a Soviet periphery, recently settled by Slavs and home to minority groups and Muslims. While discussing their differences, Feferman compares these regions' positions in long-term Nazi strategy. Crimea was to be colonized by German settlers and incorporated into Germany; the North Caucasus was a proving ground for the Nazi Islamic [End Page 133] and ethnic policy in highly diverse locales and was possibly to be transferred to Turkey. As such, the Holocaust in Crimea was swift and coordinated; the killings in the North Caucasus were more gradual and accounted for local political considerations.

Feferman draws primarily on wartime German military and Einsatzgruppen D (EG D, a branch of the SS responsible for mass killings) records, documents from Soviet trials and archives, and survivor testimony. Each is flawed. German materials overstate local support, politics color Soviet documents, and human memory is imperfect. Nevertheless, Feferman is diligent in addressing source bias and gaps in his research. And in using German sources, Feferman can examine the political considerations behind Nazi policy toward individual Jewish communities and occupied territories. This is a highlight of the work, as the policy on non- Ashkenazi Jews remained fluid during the occupation.

The Holocaust in the Crimea and the North Caucasus has a methodical format. Following a brief history and ethnography, Feferman discusses the flow of refugees into the regions and eventual evacuation from the front. He argues that 38 to 47 percent of the Crimean and 40 to 50 percent of the North Caucasian Jewish population evacuated before the German military secured the region. From there, Feferman examines registration, forced labor, and the killing operations. In addition to division in the Crimea–North Caucasus activities, Feferman highlights the urban-rural distinction and relations between EG D and the regular army. He also discusses mixed-family policy and "exemptions" made for the medical field. According to his estimates, German forces killed thirty thousand to thirty-five thousand Jews in Crimea and thirty-five thousand to forty thousand in the North Caucasus.

The author devotes an entire chapter to the food considerations of the Holocaust in the region. He highlights some of the war's dreadful absurdities, such as the Soviets prioritizing cattle evacuation over civilians and the Germans' acceleration of killings in order to eradicate "surplus mouths." According to Feferman, EG D was motivated to kill Crimean Jews swiftly, in part because of limited German food supplies and Crimea's deficient food stores. Jews who successfully fled the towns faced scarcity in the countryside, undermining their survival. In contrast, the North Caucasus had a plentiful harvest in fall 1942, and Jews who could escape fared better in terms of starvation.

The work's greatest contribution is its discussion of the smaller Jewish communities: the Karaites and Krymchaks in Crimea and the so-called Mountain Jews in the North Caucasus. Feferman dedicates large sections of the work to these groups, their relation to the local population, and the changing German policy toward them. Initial German confusion on these groups' standing required EG D to research them during the occupation and Heinrich Himmler's direct intervention. As a rabbinical community, the Krymchaks were devastated; only twenty-five hundred of the prewar population of roughly six thousand survived to 1945. However, the Karaites and the Mountain Jews [End Page 134] were spared from the Holocaust's...


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pp. 133-136
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Archived 2019
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